This is a story of great loss, sacrifice, cruelty, injustice, suffering, tribulation and utter malevolence. If you don't have the stomach to see such things, I suggest that you look away and move on from here. A dark and sinister path lies ahead. And no one is safe from the claws of death. Not even the people we love the most. Yet if you have the courage to see such things, then I hope that you take some time to listen to the pain that we have endured. Some of our most important comrades didn't make it until the end of the story. And some barely even made it alive.
We must go back to the start. For in the beginning was the reason. And the reason was with Him. For the reason itself was Him alone.
Everyone has darkness inside their hearts. But it is entirely up to us if we were to allow it to swallow our whole humanity. People are often unaware of that darkness. And sometimes, they are not even aware that it has already become a major driving force in their lives−almost similar to a purpose for existing.
They have propelled themselves to being people they initially hated. Sadly, most of these things could happen to us depending on the situations we face in our daily lives. Most of the time, it would be your daily dose of drama like a broken heart or an awful helicopter mom. And on the other side of things, it would be your everyday bullies or your teacher with a load of school requirements that you would barely have time to even take a bath.
Our bitterness from these shallow things could grow and sooner or later it could manifest through our actions. We try to rebel. We try to voice out the hurt in us. Or worse, we try to inflict the pain we feel on others. But not for me. The hurt I felt pushed me to take a complete hold of my own destiny. Because things went haywire after that fateful day.
As far as I could remember, I was fixated on my math problem as I sat in my room and waited for my sister to finish taking a bath. A few moments later, I heard the door open and she hopped towards her room.
She was a couple of years older than me. So I guess you could say I was a bit shorter than she was. We had the same dark hair. She would prefer to wear a ponytail than not. She said that her head felt a lot lighter when she does it. I, on the other hand, had ear-length hair, just above my dark eyebrows. It would always look both neatly combed and a bit messy because the volume of my hair wasn't all that thick so the wind could easily sweep it.
You could say that Celine and I were pretty close. But I would rather stay out of her business since she would do the same. We were a happy family. Dad was an accountant in a nearby bank and Mom was a housewife. I wouldn't think that I would consider ourselves on the far end in terms of finances but I was confident that we were doing fine.
We would eat dinner outside every once in a while. Or Mom would bake something since she would sometimes sell a few cookies here and there. That would have meant that it was 'sweet tooth night.' It was some sort of weird gimmick that my parents invented back when they were teens.
So anyway, it was my turn to take a bath and I did it as quickly as I could. I already had breakfast. So, as soon as I got dressed, I said my goodbye to my mom and grabbed my bike in the garage. She just chirped happily as if it was the brightest day of her life. Well, she was always like that.
Meanwhile, Celine went ahead of me. Normally, the two of us would ride a bike to our schools since they were only a few blocks away. And sometimes, we would just walk if we had some extra time. But not that day. She was probably picked up by her boyfriend who had a car even if our school was really nearby.
Then I stopped after a couple of houses since I wanted to wait for my best friend to come out. No matter how hard he tried, I would always arrive a few minutes early. So I don't think punctuality is really his thing. As soon as I stopped on their front yard, his door swung open with helmet and pads at the ready. He stepped on his skateboard and went towards me.
"Hey!" He grinned. His blue eyes met my gray pair. I just nodded at him stoically and ignored his usual enthusiasm. Then he frowned as I rolled my eyes at him. "Woah there, it's too early for a bad mood. What's up?"
"Nothing." I grumbled. He kicked off his board as I stepped on my pedal then off we went to school. "I guess I just woke up at the wrong side of the bed. It's getting colder these days and the last thing I want is to get off my bed."
"Well, we are a few weeks from our Christmas break. And stop with the lazy attitude." He chuckled. I just shook my head since I was kind of extra sleepy that day. I swear I would have knocked myself to sleep the moment I rest my head on my desk table. He just looked at me astonishingly. "You know, that's so unusual. Because the Chance I know would normally be happy to go school to learn something new. Though that awfully sound nerd-ish and would make you an easy target for bullying."
"Not today, Jaden. Not today." I rolled my eyes again. He just shook his head with a smile as we slowed down. I barely noticed that we were already in front of the school. "Sorry, it's just one of those days that I love my bed more than anything else."
"Even more than me?" Jaden asked jokingly.
"Yeah." I smiled. "Even more than you."
We just laughed it off and entered the school. I locked my bike on the racks and Jaden hid his board inside his lockers. It was a good thing that our lockers at school are quite spacious compared to other public schools. Saintsville Middle School students are at least blessed with big lockers, and as well as locker rooms.
We had a few minutes before the first class would start. Meanwhile, Jaden and I sat by the window. It was our usual spot and the other kids wouldn't dare sat on it. It was your average Middle School. There was nothing magical in it. It was just a good dose of misplaced testosterone, acne, drama and a load of bullying.
"You know, this has been our spot since class started months ago." He started. I just looked at him as if I was trying to dig something less obvious with his words. Jaden just looked back at me with a surprised look. "What the heck is wrong with you?"
