A loud bang broke the September night, causing Bryan to run faster along the dark streets. He did not care where he went at this point; he just knew he needed to get off the neatly trimmed lawns of Terrsus Village. Sirens were blaring in a matter of minutes but he kept his eyes on the narrow pathway ahead of him, coming up to the wood. The path split and Bryan stopped, taking refuge in the trees. His heavy breathing was the only sound aside from a car passing every few minutes. Bryan stood a long time, looking down each road as far as possible. He knew the main path would lead him to the park, which even at this hour would be crowded with teenagers. Instead he turned down the second pathway and followed the thin trail through the trees. His sneakers slid in the mud as he raced to the other end of the wood. The highway was just on the other side of the trees and that would buy him time.

A light flashed from the east. Bryan slowed to a stop and held onto the bark of the tree in front of him, trying to hide himself. He held his breath, waiting silently for the light to pass.

"Stay quiet." A soft hand covered his mouth. It was a girl's voice but he did not recognize it; he thought he knew all the girls in Terrsus. "Cops will be looking for you any minute," she whispered. "Follow me."

She let go of him and he followed the strawberry blonde ponytail through the shadows. Her footsteps were silent, as if she somehow managed to avoid every decaying leaf that blanketed the ground. Bryan shuffled behind her, the crunching of leaves and snapping branches echoing his every step. She led him off the trail to a clearing, where a white truck was parked.

"Here, get in," she told him. She grabbed the handles that were surrounded by the chipping white paint of the truck. As Bryan got closer, he could see the black marks where the paint had worn off. An "em" sound escaped the girls' lips as she pulled open the back doors.

"Wait," Bryan stuttered.

"Hurry," a voice called from the driver's seat.

"Look, Bryan, I'm really sorry but we have to go now. We don't have time to wait," the girl said.

"Who are you?" Bryan asked, backing away from the truck.

"We're outta time," a differnt voice said from behind him. He felt something hit his back as he was pushed into the truck. The doors slammed and he stood up. Bryan held his arms in a fighting stance ready to take on whoever was coming at him. Bryan felt his wrists be pulled behind him and begin to burn. He realized a rope had tied his arms behind his back.

"Dannie, flip on the light back here," the voice from before called. A dim light came on above them but it was enough for Bryan to see. The strawberry blonde was locking the truck's doors and bolting it shut. Another girl, with dark brown hair tied above her head, sat next to him. The engine started and the car turned through the labyrinth of trees. When it reached the main road, the truck slowed down.

"This is fine," the girl next to him said, "I got it from here." Bryan stretched his neck to see out the truck's window as they pulled to a stop. He could see his neighbor's house. He watched as the dark haired girl slipped out of the truck and across his neighbor's lawn. She moved fast and silently until she was out of sight.

"What's she doing?" Bryan asked.

"Just relax, alright? She is just grabbing a few of your things. You did not really bring anything with you." The strawberry blonde crossed the truck to sit in front of him. "I'm Rossi by the way," she said. She held out her hand to shake his. When he did not take it, she noticed the ropes around his wrists.

"Dannie, she tied him up," Rossi called to the driver.

A groan came from the front seat. "I specifically told her not to," a male voice called back. "Untie him, Rossi."

Rossi got onto her knees, "Sit still, 'kay?" He could feel her tugging at the rope. A backpack, which Bryan recognized as his own, landed on the floor next to him.

"Don't untie him. He was in a fighting stance before. Besides, if he gets out here they'll just lock him up somewhere. Drive, Dannie. Fast."

The truck started and the dark haired girl settled into the passenger seat. "You weren't seen, were you?" the driver, Dannie, asked. The truck took a sharp left turn.

"Don't be stupid," the girl replied, "Of course I wasn't seen."

"Where are you taking me?" Bryan finally asked. He turned his gaze to Rossi.

"We're just going to take you to where we live," she answered. "I know it's kinda scary for you now but it's not so bad."

"Who are all of you?" Bryan asked. He tried to glance around to see the two in the front but he couldn't.

"Well, that guy driving, that is Dannie." Dannie called back a 'hey there' before Rossi continued. "We call him Chance though, like a chance card in Monopoly."

"Why?" Bryan cut in.

