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Brady Wolf: One of Them

Summary

A unique, mostly cliché-free story where the good does not always win, and where important and even many unimportant characters are three-dimensional and complex. A story written in a clear, direct manner as to prevent lengthy, tiring sections. A story that can be loved by both avid, casual, and even non-readers.


16-year-old, scatterbrained, social inept Brady Heliot lives a quiet life in the fictional town of Yatawa, Washington, dealing with the average problems of a socially awkward teen, until one day, he is attacked by something unearthly. 

In the evening of the day where he is discharged from the hospital, he is visited by grumpy man named Tunstall Allister, who informs him of the packs of Morus - a different species of human, home to a distant, secretive planet stuck in the Middle Ages, called Caliptus, who have the ability to retract and extend claws from their knuckles – travelling Earth in secret. Most of these packs consist of murderers, thieves and other scum that fled Caliptus to escape their sentences, and joined the Anolors of Great God Noah to roam Earth anonymously in the hopes of one day being allowed to integrate into Earth’s society by Markus Thorren, leader of the Anolors, and start anew. 
Tunstall Allister not only tells him of that, but he also informs him that there are two ways for people to turn into Morus as well; one of them being a rare, extra gene that mutates around someone’s seventeenth year, and the other being bitten by a Morus who is a Beast, the latter having befallen to Brady.

Brady now has two options. He can either join Tunstall Allister his pack, travel to Mount Adams, to the House of Great God Noah and become one of them, or stay at home, and await an assassin from Caliptus sent to silence him in order to keep their planet and everything about it a secret.

The following days, his life takes drastic changes. All of a sudden, girls take a liking to him and he quickly finds himself in an awkward love triangle while at the same time being blackmailed by a lonely, young woman suffering from an extreme, irrational fear of loneliness, and not only that, but his jealous best friend, Logan Coleman, is now trying his best to ruin Brady’s sudden popularity.

Brady quickly realizes what the right choice is, and when he meets the people in Tunstall Allister his pack, the decision seems a lot better than awaiting death at home, but before he can join them, he has to cut the new ties to his old life, and make sure that his family won’t try to track him down.

Brady Wolf: One of Them

Chapter 1

Green Light

 

 

“Vora, it is time.” A tall, tall man shadowed by darkness stood near the edge of a large square plateau of brown-red stone hovering high up in the sky.

He had his hands folded behind his back and he was holding his head high, and while he looked arrogant, he was not.

It was a defense mechanism. A mask.

Ancient Chikame was overlooking an endless green forest – mountains in the distant. The dark night sky made him blend in perfectly.

“I am here, Sire,” said Vora, whose time on Nepuliltir had not done him much good. Vora was pale, bald, emaciated, hollow-eyed, and if Ancient Chikame would have bothered to turn around, he would have had to look Vora into his white, soulless eyes.

He heard Vora, a traitor to his own kind, kneeling down behind him.

“You know what to do,” said Ancient Chikame apathetically.

“Of course, Master.”

Ancient Chikame listened to the footsteps of Vora’s bare feet dying off into the distance.

Silence returned. Chikame felt confident that his plan would work this time. If Vora would manage to turn the human into a Morus, it would all begin.

Chikame took a deep breath before he pressed the palms of his hands together, closed his eyes and disappeared with a noise that sounded like a thousand cries of agony.

A small heap of black matter was all that remained.

 

It was a cloudy Monday morning in the quiet part of Yatawa, Washington, better known as Yatawa Town.

An avenue led from left to right – from Downtown Yatawa to Yatawa Town – and a peaceful intersection separated these two parts of Yatawa from one another. If you were to follow the avenue from the intersection for about three hundred yards and then took a right and a right again, you’d arrive at the second-quietest street in Yatawa.

This asphalt street was usually only used to pass through to Downtown Yatawa by those living in Yatawa Town who didn’t have

a car. The street was about twenty houses long, and the houses were only standing on the left side of the street. This was because the right side was sloped, and at the top of the slope, trees were standing, trees that were part of the avenue.

There was a grassland behind the houses, and behind that grassland, there was a highway.

But out story doesn’t begin in this street, and neither does it in any of the houses standing in this street either.

You see, if you follow the avenue from the intersection, take the same route previously described and then, just before entering the second-quietest street in Yatawa, take a left, you’d arrive at the quietest street in Yatawa, only three houses long.

Not only was it but three houses long, but the street also ended in a dead end.

These three houses didn’t look anything like each other. The one farthest to the left – near the dead end, near the four, black, plastic poles separating the dead end from a short, a very short stretch of grass beside the road – was an old, large farmhouse, and behind it stood a dairy, as well as a large garage where months ago, the farmers who’d lived there kept their tractors.

Now, the farmhouse, as well as the dairy, the large garage, a smaller garage wherein the cats of the farmers used to sleep, and a small plot of land fenced off by chicken wire adjacent to a garage belonging to the family living in the middle of the street, were left empty, uninhabited.

The house farthest to the right, opposite of a very short road of aged bricks, which connected the quietest and second-quietest streets in Yatawa to each other, was smaller and had only one floor. The walls where white and mossy, the roof tiles black and mossy, and the old, cranky widow living in it had a large tree planted on the side of her gravel driveway closest to her mossy house.

The house in the center of the street, home to most notably our friend, Brady Heliot, the hero of this story, or well, hero… Let’s just say that Brady isn’t the hero type, and that he will also never become a hero.

Either way, the house standing in the center of the street, home to most notably our friend, Brady Heliot, was a pretty normal house. It was made of red bricks primarily, three floors high – the third floor was an attic – and it had white window frames. Like the house to the right of it, its roof tiles were black, but not nearly as mossy.

Overall, the house looked neat, and the fact that it was old was barely noticeable. Beech hedges fenced off the house and its grounds – the brick driveway to the left and the stretch of grass to the right.

Diagonally behind the house, stood a large, wooden garage, and the backyard was also above average in comparison to the backyards of most houses in the area.

Half of it – the lower part – consisted of grass and was separated into two separate areas by a winding brick path. The other half of it – the upper part, near the backdoor of the house and the garage – consisted of bricks, and in-between the lower part and the upper part was a small, extra garden that had a couple of small conifers standing in, next to an adult beech.

Four people lived in this house – it used to be five – and one of them was Brady. Brady Heliot.

 

Brady was standing in the orange-tiled bathroom, brushing his teeth and looking at himself in the large mirror above the white sink. Condensation had formed on the mirror, and the bathroom was still wet and humid because his younger brother, Brian, had just taken a shower.

“Did you pack your stuff?” called Janson Heliot, Brady’s father, from the kitchen, sounding as if he was in a rush.

“Mm-hmm,” Brady replied distractedly.

His attention had been drawn to his eyebrows.

They were rectangular, like a gentle roof on a house. While he had received many compliments regarding his eyebrows, he had always wanted to shave off the tips. He believed that this would make his resting face appear a bit friendlier.

He was growing tired of comments like ‘Why do you always look angry?’ and ‘Did something happen?’.

No. Nothing had happened.

It was just that his eyebrows made his resting face seem either frowny or hateful, scowling, sullen, while in reality, all Brady

wanted was to look inviting and make some more friends.

Brady was slightly taller than average for a sixteen-year-old boy like himself.

He stood five feet and ten inches tall. His hair was almond brown, and he kept it in a textured modern quiff – not short on the sides. He put a lot of work into it each morning as to look as presentable as possible to other people.

He had large, honey brown eyes, and overall, he was in okay shape. If he were to lift up his shirt, a hint of a six-pack would become visible.

Oddly enough, he hadn’t put any work into it apart from doing a couple of pushups each evening.

Brady spat out the toothpaste, rinsed his mouth and then inspected his teeth.

He cleaned his toothbrush and then put it back and after that, he left the bathroom, entering the back hallway which floor consisted of shiny, square tiles ranging from blue ones to red-brown ones.

He saw his father – a six-foot-four, forty-six year old man with dark blond hair that he kept in short spikes – standing in the kitchen, hurriedly putting butter on a couple slices of bread.

Janson Heliot’s eyes were cornflower-blue, and he was broad-shouldered and slightly overweight.

Brady sat down on the step forming the border between the kitchen – a square room with white cabinets, a brown, laminated floor and chocolate brown stucco walls – and the back hallway. There was a large window in the right wall of the kitchen, which overlooked the driveway.

Brady put his right leg over his left leg and put on his dark brown shoes.

“Looking forward to school?” his father asked him while he put his bread into his red lunch box.

“Hm.”

His father gave a snort of laughter. “Is that a yes or a no?”

“A little bit of both, I guess,” replied Brady sullenly, tying his right shoe.

He grabbed his black jacket with the gray hood and put it on before picking up his black backpack and putting that on as well.

He heaved a sigh.

“More of a no than a yes, it sounds like,” his father remarked humorously.

“Yep. Gotta go. See you next week,” Brady approached the black back door before turning back to his father. “Or this evening, depending on what time you’re planning on dropping off the bags.”

“Around seven, so I’ll probably see you. Good luck at school.”

“And you, with work, that is.”

His father worked at a demolition company in Yatawa Town called ‘J. West Demolitions’. He was the engineer there, the only engineer.

Brady closed the back door and stepped onto the bricks. Noah, a female German shepherd, came out of her doghouse and charged at him, glad to see him again. Brady petted her, and as always, Noah pushed herself between his legs, coming out the other way before doing the same thing over again, her tongue hanging out of her mouth.

If Brady recalled it correctly, Noah was six years old. She was born in either July or June.

His father – resourceful as he was – had already put their bikes outside, so all Brady had to do was grab his bike – the light black one – open the fence gate in the tall, wooden fence connected to the house, and take it outside, all and all while making sure that Noah wouldn’t escape.

He climbed onto his bike and cycled down the driveway, passing his dad’s champagne-colored Saab.

Cars didn’t interest Brady that much.

Honestly, he only remembered the brand of his dad’s car like, half the time, if even.

As Brady cycled past his neighbor’s house, he was thinking about his warm bed, but as soon as he took a left, cycling past the houses on his left, he was focused on the wind.

The only thing worse than leaving his warm bed was cycling to school with headwind. Sometimes it would frustrate him so much that he sat on his bike grinding his teeth angrily and squeezing his handlebars so hard it hurt.

Not only did the wind oppose his forward motion, but it also disheveled his hair.

Fortunately, the wind wasn’t strong today.

Only slightly annoyed, Brady reached for his phone, looking at the time.

Five past eight, which meant that he had twenty-five minutes to get

to school.

Should be enough, Brady thought.

Looking at the sky, he saw that the clouds were starting to become darker. He already saw the upcoming intersection in the distance, along with the short cycle track, which he had to follow in order to get to it.

A few cars were waiting in line at the intersection for the lights to turn green.

“Damn,” Brady whispered as the first rain drops landed on his scalp.

The traffic lights weren’t in his favor either; red. He stopped next to a short, black pole in the grass and leaned on it after pressing the yellow button.

He couldn’t keep himself from looking through the windshields of some of the cars waiting in line, causing him to have some awkward eye contact with the people inside.

His expression went neutral when a bald, broad man in a yellow Kenny Loggers van locked eye contact with him.

He heard someone stopping behind him, and after unsurely turning his head twice, he recognized the boy behind him.

It was Jamie; one of his classmates.

Jamie was of African descent and a year younger than his sixteen-year-old self was. Jamie was also a couple of inches shorter, standing at around five feet and seven inches tall.

“Hey man,” Jamie said before wiggling forward on his bicycle and coming to a stop next to him.

Jamie had big brown eyes and he had a very short afro.

“Hi,” replied Brady shortly, not knowing what else to say.

It wasn’t like Jamie was a friend of his, but they’d known each other for quite some time.

A raindrop landed on Brady’s eyelid and he had to look away for a second in order to wipe it off.

Jamie didn’t live that far away from him.

They’d been classmates years ago, and were again now. To break the awkward silence, Brady decided to start about school.

“Did you -- study for that economics test?”

“No. Did you?”

Brady hated how each time he had a conversation like this, it sounded really forced.

It was probably just him.

He’d been introduced to Jamie in kindergarten, and they’d been good friends for around seven years, but their friendship had died off rather quickly when Jamie failed school and had to redo a year.

This year was the first time they were in the same class again, and that was because Brady hadn’t been able to pass last year because of his poor grades.

He blamed it on the struggles with his parents’ divorce, but deep inside, he knew that it was his own fault, but who liked to admit to that? The traffic light turned green and they continued their journey to school.

“I haven’t either,” Brady replied, and after cycling next to each other surrounded by an awkward silence for several seconds, Brady finally found another subject to talk about. “So, how is the new Fidelity game?”

They had crossed the intersection and were now cycling over a bicycle track. On their left, there was a cultivated field with in the center a large, abandoned factory made of red bricks.

Jamie shrugged. “I’d say it’s kind of good, but not as good as I’d expected it to be. The Agility-Suits really suck.” With a brief snort and a smile, Jamie added, “The only thing you see in multiplayer nowadays is people jumping and wall-running around the map. It’s like -- a circus, you know?”

Brady squinted. “I don’t think they wall-run in circuses,” he said before biting on his lip, realizing that he had done it again. Quickly, he added, “Well, they said that the last Fidelity game was too good to be true, right? It’s obvious -- to me, that the new one will have trouble living up to its predecessors’ standards.”

Jamie cocked his head slightly as if he hadn’t completely understood what Brady had just said. Brady couldn’t blame him. He was a quick talker and he would often stumble over his own words.

“So I -- shouldn’t buy it?” Brady asked.

“Nah. I’d wait for the next Fidelity if I were you. Almost every Fidelity fan hates the new Agility-Suits thing. You’d think the developers of the game would listen to their fans and not add it into their next game, right?”

 

Downtown Yatawa Senior High School was a quiet school located in the center of Downtown Yatawa near a peaceful park with a lake. It was built opposite a small apartment complex and it housed around two hundred students.

The school was three stories high, constructed of light-brown bricks and shaped like a steel square.

The right part of the school grounds consisted of bicycle racks on cement gravel tiles. It was the left part where people hung out during recess, but most students preferred to spend their time in the canteen.

The weather had changed little. It wasn’t drizzling anymore, but the frequent gusts of cold wind remained, as did the cloudy sky.

A couple dozen students were standing in packs near and not-so-near the glass double door that formed the entrance to the school, and more particularly, one of the three entrances to the canteen.

Brady and Jaime split up just before cycling onto the school’s grounds. While Jaime put his bike somewhere in the back, Brady put his in one of the racks closest to the school.

He locked it, turned around and walked before showing off an expert-level display of clumsiness by nearly tripping over his own feet, and then nearly tripping over his feet again just seconds after.

Feeling his face turning strawberry-red, Brady kept his head down and looked to the left and to the right awkwardly, hoping that nobody had seen him.

He walked across the school grounds, totally forgetting about Jamie, and he felt relieved when he realized nobody had seen his double blunder.

Logan was standing by the double glass doors of the school, waiting for him, like he did every morning.

“Hey,” said Brady softly.

“Sup?” Logan smiled. Together, they entered the school.

Logan was a little bit taller than Brady was, and he was strong too, yet not broad or anything.

Logan had light-blue eyes and short, light-blond hair, which he kept in a fringe cut.

Usually, Logan wore white or light-blue, just like today – a plain, white shirt and light blue sneakers along with a blue pair of jeans.

Logan went to the gym almost every single day, and he was a kickboxer. He had failed last year too, just like Brady had.

“What subject do we have now?” Brady wondered aloud. 

“English, I think,” Logan said, sounding confident, so Brady trusted his answer. “Classroom A-six or something.”

When he had first met Logan and in the first couple of months of their friendship, Logan had seemed like such an amazing guy. Their friendship had been something Brady hadn’t experienced in a while. They’d talked about their common interests on a daily basis, and they’d laughed, but since a couple of months, Logan’s behavior

towards him had changed for the worse.

Logan thought that he was a big deal. He thought that he was strong and oh so smart.

Basically, Logan had revealed his true side to him, and after doing some research on the internet, Brady had concluded that Logan must be a narcissist.

Brady didn’t like Logan nearly as much as Logan thought he did, but Brady didn’t have any other true friends to sit next to in class, and he

dreaded sitting alone, so staying with Logan was really his only option.

Brady and Logan had been introduced to each other last school year, and while they hadn’t been in the same class that year, they’d been friends ever since – meeting during recess and free hours and such – but over the last couple of months, their friendship had become… quite odd.

“Homework?” Brady asked as they walked through the crowded canteen, which always made him feel uncomfortable.

“Nope, I didn’t do it,” Logan responded without looking at him. “I don’t mean to brag, but I score high grades without studying. Come on, you should know that.”

There was not nearly enough space for each student in the rather colorful canteen, which was why you’d see lots of students spending their recess on the school grounds, no matter what the weather was like.

They headed to classroom A-six, which was located on the first floor in the hallway to the right of the canteen, just past the staircase leading up to the second floor.

The floor of the canteen was the only floor consisting of wood. The rest of the floors in the school consisted of black carpet floor tiles.

“Guess who messaged me again?” Logan asked, the corners of his mouth turning up into a smile.

“Ehhm, that girl from economics?” Brady replied, faking interest.

“Yeah. She keeps on messaging me, man.”

They entered the hallway – forest-green lockers on either side of them.

Just when they took their third step, they saw Mark Barton descending the staircase to their right.

“Yo, Mark,” said Logan in his cool voice.  

Mark jumped down the last stair and looked up at them with that cheeky smile he always had on his face.

Mark was short, standing at around five feet and four inches tall, but he made up for his short stature with his strength and expertise in MMA. His voice was deep for his age, and it was also gravelly. His eyes were dark-brown and his hair – which he kept in a slicked back style – was orange-red. Most of Mark’s friends called Mark redhead or Barty. Logan especially.

Like many red-haired people, Mark had a pale skin, and he had numerous freckles on his cheeks.

Mark’s facial features were very masculine, and his strong jaw was the most prominent of his physical traits.

“What’s up, boys?” said Mark loudly and energetically before he placed his arm around Logan’s neck. Logan accepted it, but he didn’t seem to like it.

Brady didn’t like most excessively loud people, and Mark was one of those people. It seemed like Mark could only speak loudly, except for when he was talking to a teacher, because then his voice would be softer and respectful.

“How is this day starting?” Mark asked.

“With your mother on the table,” Logan responded humorously. “Legs spread.”

 “Nah, man,” said Mark, stretching his words and tittering. “I mean what subject, dude.”

