Chapter 2 : Fear
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When a pursuer gets inside the victim’s head, the chase is over.
That's what happened to me. Every corner, every turn, I looked for Callum West. I wanted to avoid him as much as possible, to never see him, but when I didn’t, I felt a strange itch on my back. The hairs on the back of my head kept prickling whenever I heard something behind me.
I was on edge. He was getting to me. I wasn’t sure what he knew or how much he knew but I was sure he knew I was different. Why else would he single me out like that? I had made it a point to blend into the background ever since my… ability… surfaced.
Why else would he pull me from the crowd?
To my relief though, Callum didn’t return for the rest of the week.
It was Friday, the blessed last day of school before the weekend, before I would have to prepare for the cycle to repeat.
To most of the student population’s dismay, some genius in the school board decided to make P.E compulsory up till the very end of secondary school! Needless to say it was the only disheartening part about Friday and there were several people plotting the assassination of said person responsible for it.
As the bell rang I collected my books shoving them randomly into my bag. Math was a class I always arrived late to and vanished first from. As I headed downstairs Mr Webber called me.
“Hold on there, Ms Marks.”
I cringed. Lorraine gave me a look as she passed me to the door that clearly said, ‘Oh boy, you’re busted!’. I stared after curly blonde for a short second before turning back.
Mr Webber was new, having taken the job during the two weeks I had been in detention. He was young, smart and good-looking, not at all the best combination for a 12th Year teacher.
I approached him as he cleared his desk putting everything into his briefcase, including a half-eaten apple. He looked up and smiled and I returned it awkwardly.
“How are you doing, Daphne?”
I shrugged, “Fine, Mr Webber.”
“Good… