Cyrus stood. This news was most shocking.
No, it wasn’t shocking. It was… unsettling? Disturbing?
He shook his head in frustration. This wasn’t what he’d expected at all. It was far worse.
“Are you positive?” His voice was cold and soft. He was looking from his window, not meeting the other person’s eyes. The room was dark, and all he could see of his associate was a shadow.
“You could be wrong.”
“I’m telling you, he recognized me.”
“Recognized you? And you had never met him?”
“Never. And his exact words–”
“You’ve already said them. That could possibly mean anything.”
The other man didn’t answer. Cyrus stared at his reflection: a middle-aged man more youthful than most. His slick black hair was as uniform as ever, yet his mind was racing despite his calm manner.
Cyrus didn’t look from the darkened window as he thought. Of course there was only one possible solution: The Department had been studying this phenomenon more consistently than ever. Surely, it must’ve been because they’d had a lead.
But the lead seemed so unlikely.
He turned back to the other man. “Yes?”
“You know we could use this to our advantage?”
“You don’t think I’ve already realized that?” Cyrus turned back to his desk and tapped his fingers impatiently. “I know what this could mean, but getting it–”
“You leave that to me.”
Cyrus narrowed his eyebrows.
“I can get him; don’t let that be your worry.”
“Unfortunately, I’ve learned that trust is nonexistent.”
The other man came into the light. He was a tall man, with white-blonde hair and crystal blue eyes that looked like marbles. His face was rough, and there was a scar that crossed his cheek and neck. “You can let me handle this,
Cyrus. I know what I’m doing.”
“You’d better. We’ve got a very small window of opportunity, Henbane.”
I jumped slightly. At first, I saw nothing but blackness. Again, the image of Cyrus stayed before my eyes. I had to shake my head and stand before I could remember where I was.
I must’ve been writing longer than I thought. The sky had darkened; a storm was slowly brewing. I looked for who had called my name and found Reb standing a few feet from me.
“Hey, Reb.” My voice sounded unnatural.
“You got kicked out, didn’t you?” He moved to stand beside me, and I nodded.
“That sucks.” He sat, and I did the same. “You know, good artists often go unrecognized.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think this is worth much.” I held up my composition book, before placing it back in my bag.
Reb shrugged. “I like it. I mean, it needs some work, but so does everybody’s in that stupid club.”
I laughed slightly. “Your poems were good.”
Reb shrugged. “They’re okay.”
We were silent for a while, staring out across the river. I looked over at Reb, and realized something that shocked me–for the first time, I was seeing him as… well… human. Before he’d always been this strange goth kid, but now he seemed… normal.
Well, by my standards at least, so that might not be saying much.
“Do you see me as human?” The question came before I was even aware that I’d been thinking it.
Reb didn’t look at me. In fact, he didn’t even look surprised.
“No, I see you as a camel.”
“A camel.” Reb looked at me, grinning.
I raised an eyebrow. “And that would be because–”
“It was the first thing that came to mind.”
I laughed, looking again at the river. The waters were really tossing now, crashing against the shore.
“What do I look like to you?” he asked.
Reb didn’t respond, though I could sense that he was looking at me expectantly.
I heard a hint of laughter in his voice. “No, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
“No.” I looked back at him. He was shaking his head. “I’m actually a werewolf–from Mars. I’m an alien werewolf. Not a vampire. You couldn’t be more wrong.”
I laughed, and he did the same. “Nice,” I responded, to which he shrugged.
“You come out here a lot?” he asked.
“Sometimes. I don’t really like going home. My stepdad and I don’t get along.”
Reb nodded. He hesitated for a second, and I knew why the minute he asked, “What happened to your dad?”
I looked to the side. “How’d you know something happened?”
I gave a humorless laugh, and looked back at him. He seemed honestly curious. “He was in a car accident.”
“It happened years ago.”
“Doesn’t make it any easier.”
We were both silent. The trees across the river were thrashing in the wind, the white-side of the leaves showing.
“My mom always says that means rain,” Reb said, pointing to the leaves.