Yeah, Brady didn’t like Mark all that much. Mark always hit him on the back of his head when he wasn’t paying attention. It was annoying and quite frustrating, especially because he always just let it happen and didn’t do anything back. He just couldn’t.

“Oh,” said Logan. “English. A-six.”

Seconds later, they arrived at classroom A-six, located near the end of the hallway. Opposite of the door, there was another hallway, which led to the principal’s office. Logan tried to open the red door – each door leading to a classroom was red in Downtown Yatawa

High – but it was locked. “What? She’s not here yet?”

They then heard sounds coming from inside of the classroom

The door opened. Miss Jones was on the other side, sitting on a desk chair.

Miss Jones was a pretty thirty-year-old with curly, orange-red hair, large, light-blue eyes and a smile that seemed to be everlasting. While only thirty-years-old, the chain-smoking had taken a toll on her face, and while she was still pretty, she looked a lot older than she actually was.

If Brady hadn’t known her age, he would’ve said she was around her mid-fifties.

“Good morning, Miss Jones,” said Mark politely. “Why did you lock the door?” They entered the classroom while Miss Jones rolled back to the light brown office standing in the far right corner of the room near a window overlooking a small park behind the school. “Were you doing some naughty stuff?”

“Perhaps,” she said mysteriously before adding a snort of laughter.

“That’s not how you are supposed to talk to teachers, Barton.”

Miss Jones was one of the only teachers on this school to whom one could say stuff like that. Miss Jones loved to play this online role-playing game of which Brady didn’t know the name. The game seemed fun, but he didn’t have the guts to ask her what it was called, fearing that he’d be judged by his classmates.

Brady and Logan favored the seats near the door, and that was exactly where they were going to sit again this hour.

They took a seat on the creaky chairs behind the school desks. Logan sat next to the white wall and Brady next to him. This were basically their standard seats in each classroom.

While Brady and Logan discussed the weekend, the classroom slowly filled up with his classmates.

Like them, most of them were talking about what they had done this weekend. Usually, many of the conversations were about The Triangle, which was a large, triangular-shaped area in the center of Downtown Yatawa. The Triangle was filled with bars and pubs. Most of the bars in the Triangle rarely checked their customers’ age and served alcohol to nearly everyone, which was why the Triangle was so popular amongst young teens over the age of fourteen.

Brady had tasted alcohol before, namely beer, and even though it hadn’t tasted that bad, he just didn’t like it.

What he disliked even more was how most of the children who were younger than he was and even many of the children who were of around the same age as him – fifteen, sixteen and seventeen-year-olds – went to the Triangle to drink alcohol in a feeble attempt to look cool and impress others.

As the latecomers entered the classroom moments after the school bell had rang – which signified either that class has begun or that class had ended. Had begun in this case – Miss Jones got up, ready to begin class.

“Look at Bar-bot,” said Logan, chortling softly.

Brady looked at the girl where his friend – probably his only friend – was referring to. It was Barbara Ralston.

Barbara Ralston had light-brown hair, shoulder-length, and she rarely spoke, but when she did, she always had to repeat herself over and over again because she spoke so softly and so unclearly. Her face was covered in pimples, and her dark-brown eyes, accompanied by her eyebrows, always made her look anxious.

Barbara was fifteen years old, just like most of his classmates.

Logan called her ‘Bar-bot’. Brady didn’t know why he did, but he did know that Logan had nicknames for most people, like ‘Barty’ for Mark Barton.

“Alright, class,” said Miss Jones. “Today, we will be discussing the grammar of chapter four.”

“Here we go again,” Logan murmured. He didn’t like English class as opposed to Brady, who found it to be one of his favorite subjects.

 

The school bell rang. It was raining heavily outside, even though it was mid-March. The door of classroom A-six opened and Brady and Logan were the first two to come out, followed by their classmates.

“Wanna go to the canteen?” Logan asked him, knowing what Brady’s answer would be.

“Nah, let’s go to the second floor,” Brady replied. “We’ve got a free hour now, right?”

Logan nodded. “But we’re going to the canteen,” he added.

Brady rolled his eyes and didn’t argue with that. He knew Logan long enough to know that Logan wouldn’t be argued with.

Brady didn’t like to be bossed around, but because of the fact that

Logan was really the only friend he had at school, he couldn’t be a chooser.

Continuing their conversation about the weekend, they strolled through the hallway. It was quite busy. In fact, it was so busy that Brady bumped into people repeatedly.

It was only when he bumped into someone fully that he gained the courtesy to apologize.

“Oh – eh – sorry,” Brady stuttered.

He looked up shamefully and then noticed to whom he’d just apologized.

Brady glanced at her neck. Below her mid-back length, wavy, golden-blonde hair hung a golden necklace that had a fake, red ruby as a pendant.

“Sorry, Lisa,” he added, looking the girl uncomfortably into her stunning light-blue eyes.

“You know my name?” she asked, surprised.

Lisa Abernathy was two years younger than he was, as far as he knew. She could as well have been the same age him. Lisa was taller than most of her classmates.

Marlene, Lisa’s almost identical twin sister, grabbed Lisa by the arm.

“Come on, Lisa,” Marlene said pushily as she gently pulled her twin sister with her. “We have a class to attend to.”

Brady looked at Lisa as she walked away with her sister. His heart stopped for a moment when she turned to look at him. She caught his glance and smiled, and Brady instantly knew that this would be the highlight of his week, even though it was only Monday.

He tried to muster up a smile, but he couldn’t, and then Lisa looked away.

Man, thought Brady wondrously. Her eyes –  

“What was that about?” Logan asked, one of his eyebrows raised. “How’d you know her name?” he gave a snort. “Who was that even?”

Awkwardly, Brady turned to his friend. “Guessed it, obviously,” he lied.

“Pff.” Logan shook dismissively.

The two made their way to the canteen.

Lisa Justine Abernathy, Brady recalled.

He had liked Lisa ever since the first time he’d seen her in one of the first weeks of this schoolyear. At first, he hadn’t know which one of the twins was Lisa, but when he’d compared their profile pictures on DailyFunz – an immensely popular social networking website – he had noticed a tiny difference between the two girls. Marlene had a mole above the right corner of her mouth while Lisa had not.

Because it was a rather small mole, he had not been able to tell who was who from a distance, which was why he had given Lisa the necklace last Valentine’s Day, along with a poem he’d written himself. He’d been too afraid to give it to her in person, but fortunately, there was this event going on at school; if you’d give the Valentine’s Day presents to the man standing behind the counter in the canteen, along with a small note that had the name of the receiver written on it, that man or one of the volunteers would give it to whom was meant to receive it.

A month later, this month, Lisa still wore the necklace.

Logan sat down on the sofa in the far right corner of the room at a table while Brady sat down opposite of him on a chair.

Almost instantly, Logan reached for his phone while the canteen slowly filled up with their classmates. They were currently the only class with a free hour, and after that free hour, there would be twenty minutes of recess.

Brady didn’t grab his phone.

Instead, he opened his black backpack, grabbed his lunch box and ate some bread, thinking about not only the next class, but also about Lisa and how in the world he was ever going to make the first move, because – according to the internet – the guy was supposed to make the first move.

“What level is your castle?” asked Logan after several moments of silence.

Logan was referring to the mobile game they both played. It was an online, medieval city-building game. Brady rarely played it. He wasn’t that much of a mobile gamer.

“Level three.” Brady took a bite from his peanut butter sandwich. “I’m upgrading everything to the max and I’m going to upgrade the castle after that.”

Logan shook and grinned. “Oh – oh – oh – oh – oh,” he said. “My castle is level five, which means that I’m better than you.”

Brady heaved a sigh and felt his heartrate increasing. Logan was in the provocative mood again.

“I was better than you,” Brady responded, piling up the anger rather than unleashing it onto his only friend. “My castle was level nine.”

Logan chuckled without even looking at him. “You were better, yeah.”

Brady had trouble expressing his anger. This was the umpteenth time he’d chosen to pile it up rather than to express it and be done with it.

In these moments, his stupid brain could never come up with a witty reply to provocative and negative comments such as the ones Logan had just made, and that only made Brady become even more frustrated. Clenching his jaw, Brady looked at the trees through the window to his right. A second or two later, Logan looked up from his phone.

“The hell are you doing?”

Brady ignored him, prompting Logan to snap his fingers right in front of his eyes.

“What?” said Brady curtly.

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“No.”

Logan closed his eyes and shook in a disdainful manner. “Kay said I could join his basketball team because I’m good. We have PE tomorrow and he said that Mark, Mike, he and I have to be in the same team so that we can start coming up with strategies for the basketball competitions, you know? They’re in two weeks.”

Brady tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, “In two weeks?”

“Yeah, in two weeks,” a smile appeared on Logan’s face. “Too bad for you that there is only one more team left for you to join.”

Brady looked away for a second before turning back to his friend, already suspecting what the answer was to the question he wanted to ask.

“Which team?”

“Bar-bots team,” Logan chuckled. “For your information, her team consists of fat ol’ Julia, Freckled Vick and that weird emo guy, Kevin or something.” With a guffaw, Logan added, “You’ll fit right in.”

“No, no no no no no. Not gonna happen. I already know what I’m going to do. I’ll just find a way to stay home,” said Brady lightly. “I’ll -- break my ankle or something.”

Logan gave a snort of genuine laughter before he shook and focused on his phone again. “Good luck with that, weirdo.”

Brady turned his gaze down to the floor and continued eating his bread.

 

The school bell rang again. Brady and Logan went to the second floor. There were classrooms spread all over that floor, but the windows were covered up with plastic so that one couldn’t see anything through them. In the center of the second floor stood a bunch of tables and chairs that were meant to be used by those who wished to study in peace during a free hour or during recess. Brady looked through the window of a classroom opposite of him. He didn’t see a thing but a few hazy silhouettes of people, tables and chairs.

“Castle level six,” announced Logan triumphantly as if it were a big deal.

Brady got his phone out of his pocket. “Okay, cool. Cool,” he said dismissively.

Logan looked at him and hit him on his thigh.

Brady didn’t do anything back. He just turned red and looked at his phone, hoping that this feeling of embarrassment would be quick to fade.

“You really think you’re the best, don’t you?” said Logan spitefully.

Brady attempted to ignore Logan’s insult and opened his backpack, searching for his bottle of ice tea and hoping to be able to suppress his emotions that way.

A small group of girls, each of them about a year older than them, rounded the corner from a hallway of the second floor and walked past the other side of the table where Logan and he were sitting. They were talking and laughing, but not too loudly.

Oblivious of their presence, Brady closed his backpack with the bottle of ice tea in his hand and only then noticed them, as he sat upright. They stopped talking and some looked at him as they passed by, making Brady feel rather self-conscious.

Luckily, they kept on walking.

“Why does everyone always look at you?” Logan asked, sounding almost jealous.

“What do you mean?” Brady replied, glad that the topic had changed.

“I don’t know -- people just always seem to look at you more often than they do at others.”

A hint of a smile appeared on Brady’s face, but thinking about it, he realized that they might as well be looking at him because they thought he looked weird, which instantly made him feel bad again.

 

Chapter 2

Unreal Reality

 

 

The biology classroom was filled with fake animal organs and posters of plants, hearts and lungs.

It was always very warm in the biology classroom, and this was because the biology teacher always turned the thermostat to three hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit because she was such a cold frog. Brady was leaning with his chin on his hand, looking at the whiteboard at the other end of the classroom.

The biology teacher was talking about the human heart. This topic didn’t really interest him. He liked biology, but he had already learned this last year. The fact that he was being taught the same stuff for the second time accompanied by the warmth inside of the classroom made him drowsy, which didn’t help him stay focused on this now tedious subject. He allowed his mind to wander off, and for a moment, countless of random thoughts seeped in.

Hearing his name all of a sudden snapped him back to reality.

“Brady, can you at least try to pay attention?” Miss Martins asked. “You didn’t fail last year for no reason. Do you want that to happen again?”

Some of his classmates turned to look at him from over their shoulders, which made him anxious. “Eh, what?” he said, confused.

He heard Logan chuckling next to him.

“I’m not going to repeat myself again,” Miss Martins said. “Just pay attention.”

She turned back to the whiteboard and continued the lesson.

“So, the pulmonary circulation starts here.” Miss Martins pointed at a poorly drawn heart on the whiteboard.

Repeat myself again, Brady thought. Technically, she hadn’t repeated herself even once, so how could she possibly repeat herself again without repeating herself first?

Usually, Miss Martins was nice. She was in her late twenties, had shoulder-length, curly, dark-brown hair and was obsessed with her obese cat. She dedicated at least ten minutes a week to showing new and old pictures of her cat to the class. Brady wasn’t sure whether his classmates were actually interested in Miss Martins obese cat or if they were just doing a plausible job at faking it.

While Miss Martins was nice, she wasn’t very appealing to look at.

Her dark-brown eyes were pretty, but her chin was covered in pimples and her forehead was greasy and shiny.

Logan tapped him on the shoulder. “Look at Bar-bot,” he whispered, giggling.

“Yeah, ha-ha,” Brady replied sarcastically.

“No, you didn’t even look, man,” said Logan.

Brady froze when Miss Martins shot him an angry look.

He placed a trembling finger against his lips and shushed Logan.

“Brady,” said Miss Martins. “Could you go to the principal’s office? I want you back here once school is over.”

“But -- wha – ” Brady tried.

“In your face,” Logan whispered humorously. “In your face.”

Miss Martins frowned at Brady’s weak attempt to try and change her mind.

This really isn’t my day, he thought sullenly.

Brady got up, leaving his backpack and his books behind. He felt everyone watching him as he walked the two yards to the exit of the classroom.

He closed the door behind him, his heart thumping in his chest.

 

Brady arrived at the first floor and headed towards the principal’s office. He walked past the English classroom and followed the hallway to the right.

The hallways were deserted and it made him feel as if he was only one in school.

He followed the hallway to the left and could already see the principal’s office in the distance.

The walls inside of the school consisted of bricks, but these bricks were a little larger and had a warmer color than those that formed the outer walls of the school.

Overall, at least on the inside, the school looked cozy and warm.

When Brady looked up, he noticed that there was somebody else standing by the door, or actually, leaning against the wall beside the door, arms folded, his expression smug.

It was Kay Chandler.

Kay Chandler was a popular kid here in Downtown Yatawa Senior High School, and he was one of his classmates.

No wonder Kay hadn’t been there during biology. He probably had to report himself to the principal as well.

Kay’s big mouth always got him in trouble, and it had again today,

undoubtedly.

Brady couldn’t comprehend why people like Kay didn’t think before they spoke.  

“Yo,” said Kay disinterestedly, barely acknowledging Brady’s presence.

“Hi,” said Brady shyly. Brady realized that he was currently in an active conversation with one of the most popular guys in school.

He had to watch his mouth very carefully because if he were to make a fool of himself during this conversation, tomorrow, everyone would know.

“Wh – wh – wha – at are you doing here?” Oh no.

Kay squinted at him before looking down at the black carpet floor again. “I was sent here,” he said coolly.

Not only did Kay talk cool, but he also looked cool. Kay had these shark-like eyes along with a badass glance that made eight out of ten girls get a crush on him instantly. His light-brown hair was short and spiky, and while Kay was a year younger than Brady, he was as tall, if not slightly taller, but not taller than Logan.

If it wasn’t for the face and his impeccable self-confidence, his clothing sure made him stand out. Kay’s father was a tailor, and a successful one, so naturally, Kay’s clothing was made to fit him perfectly. Currently, he wore a light-gray combat shirt with dark-gray sleeves and a ripped and faded pair of moss green jeans.

“W – ” Brady gulped. “Why?”

“For such a dumb reason.” Kay shook. “Man, I was thinking about just leaving, you know?” Kay looked up at him, a crooked smile on his face.

Brady looked rather interested all of a sudden. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d play truant. Even though he was a quiet kid and worried about literally everything, he would do this, even if it only was to proof himself to Kay Chandler.

Brady tilted his head a little. “You mean -- playing truant?”

 “Yeah.” Kay beamed. “You in?”

Brady gave a nod. He hadn’t been this excited in a while.

 

It was four pm, and while it was still cloudy outside, the raining had stopped. Brady rode into an alley with seamless cement tiles and wooden fences on both sides. Ninety-nine percent of the houses in this neighborhood were townhouses.

Each townhouse was constructed out of yellow-brown bricks and

light-black roof tiles of stone.

He got off his bike, stopped near the fourth fence gate and opened it, entering his mom’s backyard. The backyard wasn’t that large. Last year, his mom and stepfather had planted a garden alongside the left fence, and those same plants were blooming yet again. Even though most of the plants were green, they added a certain feeling of life to the backyard, which was more than you could say for most houses in this neighborhood.

His mother was a very caring person, which was reflected in the backyard. A low roof with black metallic tiles was attached to the house and the wooden fence separating this back yard from those of the neighbors to the right. The low, metallic roof shielded a large portion of the far right corner of the backyard. A sitting area consisting of a metallic table with a glass tabletop and some metallic patio chairs was standing below the roof.

They’d sit there sometimes, on sunny days.

Brady placed his bike in the small brick garage, which – like the townhouses – was constructed out of yellow-brown bricks and light-black roof tiles of stone.

Brady didn’t look through the large window on his way to the back door. The window allowed him to see what was going on in the conjoined living- and dining room, and he didn’t want to risk making eye contact with anyone sitting inside. He opened the dark-green back door and walked through the cramped-but-neat kitchen, taking a right near the end of the kitchen where he then entered the living- and dining room.

Because the rooms were conjoined, there was quite some space left in the center of the room, where nothing was standing. Near the large window, a birch dining table was standing, its color matching perfectly with that of the light brown walls and the black dining chairs – three standing on either long side of the table.

Opposite of him, standing on the birch laminate and against the light brown wall, a large, rectangular cabinet was standing. Like the table, it was constructed of birch wood.

The living room part of the conjoined living- and dining room was located in the left part and consisted of a large, light-brown corner sofa, which stood in the far left corner opposite a large TV hanging at the wall. A glass coffee table stood in the center, on a white carpet.

While his stepfather was sitting on the corner sofa – one hand resting

on the black remote control lying on the armrest – his mother stood near the cabinet.

She was on the phone with somebody, and judging by her expression, it was serious.

His mom was, like his father, forty-six years old.

She had short, dark-brown hair, which she kept in a tapered bowl cut. Brady had inherited his honey-brown eyes from her, and in general, he was told that he looked more like his mother than like his father.

His mom stood five-seven tall, and while not thin, she wasn’t on the heavy side either.

Honestly, he couldn’t have wished for a better mother.