"Because he always knows what is going to happen before it does. That is his gift. He can see what is going to happen." Bryan shifted his weight to turn around so he could see Dannie. The older teen had fiery red hair that was spiked back and he had a several earrings in his ears. He turned around for a second to wave hello before his golden brown eyes turned back to the road.

"That girl there, next to Dannie, that's Ellie. She can move objects with her mind but she does more than that. When she was seven she started working with the United States government and she is trained in everything from different styles of fighting to disabling security."

"Don't be giving that kid our whole life stories," Ellie called. She got out of the passenger's seat to come back with them, as if to supervise. "We don't know him yet, don't trust him."

Bryan shifted himself away from her. Everything on her was black: pants, shirt, boots, gloves, even her hair tie. Her clothes were tight to her skin too, which had to be uncomfortable. The only color on her, other than her light skin tone, was her light blue eyes which were currently staring him down. Rossi frowned at her.

"Don't worry, Ellie's always like that, even after you get to know her. You get used to it. And like I said before, I am Rossi! My real name is Rose but no one ever calls me that. I used to live in Maine before I found my gift. I can change into almost any animal - as long as I have seen them alive, I can change into them."

"So can you really paralyze people from touching them?" Ellie asked.

"I dunno," Bryan answered.

"How do you 'not know'? You either can or you can't."

Bryan was busy trying to get out of the ropes. "I have only done it once and it was an accident."

"I don't believe in accidents," Ellie replied. She watched him trying to shake the ropes off. "I can tighten those if you'd like. You are not going to get out of them though. I know how to tie a knot."

"Why are you taking me?" Bryan asked, his question clearly directed at Rossi.

Ellie answered anyway, "Because otherwise, the cops would have nabbed you back there. Now be thankful and shut up."

"We're almost there, I promise," Rossi said in an attempt to comfort him. As she spoke they pulled onto the highway. Silence filled the car with the exception of Rossi's humming. Bryan continued his attempt to remove the ropes and Ellie watched him carefully with amusement. Bryan kept his eye on the clock above the dashboard. After almost an hour of driving, Dannie got off at an exit and drove through a town until he came to a small house. It was the last one on a dead end street and was separated from the other houses.

"It's bigger than it looks," Rossi said as the garage door opened up. The truck pulled into the brightly lit garage and the clank of metal told Bryan the garage door had been shut again. "You are gonna see a girl with dark brown hair. That is Xinavane, but we call her Avane. Ah-vane. It is a weird name. I know. She is a genius. She is really nice too. She can be a little... fast paced though. Her mind moves insanely fast and stuff."

The truck turned off and Dannie turned around, "I really hope you choose to stick around. It will be nice having another guy around here. You do have a choice though, 'kay?" As Dannie spoke he untied the ropes on Bryan's hands. "Don't go killin' me now."

The truck's back doors opened as a young woman with long brown hair came into view. Her light green eyes smiled welcomingly to Bryan as she waved him out. "Hey there, Bryan. I am Avane."

"Rossi took care of the introductions," Ellie said. She threw his backpack at him and he caught it sloppily. Ellie was at the door already. "I will be in my room if you need me to make him talk or something."

"Alright, thanks Ellie." Avane winked at Bryan and waited until Ellie was out of sight, before she continued. "Don't let her give you too much of a hard time; she is all talk. Are you hungry or anything, Bryan?"

"No."

Avane frowned but nodded. "Alright well, if you are sure, why don't you just sit down here and we will talk. I could open the side door to the street if that makes you more comfortable. Chance, Rossi, can you go fix the second guest room into a bedroom for Bryan?"

The two of them left and Avane sat down at a metal desk in the corner of the garage. She pulled out a pile of papers and looked up at him. "What is your favorite movie, Bryan?"

"I dunno," Bryan mumbled. His brown eyes drifted to the side door across the room.

Her gaze followed his. "Favorite food? Movie?" Bryan mumbled about not knowing again. Avane ran her fingers through her straight hair, pulling it out of her face. "Do you know why you are here?" Avane asked.

"Not really."

"You are gifted, Bryan," Avane said.

"That is what Rosie said but-"

"Rossi," Avane corrected.

