Indrid was trying to convince me that there was a bleeder on campus—bleeder meaning a human, which we called them due to the species' infamous ability to bleed constantly. That wasn't to say that we all couldn't bleed because some of us could, like me and Indrid and… well, a lot of us did, actually. In all honesty, the slur didn't make much sense, but it was what we called them. It was what we always had.
Whether bleeder or human, the terminology wasn't the point here. The point was this: What Indrid was claiming was simultaneously impossible and a bit insulting. We and the bleeders had been separated since… Jeez, the twelfth anniversary was coming up soon. They stayed in their larger, nicer area, and we stayed in ours. Bleeders didn't trespass, and neither did we.
Our kinds hated each other; I'd never even seen a bleeder, except in my textbooks. They just looked like us. Maybe a little uglier, but they couldn't do much to help that, so I tried not to hold it against them.
Most of us didn't feel this sense of distance, of passive distaste; most of us just felt hatred and pain. Bleeders had been killing us ever since they found out about our existence, for no reason at all. We never hurt them, except maybe in self-defense, but when we did, it was always taken out of context. The media turned us into monsters, made a little girl seem bloodthirsty upon attacking a man who'd just killed her mother.
This, all of this, was why I kept my lips pressed tightly together, to show my anger, and allowed for Arella to chastise Indrid. Indrid was the most vocal of the group, while I was the smartest, and most reserved. Arella was a mix between the two of us, the literal manifestation of a tie-breaker.
"Shut up," snapped Arella. She wasn't really mad, rather just messing with Indrid. "And keep your voice down. If someone overhears…"
"I know," Indrid retorted. She rolled her vibrant eyes, as if she were speaking to her mother (Or at least how I assumed one would speak to their mother, since I hadn't known my parents). "I was just telling you guys what I heard."
"And who told you that?" countered Arella. "Because they were lying."
"No, no, no," Indrid instantly protested. "It's a good source! I swear!"
Growing bored of the topic, as I now knew it was just a ploy for attention, my eyes wandered the classroom as the two of them bickered. It was quite a bland room with around twenty desks slowly filling with students. The teacher wasn't here yet, which was a bit odd, but I created the excuse that she was just in the restroom.
The room was, of course, filled with children ranging from eleven to eighteen—or, at least, filled with children that appeared eleven to eighteen; there was a boy in the back that was around three hundred but kept coming to class. I hadn't the slightest idea as to why. Maybe he just didn't have anything else to do.
"T?" asked Indrid.
I refocused my attention. "Yes?"
She bit her lip. "Three o'clock. Look."
My head turned to the left to find what she'd directed me to.
"No, three. By the door."
Obediently, I turned right, my eyes landing on a form, one that blocked the doorway. Before even seeing his face, I knew who it was. I frowned. "Seriously? Why's Charlie got to be in this class?"
Hearing what I said—because, of course, he could hear what I said—Charlie's head jerked up, and our eyes met. His cautious smile fell to a frown mimicking my own, and he looked hurt for a moment. He moved to go sit in the back.
"Okay, that was kind of mean," Indrid said.
"No it wasn't," I mumbled, my eyes falling to the desk. The words sounded flat, even to my own ears. "It's just… Well, it'd be easier if I didn't have to see him every day. Things are weird enough as it is. I don't want this year to be complicated."
"You're going to have to talk to him at some point," Arella reminded me.
"I know," I replied. "Just not now."
The teacher's heels tapping down the hall alerted us to her presence, which made Indrid not respond to what I'd just said. The first day, she always acted like an angel. I didn't care so much, so I kept speaking with Arella.
"Hey," I whispered, "do you think what Indrid said—?"
"Is true?" she finished blankly. "No. Come on, you know she's a gossip."
Somehow, Indrid heard this. "Hey, I resent that!"
The teacher was nearly at the door, so Indrid only had time to exclaim, "You guys suck," before the teacher entered.
Our instructor for the year was quite short but still relatively thin with modest clothing. She was perhaps thirty, but her eyes had an abnormal, crimson glint to them, so I was assuming her to be a vampire. To prove this theory, I noted that the teacher was also very pretty with long, brown hair, large eyelashes, and a small nose. Her face was heart-shaped, pale skin flawless.
"Hello, class," she spoke. The teacher picked up a piece of chalk and wrote MS. HAMILTON on the board. "Before we begin going over our classroom procedure, I would like to do a roll call. I'm certain you all know the drill by now, but please—when you hear your name, stand, list some facts off about yourself, and tell the class what you are."
I shared a look with Indrid. This wasn't the drill. Yes, standing up and saying something about yourself or your summer was normal, but it was a bit impolite in our culture to just ask what someone was. If two people were friends, it would be okay, but this?