She was supportive, forgiving, and, along with his stepfather, the only two people who had comforted him when they had heard the news that he had failed last schoolyear. His stepfather – or rather just the boyfriend of his mom considering they weren’t married – was of Asian-American descent. He was an inch shy of six feet. Norman – that's what he was called – kept his short, black-grayish hair in a side-swept manner, making him look smart and sharp at all times. He also sported a short stubble.

The television was on and Norman was watching something about cars.

“Yes,” his mom said, meeting his eyes solemnly as he entered the room. “Yes -- yes, I’ll tell him.”

Brady felt sick to his stomach when he realized who could be on the other end of the line; school.

He turned his head to Norman, who greeted him non-verbally. Brady quickly changed the worried expression on his face and gave Norman a short nod in return.

“Okay. I will do that. Bye.”

She hung up the phone and faced him before she cocked her head. “What’s this they told me? How could you forget your backpack?”

Brady breathed an inner sigh of relief and within a heartbeat, he

came up with a lie. “I – I was talking with Logan when we left, and –

and I just – forgot.”

“Well, go pick it up,” his mom said, pointing into the general direction of Downtown Yatawa High. “They told me to tell you that the janitor has it.” She gave a nod to the backyard. “Come on. I’ll have tea ready when you’re back.”

Brady rolled his eyes.

He didn’t feel like going back through the cold just to get his backpack.

I’ll have to, though. What a waste of time.

 

Within minutes, dusk had fallen, and it was only when Brady was brought back to reality by cycling over a branch lying on the road that he realized it.

Squinting, he got his phone out of his pocket and pressed the physical ‘home’ button to see what times it was.

A quarter past four pm and already dark, Brady thought, confused.

He began cycling a little faster. He was nearly there now.

Brady crossed an intersection and then took a right and a left, cycling past the small apartment complex standing on the right side of the road.

Brady cycled onto the school grounds and put his bike near the entrance before getting off of it and locking it. Most of the bicycle racks were empty, which was odd, considering some classes were still ongoing. He pushed open the doors and heeding his surroundings, he suspiciously crossed the deserted canteen.

He arrived at the center of it and didn’t know where to go. He knew that the janitor had his backpack, but where was the janitor?

Voices, coming from the hallway to his right. Brady instinctively turned his head. While the lights in the canteen were on, he didn’t feel what one could call ‘comfortable’.

The voices were definitely female, and he recognized them. They were coming from the hallway to the right, near the English classroom.

Brady always had been curious, and because he didn’t know where the janitor was anyways, he decided to go and check it out.

He doubted he would have done this if the voices wouldn’t have sounded familiar.

He walked through the hallway, past classroom A-six and then turned right. It was cold in school, which was odd. Brady never thought it was cold in school, and that was because it never was, at least, to people who weren’t cold frogs.

Rounding the corner, Brady arrived in the hallway where he had spoken to Kay earlier this day.

He saw three girls standing in the hallway near the principal’s office. They were conversing.

Brady recognized two of them. It were Marlene, and – and Lisa!

What were they doing here?

As far as he knew, school had ended for them at one.

Brady was about to return to the canteen, but then Lisa turned to him and met his eyes.

She smiled, and there was something shy about her smile.

Brady raised his hand uncomfortably, and he even managed to muster up a cheesy smile.

Lisa’s smile made him feel as if his heart had just jumped out of his body. He had this weird sensation in his chest.

The sensation was hard to describe, but each time he breathed in, it felt like he inhaled glitter, which then left a slight tingling in his chest.

Marlene turned around and saw Brady too. Even though he hadn’t properly met her, she gave him this feeling as if she didn’t like him.

With his head lowered and a bit nervous, he left the hallway, approached the staircase near classroom A-six and climbed up.

Ever since it had become dark outside, Brady had this feeling which he usually only experienced when he was lost in deep thoughts.

Perhaps he was just tired.

He hadn’t slept that well over the last couple of days, and that was because he had started watching those scary top tens again, which greatly amplified his fear of the dark.

He reached the second floor and approached the Biology classroom. It was awfully quiet in school, and it made him feel rather unnerved. Peering through the windows of the classrooms where he passed by, Brady noticed that each classroom was as dark and empty as the other.

At least the lights in the hallways are on, Brady thought.

He arrived at the biology classroom in the center of the hallway and it was only when he placed his hand on the steel door handle that he realized he had subconsciously walked this way.

Why here?

He squinted and took a moment to remember why he had come to school in the first place.

Oh, yeah. Backpack.

He attempted to open the door to the biology classroom, but it was locked.

“Ugh.”

He hoped that he could find a teacher who could tell him where the janitor was, or better yet, the janitor himself.

 

Slightly irritated, Brady turned, but when he saw the thing that was standing on the other side of the hallway, his eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat.

It looked like a young girl, too young to be studying at this school.

The girl was staring at the ground and her long black hair hung like a curtain in front of her face, which prevented Brady from being able to properly identify her.

She wore a white, dirt-stained dress and her pale skin glistened weakly.

“Why – what?” Brady whispered to himself.

The girl looked like the one from the movies, only she was shorter.

A couple of years ago, he’d seen those movies with his nephew, and Brady remembered that the girl had given him nightmares for weeks.

He gulped, staring at the girl while she just stood there, motionless, as if she were a lifeless prop.

Brady startled when the lights flickered and he felt his muscles tense up when they suddenly didn’t turn on anymore.

He stood there, in the darkness, listening to his own breathing and using the weak light that entered the building through the windows to keep an eye on the silhouette.

Although the lights only blinded him for a fraction of a second when they suddenly turned on again, the girl was gone.

“This is a dream,” Brady said, and for a moment, he felt pretty damn sure about his statement. To acknowledge the confidence he had in his conclusion, he reannounced it. “This is a dream.”

The sudden sound of wet feet on the floor made him turn, and Brady uttered a yelp when he was suddenly standing face-to-face with the young girl.

Brady didn’t move, he didn’t breathe. The fact that he hadn’t seen her face only made this experience scarier, and the colder he began to feel, the more he started to realize that this wasn’t a dream.

This was reality. Somehow, this was happening. Somehow, this was his reality.

He looked anxiously at the girl, and just when he was preparing to leave, the lights began to flicker again.
Carefully, using the brief moments of light to confirm that the girl hadn’t moved yet, Brady slipped away to the staircase on the other side of the hallway as lightly as he could.

Then the lights remained off again, prompting Brady to stop moving

at that instance. As his eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness, he saw a black mist slowly descending onto the floor right where the little girl had been. Instead of running like he knew he should have, he waited.

He was frozen in fear.

Standing in the middle of the hallway, both stairs at about equal distances away from him, he waited, hearing only his own breathing.

Then she appeared again, silently, only a couple of yards away from the staircase leading down to the hallway that had the English classroom in it, but pretty far away from him.

She then looked up and stared at him, her ink-black hair now hanging in curtains beside her head.

The lights turned on again and he caught a glimpse of her face before it started to spin and move uncontrollably as if she was being possessed by a demon. Then the lights turned off again, but she kept on doing it, and in silence. His heart was racing, his brain was pounding, and just when he was about to make a dart for the glass double door separating him from the landing leading to the other staircase, the girl uttered a blood-curling scream.

Instinctively, Brady screamed in horror and ran as fast as he could towards the double door.

He heard the sound of bare feet on the ground – soft but quick – and when he looked at the little girl from over his shoulder, he noticed that she was running.

Her head was crooked inhumanly far to the right, and her shoulders didn’t appear to be connected to their respective joints anymore.

He ran into the glass double door, both of which then flew open, and without taking another second to look at the little girl chasing him, he rushed down the wide staircase and jumped down the last couple of steps before landing awkwardly on the landing. He looked at the top of the staircase and to his relief, the girl wasn’t there yet, or anymore, since there was a lack of sound coming from the second floor.

Anxiously and still quite disturbed from the experience, Brady followed the stairs to the first floor – his hand on his chest – where he then ran into the janitor – a man in his early sixties. The janitor wore a pair of rectangular glasses and he had short, white hair.

“Hey hey ho. Who was screaming?” the janitor asked him, eyeing him blamefully with his lips pursed.

The janitor was dressed in a dark-blue overall, and honestly, Brady

had never seen him before, and he could only look at the man in shock, as if he had only just realized what had happened on the second floor of Downtown Yatawa High.

“Well, spit it out, boy. Have you seen a ghost or something?”

“I forgot my books,” Brady stammered. “I nee – thought – you had them, right? You’re the janitor?”

Brady looked at the janitor’s chest and saw a tag dryly stating in red letters the word ‘janitor’.

“No, I’m here because I like cleaning empty hallways at twenty minutes past four. Yes, I’m the janitor.” The man scratched his chin as if he wasn’t sure what to do with him. “Your books are in my office. Anna told me you forgot them. Now, calm down, I’ll return them to you. Just follow me.”

Still on edge, Brady followed the janitor back to the canteen, constantly checking his six to make sure the little girl wasn’t following him. They approached the counter, which was located in the far left corner of the canteen, and Brady waited by the counter as the man disappeared behind it and opened the door.

Trying to get his thoughts straight and off whatever supernatural stuff he had just seen, he wondered whether he could steal a bar of candy or a can of pop from behind the counter while the janitor was searching in the room behind it for his books and his backpack.

He just couldn’t understand that he had never seen this janitor before, and that, accompanied by what he had just witnessed – whether it had actually happened or not, Brady wasn’t sure now – made Brady just want to get the heck out of here.

He gulped as he leaned on the counter, staring longingly at the can of pop behind the glass as he tried to think of something different.

The janitor smiled as he got back out with Brady’s black backpack and the biology books in his hands.

Brady put the books in his backpack as the janitor locked the room.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” The janitor then left the canteen as Brady put on the backpack.

Then suddenly, Brady noticed something happening outside. It was hard to see because of the lack of light.

Through the plentiful windows and the glass doors in the canteen, he saw a tall and broad figure, dressed entirely in black.

Brady squinted as he was trying to make something out of whatever was going on outside.

The man was standing by a bike. He was standing by his bike!

Brady carefully took a couple of steps closer to the windows and watched as the man dressed in black crouched beside his bike.

Brady wasn’t the type of guy to walk outside and chase the man away. Instead, he waited to see what would happen because he didn’t want to risk getting himself in trouble.

A second later, the man got up and just ran away, leaving Brady’s bike behind.

What’d he do? If he had attempted to steal the bike, he had obviously failed miserably.

He made sure the man was gone first before he headed outside to see what had happened. At first sight, his bike appeared to be okay, but then, as he climbed onto it, he felt what had happened.

The tires were flat, empty.

He got off the bike and crouched beside it, squeezing both wheels.

The man, whoever it was, had flattened his tires.

Why? thought Brady miserably. “Oh man.”

Why had that man done that? There was just no proper reason as to why the man would flatten his tire other than to pull some annoying, unfunny prank.

Now he had to ask his father to put new tires on his bike, and to make things worse, he had to walk home, through the darkness.

Brady heaved a sad sigh before he got up, grabbed his bike by the saddle with his right hand and by the handlebar with his left hand and then took it with him.

As he walked past the empty bike racks, he looked at the school from over his shoulder, only to notice something that chilled him to the bone.

There were no lights on in the school, not even in the canteen where he’d only just been.

It almost seemed… abandoned. Too confused to say anything, Brady decided to check and see whether the doors were locked or not, and they were locked.

Had the janitor just done that?

As he took a step back and squinted, trying to figure out what was going on, he noticed something standing on the second floor. It was looking outside through a window in the biology classroom. It took Brady several seconds to figure out what he was currently seeing, but once he did, a cold, cold shiver ran down his spine.

It’s her.

The girl had a smile carved into her face, and the blood looked like it was still fresh.

Her eyes were completely white and only had small, black dots in the centers.

The fact that the little girl stood there motionlessly and just looked at him with her dead eyes made him turn and run.

 

He was over halfway there. He recognized the trees, the ditch, and the bushes to his left across the avenue that had bicycle tracks on both sides of it. He was walking on the sidewalk past tall, wooden fences – some covered in vines – that were fencing off the backyards of the single, detached homes. His mom lived near the center of Downtown Yatawa, which was a busy and crowded place. His father lived closer to the center of Yatawa Town, a rural area where it was far more peaceful. Brady preferred Yatawa Town to Downtown Yatawa. There was much more nature in Yatawa Town.

He couldn’t get the face of that girl out of his head. He was still scared and disturbed by the sight of it, and he constantly felt like she was behind him, which made him check every so often.

Brady noticed a group of guys – five of them – sitting on the sidewalk near one of the streetlights in front of an ivy fence.

Brady gulped nervously.

Groups of guys – these guys could have been aged anywhere in-between eighteen and twenty-two – hanging around on the streets in the dark was often not a good thing.

He put one of his hands in his pocket and tried to look as tough as possible while the distance between him and the group of guys was getting smaller and smaller.

It were a couple of African-Americans. He knew they didn’t always mean trouble, but Brady had heard of the gang with the Latin name that terrorized Southern Yatawa. This wasn’t Southern Yatawa, but still.

Then he saw it; bottles of beer. Alcohol.

This was trouble. He could sense it.

They were sitting there, talking and laughing loudly, probably annoying the inhabitants living in the houses on the right side of the street.

One of them looked his way.

Because they were partly blocking the sidewalk, Brady got off of it and attempted to walk past them using the road.

It was important to not make direct eye contact.

Suddenly, the talking was reduced to whispers, and then they slowly got up. He just passed them, and he could hear them following him.

“Hey, what you want man?” asked one of them toughly.

“These are our streets, man,” said another one of them.

Brady felt his fight-or-flight response kicking in as his heart rate and his breathing both increased. This really isn’t my day.

“Stop walking, dude, or I’ll kick you to the ground.”

Reluctantly, Brady came to a halt and before he knew it, the five of them surrounded him.

“I’m just trying to get home,” Brady explained, stuttering, trying to hide the fear, but unsuccessfully.  

It was like they could sense his fear, so for a moment, he looked the one standing opposite of him into the eyes, only to avert his gaze back to the ground again not even a second later.

“Wrong place, wrong time, man. What you got?” asked another one.

Most of them were dressed in purple. One of them didn’t wear a shirt.

The darkness made him unable of properly identifying these men.

“We’ll let you go if you give us something,” the shirtless one, who was standing opposite of him, said. “There has to be some in your wallets or in your pack, so get it out.”

Brady searched around in his pockets, felt his phone and froze.

He didn’t want to lose that phone, and he tried to look as innocently as possible, hoping that they wouldn’t notice what he was hiding, but the shirtless one already had.

“Right pocket, Max.”

One of the guys, probably the one called Max, put his hand into Brady’s pocket. He pulled the phone out and then examined it.

Brady shockingly realized that Max was around his age – Fifteen, sixteen.

“The Comet-B6, right?” Max said, sounding far more confident than that he actually looked.

“That’s some expensive shit,” said the shirtless one before snatching it out of Max’s hands and throwing it away. Without averting his gaze, Brady heard his phone landing on the road. “Too bad it’s outdated. Now open up your backpack.”

The thought of having to pick up his now broken phone in a second made the corners of his mouth pull down repeatedly.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

He wanted to scold them so badly, but he knew what would happen if he would, and he didn’t have the guts for it anyways.

Brady was about to open up his backpack, but then he saw headlights in the distance.

Hopefully, he looked up.

It was a car. It was a police car!

The guys harassing him had noticed as well, and whoever was driving the police car only had to sound the siren once and that very briefly for all of them to run.

Brady felt so relieved and thankful that he could kiss the officer or officers sitting inside of the police car.

They had just saved his stuff.

Brady put his backpack on and picked up his phone before the police car stopped right next to him.

The window of the passenger’s seat rolled up and he found himself staring into the eyes of a slightly overweight police officer.

“Thank you,” Brady said, his voice quivering.

“What you doin’, kid?” the police officer asked sternly. “This is not the perfect spot to hang out when it’s dark.”

The officer nonchalantly fished into his pocket and got a cigar out of it before looking at his colleague in the driver’s seat. “You got a lighter?”

The one in the driver’s seat – African-American, and also slightly overweight – smacked the cigar out of his hand. “You gotta quit that stuff man,” he chuckled. “It’s not good fo’ yo’ ass.”

Both officers laughed all of a sudden.

Brady looked at the police car as it drove off into the distance.

“Watch yourself, kid!” the white police officer called before the car

took a right and disappeared out of sight.

Brady watched in awe before he averted his glance back to his bike.

Jesus, he thought before breathing a deep sigh of relief.

He placed his right hand on the saddle, his left hand on the handlebar and took several steps before he heard a sound coming from the bushes on the other side of the avenue.

He didn’t stop, but he did turn his head and kept an eye on the bushes as he tried to figure out what the sound was.

It sounded like soft growling, and he could see something, but it was too dark for him to be able to see what exactly it was.

Hesitantly, while he kept on moving, he reached for his phone and activated the flashlight app before he shone the light on the bushes.

There was something hiding in there, and judging by the growling, it was a dog.

“Hello?”

The light fell on the large silhouette, and it was then that Brady concluded that it couldn’t be a dog. It was simply too large to be a dog.

A wolf, maybe?

It’s too large to be a wolf.

This was starting to scare him. The beast growled again, softly, threateningly, and then Brady saw it slipping out of the bushes, keeping its head low and staring at him with its blood-red eyes, teeth showing.

Brady increased his pace as he realized that the wolf was coming for him.

This really isn’t my day.

The wolf jumped out of the bushes and Brady yelped.

“Shit!”

 

 

Chapter 3

Infected and Cured

 

 

Brady ran. He ran as hard as his legs could carry him. He dropped his bike and while he ran, he put his phone back into his pocket.

Brady knew that he could never outrun it. It was only a matter of time.

Hastily, he looked at the beast from over his shoulder.

It sure looked like a wolf. It was large and covered in night-black fur.

The wolf ran on all fours, but judging by its weird arms and legs, Brady wouldn’t be surprised if it would be able to run and stand on just its hind legs while using its strong forelegs to fight. 

If it were to stand upright, the wolf had to be around ten feet tall and at least three times as wide as your average person was.

Its blood-red eyes along with its night-black fur made the wolf look almost demonic.

Panting heavily, the wolf closed in, and it was only when Brady looked at the wolf from over his shoulder again that the wolf jumped forward and slashed his legs.

Brady uttered a cry of pain before falling hard onto the asphalt and turning around defenselessly, preparing himself for the end.

Before he knew it, the wolf was on top of him.

“Aaah!” Brady exclaimed as he felt the wolf’s sharp teeth penetrating the skin on his hand. The wolf turned to his face and tried to bite a chunk out of his neck, but Brady moved his head aside just in time.