"Well, I thought you are trying to mean something more than that." I replied dryly and stared at him to make him feel awkward. And it was effective. "Because sometimes, your words have weird, underlying meanings."
"If there's a weird guy here, it's you." He replied back. I just smiled at him because he's about to give me a list to prove his point. "You like school. You like math and science when they are not supposed to be fun. You don't like parties. You keep everything to yourself. You don't like talking to people. You look at them as if you are about to murder them. You barely talk. Except to me, of course. Not even I, your best friend, know what you're going to do next. You never told me if you ever liked a girl. You love to roll your eyes and shrug everyone off. And you love hanging out with your older sister! Chance, you're a freakin' alien or something."
"Yeah, it's called being an introvert." I answered. Then I cracked my knuckles because it was my turn. "Meanwhile, you like putting gravy sauce on a banana. You still peed on your pajamas until you were ten. You still watch cartoons−plus adding some special "sound effects" whenever you talk about them. The girls you like are often older than you and you always dream about marrying them someday and having a family on top of a mountain. Your imagination is crazy. You've always wanted to go to the planet Mars. And you have a pet cat named Doofus. So which one of us is weird, huh?"
"Well, I'm thirteen and I'm supposed to behave that way." Jaden shot back. "You know a lot of the guys still behave that way in seventh grade."
"Uh, no. Let me correct you. You are thirteen and not ten years old. You are not supposed to say things especially if they are not appropriate. I am a civilized human being that's why I need to think before I speak." I replied, trying not to laugh. Jaden was smiling because he knew I was right and I successfully shot him down. "You know, I've always wondered why girls in our age group would often fall heels over head for you. I think it's bothersome."
"Well, I guess I have some kind of charm on me." He grinned. Well, it was sort of true. Jaden had that messy light brown hair and piercing blue eyes which the girls in our class really love to stare at. It was as blue as the deep ocean. Combined with his outspoken and highly extroverted personality, people were naturally drawn to him no matter what his setbacks may be.
Jaden could behave well at times and he could express his concern for others in a good way, that's why even the parents of the other kids easily trust him. He would always try to use his big puppy dog eyes to everyone he could set his eyes on. But that didn't work on me and he knew it.
On the other hand, Jaden is someone I truly admire. We had been friends since we were kids. But we only got close when I became a target of bullies because I was being too quiet for my own good. He stepped between the bully and I beat the bigger kid to a pulp. For some reason, he's stronger than most of the kids his age. For me, his weirdness was a personal case study. Normally, I would have known a person's character with a look. But not with him. Jaden was unpredictable. And I think it's the reason why we sort of chose each other to be the best of friends−because we cannot use our strengths on each other.
"So, what kind of charms do you use, Mr. Parker?" The teacher suddenly entered the room. That English teacher always loved to startle his students. And for us, we scrambled our ways towards our desk with Jaden left standing since his attention was called. "I hope a Patronus Charm would really do the trick. Imagine, pushing depression and sadness back into the darkest corners. I think that would be really neat, don't you think?"
"Well, I do admit that would be great, Sir Harris." Jaden replied with his usual, confident smile. Then he winked at me. "I guess it's sad to see sadness all around us. But don't you think it makes us appreciate joy and happiness more?"
"A wise answer, Jaden." The teacher chuckled. With that, the lecture started and the day went by. I was aloof and silent. Jaden was noisy and loud. Recess and lunch went by and we got to meet with Anya and Dylan. The two of them were also part of my inner circle. Normally, I prefer to do things alone with the exception of Jaden. He was someone I constantly need in my life to wake me up when I got too fixated on my own thoughts.
And then he taught me to make friends. It wasn't much of a good and terrific experience really. The thought of talking to people that I barely know could scare the life out of me. It could really drain me big time. But with a little push from Jaden, I began to learn and it was not as taxing as before. Slowly, within the same school year, I started to become more outspoken to at least Anya and Dylan, too. A few moments later, Caitlyn had also joined our table. The five of us became some sort of wolf pack and surprisingly, Jaden wasn't the "alpha dog." It was Dylan.
Jaden was a very charismatic person and he could practically make friends with everyone he could see. But Dylan on the other hand had a different kind of appeal. He was calm and collected. You could feel that he was a natural born leader. It was as if he was on his quest to become the next US President. His words were firm and reassuring and you know that you can count on whatever he would say.
While they were laughing, and talking about whatever nonsense they could think of, I suddenly felt a tingling sensation on the tips of my finger. When I looked at my shadow on the ground, it suddenly moved on its own. I tried to flex my finger and the dark area of shadow would follow through. And when I willed it, it suddenly rose slightly from the ground and started to form a rod and slowly extended towards my hand. I was about to grab when Jaden interrupted me.
"Earth to Chance, you're drowning in your thoughts again!" He said. It sounded like he was scolding me for zoning out. "There are people around you and the least you could do is to let your presence be felt."
"Sorry." I squeaked softly. My mind was too distracted with what just transpired by my feet. The rod that was forming was gone and my shadow became 'normal' again as if nothing happened. "You know I woke up at the wrong side of the bed."