Though I was hesitant to abide by Ms. Hamilton's directions, I found myself succumbing to the fact that she was the teacher and I was the student. If it was what she wanted…
"All right, then," she said as the surprised classroom murmurs died down. "I'll begin. As you all know, I am Ms. Hamilton. You may not recognize me because this is my first year teaching. Before, I worked downtown as a seamstress, cook, roofer… Well, as any and everything. I have many skills, you see, as I have lived quite a while; I am a vampire." The teacher gave a short smile, which keyed us into the fact that she was done.
The classroom filled with awkward, uncertain applause.
"Thank you," spoke Ms. Hamilton. "See, it's not so bad! Now we will begin with you all. A… Alicia Ashby."
My eyes flickered to a pimply twelve-year-old as she pushed her chair back and stood awkwardly. Upon gazing at Alicia's side of the room, I noted that most of the seats were actually empty.
Huh. Where was everyone?
"Um, hi," she said, face red. "My name is Alicia… Wait, does that count as a fact?"
"No," Ms. Hamilton told her patiently.
"Oh, okay. Well… I recently was relocated to this island from the other one—um, Copperworth. It's off of Alaska. Some, um, humans came. Sometimes they like to take islands back, so… yeah, I had to leave… You know how it is…" Becoming suddenly emotional, Alicia blinked and sat down.
A kid that sat next to her put his hand on her shoulder in comfort.
"Copperworth," Ms. Hamilton mused, "that must've been cold!"
"Um, yes," Alicia responded, still upset.
"And what are you?" asked the teacher.
"A shapeshifter, ma'am, but I can only shapeshift into a lizard."
The class giggled at that one.
"Uh…" Ms. Hamilton was a bit taken aback by this. "Okay. Well, I'll keep going."
Ms. Hamilton called off the next person, and then the next, and the class soon got used to the flow of it. Besides Indrid freaking out next to me because her last name started with a D, it was nice to be introduced to these people. Of course, I knew of them—this was a small island—but I wasn't directly friends.
"Ugh, what should I say?" Indrid fretted. "What's something about me?"
"You're annoying," Arella offered.
"I second that," I said.
"So not helping. Guys, what should I say about what I am? Do I tell everyone? What if they scream?"
"You'll be fine," I assured her. "The fear of lichs is so last year."
"Yeah, no one even cares about the whole being-able-to-control-zombies thing," Arella said, and then she paused for dramatic emphasis. "Or… do they? Twyla, are zombies still scary?"
I nodded seriously. "Definitely."
Indrid glared. "You guys are such pieces of—"
Indrid shot Arella and me a help! look before standing and facing everyone. "Yeah, hi. I'm a lich. Yeah, I know I don't really look like one," she gestured to her pretty face, "but it's not good to stereotype! You know, I personally find myself more to be a necromancer, but when you look at the classification charts—"
"That's nice," Ms. Hamilton cut off. "Can you give me some facts about yourself?"
Indrid gulped. "Um, yes. I am eighteen… and, uh, I like to swim."
"Great. Thank you."
Indrid offered the class a bow, and then took her seat. Some kids laughed, which made Indrid glow, but she didn't say anything.
"Not bad," I told her.
"I'm a class icon now," Indrid agreed.
"Next… Charlie Earp."
I willed myself not to look as I heard him stand. Before Ms. Hamilton could ask, he spoke, "I'm a drake." He didn't add on, which he probably should have because there was a lot more to Charlie. Like… he could play violin—and the flute, but not as well. Like… his favorite color was blue. Like… he couldn't swim. Like…
My spirits fell at my thoughts. Had I really missed him this much? Hearing his voice was bringing back a lot of memories… Over break, we'd been separated—him with his family, me with Indrid and Arella—so I didn't have to think of him. Now I was forced to.
As if my hair had been jerked backwards, my head seemed to move sideways and towards Charlie on its own. And he was looking right at me.
When our eyes met, he gave me a little grin. "There isn't much else to say about me. Sorry." Charlie sat back down.
Upon him doing this, the spell was broken, and I swirled around in my seat. My heart was racing in my chest. I felt like I'd been caught doing something I shouldn't have—but in reality, I'd just been staring at someone. Why did that feel so intimate?
Ms. Hamilton continued on with roll call and was about to get to my name when there was a knock at the door. I was thanking my lucky stars for this as Ms. Hamilton opened up, revealing around eight students. Strangely, our teacher didn't seem mad that they were late.
"Bleeders," Indrid said smugly in an ah-ha! tone. "Told you."
"No they're not," protested Arella. "No way."
"Come on in," Ms. Hamilton directed. "Stand in front of the class while I introduce you."
The kids did just that, each fiddling nervously. They looked beyond scared.
"Class, I was informed this morning of the arrival of these children, but I didn't know if they would come during the day or later," Ms. Hamilton explained. "They are a part of an experimental unification program, so I want you all to try your best to make them feel welcome."
There was a silence.
A girl in the back raised her hand. "What do you mean… 'experimental unification program'?" She probably knew the meaning of all of these words separately, but together they made no sense.