The pain was excruciating. He felt blood seeping out of his leg, out of his hand. Was his hand still attached to his arm?

Brady clocked and cuffed desperately at the wolf’s head, but to no avail. The wolf moved forward to bite him in the shoulder, growling in anger.

It was a direct hit, but rather than biting him there and letting go, the wolf pulled and pulled. Brady screamed for help as he felt the immense pressure on his shoulder and the joints.

Were this the last moment of his life? Was he, Brady Samuel Heliot, really going to die like this; a random wolf attack at the edge of the city?

He felt light in his head all of a sudden, and that wasn’t because of

the loss of blood.

Brady closed his eyes. He was in so much pain, he wanted it to end.

“Kill me then! Kill me!” he hissed through gritted teeth, but it kept on hurting and hurting, and the pain tenfolded when the wolf let go of his shoulder, only to drive its teeth back into it.

“Aah!” Brady attempted to hit the wolf with his other hand, but he was too weak. He was simply too weak.

He felt his consciousness slowly slipping away as the wolf began mauling his other shoulder. Time passed slowly, and Brady was kept awake only because of the stabbing pain he felt each time the wolf put its teeth back into his shoulders.

Brady feared that even if he were to survive this, the scars and the damage would be permanent, and he would have to get something amputated.

Tears filled his eyes as he looked up at the dark, starless sky, praying for the pain to end.

Through the sounds of his own flesh being brutalized, Brady heard something.

It were footsteps, quick and light ones, accompanied by a strong scent of barbeque.

Through the splatters of blood in his vision, he could see a silhouette appearing out of thin air several feet behind the wolf.

The silhouette was dressed in night-black rags entirely, and it even wore a cowl, shrouding its face in darkness.

It was about six-foot-two and appeared to be rather confused by its surroundings. Then the thing in black turned around and approached the wolf as if it had been its target all along. He grabbed the wolf by its back hair – causing the wolf to yelp – and then threw the beast over its shoulders as if it was an empty can of beans.

The person turned to him calmly, and when Brady saw its face, he was shocked.

Brady was in immense pain, and his shoulders were ravaged – it was a miracle that the wolf hadn’t opened any major arteries in his neck yet. A painful, unfair miracle – and he was paralyzed, yet he was in shock at what he saw.

The face of the thing was merely a black cloud of smoke with two white slits in it that served as eyes. It was almost as if the black cowl he wore was holding the smoke together in a human head-sized clump. With its emotionless slits, the smoke person studied him.

Behind the thing, Brady saw the wolf crawling up, obviously in pain.

Brady raised a weak finger, pointing at the wolf.

It growled before charging at the smoke person, eliminating its own element of surprise.

The thing dodged the incoming bite attack deftly and grabbed the tail of the beast before it had even landed. It pulled hard at the tail and the wolf flew back like a yo-yo before landing behind the thing on its back.

The thing turned to the wolf quickly. “Za ohhr! Vora!” The thing appeared to be scolding the beast, judging by how it was pointing at it.

The wolf growled and climbed up yet again, but with considerably more effort.

Something whizzed through the air and hit the wolf right in its back. It was an arrow, and a long one.

The wolf cried out in pain and then ran away, yelping.

Brady slowly moved his head to where the arrow had come from. On top of a roof to his left, a thing similar to whatever it was that had just saved him was standing, only it was slightly shorter.

This one wore a cowl as well. The being disappeared in a cloud of black smoke soon after Brady had made eye contact with it, leaving Brady in confusion as he clasped at his left shoulder.

The other thing was looking at the wolf as it was fleeing.

“Who are you?” asked Brady weakly. He was bleeding out. He knew it.

The thing turned to him, examining him with its white slits. “A is i lokmans de Chikame,” it said.

 Its voice, it was so horrifying. It sounded like cries and screams of agony.

“Who – who,” Brady mumbled before everything turned dark and all he could hear was the thing approaching him.

“Dothma Chikame gove vuhz haall. Eg maz silake vuh.”

 

“Brady?” a man said carefully, his voice echoing.

“Brady!” he heard again, louder this time, but the words sounding as if they had left the woman’s mouth hours later.

BeepBeepBeep

 

Suddenly, a sound as if he were emerging from the water.

Then nothing.

Light, blinding him.

Then nothing.

He felt weightless, and when he opened his eyes, he was falling.

Waving his arms around, Brady screamed, but no sound left his mouth.

Looking down, he saw a vast desert approaching quickly.

He hit the ground quietly. There was no low thud, no sickening crunches signifying that he had just broken all the bones in his body, and neither did he feel the sand in his eyes, in his mouth.

He woke up with a start and sat upright with his eyes spread wide open.

He saw his father, and his mother.

Looking around, Brady realized that he was in a hospital.

The white room he lay in was small. The single hospital bed took up half the space, and his mother – sitting by the footboard – and his father – sitting on his left – took up another quarter combined.

Something was pushing down on his mouth, just below his eyes. He placed a hand on it, and from the corners of his eyes he saw his father getting up.

“Doctor, he is awake!” his father called before striding past his mother, opening the door of the little hospital room and disappearing into a hallway behind it.

Brady’s hand hand touched something made of plastic. He could hear his own breathing very clearly.

It was an oxygen mask.

With little effort he pulled it over his head and put it down beside him on the mattress of the single bed.

“Brady? Brady,” said his mother carefully. “How are you feeling? Are you alright? Can you put the mask back on? I don’t think it’s safe to – ”

“Mister Heliot, how are you feeling?” a short, bald, middle-aged doctor with round glasses and a walrus mustache entered the hospital room with Brady’s father following him.

“What happened?” Brady asked, confused.

His hand was wrapped in bandages and he could feel the dressing underneath it. Both of his legs felt like they were covered in bandages as well, and he could see the bandages wrapped around his

shoulders from the corners of his eyes.

“You were attacked by… something,” the doctor explained, his eyes narrowed. “Do you remember what it was?”

His mother looked genuinely concerned.

His father stood behind her, frowning. He was clenching his jaw, which was something he often did in stressful situations. “Was it that scum from Southern Yatawa?”

His father was quick to judge, and if there was anything he hated, it were the gangsters in Southern Yatawa, a.k.a. the southern part of Downtown Yatawa, which had simply been renamed because the gang operated there and only there, most of the time.

Gang members, which one could easily identify by their purple shirts and their black pants, were sometimes sighted in Downtown Yatawa, only they rarely committed crimes there.

“Are you referring to the Purple Snakes?” the doctor asked, turning to Janson and looking at him with his squinty eyes.

While short, the doctor was of heavy weight.

“Yes,” said Janson brusquely. “I am.”

“Hm.” The doctor considered that for a moment, tapping on his lower lip. His voice had a calming effect. “I can tell you two things that will proof to you that they weren’t behind this attack. One: these wounds are bite marks, and – ”

“They could have let a dog loose on him,” Janson said as if it were common knowledge.

The doctor considered that, too. “Hm, I have to admit that you do have a point there. I would like to remind you though, that – ”

“ – they are probably too poor to buy a pet because they put all their money in guns, bullets and the corrupt police in Yatawa,” his father finished.

The doctor winced at that. “Precisely.”

Janson exchanged a glance with Brady and his mother before continuing. “It’s disgusting how the police allows the Yatawa Desert to be used as a battlefield for gangs.”

“The members of the Purple Snakes are stupidly obstinate, Mister Heliot. If I were you, I’d be glad that the police allows them to fight it out with other gangs. At least it keeps them away from the civil parts of Yatawa.”

Janson gave a snort.

“What could it have been? Do you remember, Brady?” his mother asked him.

She usually wore black or white as opposed to his father, who often wore different shades of blue underneath his heavy leather jacket. His father was rarely seen outside without the jacket, even if it was warm outside.

Brady thought hard and managed to recall some small things; school, books, Lisa in the hallway. There was more, though. Brady knew that there was more, only he couldn’t recall it.

“I can’t remember,” said Brady. He had never been very good at keeping eye contact, so he avoided meeting the doctor’s eyes.

“All we know is that it was an animal, Mister Heliot. It’s very important for us to know what exactly maimed you.”

The doctor was talking as if he thought Brady wasn’t completely sane, as if he thought he should be careful with what he said. Brady tried to fill the blank spaces, but he just couldn’t do it. There was nothing to fill the blank spaces with.

A small table stood beside the single hospital bed. It was similar in appearance to the chairs his father and mother were sitting on – lightweight, metal and white. The table had several items lying on it, ranging from boxes with candy to flowers, and even a glass vase with red roses inside of it. It seemed like his parents weren’t the only ones who knew he’d been hospitalized.

“Try to remember it, Mister Heliot,” said the doctor carefully. “You returned to your school, and then?”

“I – I really don’t know. I am trying to think… but – I just can’t.”
The doctor looked at the ground for a second. “Very well. I will allow you rest for now. Perhaps you’ll remember it after a good night of sleep.”

Brady’s father didn’t appear to agree with the doctor.

Brady and his mother watched as his father and the doctor discussed some things about the attack. Janson was visibly irritated with the fact that they hadn’t been able to find out what exactly had maimed his son.

“I cannot help you any further,” the doctor said. “I am sorry, but you will have to come back tomorrow. The visiting hours are coming to an end and Mister Heliot here needs his rest.”

Brady’s mother – Nora Maier – sighed and got up. She placed a hand on Brady’s hand. “We’ll be back tomorrow, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah alright,” Brady gave her a nod. He then turned to his

father, who had this judging look in his eyes.

“Do you have any tests tomorrow?” his father demanded.

Brady chortled but Brady’s mother shook disapprovingly.

Ever since this school year had started, his father had been on top of his homework and grades. His father desperately didn’t want him to fail again.

“Not any that I know of.”

His father gave him a nod before he squinted at him, realizing how that that was a pretty vague answer.

“It’s time for you to go now,” the doctor said. “Your son was lucky to have survived. He needs to rest. We will need to run some more tests on him tomorrow and he will need his strength for that.”

His mom and dad gave him a kiss, wished him a good night and then left the room with the doctor. The door closed.

He lay down in the bed, moved around until he felt comfortable and then placed his hands behind his head, staring up at the white ceiling.

It was then that he noticed a window in the wall behind him. He sat back upright, opened the white shutters and looked outside as he crawled onto his knees.

Oddly, nothing hurt. According to the doctor, he’d been attacked by some animal, and while his legs, hand and shoulders were covered in bandages, he felt like nothing was wrong.

Brady was about to unwrap the bandages to look at his wounds, but then he realized that that would cost him a lot of time and effort.

He leaned on the headboard and peered outside into the darkness.

Brady had an okay view lying in a room on the fifth floor of the Downtown Yatawa Hospital, but sadly, he was lying on the wrong side.

He could see a large portion of the center of Downtown Yatawa, which meant that school was on the other side of the hospital.

Talking about school, he hoped Miss Hutchings wouldn’t visit him.

Miss Hutchings was his mentor. She was nice and caring to the students she mentored, but to an excessive extent.

Miss Jones on the other hand, she could visit him if she wanted to. He would really not mind that, but why would she visit him? She was his English teacher, and because of his reserved nature, he rarely spoke to her.

He lay down on his back and looked at the ceiling for a moment, trying to recall what had happened earlier this day, but to no avail.

The blank spaces would remain blank for now.

Brady closed his eyes for a few seconds in an attempt to sleep, but he quickly came to the conclusion that sleeping wasn’t an option. He was wide awake.

What time is it?

He got up from the bed and approached the door of his room.

Curiously, he opened it ajar to peek outside.

He allowed his gaze to wander across the room.

Apart from a young couple sitting on a dark-green sofa near a water machine standing on a table – the sofa’s color perfectly matched the light-green floor – there was nobody there.

It was quiet, and it made Brady wondered whether there was anybody else lying in the other rooms on this floor.

Just as he was about to close the door, the automatic glass doors on the other side of the room opened and two doctors hurried in. One of them – the one with the walrus mustache – was scribbling something on a notepad.

Two more doctors who were pushing a stretcher came in after the other doctors.

Someone lay on the stretches, and that someone was a she.

She lay under a blanket, and only her head and part of her neck was visible.

The four of them were coming his way with the stretcher, crossing the room. They took a right and walked past his door, continuing down the hallway, the stretcher’s wheels squeaking.

Brady managed to catch a glimpse of the girl who lay on the stretcher. She was unconscious, or kept unconscious – Brady wasn’t sure.

She’s hot.

The girl had mid-back length, jet-black hair and appeared to be around five feet and six inches tall.

One of the two men pushing the table grabbed his attention. He was in his mid-thirties, his hair was pushed back – almost mane-like – and brown, and he had a short Balbo beard. He was a little bit taller than six-one and he had hazel eyes.

“Room one F,” said the doctor with the walrus mustache.

They pulled the table back and then turned it around, pushing it past Brady’s room again.

The doctor with the hazel eyes opened the door of the room farthest to the left, which was the room next to Brady’s room, and the other doctors then pushed the stretcher inside.

He closed the door quietly and returned to his bed before he noticed a white folded hospital gown lying underneath the table.

He didn’t want to lie in bed wearing just his underwear, and because the hospital gown looked more comfortable to sleep in than his own clothes, he pulled those on.

As he crawled into the cold hospital bed and pulled the blankets over

his body, he opened one of the boxes of candies, which were standing on top of the same table.

He remembered these chocolates. It were the type of chocolates his grandmother always used to give him. It made him think about her for a moment. It had almost been a year ago since she had passed away.

He opened the small carton box covered in strawberry printings and then got a candy out of it.

He examined it. The outer layer of the chocolate was hard while the inside had a slimy texture and was red. Strawberry.

He put it into his mouth, knowing from experience that these candies were good, and then reached into the box, ready to take another one as he swallowed the previous one, but just when his index finger and his thumb closed around the chocolate outside, he suddenly felt light in his head.

Carefully, he let go of the chocolate and put the carton box back onto the table, taking a moment to think about why he was feeling this way.

Then, everything went white.

He opened his eyes and noticed that he was back in school.

“Huh? How?” said Brady to himself.

He was standing on the second floor near the biology classroom.

As he tried to figure out what was going on, he noticed a girl standing opposite of him, a couple of yards away, near the end of the hallway and the staircase leading down to the first floor.

Brady’s heart skipped a beat when he saw that the head of the little girl was spinning and shaking uncontrollably, her hair tracing behind it at a much slower pace.

It was as if she was being possessed.

He took a deep breath, but it wasn’t he who had taken it. It had gone automatically.

Then, instantly, he remembered everything from trying to get into the biology classroom to hurrying down the stairs.

He also knew what was to happen next. He knew that he should run away right now. Right now. Brady turned around, or at least, that was what he was trying to do, but nothing happened. He didn’t feel anything. He could only see. He could only hear.

The girl screamed and ran towards him, just like last time.

His body turned around and ran. He would make it out. He remembered this.

He would survive. There was no need to worry.

He didn’t have any control over his body, but it ran, and he was seeing everything through the eyes of his past self.

This reminded him of that time when he was playing a video game and his controller died. His player character had walked straight off a building because he hadn’t been able to connect his controller to the recharger in time.

His body opened the glass double door on the second floor and ran towards the staircase.

Everything went white, and then Brady was back in the hospital bed.

He sat up straight. What… just…

He could remember it now. The creepy little girl, school, and that moment when he had seen her staring at him from the window in the biology classroom on the second floor.

Why had he forgotten those things, and what had caused him to suddenly relive those moments again so vividly?

Were it the chocolates?

While he was glad that some of the blank spaces had now been refilled, there was still a large blank space between the part where he rushed down the stairs and the part where he awoke in the hospital.

He decided to eat another piece just to see if the same thing would happen again, and it did.

As soon as Brady swallowed the piece of chocolate, he grew lightheaded.

Brady could barely put back the carton box before everything turned white again.

When he opened his eyes, he, or rather, his past body, stood in front of the counter in the canteen. The door behind the counter was open and the janitor was in there. Brady could hear him.

The janitor got out and returned to him his books and his backpack. Brady tried to speak, but there were no words coming out of his mouth. He didn’t even feel it opening.

Brady’s body looked outside through the window, and then everything turned white again.

When he opened his eyes, he was back in the hospital bed, still sitting upright.

It wasn’t confusing anymore for him. Chocolate could return to him his lost memories, or was it the slimy strawberry filling?

 

Minutes passed and Brady’s eyes were shut.

He lay in the hospital bed, a sock covering his eyes.

He always covered his eyes with something when he went to sleep, as to block out light.

Brady was starting to doze off and the world around him was spinning.

A soft voice brought him back.

“Ugh, where am I?” he heard coming from the room to his left, but the voice wasn’t very clear. The walls of these rooms blocked out sounds very well, but they weren’t quite soundproof.

Brady sat upright, squinting as he tried to stay awake. He looked like a mole who had just surfaced.

It was dark in his room. It was dark outside. He wondered what time it was.

“You are in the Downtown Yatawa Hospital,” explained a man to the girl whom had just spoken. “You fainted in the swimming pool. You had a swimming contest, remember?”

The girl groaned a little.

“Do you remember?” the man asked again, but carefully this time.

“Who – who are you?”

There was a silence as Brady stretched and rubbed the tiredness out of his eyes.

“My name is Alex Grant. …Doctor Stephens, could you leave us alone for a second?”

“Uhb -- of course.”

Brady heard a door closing and footsteps dying off into the distance.

He listened carefully, but he couldn’t hear the girl and the man talking anymore.

It was like they had disappeared.

Curious as to what had happened to the girl, he turned around in his

bed, sat on his knees, opened the white shutters and then opened the square window above his bed. Almost immediately, he could hear the man again. “ – am like you, Sarah, a Morus.”

Brady looked down at the streets, wondering how long it would take for his loogie to hit the ground.

He would probably never find out considering a wad of phlegm didn’t make that much sound when it hit the ground, not even when it was hawked and spat from the fifth floor of a hospital.

“A Morus? What does that mean?” the girl, Sarah, asked.

“Morus is simply what is referred to as one of the three races of men aside from humans. There’s a whole other world out there that’s

inhabited by people like us. If you come with me to that world, you will be able to learn how to deal with your powers.”

Tss. What? Another world?

“I fainted, like you said. That’s all I can remember,” said the girl peevishly. What are you talking about? I’m really not in the mood for jokes.”

That remark made a smile appear on Brady’s face. He had always had a soft spot for peevish girls.

“Sarah,” Alex whispered carefully, as if he was trying to open her eyes, making her realize. “You and me, we are a different species of human, from another planet.”