"Sorry," Bryan said quickly. "Rossi said that Chance can see the future and Ellie can do a bunch of stuff."

"You paralyze people and, from what Chance told us about you, you have some element of controlling them too," Avane explained. "We do not hold anyone here against their will but everyone here gets to share the experience of developing their gifts with each other. Some people, like Rossi, are here for the support as she learns. Others, like Chance and Ellie, are here because they have nowhere else to go."

"What do I do if I stay?"

"If you stay then you unpack and I will enroll you in school." She pushed her chair back and slid the computer keyboard in front of her. "I would need a different name though because people will look for you. There is no rush though, really Bryan. Do you want to spend the night here to think about it?"

"I guess so," Bryan answered.

"Sure," Avane said. She smiled and stood up, grabbing a packet of papers from in front of her, walked around the desk. Bryan followed her and passed through the small white door behind her. The door led into a small kitchen which was mainly all white. Avane led him straight through it and through a small dining room without pausing to let him take in the scenery. "I will give you a tour tomorrow, I promise," Avane said as she pushed through a messy living room to get to the staircase. She led him up a flight of stairs and down a small hallway to a bedroom. The sign on the door said "Bryan" and Avane held the door open for him.

Inside was a small bed with blue sheets pushed up against the wall. A brown three drawer dresser was next to it and a closet next to that. The wall was painted a blue that matched the shade of the bed spread and the curtains that were blowing from the open window. Avane crossed the wooden floor and shut the window for him. "I know it looks small but looks can be deceiving. It is almost midnight though so we will finish talking tomorrow morning."

Bryan mumbled a 'yeah' in response as Avane crossed the room. She placed the pile of papers she took off her desk on top of the dresser. "If you think you want to stay, all you need to do is fill those out. I am two doors down if you need anything." Avane shut his door and Bryan glanced around the room again. He walked over to the window and glanced out to the dark street below him. His head was still full of questions as he sat down on the unfamiliar bed.

After trying to rationalize with himself about what had happened, he began to examine the room. He found some of his clothes were inside the dresser already and his backpack was hanging up inside the closet. Bryan looked at a nightstand next to his bed. On top of it was a notebook he had taken out of his brother's room. He left it on his bed before he had left. Ellie must have thrown it into his bag thinking he needed it.

The book was in his brother's handwriting. Bryan thought it would be an English notebook because of how full it was. He meant to borrow his brother's notes since Max was in an advanced English class and their coursework was the same.

It is funny how every story parents tell seems to be about when we were younger. If that was such a great time, why can't we remember it? Apparently, as a baby, I liked to put on her makeup and her heels and march around the house. She says she has pictures in the basement but I have yet to see them.

The first thing I can remember would be my first baseball game. I struck out every time I was at bat and missed every ball thrown at me. Bryan was playing second base and he was using his foot to draw in the dirt next to the base. Twice a ball went over his head that he could have caught, but he simply did not look up. I ran for each ball, but missed. I remember looking up and seeing my father's glare. That is my first memory.

I decided I would work hard at sports after that. I asked my dad to help me practice every day. Soon I started school and practice became a second priority. "School comes first." I learned that my parents would glare at me for low grades. I studied all day to make sure I could practice at night. Bryan would be reading in the corner, always getting my mother to smile at how studious he was. It was a comic book he was reading, but we never told her that.

That is how we grew up, Bryan and I. We were always total opposites. I think that is why we get along so well.

Bryan came to the end of the page and rubbed his eyes. He closed the notebook and headed back to the nightstand. Several photos of his family and friends were in the top drawer and he pulled them out, placing the notebook in their place. Bryan shuffled through the pictures and took out a picture of him with Max. He looked it over and frowned as he brought it over to the bed.

Max was right; he and Bryan were complete opposites. Standing side by side in the picture, no one could ever tell they were brothers. People remarked about how Max's short blonde hair was nothing like Bryan's long black haircut, yet no one ever realized they shared the same thin face. Max's emerald green eyes were nothing like Bryan's brown eyes, but they had the same eye shape: flat on the top eyelid, round on the bottom eyelid. They were both tall too, but that also went unnoticed. He wasn't sure how long it was that he stared at the picture frame, but eventually he fell asleep.

~ M. Montenegro 10 ~