"They're not like us," Ms. Hamilton told her calmly.
There was a smash in the back of the room, and everyone turned to stare. Benjamin, our resident vampire, was glowering at the teacher and new students. I was too shocked by the display to even register how dramatically funny it all was.
"I knew there was something wrong with them!" Benjamin hissed, hands ruining the top of his desk. His hands formed deep indents in the wood. "I knew they smelled different, but I wasn't sure. I had to be unsure because there's no way that those monsters are in the same room as me."
Echoes of confusion spiraled from the front of the room.
"Sit down," ordered Ms. Hamilton.
"No! Get those filthy beings out of here!" Benjamin snapped, eyes wide with fury.
Apparently, this was the breaking point for one of the new students, who stepped forward with fire in his eyes. "Monsters? Filthy? You're sure you're talking to us? You're the ones that kill us. Feed off of us."
It clicked for me.
Us and them.
"Bleeders," I groaned, shaking my head. I so hadn't wanted for Indrid to be right, and yet…
"Bleeders?" the girl behind me repeated. Louder, she said it again. "What are they doing here?"
Many kids stood up furiously, realizing what the situation had become. They weren't doing anything, just standing, but their limbs were tense, ready to lunge.
I felt a bit unsafe sitting, then, so I stood as well. At first I hadn't done it with the intent to revolt, but now that I was up… I was remembering that I was an orphan because of these people.
"Everyone, quiet!" Ms. Hamilton cried, attempting to bring order back to the classroom, but it didn't work in the slightest.
"You need to leave!" a boy in the front shouted at the bleeders.
"Us? You're the freaks!" yelled back one of the humans.
"Us? Are you kidding? All we've ever done is promote peace!"
"What are you laughing at?"
"Don't talk to her like that!"
I guess I just couldn't take it anymore. I moved towards the door, meaning—and I say this truly—to leave. I didn't want to hurt them. I didn't want to start anything. I just wanted to go.
It was hard to look at them. To look at their nice clothes.
What were they doing here, if not to mock us? It made me sick—simply looking at them made me want to vomit.
So I walked to the door, and then a gun was pulled on me.
In a split second, the entire room went dead silent.
My hands went up, body completely still at the sensation of metal on the base of my neck. "Uh… look… I don't mean any harm…"
"Oh, bull," spat the man holding it. "You were coming right towards me."
Slowly, slowly, I turned, my hands still high. "Please, let me go."
As I could now view my classmates, I saw the majority gazing upon the scene in absolute horror. I wasn't exactly everyone's favorite person, but we were a pretty close-knit community. Pulling a gun on me was like pulling a gun on each and every one of them.
Arella and Indrid were staring at me with the same amount of fear, but there was also anger there. I knew they were capable of murder, though I wished they wouldn't have to be. If this guy decided to kill me, I didn't want to be avenged. Strange as that sounded.
I didn't want things to get worse between bleeders and us. I didn't want more people to die.
My eyes found Charlie's. His face was the worst to look at.
It will be okay, he mouthed to me.
I shook my head.
Charlie took a step forward, and I shook my head more vehemently. "Let her go," he ordered. I was a bit surprised at how livid he sounded; I'd never heard him that angry before.
Kids turned their eyes to Charlie. He was the first to speak, other than Gun Guy and me.
There was a very long, very thick moment of silence, and then I felt the weight disappear, and the class breathed a collective sigh of relief with me. I pushed away from the guy and sped over to Indrid and Arella. My kind.
"Well, that was a bit disappointing," admitted Ms. Hamilton. "You all have failed my expectations greatly. Especially you," she said, turning to Gun Guy. "But now that that's out of the way, you all can take your seats."
"Are you kidding?" exploded the bleeders.
"Go," growled Ms. Hamilton, leaving no room in her voice for argument.
Exasperated, the bleeders slowly approached the seats. The non-bleeders on that side of the room instantly got up and went to the other side, claiming free seats. In any other situation, it would've been comedic.
"Great. Now we can continue with attendance!" chirped Ms. Hamilton. "Twyla Kyle."
I stood, eyes darting across the room. My body was still pumping with adrenaline, hands and knees trembling "Hi. I'm Twyla. I'm a witch." I sat back down quickly.
The class was silent.
"Care to add on with a few fun facts?" asked Ms. Hamilton.
"It wasn't a request," she reminded me.
"There is nothing about me," I told her. "I have no facts at all. Can you go to the next person?"
"Yes," Ms. Hamilton said crisply. "Of course."
I knew, then and there, that the teacher didn't like me, but I couldn't find it within myself to care. A guy had just pointed a gun at me—wait, even more surprising, the guy that had pointed the gun at me was human. Bleeders were here!
The events that had just transpired felt like an omen for something bigger. Something worse. My heart dropped into my stomach as I wondered what it could be, and if there was any way to prepare for it, and if preparing would work.
A chill hit me, and a feeling much like death passed over my body.