It was quiet again for a second.

“Stay with me Sarah. You can’t pass out now.”

Brady cocked his head as he peered at the darkness below him. He suddenly imagined a huge spider crawling out of the darkness and up the building, which made him feel slightly uneasy.

“No, I won’t. I’m just… really tired somehow.”

Alex sniffed. “You are already changing.” Softly, he continued. “We have to get you back home as soon as possible. That won’t be earlier than tomorrow, though.”

Brady realized that this man could be lying in an attempt to take the girl, Sarah, with him.

He clutched at his pockets, but it was then that he realized that he was wearing hospital gown, and also that he didn’t have his phone with him.

Now he couldn’t record the conversation to keep it with him as proof if Sarah were to one day be reported as missing because this man had kidnapped her.

“So, what’s going to happen next?” Sarah asked.

“Well, Sarah, you can choose to either stay here with your family, or wait for further instructions on how to get to Caliptus, the other world.”

Sarah gave a snort of disdain. “If you’ve got proof of that world, I’ll be glad to go there. Honestly. I can’t stand my mom.” Sarah chuckled weakly. “Also, I’m always in for something new, especially if that means I get to skip school.”

Adventurous, hm? He was too.

“That’s the spirit!” Alex laughed, greatly satisfied with such an answer. “I’ll be back here tomorrow to show you something, okay? It’s proof, I assure you. Your doctor will be back soon. I trust you

won’t tell him anything about it. You seem like a trustworthy person. I do hope I’m not mistaken. If I am, you’ll get us both in trouble.

“No one shall know,” Sarah assured him.

A chair creaked. Brady’s eyes widened and he quickly closed the window before lying down on his back and pulling the white hospital blanket over his body.

Brady closed his eyes. If Alex were to find out that he was still awake, he might suspect that he’d heard something, and who knew what Alex would do then?

The door to Sarah’s room closed and Brady startled a little when his suddenly opened.

Not knowing what was to happen next, Brady kept his eyes shut, knowing that by now, Alex was inside and probably standing near the footboard of the single hospital bed, looking at him.

If Alex had been his mother, Brady would have already smiled. He could never fake sleep in front of his mother. He always had to smile then.

“You must be Brady Heliot,” said Alex friendlily. “How are you doing?”

Brady pretended to be fast asleep. He didn’t even open his eyes slightly to see what Alex was doing.

“Are – are you awake? Mister Heliot?”

Seconds past, but to Brady those seconds felt like minutes.

Then the door shut. Brady opened his eyes slightly and found that he was all alone in the little hospital room yet again.

 

Brady woke up. Scared of the dark as he was, he immediately hid below the sheets, and it took him a full two minutes to peek over the edge of his sheets to see whether he truly was alone or not.

Just to make sure, he checked underneath the single hospital bed – without getting out of it, of course – and was relieved to see that there was nothing hiding there.

It was dark, very dark. He reopened the shutters and looked outside through the window.

Judging by how dark it was outside, it was probably midnight.

The streets were lit by streetlights, and he didn’t see anyone outside.

Brady was feeling thirsty as he closed the shutters and sat upright in the bed.

He looked at the table standing next to his bed and saw that someone had placed a bottle of orange juice onto it.

Brady thought about where his phone might be, and that was when he realized that it could still be in his pocket.

He leaned over the edge of the bed and reached for his jeans that lay in a messy hope near the lightweight table.

He felt in the pockets and squeezed something hard before he pulled it out. He was glad to see that it was his phone.

There was a dent in the lower right corner, which hadn’t been there before.

He turned it on and before he could enter the password to unlock it, it vibrated for a full five seconds. It works? What?

A message, probably. He opened the Time2Chat app right after unlocking his phone. Time2Chat was the most popular instant messaging service, at least in the United States. Messaging someone didn’t cost a dime, and the app was also free. It had been downloaded over a billion times, so it was safe to say that it was not only the most popular instant messaging service in the United States, but also in the rest of the world.

Brian, his fourteen-year-old brother, had sent him a message. Brady opened his chat with Brian.

‘Mom asked where you are. Respond soon’. The message was sent at thirty minutes past five pm on March the twenty-third, twenty-fifteen. Brady looked at today’s date. Seventeen past one am, March the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifteen.

Next message. ‘Can I come to the hospital too tomorrow?’

That message was sent three minutes past ten pm on the same day as Brian’s previous message. Brady put his phone back on the table, next to the flowers and the candy. Screw Brian, for now.

He opened the bottle of water standing on the lightweight, steel table, and drank some of it before he got up, stretched – the joints in his shoulders and his back cracked and popped – and approached the door of his room to see whether it was locked or not, and it wasn’t. He hadn’t expected it to be, but he had still wanted to check, just to make sure.

Curiously, he opened the door of his room ajar to peek into the main room of this floor. Using the dim lights, he could see someone sitting on the dark green sofa near the table where the water machine stood.

He narrowed his eyes and noticed that it was the girl in the room next to him; Sarah.

Brady was in two minds whether or not to go to her. He was shy and reserved in public, and it was even worse around girls.

Sarah’s hair was jet-black and she kept it quite long.

Her eyes were baby-blue and she had sharp facial features.

Brady caught himself staring, and just as he did, she looked his way, a cup of water in her hands.

Brady startled a little and then quickly shut the door. He pushed his back against it and hoped Sarah hadn’t seen him staring at her.

Brady’s heart was racing.

After a couple of seconds, once he thought it was safe again, he opened the door ajar again. Sarah was still sitting there, on the bench against the wall right next to the water machine. He figured she hadn’t seen him after all. Brady felt like going to her, but he also didn’t want to risk embarrassing himself.

Brady closed the door again and sat down on his bed, scratching his scalp thoughtfully.

He wanted to go… but… something made him feel like he wasn’t supposed to meet her. It was almost as if something didn’t want him to.

Was the universe at play again? He did like peevish girls, so perhaps it was worth it to at least try and talk to her.

If things were to go south, he could always grab himself a cup, fill it with water and excuse himself to his room.

Brady closed his eyes and lay down on his back, staring at the ceiling.

He felt his eyelids growing heavier, and then they shut…

No. I want to try. I should try it.

This was his chance to talk to a girl, to face one of his many fears.

Brady sat upright deftly and got off his bed.

Nervously, he approached the door and then opened it for the third time in two minutes, but he startled when he saw a silhouette standing only a couple of inches away from his door, looking him directly into his eyes. As he stood there, frozen, his brain was trying to figure out who it was standing before him.

“Don’t be afraid of girls, you creep,” said Sarah jokingly. “It doesn’t suit you.”

“What? I’m – I’m not afraid of girls,” Brady replied, feeling kind of stupid and awkward now that she had pointed out one of his biggest fears.

 “Whoa whoa whoa,” Sarah giggled softly. “Not so loud. There are people sleeping here.”

Brady decided not to talk about the conversation he had been

eavesdropping on. Sarah had sworn to keep it a secret. Alex had even warned her.

Who knew what would happen if Alex or Sarah were to figure out he knew?

“So, who are you?” Sarah asked. “I’ve never seen you in Yatawa before.”

“Haven’t seen you before either,” Brady stammered. “Where – where do you live?”

A smile appeared on Sarah’s stunning face.

“I’m not going to tell you where I live,” she said, sounding slightly weirded out. “You’ll stalk me probably, like you did just now.”

She looked so confident. He admired it.

“I w – I won’t,” Brady said quickly. “I w – won’t.”

She snorted. “I’m just kidding. Jesus, calm down.”

She opened the door a bit farther and the two then shook hands. Her hands were very warm, but everyone’s hands were warm in comparison to his. According to the internet, this meant that he had a problem with the nerves, the tissue or the blood circulation in his hands. It was either that or thyroid disease, according to the internet.

Brady tried to stop thinking and made eye contact, although very

 briefly. “Brady Heliot,” he said, shaking her hand.

“Sarah Mercer,” she said.

 

They were sitting on the green sofa opposite the table where the water machine was standing on.

They were talking as if they had known each other for years. Brady usually felt anxious when conversing with a girl of any age – well, except for his mom, and his grandmother, and his father’s girlfriend, and his father’s girlfriend’s daughters, and his father’s girlfriend’s daughter’s grandmother, and his dog, who was also a female – but the anxiety was not nearly as bad with Sarah.

“So you want to say that we almost share the same birthday?” Sarah asked, surprised.

“It sure looks like it,” said Brady. “Mine’s April the twenty-first, and yours is April the twenty-fourth.”

Brady smiled. Talking to her felt so easy. He barely even stuttered.

“So what happened to you?” Brady asked. “Why are you here? You look healthy.”

“I had a swimming contest in Downtown Yatawa,” Sarah explained. “Everything went black all of a sudden before I could even jump into

the water.”

He looked at her and nodded while she talked. “Where are you from, then?”

“I’m from Uptown Yatawa.”

Uptown Yatawa? Brady knew that a lot of wealthy Yatawans lived in Uptown Yatawa.

“So, I guess your parents must be rich then.”

She shrugged. “Not that I know. However, they don’t exactly have an average income. My mom is an ex-model and my father is a businessperson. I remember asking them if they were rich when I was younger, and I remember that all they said was that they had enough money to buy me a lot of toys.” She then buried her face in her hands before giving a snort of laughter. “That sounded all wrong.”

Brady didn’t get that at all. “What? Why?” he squinted.

Sarah looked up at him. The aura of confidence that seemed to surround her made him break eye contact and avert his glance to the floor. “You know? ‘Toys’.”

Brady narrowed his eyes. He didn’t quite grasp that. Sarah gave a wry smile, showing her bleached teeth.

“I’m sorry. It’s my dirty mind again. How about you? Where do you live? Downtown Yatawa? Yatawa Town, perhaps?”

“Both, actually,” Brady answered. “My parents separated like a year or… two ago. Father stayed on the outskirts of Yatawa Town while my mom moved a few miles up west into Downtown Yatawa. I don’t want to say that my parents are poor or anything, but I know that my father earns enough. We go on vacations, like, twice a year. Once in May and once in the summer vacation.”

“Big deal,” Sarah tittered. “It’s only March and I’ve already gone on vacation once with my parents and my little sister. We’ve got two more vacations planned, the latest which will be in May. We usually go on vacation twice during summer vacation, and on average, four to five times a year.”

“Wow,” said Brady wondrously. He wished he could go on vacation that often.

“How about your mom though? How’s her quote-unquote ‘situation’?”

Brady wasn’t sure.

They had enough to get by, though.

“She isn’t necessarily poor, I think. She and her boyfriend, my

stepfather, or actually just her boyfriend considering they aren’t married, get by well enough. My mom has a job, but he doesn’t.”

“Okay, okay. Well, I really have to get to bed now. If my mom finds out I was still awake at this time -- man.”

They got up and approached their rooms.

“So, see you tomorrow?” Sarah asked as she opened her door.

“Yeah, alright. Well, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Sarah closed the door behind her as Brady entered his own room, amazed at what he had just done.

He had talked to a girl for a good thirty minutes without turning red. Brady’s self-esteem was pretty low. This was because around the time when he was thirteen, he’d been bullied by a group of classmates of his led by a Spanish guy named Kevin Salinas. They had bullied him because he’d ‘talked slow’ or something. He never even had talked slow. He talked like a normal person.

Brady really abhorred that group of guys for what they had done to him.

It’d been three of them; Kevin Salinas, Jordy Essink and Rick Cox.

When Kevin had moved back to Spain, the bullying had begun to die down until it had stopped completely. Because of the bullying, he was now unconfident and shy. Making friends was so hard for him, let alone getting a girlfriend. When he met Logan last year, Logan had indirectly helped him pick up a bit of his social skills again, and Brady had grown a little less shy over the past year. He could finally talk to people again without turning red all the time, and he was less socially awkward as well now. He still didn’t feel comfortable at all in crowded and public places, though. Now he thought about it, he didn’t even know why Kevin hadn’t like him. Brady had liked Kevin at first.

Five years had passed since he’d last seen Kevin, but he was still afraid to face him again if the guy were to one day return to Yatawa. Brady lay down on the hospital bed and without thinking about the consequences, he popped another chocolate into his mouth.

It was when everything turned white that he realized what he had done.

He was standing on the dark streets of Downtown Yatawa, and he saw a group of African-American guys sitting in the distance.

Then, static, and suddenly, he was lying on the street with a large wolf on top of him.

I remember now! It was a wolf. Wait…was it?

His body was barely fighting the beast. What was his past self doing? It was just lying there while the wolf was ripping at the body.

Everything turned white again and when he opened his eyes, he sat upright in his bed.

He cringed as he glanced around the room carefully, surrounded by darkness, and then he quickly pulled the sheets over his body, hiding himself in the single hospital bed.

Below the sheets he thought about what he had just seen.

He had regained more of his lost memory, and he’d have to tell this to the doctor, or talk about it with that Alex guy. For some reason he thought the latter would be a better idea.

 

Chapter 4

Caliptus, Morus and the Mister

 

 

Brady woke up slowly. A bright light shone on his face. Was it daylight? He opened his eyes and realized that it was. Someone must have opened the shutters again.

He looked outside through the window. The sky was completely blue. There was no cloud to be seen. It was sunny outside, and if it hadn’t been this early in the morning, it would have probably been warm.

He didn’t like this kind of weather. He’d rather have some clouds and cold. Rain, he didn’t like, but snow on the other hand, he loved.

Warm weather always made him feel tired, unmotivated and mildly depressed. He had never figured out exactly why, but the internet said that it could be seasonal affective disorder, which was ironically abbreviated as SAD.

When he turned, he saw his parents sitting on the same spots as yesterday.

Why hadn’t they said anything yet? “Oh, good morning,” Brady sat upright.

“Good morning,” Nora, his mom, said. “How are you feeling? Did you sleep well? Have the doctors found anything while we were gone?”

“Eh – n – no? I’m feeling okay, actually.”

“What bit you?” Brady’s father asked, sounding serious.

Now he could explain it to them. He knew what had bit him. He had found out this night, or had it been this morning? Either way, it had been around one or two am today.

“A wolf. It was a wolf. My… tires were empty and the wolf just came out of the bushes and attacked me.”

Then he thought about the girl he had met yesterday.

“The room on my left. Is it closed?”

“No,” Brady’s mother replied unsurely. “The door was wide open just then. Why are you asking?”

What? She’s gone?

He would’ve liked to talk to her some more. Perhaps they could’ve exchanged phone numbers.

“There was someone I knew in that room. I was just wondering if she was still there.”

The seriousness that had been dominating his father’s expression fainted and made space for a grin “She?”

Brady rolled his eyes, smiling. “It was a friend I made yesterday.”

“Ooh, a friend.”

“Yeah. A friend.”

His father was a good man, but he just couldn’t understand that a guy and a girl could just friends.

She wasn’t my friend, though, Brady realized. I hardly knew her.

“Janson,” said Brady’s mother disapprovingly.

The door opened and the doctor with the walrus mustache walked in. Alex, the man who had told Sarah about all those hard-to-believe-but-hopefully-true things yesterday was there too, but he remained outside with his notepad.

“Mister Heliot, Miss Maier,” the doctor greeted. “Brady, are you already able of remembering what happened yesterday? What exactly attacked you?”

“It was a wolf,” Brady explained with all the certainty in the world. “It was a wolf, and a big one.”

“Did I hear something about a wolf?” Alex asked.

“You heard that correctly.” the doctor with the walrus mustache said.

Alex sighed slowly. The expression on his face grew solemn.

“Alright, Arnold,” he said. “I’ll finish this. You deserve a break.”

“But… yes. Okay. Very well.” Doctor Arnold looked rather confused as he left the room.

“I am sorry to say this, but I think it is time for you two to leave,” Alex said as he walked in. “Brady and I have some things to discuss. Nothing important, but it is something you don’t have to know right now, but will later.”

“But – ” said Brady’s mother.  

“Look, I am really sorry, okay? You can come back in a couple of hours. This is… well, I wouldn’t say important, but it is something I will have to discuss with Brady in private before the two of you may learn about it.”

Alex seemed to have this resting sadface going on.

After a brief a goodbye from his mother and some minor complaints from his father, they both left, leaving him alone with Alex, whom, after closing the door, turned to him.

“Tell me exactly what you saw, okay?” Alex placed his hands on the footboard.

Brady wasn’t sure why Alex was so interested in this.

“It was this big wolf,” Brady explained. Alex looked at him thoughtfully. Then he seemed to have realized what had happened.

“You – you were bitten, weren’t you?” Alex heaved a short sigh, which suddenly made the wolf attack seem a lot more serious. “If that’s the case, than you’re infected, or cured, but that’s simply how you look at it.”

Alex looked at the bandages on Brady’s shoulder. Carefully, he asked, “Can I perhaps… remove those? If the wound has already healed, it will prove that my theory is indeed correct.”

Brady looked at the bandages on his shoulder and for a moment, he worried about the pain the removal of the bandages could cause him. He gulped, but then agreed on the removal of them.

Alex approached him and carefully removed the bandages from Brady’s right shoulder. Surprisingly, he barely felt any pain.

Brady did turn his head away. He only minded gore if it had to do with his own body.

After carefully examining the wound, Alex put the bandages back on their place.

“Well, the wound on your shoulder is nonexistent. This indeed proves what I suspected,” Alex placed a hand on his shoulder, looking at him with this sympathetic expression on his face. “You are infected.”

Alex made sure the door and window were both closed before he began explaining.

“Let me tell you about a world – ”

“I have already heard that part,” said Brady carefully. “The -- window was open when the two of you were talking.”

Alex licked his lower lip pensively. “Yeah, I sometimes forget things. It’s because I’m in my head all the time.” With a crooked smile, he said, “You will become one of us soon, so I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore now. It does save me the usual briefing. Have you also heard about what’s to happen next?”

Brady shook a little.

“Alright,” Alex continued. “Basically, you have three options. You can either wait until you receive a letter with further instructions that will tell you where to go and when to go there to get to Caliptus, where you will attend a school. More about the school later. You can also stay here and join a pack, but this is something that I do not recommend. Then, there’s the third option. You can stay home and wait. You will either be kidnapped and forced to join a pack, or risk

being assassinated by a Caliptian assassin. It’s a messy business, but it rarely happens. Once every ten years or so. That’s what I’ve heard, at least.”

Alex didn’t sound certain about even one of things he said. Alex’s tone of voice suggested he was pulling all of this out of his ass, but his facial expression said quite the opposite.

The last part of what Alex said scared him more than it should have. How could an assassin from Caliptus find me, let alone kill me and get away with it?