"I don't think so. You're usually like that." Jaden replied. The others nodded and I knew it was true. "See? You have a lot of other time to dwell in your thoughts, dude. If you want, we could always listen to what you're thinking."
"Wow, Jaden. You almost sounded like a helicopter mom." Caitlyn chuckled. "I don't think you need to babysit him every time he zones out. Anya doesn't talk much too but you don't scold her like that."
"Well, we could all feel her presence despite not talking much." Jaden defended and Anya simply giggled silently at the other two. I just shook my head with a smile at how loud my friends were. "Plus, even if she doesn't like to talk much, we know what she's saying…somehow."
"Are you okay, Chance?" Dylan suddenly asked me. "You seem pale today."
"I'm fine, don't worry." I replied. "And I have been always pale."
Dylan was about to reply when the bell suddenly rang. "Well, see you all by dismissal time."
Everyone got up to their feet and went to their respective rooms. The day went on for us and it was pretty quick. I, of course, was too fixated with my shadows. It was something fascinating because I was able to suddenly manipulate it. Obviously, I have never done it before. For the last few classes, it was all I did. I tried practicing melding and manipulating it.
It gave me some sort of thrill of having some kind of weird super power. And it launched me to new thoughts as to how I was even doing it. Because of the small experiments I was doing under the table, time went by quickly. But on the other hand, I felt a weird kind of tiredness on my body. So I therefore concluded that using those newfound abilities I have, it was draining me out.
When the bell rang, I ran to Jaden as soon as I could. It was something I could show to him and I knew he's going to go nuts when I showed him my 'powers.' But there was a game after school hours at the gym so there were a lot of students inside the school. I wanted to make sure that no one else is going to see but us.
As soon as Jaden saw me, his eyes lit up. "Hey."
"Quick, there's something I wanted to show you!" I said excitedly. He just raised his brow and watched me. When I checked around to see if anyone nearby could be watching, I prepared myself as soon as the coast was clear. So I tried to get control over my shadows again but with the best of my focus, nothing happened. I tried to wave my hand as if I was trying to pull something from the ground but still, nothing happened. "Wait for it."
"Chance, are you crazy or something?" Jaden wondered. He scratched the back of his head as if he was irritated. "You are weird and all at times but you don't go this far. So please, stop embarrassing yourself."
"Wait, I did it when we were eating during lunch time but you didn't see it because you took away my focus!" I exclaimed. It was harder to regain this time since it felt a lot more pressuring since Jaden was watching. "Ah, whatever! I give up."
"Okay, sure Chance. Uhm, do you want to watch a movie or something? It has been a year since we last watched a movie together. I mean, it's a Friday and all so I don't think your mom would really care much." Jaden suggested. Then he put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed it a little bit. He started walking towards the exit so I walked along with him. Jaden took out his phone from his pocket and started calling someone. "Here, I'll call your mom for you."
"But I don't have extra money." I grumbled. But I knew he will keep on insisting until he got what he wanted. That's just how he was. "We don't need to spend much just to spend time you know."
"Don't worry, it's my treat." Jaden smiled back at me. "You are my closest and weirdest friend so it's not really a big deal."
Actually, I was pretty used to Jaden treating me food or to the movies every now and then. It was his favorite method of showing his friendly affection. They were not all that rich but I could tell that they were beyond average so I knew that it wasn't taxing on his wallet as well.
"Hey auntie!" Jaden started on his phone. "It's Jaden. Can Chance and I watch movies by the arcade? I'm going to take care of him I promise. You know he is my best friend, right. Great! Thank you so much. We'll be home before 7, don't worry."
"Well, that wasn't much of an effort." I commented. My voice didn't sound amazed since it had always been that way. Whenever Jaden saw what he wanted, and he will take the opportunity to get it. "I have no idea why you are so irresistible."
"Just stop complaining and let's go." Jaden smiled.
The two of us watched the movie about zombies and to my heart's content, I was actually happy. Watching the movie helped me take my mind off of the disappointment I just experienced and shrugged that maybe, I was just imagining the melding and manipulation of shadows. The movie lasted for almost two hours as expected and by the time we went out, it was getting dark. Jaden and I decided to walk home and we had to walk beside a dark alley.
Out of nowhere, a man dressed in a black cloak suddenly appeared. He had dark hair and dark eyes. The cloak he was wearing was made of thick clothe and I somehow knew that it wasn't a form of modern clothing. The man then suddenly grabbed Jaden by the neck and started choking the life out of him.
But before the man was about to step back into the dark alley, something blazed within me. My hands started to tremble and my knees buckled. My forehead burned with something similar to fever and my heart pounded inside my chest. With a flick of a finger, a rod shot out of my own shadow and went straight into my palms. It was long enough to be a make-shift sword. And with the best of my effort, I swung the rod at the man. Then he countered my attack and used his free hand and produced a huge knife made out of his own shadow and slashed through the rod I created. The other half hit the walls and clanged like a piece of metal.
I was still frozen in place. My mind was racing on what to do next. The only weapon I could produce was easily cut into two.
Then the man smiled thinly. "Ah. Where have you been, Israfil?"