“I’ve heard that, too.”
Reb rose, stretching. “Let’s get going or else we’re gonna get soaked.”
“Yeah.” I walked toward my bike, and Reb frowned.
“You’ll get drenched riding that home.”
“No, it’s okay.”
Reb shook his head, running over and placing his hands harshly on the handlebars. His dark appearance looked even darker with the approaching storm, and I couldn’t help but notice that he was lacking his usual mascara. “Come on, no big deal. My car’s parked right up there. I’ll give you a ride.”
“No, it isn’t. Come on, I like bragging about my license. You’ll be doing me a favor.”
I finally agreed. Reb led the way to his car. It was an older model, though I couldn’t tell you what kind or year. (Cars really aren’t my thing.) The car was–quite predictably–black.
He opened the back door, saying, “Shove your bike in! I’d say put it in the trunk, but I’ve got a body back there!”
I paused, wide-eyed.
He rolled his eyes. “I’m kidding. But seriously, the trunk is full. Backseat, and don’t worry about making a mess. I think someone had a baby in this car once, so a new mess won’t matter!”
He had to shout over the wind. I looked skeptically at the car.
“It was cheap!” he responded, motioning to the door. “No weird stories for the front seat, I swear!”
I nodded, pushing my bike inside. It barely fit; by the time it was in, the rain had begun. It was pouring, and we both ran into the car as quickly as we could.
Reb slammed the door, breathing heavily. He was wet, and his black hair looked like a helmet on his head.
“Well, there was my exercise for the day!” He grinned, and started the car. The engine gave a dull roar, and the windshield wipers began to slap across the glass.
“Observe my driving skills.” Reb laughed in a way that was somewhat maniacal; I fastened my seatbelt.
“How long you been driving?”
“A while. Don’t worry; I’m actually a pretty good driver.”
He backed out, then drove back onto the road. “Where do you live, Todd?”
“On Buckcreek Road.”
Reb nodded, turning left, into town.
I didn’t want Reb to drive me all the way to my house, and I was trying to think of an excuse for him to let me off here in town. But with the rain pounding like rocks against the car, I couldn’t think of any excuse that would work.
Our house didn’t look as well-kept as it had in the past. The house had once been nice: two stories, painted white with blue shutters. It hadn’t been anything special, but it had been homey and comfortable. The grass had always been trimmed and Mom had always planted flowers.
There weren’t any flowers in front of the house anymore; the paint was peeling and the yard was in general disarray.
“What gave you the idea for your story?”
Reb’s voice caught my attention.
“You’re story?” Reb tapped his fingers against the wheel, keeping his eyes on the stoplight.
“I don’t know; I just thought of it. I’m kind of tired of it, though.”
“Don’t let that club ruin your story. It’s a good story, and I bet it’s fun to write.”
“Yeah.” I agreed, though with less enthusiasm than I normally would have.
Reb didn’t respond, so I continued talking. “It’s just that I’ve been working on the same story for three years, and I’ve not really made any headway. The plot isn’t any more developed than it was when I was in the eighth grade.”
“Maybe a break then? Just don’t desert it, though.” Reb turned to the right; we had arrived on my road, and I sat straighter, looking for my house through the rain.
“It’s at the end of the street.”
“That one there?”
Reb pulled into the driveway. Mom’s car wasn’t there, so I knew it would just be me and Virgil for a while.
Reb helped me get my bike from the backseat, the rain drenching us all the while.
I began steering my bike toward the garage, Reb yelling, “See ya’ Monday, Todd!”
“Yeah, Reb!” I waved in response dodging into the garage.
After I’d seen Reb’s car drive away, I ran outside, to the front door. The house was oddly quiet in comparison to the storm outside.
Virgil was in front of the television; Jerry Springer again. He ignored me as I walked up the stairs to my room, my footsteps sloshing against the carpet.
I stopped as soon as I reached the second floor. The house was dark; no lights had been turned on in response to the storm. Apart from that, the hallway seemed normal–
Except for my door, lying lamely across the floor.
Copyright Sarah Davidson 2020