Then Brady thought about the bigger picture. He couldn’t just leave his family behind, and he couldn’t leave Lisa either, even though their relationship was – quite bluntly stated – nonexistent.

Alex looked at Brady expectantly, as if he was waiting for him to ask a question.

“Eh – packs?” Brady said, asking a question just to ask a question.

Technically, this isn’t even a question, Brady thought. It’s simply a single word uttered in an interrogative manner.

“Packs, yes. Morus roaming Earth in groups ranging from five to twenty people. These Morus have either travelled from Caliptus to Earth and decided to stay here to roam this planet, or were simply born here, already as a Morus, or, although this rarely happens, infected by a Beast, and decided to stay here, fleeing their houses and lives before the Caliptian assassins could even set out to assassinate them.” Alex gave a snort of laughter. “God, it sounds so horrible, talking about these assassins. Rest assured, though, because while they are assassins, they are quite civil, working for the greater good of keeping the existence of Caliptus and everything even remotely related to it a secret.” Alex shook his head a little before he closed his eyes briefly. He continued seriously. “Mister Heliot, Brady, most of the Morus who travelled to Earth and stayed here to

join those packs were criminals back on Caliptus, and managed to escape their sentences. They are murderers, thieves, rapists, overall

 just scum that deserves to be put behind bars. The ones born on Earth who choose to stay here with the packs usually become quite the same.”

Sounds like an easy choice. Brady didn’t want to join some pack of murderers. It sounded fun and all, to travel Earth, but he didn’t like the idea of spending his time with killers and rapists.

Out of all these options, he wanted to stay with his family the most, though.

Alex must have seen that he was thinking hard, because he changed the subject.

“Do you want to know a couple of benefits about being a Morus?”

Being a Morus?” Brady’s eyes narrowed.

“Yes. A Beast bit you, so you are infected and will become one of us. I know it’s hard to understand at first, but once you are in Caliptus, I can assure you that you will have no regrets, even though it wasn’t your decision, being turned into one of us.”

“What are the benefits?” Brady asked curiously.

Alex pursed his lips before he began. “Okay, so the first one: increased endurance.”

That is cool. Brady had never been sporty, but now one of the benefits of sporting was handed, or actually, forcefully pushed into his hands, on a silver platter.

“Not a talker, hm?” Alex chuckled friendlily. “I like that. Faster regeneration is also a benefit of being a Morus. If you’re wounded, you’ll heal much faster than a normal human being would. If you break a bone, you don’t have to wait for weeks for it to heal. Rather, it would take a day or four, five.”

He liked that very much. There weren’t any disadvantages of regenerative powers. At least, none he could think of. Alex noticed that Brady liked what he heard, and that made him smile. “I mean, we can still die, but our chances of survival are simply greater. Onto the third benefit: claws.” As if he had been looking forward to it, Alex held his fists beside his head in an upwards fashion. Brady eyes widened as Alex made six-inch long, steel-colored blades extend from his knuckles with no effort at all.

Brady couldn’t keep his mouth from dropping open.

Alex retracted the claws. They slowly disappeared into his knuckles.

“When can I do that?” Brady was awed.

Alex seemed to appreciate the enthusiasm. “Using them is frowned upon. People view it as animalistic. Normal claws will extend by themselves around August for new Morus. It doesn’t matter when you’ve been infected. People on Caliptus aren’t as keen on finding things out about the world around them as people on Earth are, so things like this haven’t been researched properly yet.”

This was great. The only downside was that he’d have to make a very hard decision. Thinking about the claws, he suddenly remembered those beings that had saved him. One of them had said something odd. Were those beings the untraceable assassins Alex

had mentioned? If they were, why had they saved him from that wolf?

“I have a question,” Brady said. “When I was attacked by that wolf, some smoke-headed beings saved me. What are they? Were they those assassins you were talking about?”

Alex cocked his head and narrowed his eyes before he jumped up as if Brady had just told him that he was infected with a deadly, highly contagious disease.

“Des – describe those -- beings. What did they say? Their appearance?”

Brady hadn’t expected such a reaction, so he took a moment to think about what this could mean before he answered it.

“They were dressed in black completely and, now I remember it, they spoke in some kind of foreign language.”

Alex placed his hands on his temples and shook. “No. No. This can’t be. You can’t be a – ”

Brady didn’t say a thing. He could only stare at Alex, hoping that whatever the man was trying to say wasn’t as bad as he made it appear to be. Alex turned around abruptly and exited the room, leaving Brady in shock as he grew increasingly more nervous all of a sudden.

What’s going on? A rush of panic soared through his body when he thought of all that could be wrong.

A few minutes passed. Brady sat on the side of his bed, thinking about what had happened. He startled when the door of his room was suddenly opened and the doctor with the walrus mustache waltzed in, a smile from ear to ear.

“Hello Mister Heliot. The doctor told me that you passed the tests and that you have fully recovered. You can go home if you want to, or you can call one of your parents to come pick you up. The doctor also told me that you should keep the bandages on until your wounds are fully healed.”

But they were healed, or was this doctor not supposed to know that?

Now he was thinking about it, it was quite obvious that that information should remain concealed to him. Obviously, such rapid regeneration of skin and flesh would raise question, at least in someone who was qualified to treat people who were wounded or ill.

There was one trivial question that remained unanswered, but that was going to change now.

“Sarah Mercer, where did she go?” Brady asked, but he was only

paying half attention. The other half was in his head, lost in the maze that was his endless stream of thoughts.

“Miss Mercer left the hospital this morning, around six am.”

What? That didn’t make any sense. She had said to him she’d see him tomorrow.

 

It was around eleven am when Brady opened the backdoor to his mom’s house.

He entered the living room, wondering how she’d remark on his swift recovery, but he found that she wasn’t even there.

The only one in the house apart from him was Norman, his stepfather. Norman was sitting on the corner couch with his hand on the armrest, distractedly playing with the remote control as he scanned the street in front of the house. The television was on, but whatever was on didn’t seem to interest Norman that much.

“Hello,” said Brady, a little confused, trying to come up with a valid theory as to why his mother wasn’t home.

“Heh-hey!” said Norman. “I heard you fought a wolf and won.”

Norman was obviously joking, but that was just how he was.

“Yeah.” Brady forced a smile. “But I recovered, and sooner than the doctors had expected.”

“That’s good news,” said Norman. “So you can go back to school tomorrow?”

Brady shrugged. “I could.”

His mother had probably not allowed Norman or Brian to visit him because it would’ve been too noisy.

“Where’s – mother?”

“Doing the groceries,” Norman replied. “Don’t even bother calling her. She’ll be back soon.” Norman’s head turned to the backyard as if he had seen something. “Oh, there she is.”

Brady looked at the backyard through the large window behind the oak wooden table.

He saw his mother closing the fence gate and bringing her bike to the garage before she came out of it carrying a large, white grocery bag filled with groceries. A bag of bread and a fresh carton of breakfast cereal stuck out of the bag.

Brady returned to the kitchen where he then approached the door. His mother looked surprised when she saw him through the glass, and when he opened the door, she quickly put the grocery bag onto the kitchen counter before turning to him to give him a hug.

“Come here,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him. “You’re already back?”

“Nah, I’m just a figment of your imagination,” Brady replied. Hugs made him feel quite uncomfortable.

“Sarcasm?” his mother giggled. “I don’t know you like this.” She let go of him. “I do not say this often, but if you want to stay home from school tomorrow, you have my permission. And if you need somebody to talk to, I’m here, okay? I can’t believe you nearly died, and I can’t even begin to imagine how you must’ve felt.”

“It wasn’t exactly pleasant, no,” said Brady, avoiding eye contact even with his own mother. “Either way, I’ll to go to school tomorrow.”

He wanted to see Lisa.

“That’s the right attitude,” said his mom. “But if you’re feeling sick or anything – “

“Yeah yeah.”

There was a huge difference between the way he acted to his family members and the way he would to his classmates, teachers and other people who weren’t relatives of his. At home, Brady was sort of confident, although he would still avoid eye contact, even with someone like his little brother. He was kind of talkative, but by far not the loudest in the house.

Lisa wasn’t the only reason why he was going to school tomorrow. He remembered one of the benefits of being a Morus; increased endurance. This meant better performance at PE.

There was a basketball tournament coming up, and they were going to train for that.

I’m going to impress some people. At least, I hope I will.

 

It was dark outside.

Bedtime.

Brady was supposed to be in bed by now, sleeping, but he wasn’t. He was sitting at his desk on his dark, dark room. The laptop screen lit up his face as he did some research on the topics ‘Caliptus’ and ‘Morus’, trying to find out whether the internet had to offer any information whatsoever relating to either of the two topics.

The word ‘Caliptus’ brought up little; a Swedish company, the word ‘eucalyptus’ and several pictures of some sort of candy.

The word ‘Morus’ brought up little as well. Apparently, the scientific name of the mulberry was Morus.

The doorbell rang, but Brady was too focused on learning more about the mulberry to even care. This page stated that mulberry leaves – the white ones in particular – were the sole food source of the silkworm.

Simply fascinating.

Brady heard the front door opening, which caused him to briefly gaze out of the large, square window to his left which overlooked the street in front of the house and the houses on the other side of the road.

The window was closed, and even if he were to stand in front of it and look down, he still wouldn’t be able to see who was standing by the door.

“Good evening,” he heard his mother saying.

Brady read that monks of the Khmer Empire of Southeast Asia used to make paper from the bark of mulberry trees during the Angkorian age of said empire. That was something he wouldn’t forget, no matter how trivial it was. 

“Something about school,” he heard a man with a gruff voice saying.

He heard the stairs creaking suddenly. Brady startled. He quickly shut off his laptop and jumped into his bed. His mother opened the door a brief second after he had pulled the blanket over his body and had closed his eyes – his clothes still on.

“Brady,” she whispered. “Mister Rockal, at the door, for you.”

Mister Rockal. That name didn’t sound familiar to him at all. There were plenty of teachers at his school whose names he couldn’t remember, but he was sure that if the name of one of those teachers were to be uttered, he would.

Mister Rockal wasn’t one of those names.

“Uhm… what?” said Brady, opening his eyes slowly, pretending to have been asleep.

“Mister Rockal,” his mother repeated, her voice softer this time. “He is here, at the front door. He wants to speak to you.” She cocked her head. “Is there something you haven’t told me?”

Brady felt his heart skipping a beat all of a sudden when he remembered what Alex had told him about the packs on Earth.

A cold, unpleasant shiver ran down his spine as he realized that whoever was down there might know.

“I – I’ll be right down,” he said unsurely. “Just let me get dressed.”

His mother left the room and Brady climbed out of his bed, his clothes already on.

He usually wore darker colors. They made him blend in and feel safe.

Brady took a deep, shaky breath before he opened the door of his room and cautiously climbed down the creaky, white, spiral staircase leading to the front hallway where a tall man was standing in the doorway, opposite of his mother.

“Ah, Mister Heliot,” said the man disinterestedly.

Nora turned to Brady as Brady walked past the door leading to the toilet and came to a stop next to her and the coat stand to his left.

The hallway was dark. Why had his mother not turned on the light?

The man standing in the doorway had his hands folded behind his back. He was tall – really tall – and slender, standing at around six-foot-six. His hands were folded behind his back and his face was partly shadowed by the darkness of the night. Mister Rockal had this permanent solemn expression on his face, which made Brady feel rather uncomfortable and uncertain about the man’s intentions immediately.

Along with a pair of thick, black eyebrows and dark brown eyes, Mister Rockal had a scruffy, black goatee with sideburns.

His hair was hidden underneath a cowl attached to a dark black cloak, and underneath the cloak, he wore a set of black clothing that looked a lot tougher than any clothing Brady had ever laid his eyes upon. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be some kind of refined leather, judging by the smooth texture.

Mister Rockal looked odd for a teacher, at least for one from Earth.

His mother appeared to have noticed that as well.

Mister Rockal took a sharp breath before he spoke. “Is Brady allowed to come with me for a moment, ma’am?” he asked, his voice calm and serious.

Mister Rockal had an Upper Class English accent.

“Yeah… sure,” said Nora, but she didn’t sound too sure. “Don’t take too long, please. You do know he has school again tomorrow.”

“I do, ma’am. I will be sure to make it brief.”

Brady pulled on his shoes and then stepped outside, closing the door behind him. He nervously followed Mister Rockal away from the safety of his house, not knowing what was to happen next.

 

They walked for about five minutes through the deserted streets, townhouses on either side of them.

Mister Rockal and Brady hadn’t shared a single word, making Brady

more suspicious of Mister Rockal’s intentions.

A single house stood in the distance on the left side of the road in-between two rows of townhouses.

Brady recognized this house. It was one of the few single houses in the neighborhood, and it had been abandoned for several years.  

Mister Rockal walked up front and Brady walked about a yard behind the slender man. Brady had spent most of his time looking at Rockal’s right hand, which he constantly closed as if he were trying to squeeze something.

“By now, you are undoubtedly wondering who I am,” Rockal said without looking at him. “I can answer that question for you. My name is Tunstall Allister, but you will refer to me as ‘Mister Allister’.”

Mister Allister’s voice was gruff but clear.

That’s an odd name, Brady thought. Mister Allister had to be from that other planet.

That meant… that meant that Mister Allister was an alien. He was talking to an alien, or actually listening to it – him.

“How did you know my name?” Brady asked softly.

“I will answer that question later.” Brady followed Mister Allister to the other side of the road, where they then approached the abandoned building. “I am taking you somewhere private. I do not wish to discuss this in the middle of an open road where someone might hear us. God, this area is so populous,” he said hatefully. “If only you would have lived on that farm in the middle of the forest. It

would have made discussing this so much easier.”

Shortly thereafter they arrived at the ruined, abandoned, single story building.

The house had quite some free space around it and it was separated from the other houses by a tall, wooden fence. A wrought iron fence was built around the empty, overgrown front yard, and the gate of it was locked. It was hard to describe the area in detail, as it was dark outside. Mister Allister climbed over the fence agilely. It took Brady some more effort.

“Watch the spikes,” Mister Allister said, showing no interest in waiting for him to climb over.

Brady landed on the soft ground on the other side of the fence and followed Mister Allister along the edge of the brown building.

It was a cold evening and the sky was filled with black clouds. He knew it wouldn’t take long before the rain would start pouring down

on their heads. The windows of the ruined house were boarded up, just like the black front door itself.

He had seen this house before, yet he had never asked himself why it had been left abandoned like this for so long. Apart from some broken windows, the house was in good shape, at least from the outside.

They made their way through the overgrown garden on the left side of the house and arrived at the backyard.

The backyard was surrounded by wooden fences, and the medium-sized, rectangular swimming pool in the center was surrounded by a strip of grass.

The swimming pool looked so dirty and gross, Brady feared coming anywhere near it.

The surface of the water was covered in leaves and garbage.

As they walked alongside of it to the backdoor of the house, a toad jumped into the dirty water, which startled Brady, but only a little.

“Why so jumpy?” Mister Allister asked, sounding as if he didn’t really care about the answer.

It appeared as though there had been a fire in the back of the house. The backdoor, the roof and the walls were blackened.

“Why here?” Brady asked as Allister placed his hand on the door handle and tried to open it.

It was locked as well, yet the fire had severely weakened the wooden

door.

“If you would have listened to what I said, you would have known,” Mister Allister muttered.

The backdoor was locked, but at least it wasn’t boarded up, as opposed to the front door.

Brady peered through a blackened window to the right of the door, seeing what appeared to have been a kitchen.

The darkness inside of the house already gave him the creeps, and he wasn’t even inside yet.

Brady joined Mister Allister’s side curiously before the latter knocked on the blackened door.

“Hollow,” Mister Allister remarked, scanning the door while he stroked his chin. “Hm, I take that back. The fire has obviously compromised the previously solid wooden door, but that does not exactly make the door ‘hollow’.”

Brady wanted to confirm to Mister Allister that he had rightly corrected his conclusion by stating to him that if the door would

have been hollow, it had to be empty on the inside, like a box. He wasn’t sure how Mister Allister would think of him if he would say that, so he kept it to himself and simply awaited Mister Allister’s next move.

Brady startled when Mister Allister kicked open the door despite the fact that he had watched him lifting up his leg.

As they entered the house, raindrops started falling out of the sky. The roof of the single-storied house didn’t exactly protect them against the cold raindrops, for there were many holes in it. Cobwebs were scattered around the place, suggesting that no one had been here in quite some time.

The building was quite open, having a T-shape, with the upper line of the T-shape being the empty, rectangular living room, and the lower line being the ruined hall they were currently standing in.

There were two doors on each side of them, and while the one farther away from them were closed, the one leading to the kitchen to the right of them and the one leading to a dark room to the left of them weren’t.

Brady knew that the kitchen was empty, so he kept a watchful eye on the dark room, fearing the possibility that something might be inside of there.

The part of the roof shielding the living room was intact, but the part of the roof shielding the hallway, the kitchen and the dark room wasn’t.

Broken roof tiles were scattered across the hallway and the kitchen.

The building gave Brady an eerie feeling from the inside. It was dark in the house, very dark.

As Allister made sure that the other two rooms were locked, Brady noticed some human silhouettes sitting in the empty living room on the ruined floor.

Allister didn’t seem to mind them, but because they were sitting so still, Brady couldn’t keep his eyes off of them.

Both doors were locked and Allister walked past him, checking the dark room as Brady tried to figure out from a distance whether these silhouettes actually belonged to people or not.

This wouldn’t be the first time that he imagined something in the dark. If there was anything he dreaded, it was darkness.

“We have to look in the basement to make sure we are alone.”

“The – the basement?” Brady stammered, not even turning to face Mister Allister, who stood in the doorway.

Brady didn’t want to go into the basement, not even with Mister Allister by his side.

While Brady thought about what could be lurking down in the dark basement, Mister Allister was already climbing down the creaky, rotten staircase.

Meanwhile, Brady turned around, startling when he saw a coat hanger beside the door.

He placed his hand on his chest and heaved a sigh of relief.

He startled yet again when he suddenly heard one of the stairs creaking.

Creak. Creak. Creak. Creak. Creak.

Without even looking at him, Mister Allister walked past Brady to the living room.

Nervously, Brady followed him.

It was only when they were standing in the center of the ruined living room that Brady noticed that the silhouettes had never been actual people. The silhouettes didn’t even look like people from here. It was rubble, consisting of roof tiles primarily.

Mister Allister turned to him. “I brought you here because you have an important decision to make. It is about your transformation. I knew you were aware of at least something of it, for you played along with my little act back at your house.”

Brady shivered. It was starting to get colder. “T – teachers don’t

wear cloaks, cowls and – ” Brady gave a nod at the refined leather

Mister Allister wore underneath the cloak. “ – that, in schools here.”

“I do need a lecture about how I should act as an Earthling teacher, boy,” Mister Allister remonstrated. “This is once in a lifetime. Spending any attention on bettering it would be a waste of time and brain cells.”

“I’m sorry,” said Brady before he lowered his head.

Mister Allister winced. “Cheeky cunts aren’t appreciated amongst us, and it could cost you body parts, especially on Caliptus. Now, boy, tell me. Why did you not send me away? Why did you come with me? How did you know?”

 “Someone named Alex told me some things about Caliptus and the Morus,” Brady explained softly.

Allister tilted his head. “I do not know anyone going by the name of ‘Alex’. What exactly did he tell you? Is he from Caliptus?”

“Yeah. At least, I think he is.”

“Then you might grow distrustful of me once I tell you this: I am a

member of a pack. We are temporarily residing in a forest in Yatawa Town, near a farm.”

Brady wanted to say something, but Mister Allister didn’t give him the chance. Hatefully, he said, “This man, this -- Alex, undoubtedly, he distorted your views on packs before you have ever even gotten to see one with your own eyes. I do hope you are open-minded, for I will attempt to correct your views on the packs roaming Earth.” Mister Allister gave a snort of disdain. “I bet ‘Alex’ told you we are murderers, thieves, escaped convicts. This is not true… Look at me when I speak to you!” Brady’s muscles tensed and he looked up at Allister, his eyes widened. “Tsk, Earthlings and their lack of manners.” Allister sniffed loudly before he continued his lecture. “Most of us are civil, although hardened. We live in the real world, and many of us are from a real world, which is why I do not understand why so many of us roam the Earth in the hopes of one day being able to, and being allowed to integrate or reintegrate into this society.”

So his normal life wasn’t completely over. He had the option of reintegrating back into society after some time. That made him feel a lot better.

“So, if I come with you, I can one day see my family again?”

Allister nodded. The way this man kept his face straight was remarkable.

“Isn’t that risky?” Brady asked carefully. “I mean -- what if…?”

“What if what, boy?”

Brady wanted to ask Mister Allister whether Morus killed people on Earth, but he felt like he wouldn’t appreciate that question.

“Come on, spit it out,” he urged.

Brady pursed his lips. “What if a Morus, you know, is bad and kills people on Earth?”

“That happens,” Mister Allister said. “It is rare for a member of a pack to do so, but a reintegrated Morus might. Some never lose the wild hairs grown on Caliptus. Other reintegrated Morus might play it smarter. They will use means only available on Caliptus on Earth for status or capital.”
“What do you mean?” Brady asked softly.

“Speak up, boy,” Mister Allister urged, retracting his lips. “Conversing in this manner will get people to walk over you and treat you like a shit.”

Brady broke eye contact at that moment.

The way in which Mister Allister talked to him made Brady feel like Mister Allister already didn’t like him.

“I mean that people you may know might as well be a Morus. Think of overly charismatic or untalented rich cunts. Government officials who do not know a shit about politics.”

“And none of them, not even the convicted killers, ever reveal something about Caliptus?”

“Nah.”

“How do I re – reintegrate? When?”

“Once High-Councillor Nawot allows you to. More on him later. If he believes in you and you have mentored another flesh and blood, you will be allowed to return to society and pick up your old live, or start anew, elsewhere.”

That made him feel better about everything. Still, Brady feared that having to spend over five years away from his family might already be enough to take a toll on him.

“What’s this – other world like?”

“Aye. Caliptus is a world similar to your ‘Middle Ages’, only better.”

No way. That got Brady pretty hyped up, in his head.

The decision wasn’t hard to make at all now. Learning how to survive and travelling the world sounded cool, but travelling to another planet…

“So what is your choice, boy? Staying on Earth with us or going to

Caliptus with that ‘Alex’,” Mister Allister asked him suddenly.

That was unexpected, but while Brady knew what he wanted, he didn’t want to offend Mister Allister and bluntly state that he wanted to go to Caliptus.

“I need time to think about it,” he stammered.

Mister Allister gave a snort. “I suppose that is a possibility. We leave on the sixth of Kotis. That is on April the sixth.”

April the sixth? That was like, twelve, thirteen days from now. He’d have enough time to think about it and come up with a not-so-harsh way of telling Mister Allister what he wanted.

“Got any more questions? You can ask them now. When I am gone, you will be stuck with them for a while.”

He didn’t have any other questions so he simply shook. He hadn’t enjoyed this conversation. Mister Allister was too blunt, and he had pointed out to him his insecurities, such as his soft voice or the fact that he couldn’t keep eye contact.

“From this conversation, I assume that you are not a halfwit and can independently find your way home. Am I correct?”

Brady nodded unsurely.

“Then our ways will part for now,” said Mister Allister, turning around abruptly before heading for the back door. “I will meet you at your father his house next week at Monday, four pm. Then I will take you to the forest to meet the pack and help you with your decision. Good evening.”

“Just one more thing,” said Brady quickly.

Mister Allister stopped and turned around, his face concealed by the darkness.

“What.”

“How did you know where I live?”

Mister Allister seemed reluctant to answer that question. “I cannot tell you just yet, but you will find out eventually. Monday. Do. Not. Forget.”

I won’t. I definitely won’t.

 

Chapter 5

A Sense of Superiority

 

 

It was six am. A couple of minutes past six am to be exact.

The sun had barely risen, yet Brady was awake.

He was curious, curious as to how this increased endurance worked.

Brady got off his bed and put on his favorite clothes; a black hoodie, a gray Cuba T-shirt and a pair of blue, faded jeans that had scratches on the knees.

Before he left his room, he grabbed his keys – which were attached to a chain – and his phone, which had woken him up this morning.

He had purchased the phone around February. It really wasn’t that old, yet Brady had accidentally dropped it onto the floor a couple of times already.

Fortunately, the screen wasn’t cracked, and neither did it have any scratches on it.

He closed the door to his room and sneaked down the creaky staircase. He was ready, ready to test his endurance.

Brady unlocked the front door, opened it and then closed and locked it behind him. He followed the brick path through the front yard, which – in comparison to the other front yards in this neighborhood – looked quite neat.

While it wasn’t exactly dark outside, the streetlights were still on.

He had decided to do this in the early morning so that nobody would see him.

He began running, slowly at first, but gradually, he increased his pace. He decided to sprint for as long as he could, for that was the most efficient way to test his endurance. He sprinted over the sidewalk and followed it to the other end of the street. He was a bit afraid to be seen by other people, but seeing all those closed curtains made him feel a bit better.

He was going to the forest near his mom’s house, which was an unpopular place in the area about a minutes’ sprint away from his current location. Apart from the occasional runner, the forest was rarely visited by anyone. He didn’t know why. It was a nice forest and it had several points of interest.

Brady jumped over the wooden beam used to prevent cars from getting into the forest, and he landed on the soft dirt. He followed the dirt path – a ditch on each side of the path, and trees on the other

sides of the ditches – to a big tree in a clearing about sixty yards away from the wooden beam that marked the entrance of the forest. The grass here was tall, and as he leaned against the large tree, he looked at his phone for a moment, noticing that he didn’t have all the time of the world anymore. He had to be back home around seven. With only forty-five minutes left, he continued his journey through the forest. First destination: the ruins of the house of the Krestley family. He sprinted deeper into the forest, not feeling particularly energetic or as if he was boosted because he was a Morus now. He dodged several low-hanging twigs, all while making sure to keep on the dirt path because he didn’t want to get his shoes dirty.

The path grew harder to see the closer he got the the ruins of the Krestley house, and once he saw the ruins in the distance, the path was basically nonexistent.

One wall of the house was all that was left standing. The rest of it had turned into piles of bricks and debris. The house hadn’t become like this just because it had been abandoned. There had been an explosion of some kind in the house.

Mister and Miss Krestley survived the explosion and they had told everyone that it wasn’t them who had set it off.

Their only child, Anna, had gotten stuck and the house had collapsed on top of her. They say she’d suffocated, but there was one thing that didn’t support that statement: the body was never found. Anna Krestley was around ten years old at that moment. She would’ve been eighteen by now.

Brady searched through the overgrown ruins for something that looked nice, and after three minutes of searching, he had managed to find some items. It were a couple of blue-green shards that appeared to have been part of a vase once. He took the biggest one with him. The rectangular shard was sharp and about as big as his fist.

He put it into the pocket of his black hoodie and returned to the searching, but after an additional two minutes, he concluded that there wasn’t much interesting lying around anymore; just bricks, wood and other invaluable items.

He returned to the dirt path and sprinted to the second and last destination: a small treehouse.

Not even two minutes later, he could see it, in the distance, off-road.

Brian and Brady had built it around five years ago. Even from here, Brady saw that the wood was rotten and some planks had broken off, making the tree house appear as though it was an unfinished project.

It made him think about his childhood, his real childhood, for a moment. Sometimes, flashbacks were painful. He couldn’t believe that it had already been five years since Brian and he had made this.

Time passed so fast, it was almost depressing sometimes.

 

It was time, time to go. After some cereal and a good talk with his mom, Brady cycled to school. He got off his bike, locked it and after finding his way out of the maze of bikes and bike racks, he approached the entrance of the school. He immediately noticed all the looks he was getting. It was literally like how it went in the movies.

Brady exchanged a couple of awkward glances with some other students before looking at the ground and trying to ignore the attention he was getting.

Logan, whom he had told that he would be returning to school this day, was leaning against the glass near the entrance of the school.

“Hey, man,” said Logan, a grin on his face. He was surprisingly happy to see him again.

“Hey,” said Brady, confused. “Did you – ”

“Man, you do not want to know what people have said about you in the time you were gone. Do you know what kind of position you are in now? If you’d alter the story just slightly, everyone will think you are like -- cool, for a change.”

He ignored the last part. Even though Logan was enthusiastic for him for some reason, the guy still inserted a disparaging comment into what he had to say.

“What do you mean?” Brady, who was starting to feel uncomfortable with all the looks he was getting, asked.

He turned, only to make eye contact with a pretty girl of his age whom was standing near a group of smokers.

“You’ll see, man. Now let’s go. Class starts in a few seconds.”

They entered school. As always, Brady followed Logan.

Brady hated to admit it, but he only now saw that Logan was the dominant one in their friendly relationship, and surprisingly, he didn’t care.

At least he didn’t have to decide how they would have to get to classrooms.

He could just follow Logan and think.

They had geography now, which was his least favorite subject. This was primarily because of the teacher.

As they climbed the stairs to the third floor, he heard a voice behind him, which was fairly easy to recognize. It was Mark Barton, the short redhead.

“Aw shit, he’s back!” Mark announced.

Logan smiled and stopped at the top of the staircase, and then, so did Brady.

Brady grinned awkwardly as the short redhead approached him and patted him on the shoulder.

“Tell me exactly how it went. It sounded so – awesome, dude! You just… survived, man, ha-ha!”

“I’ll – t – t – tell you during r – recess, okay?”

Mark had an unusually deep voice for someone of his age.

“Cool.” Mark placed a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go to room C-eight. Geography, right? We have a test.”

Brady gasped. “A test?”

He felt a sense of pride. He had just talked to someone who wasn’t a friend or family without the floor having been given to him first.

While it didn’t sound like much, to him, it was.

“Yeah,” said Mark, who appeared to be surprised by his reaction. “You didn’t know? Mister Weaver told Logan to inform you about that.”

Mark and Brady glanced at Logan, who looked away. “Oh, yeah. I… forgot.”

The trio walked through the hallway to classroom C-eight. Even now, he was receiving quite some looks from both sexes. Each time they passed by people and people passed by them, he received looks.

Perhaps it wasn’t that bad. Now he at least knew why they looked at him. The school bell rang all of a sudden, so they increased their pace.

When they entered classroom C-eight – located in about the center of the hallway on the third floor – they saw that Mister Weaver was already handing out the tests.

Logan and Mark entered the classroom, and Brady unintentionally lingered in the doorway, staring with shock at his classmates, each one of them looking at him.

Kay was one of the last to realize he was back, and he immediately raised his hand. “Brady Wolf!” he said. “He’s back!”

“Brady Wolf?” said Mister Weaver, a slender man with a pale complexion, short, spiky, brown hair and squinty eyes. Mister Weaver was the tallest teacher at Downtown Yatawa Senior High,

and he was undoubtedly the tallest person in general at this school, standing six feet and five inches tall. Mister Weaver always reminded him of a vampire. All Mister Weaver needed was pointier canine teeth, some blood in the corners of his mouth, a slightly paler skin tone and perhaps a stereotypical vampire costume just for the looks. Mister Weaver already had the mysterious voice and the cold expression. Mister Weaver didn’t look hundreds of years old, though. More like forty-five.

“Yeah,” Kay replied loudly and energetically. “Didn’t you hear? Brady was attacked by a wolf and beat it up!”

Mister Weaver’s squinty eyes widened slightly as he looked to Brady. “Oh, you did? I heard you were in the hospital. Until now, I didn’t know why.”

“Everyone knows!” Kay laughed.

“Well, good job, Brady. Did you study for the test?”

Brady shook unsurely as he sat down next to Logan on the seat closest to the door.

Logan, who was sitting next to him, looked away. Brady knew why. Mister Weaver was easy to anger, and Logan not keeping his promise to tell Brady about the test was as good of a reason as any for Weaver to explode.

“Why didn’t you study?” the slender man asked suspiciously. “Did someone not tell you?”

This was the perfect opportunity for Brady to get back at Logan for the times he had been a dick to him over the past couple of weeks. He would be a fool not to make use of it, and while Brady was self-conscious about his overall intelligence, he was pretty sure that he wasn’t on the borderline of intellectual functioning.

“Eh – test?” Brady tried hard to sound puzzled. “Logan?”

He had a difficult time suppressing his smile as Mister Weaver turned his head to Logan in a creepy, robotic manner.

 

This day is going pretty alright so far, Brady thought, smiling. Mister Weaver had scolded Logan and he had even allowed Brady to sit outside of the classroom so that he could make the test later. Brady was looking at a brick wall and was sitting with his back facing the closed door of the geography classroom. On his right side, in the wall where he was looking at, there was a glass double-door that led to a wide staircase leading to the second floor.

He was lost in thought, and he was brought back to reality only when

he heard voices coming from the right, which prompted him to turn his head.

Before he knew it, two girls entered the hallway, talking and giggling and coming his way. Brady turned back to his schoolwork and brainstormed about the question in his book.

The giggling stopped when they closed in, and Brady noticed them stopping entirely shortly before one of the two girls asked the other, “Hey, isn’t that…?

“Yeah,” the other one responded.

Even though the girls hadn’t even said a word to him, Brady felt that he was turning red.

When they stopped by his table, he couldn’t keep himself from looking up.

They both appeared to be older than eighteen, so Brady wasn’t sure as to how he should talk to them and refer to them. The legal adult age in the United States of America was eighteen, and when he was younger, he had learned from his parents that he should always refer to adults as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mister’.

“You are Brady, right? The one who beat up a wolf,” the blonde said suggestively.

Brady gulped, his heart in his mouth. Talking to guys he barely knew in his class was one thing, but talking to girls he had never even seen before? His hands trembled a little so he hid them under the table. One of the girls was pretty. She had butter-blond, mid-back length hair and cognac, almond-shaped eyes. She also appeared to be tall, at least in comparison to the average for her age, standing at about five foot and nine inches tall. She wore a coral-pink T-shirt covered in crepe dots underneath a short, blue overall.

The other one wasn’t as pretty, but still a looker. She was on the chubby side and about as tall as her blond friend. Her hair was a light frosted-brown, mid-back length, and she had large, brown eyes. She wasn’t as brightly colored as the blonde, wearing a green-gray flannel shirt along with a pair of ripped and faded jeans.

“I – I am, Miss,” Brady responded, keeping his sentences short so that he wouldn’t risk stuttering and making a fool of himself.

The blonde and the brunette shared a genuine smile with each other before the blonde exclaimed, “Miss?” and they chortled.

“I’m only eighteen years old. Don’t call me ‘Miss’,” said the blonde, adding a quote-unquote gesture. “My name is Ashley. I heard what you did. Sounds impressive. The news spread like wildfire here the

morning after it happened.”

Like the girl he had met in the hospital, Ashley appeared to be very confident and it made him prematurely break eye contact with her regularly as they conversed.

“Thanks,” said Brady uncomfortably before he awkwardly turned back to his schoolwork.

This confident, almost dominant aura that surrounded Ashley made him feel rather small, and he did not like that. Not at all.

He looked back up at her, realizing that she wasn’t planning on leaving him just yet.

“I’m eh – kind of eh – busy, so…”

Ashley locked eye contact with Brady, which made him feel even more uncomfortable up to the point that he broke it again.

“How about you tell me the entire story some time?” Ashley said. “I’m interested in hearing it.”

Brady looked back up at her and just so that she would leave him alone, he nodded.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Can I have your number? So that we can stay in touch?” Ashley asked.

His face turned blank. Girls never asked him for his number. Apart from the occasional looks he got, it felt like they barely knew he existed.

One girl had asked him for his number in the early weeks of this school year, but he had screwed it up by saying ‘yes’ a bit too desperately. The only differences between that girl and Ashley was that that girl hadn’t generated this aura of confidence and dominance.

“Uh – uh – uh alright,” he stuttered, looking at her with large eyes.

“Well, write it down,” she smiled, and for a moment, it felt he and she were the only two people in this school.

“Aw, he’s shy,” said the brunette, who hadn’t even introduced herself to him yet.

With trembling hands, Brady scribbled his phone number onto the upper right corner of a page of his geography book and then tried to rip it out, failing. He looked at the piece of paper, noticing that the

other half of his phone number was still on the paper attached to the book.

“S – sorry, I – ”

Ashley gave a snort of laughter.

“Don’t say sorry. Just try again. We’re on a free hour anyways.”

Brady gulped again before he scribbled down his phone number for the second time, this time on the lower right corner. He grabbed the corner and ripped it out of the book with the same results.

Like a guilty dog, he looked up at Ashley, showing her that he had failed yet again.

Ashley and her brown-haired friend guffawed, and Brady thought that they were ridiculing him until Ashley told him that he was funny, but in a goofy manner, which made him smile shyly.

“Third time. Once you’ve written it down, just grab the corner, cover your phone number with your thumb and then rip it out, okay?”

“O – okay.”

He scribbled down his phone number for the third time. He covered the phone number written on the upper left corner with his thumb, grabbed the lower part of the page with his index finger and then ripped the corner out.

When he saw that he had failed again, he just wanted to die. Awkwardly, he stared at his third failure.

“You’re silly.” Ashley patted him on the head before she walked to the other side of him, copied his phone number on the lower left corner of the soon-to-be cornerless page and then ripped it out, looking at him triumphantly.

“That’s how you do it,” the brunette said.

“Exactly. So, maybe we can hang out some time? Today?” Ashley put the piece of paper in her back pocket.

He didn’t want this. Or rather, he couldn’t. He couldn’t hang out with a girl like her, and especially not this quickly.

“Yeah, ah – ah – ah – alright,” Brady said, figuring that cancelling this appointment over text was always an option. He would just have to avoid her and her friend on school from then on and just say no whenever she asked him to hang out over text.

“Nice. I’ll text you soon.”

The two girls then left through the glass double-door.

As soon as they were gone, Brady heaved a deep sigh of relief before he spent the next ten minutes overanalyzing everything he had said in an attempt to conclude what Ashley’s final thoughts of him had been before she had left with her friend.

The school bell rang. Mark, Kay, and the rest of his classmates left the classroom and headed to the school’s gym. It was time for PE. Although he had looked forward to this, he was beginning to feel

nervous now.

With his backpack on, he waited by the door for Logan to get out so that they could walk to the gym together. Then Brady realized that Logan would probably not be that happy to see him after what Brady had done, which caused Brady to worry even more up to the point where he was beginning to feel guilty for his actions against Logan.

I hope we’ll play basketball today. Brady was almost sure they would, considering there was a school tournament coming up. Brady followed Logan as soon as Logan. Logan didn’t even give him the time of day.

“H – how’d it go?” Brady asked.

“Fine,” Logan responded curtly.

“Were the -- questions hard to answer?”

Logan shook. Brady pulled with the corner of his mouth before looking at the ground, not knowing what to do next.

 

Brady pulled on his sports clothing – a black-blue top, a black-blue bottom and a black-blue pair of shoes.

I’m ready. Brady left the male dressing room arriving at a large chamber with tall, brick walls, a white ceiling and a shiny wooden gym floor.

The gym was large and rectangular, and they were one of the few classes lucky enough to have it all for themselves during PE.

He took a seat next to Logan on one of the four light-brown benches standing on the other side of the room near the radiators.

“Anyone left in there?” asked Mister Flynn, an energetic man with little hair and large brown eyes. Mister Flynn stood six feet and two inches tall, and he wore his light-blue sports clothing even in school and during PTA meetings.

Mister Flynn was one of the younger teachers, being only thirty years of age.

“No,” said Logan seriously. “We’re the last ones.”

It was always cold in the school’s gym. It was one of the reasons why Brady didn’t like PE.

“Okay, let’s begin,” said Mister Flynn, clapping his hands. “Today, basketball. At the end of this class, I’m going to note down the members of each team, so in short, this is the final hour you get to select or create a team. Understood? Go.”

Everyone got up and groups were quickly formed. Brady found

himself standing alone near the right basketball pole of the left field,

looking at the two fields. Each field took up about half the space of the school’s gym.

Brady wanted to join a team very badly, but he was simply too afraid to approach anyone and ask.

Daphne, a pretty girl with dark-brown hair – mid-back length – an amazing body and large, light-brown eyes approached him. She wore all black.

He had had a short crush on her earlier this school year, but it quickly ended when he realized that unfortunately, it was one-sided.

“I’d let you in my team if it weren’t full yet,” sad Daphne with a compassionate tone of voice.

“It’s… it’s okay.”

Then Daphne did something he hadn’t expected her to do. She flirtatiously stroked her hand alongside of his.

“Next time, I’ll be sure to pick you to join my team.”

Brady mustered a weak smile before Daphne turned around and walked away.

What’s happening?

First that Ashley girl had asked for his number, and now he was receiving attention from Daphne.

“Make eight groups of three,” said Mister Flynn. “I know that you need a team of four for the basketball tournament, but eight teams of three means that we can distribute time on the field this hour more efficiently. Four teams, ten minutes, and then I’ll switch those four teams out for the four teams sitting on the benches. Understood?”

Kay, Logan and Mark walked past him onto the field, approaching the left basketball pole of the left field.

Jamie and Mike, a guy of average height that had blond, spiky hair and watery, light-blue eyes also walked past him, but then Mike stopped and turned to him. “Hey Brady, you can join our team for now. We’re one man short. Come on.”

Gladly, Brady joined Jamie and Mike, who were standing only a couple of feet away from him near the right basketball pole of the left field.

“We’re playing against my real team though,” Mike informed him before giving a chuckle. “So don’t get your hopes up.”

Brady showed him a crooked smile.

Mike was popular, but not nearly as popular as Kay or Mark.

Brady always had this feeling that Mike only hung out with those two to gain some more popularity.

Mike wasn’t a looker. Not at all. While light-blue eyes usually looked good on people, Mike’s eyes looked watery, irritated and red.

So we’re playing against Kay’s team.

Logan and Mark were in Kay’s team. Brady would love to beat them at this game, but would his increased endurance allow him to beat three guys who practiced sports on the regular? He highly doubted it.

Two teams, each three large, were standing on the two fields, with the other four teams currently sitting on the benches near the radiators.

Mark, Logan and Kay were standing below the right basketball pole of the left field while Brady, Jaime and Mike were standing below the left basketball pole of that same field, discussing strategies and positions.

Kay walked to the center of the field and clapped to get their attention.

“Okay,” Kay said, amplifying his voice with his hands. “Mark, Logan and I versus Brady, Mike and Jamie.”

Kay’s shark eyes met Brady’s, and Kay gave him a nod before picking up the basketball lying on the sideline.

Kay returned to the center of the field, where Mike stood, ready to begin.

Kay stood opposite of Mike and the two gave each other a friendly hand.

 “I’ll throw the ball straight up into the air,” said Kay seriously. “No need to cheat here. It’s just a game, people. Ready?”

Brady noticed that the other two teams were already playing before Kay threw the ball into the air and slammed it back to Logan.

Logan caught it and dribbled it to the basketball pole belonging to Brady’s team.

“Mike! On him!” Jamie said. As always, Jamie didn’t do much himself when it came to competitive sports, apart from verbally supporting his team.

Brady distanced himself from the basketball pole and joined Jamie near the sidelines.

Logan jumped up and tossed the ball at the hoop, but Mike caught the ball and was quick to toss it at Jamie once his feet had reunited with the floor beneath him.

“Go, go,” Jamie urged to Brady, prompting Brady to run towards the center of the field.

Jamie threw the ball to Brady just before Kay arrived at him.

The ball bounced onto the floor and while Brady was getting ready to catch it, Logan jumped in-between and stole it.

Brady cursed softly, feeling slightly embarrassed. Logan chuckled a little as he dribbled the ball to the basketball hoop and then scored a two-pointer.

“Yea!” clapped Kay.

“Nice job, man!” said Mark.

“Brady!” said Mike loudly, but lightheartedly. “What are you doing? Run to it!”

Jamie grabbed the ball and approached the edge of the field.

He threw the ball at Mike, but Mark jumped in-between and caught it midair.

Wow. Nice.

Mark dribbled it back towards the hoop and then threw it at Kay, who stood closer to it.

However, Brady managed to get in-between and caught it instead. He needed a second to register that he had the ball right now and he could already see Logan running his way, eager to take it from him.

“Come on, Brady!” Mike shouted. “Run!”

Brady dribbled the ball to the center of the field, nearly losing it to Mark. Then he threw it at the opponent’s hoop.

The ball flew through the air and for a moment. Brady thought he’d score a three-pointer.  

The ball hit the white backboard and it did a little too loud, because the sound the backboard made resounded throughout the entire gym, earning them several looks.

“Ho, Brady!” Kay exclaimed with a huge smile on his face.

Logan caught the ball, which had ricocheted off the backboard. He tried to score from the center of the field too, just like Brady had just tried. The ball flew through the air and landed just in front of it. Mark picked it up and scored with ease, even though his short body couldn’t even get near the basketball hoop.

“Redhead, that was my point!” Logan joked.

Mark laughed at that while returning to his side of the field with Kay.

“Brady, Jamie,” said Mike, and this time he was more serious. “I knew I said we shouldn’t count on winning, but this is going even

worse than I’d expected.”

Yeah, it really was time for them to score.

Mike picked up the basketball and threw it at Jamie while Brady ran

farther into the field. Then Jamie tossed the ball at Brady. This time, Brady was prepared. He caught it and dribbled the ball to the opponent’s hoop. Logan attempted to steal the ball from him, but Brady managed to keep it. He threw it at the basketball hoop and missed again. The ball hit the backboard and made a loud sound, just like last time.

“Potato aim,” Logan called before chasing after the basketball.

“Hey! That board doesn’t have to break!” Mister Flynn yelled from the other side of the gym.

Mister Flynn’s tone made Brady’s mouth drop wide open. He met Kay’s eyes, and Kay’s broad grin made him feel a bit better.

Brady chased after the ball as well, hoping to grab it before the unsuspecting Logan could.

Brady ran as fast as he could, taking large steps.

“What the…?” Logan remarked as Brady passed him and picked up the basketball.

“What’s this, Logan?” Kay chuckled. “I thought you were the fastest of our class.”

Logan attempted to steal the ball again, his eyebrows pointing down and together, but Brady managed to throw it to Mike. Mike caught it and wanted to throw it back, but Logan came in-between, causing Brady to be unable to catch the ball if Mike would throw it.

Mike stopped for a second and looked at Brady.

“Quick!” he then said as he threw the ball towards Brady, over Logan. Brady jumped up and caught the ball. Instead of waiting before he landed on the floor again, he threw it at the hoop a lot less hard than he just had.

The ball bounced off the backboard into the net. A three-pointer.

“Wow!” Kay said, sounding genuinely impressed. “Nice job, man!”

Even Mark seemed to be impressed with the throw.

“Yah,” said Logan jealously.

Kay picked up the ball and threw it at Mark from the sideline, but Brady jumped in-between them and caught it instead. He threw the ball to the basketball net and scored again. Mike, Jamie and even Kay cheered, which earned them Mister Flynn’s attention.

Flynn became their spectator.

Brady felt amazing, and about a minute later, when he scored a two-pointer, both teams – except for Logan – and Mister Flynn congratulated him.

The second half of the game, Brady was on a roll.

He kept on scoring and kept on catching almost every ball flying through the air. After five minutes, the score was ten – three. Mister Flynn blew on his whistle, and everybody stopped.

“Brady,” said Flynn, impressed. “Brady Heliot. I didn’t know you had such talent. You can put that to good use in the tournament.”

Oh, I will.

The remaining part of PE flew by. Brady managed to beat every team with great scores. Ten versus three. Twelve versus five. Even seventeen versus five once. The best part was that he had scored most of the points himself. In the last two games, Jaime and Mike had simply thrown each ball they caught at him.

I carried my team. I actually carried my team.

“Alright everyone, gather round,” Mister Flynn shouted.

Brady and his classmates sat down on the benches near the radiators. Brady felt tired, but not nearly as tired as he would’ve normally felt. Surprisingly, Kay sat down next to him. Brady was worried. He hadn’t managed to get into a good team yet, and it probably wasn’t going to happen either. They had literally just reached the deadline. Flynn was about to make it official by writing it down.

Sadly, he’d have to join Bar-bots teams. Barbara Ralston sucked at every sport involving balls. She always jumped aside and avoided the ball in any way possible.

Mister Flynn grabbed a clipboard and a pen. “Alright. I’ll say your name and you say in whose team you are.”

“Hey Brady,” Kay whispered as Mister Flynn started going down the list one by one. “Would you like to be part of our team? We’ll just kick Logan out. The only thing he seems to be skilled at is boasting.”

“What?” Logan whispered, sounding hurt rather than anything else.

“We want to win this year, man. We can win with Brady’s help,” said Kay to Logan. “Have you seen what he did?”

Finally. Brady couldn’t be happier. Logan deserved this. Take that. Screw you.

“Mark! Marky-Barky,” Flynn said.

“Kay’s team,” Mark chuckled. “And Mister Flynn, call me Marky-

Barky once more and I’ll knock your lights out.

“Oh-o you wanna go?” Flynn said jokingly. “You wanna go?”

Kay tapped on Brady’s shoulder to get his attention back. “You’re going to join us, right? Join us,” he urged.

Brady nodded uncomfortably.

“Jamie,” Flynn called.

“Dean’s team!” Jamie said. “Dean, play the Dean’s team theme song.”

An overweight kid with the voice of an eight-year-old named Dean laughed and it didn’t take long until tears of laughter appeared in his eyes. Soon after that, Dean’s contagious laughter had gotten more people to laugh.

Brady broke eye contact with Kay, but Kay did not seem to like that, neither did he seem to appreciate Brady’s non-verbal response to his question.

“Is that a yes or no?” he said, lowering his eyebrows.

“Yes,” Brady said.

“Logan,” Mister Flynn called.

Logan looked at Kay, but Kay didn’t look at Logan. He was looking at Mister Flynn.

“Kay’s team,” said Logan unsurely.

Kay looked at Logan and then at Mister Flynn, who was already writing that down.

Brady froze when he realized that this might’ve been a conspiracy between Logan and Kay to make him feel bad.

“No,” Kay said. “Our team is full already, man. Brady, Mark, Mike and I.”

Mark and Mike turned to Kay, confused, while Brady could only feel relief.

Mister Flynn looked up from the clipboard.

“Ho, guys,” he smiled. “What is going on here?”

“Our team is full, Logan,” Kay repeated. “You’re going to have to find a different one.”

Brady didn’t even dare to look at Logan right now. Even though he knew Logan deserved this, he couldn’t do anything but feel bad now.

“Well, alright. Logan, I’ll give you a couple more minutes to find another team. I have to wrap this up.”

Brady was thankful to Kay. Now he didn’t have to join Bar-bot’s team.

“Brady,” Flynn said.

Brady looked to Kay, who then nodded.

“Kay’s team.”

“No, you are just a bad friend,” said Logan, irritated, but in a low-key kind of way.

They were sitting on the second floor, just the two of them. The classrooms were empty because it was recess.

Brady was trying to keep this argument from escalating, but he couldn’t keep himself from belittling Logan while he could. His cheeks grew warm and his heartbeat increased as he set free some of that pent-up anger.

“You’re such a weak little baby,” said Brady darkly.

He always felt incredibly bad when he argued with somebody. It didn’t matter who it was, he would just feel regretful after it and blame it all on himself after the argument was over.

His phone vibrated all of a sudden and his attention was rechanneled to the electrical device.

He got it out of his pocket as Logan shook his head, failing to come up with an appropriate response.

Brady’s heart started pounding even faster when he saw that it was Ashley who had messaged him.

Brady turned the back of his screen to Logan before he read what Ashley had texted him.

Hey brady want to hang out after school

Brady didn’t want that. Ashley was good-looking, but he was way too nervous to be able to hang out with someone like her.

He had a plan. He would just procrastinate their appointment until Ashley would stop asking him.

It was the only plan he had. Eventually, she’d have to forget about him.

You already told me you would come remember. I dont even know why im asking you this xd

Brady remembered that, yes. He had already agreed on coming to her house after school today. He could still say no, though.

Not today. Sorry.

It took her only a second to come online and start typing.

Just come please. Well watch a movie and talk about your fight with the wolf. The best way to get to know each other is by watching a movie you know

She played her cards right. Brady was bad at saying no when talking

to someone face-to-face. Over text, it was easier, except for when they’d insist.

I can’t promise anything.

Cool. Michelle will be there too. See you later then!

Michelle was probably her friend; the brunette that had been with her when they first met.

Brady put his phone back into his pocket, only to get it back out

because it was vibrating again. His conversation with Ashley had ended, so he wondered who else could’ve sent him a message.

He found out that it was Daphne who had messaged him.

How’d she get my number? Brady thought.

Heyy.

Brady didn’t know how to respond to Daphne’s text. He wasn’t even sure whether he should respond immediately or wait for some time. On the internet, he had read that replying to a girl’s message too fast would make one seem desperate, and he didn’t want to look desperate.

Rather than replying, he thought about what he could say. ‘Hey’ was too similar to the way Daphne had greeted him just a second ago on Time2Chat, and it also sounded girly in his opinion, whereas ‘Sup’ or any other form of that word except for ‘What’s up’ would sound to cool and relaxed. Asking her ‘What’s up’ would probably sound stupid considering this would be the very first message he would send to her, and ‘Hi’ was too curt.

Brady settled for ‘Hello’.

Hello.

When he read what she had just sent to him and compared it to what he had just sent to her, he grew anxious instantly. ‘Hello’ sounded way too cold in comparison to Daphne’s warm and welcoming ‘Heyy’.

Frozen, he sat there as the tick next to his message turned green, which meant that Daphne had read it.

Daphne was typing.

Do you have any plans for this afternoon?

You’re kidding, Brady thought. Two girls want to hang out with me?

It wasn’t often that two girls asked him to hang out on the same day.

This might’ve actually been the first time. I’m pretty sure it is.

The same thing that applied to Ashley applied to Daphne, though. She was simply too good-looking for him to be able to hang out with.

I’m hanging out with a friend. Sorry.

He wanted to hang out with her, but on the other end, he didn’t. It would be way too stressful for him.

With whom?

Damn it, Brady thought. Apart from Logan he didn’t have any friends, and if he would tell Daphne that he would hang out with Logan, she might ask Logan for confirmation.

Obviously, after the things that had happened between them today, Logan wouldn’t back him up. Honestly, Brady doubted that Logan would’ve even if those things hadn’t happened.

Also, not only could he not hang out with Daphne and Ashley because he would feel too uncomfortable around them, but he wanted Lisa.

With my nephew. Marc

Mark Barton?

No. Marc, my nephew.

In reality, Marc and Brady didn’t talk anymore. This was because of a serious dispute between their mothers,

Oh, okay. Wanna hang out tomorrow?

Brady chewed on his thumb; a bad habit.

He couldn’t say no again, but if he were to say yes, there would be two girls he’d have to disappoint, or actually safe considering he knew how awkward he would be around them, which would also make them feel awkward.

Sure.

Good :) I’ll text you later then.

He put his phone back into his pocket, feeling good. While he would never hang out with either of them, it felt great to be wanted for a change.

 

This, and much more in the full version, available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Brady-Wolf-Them-Caliptus-Book-ebook/dp/B07BR6B72D/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Brady+Wolf%3A+One+of+Them&qid=1557486387&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull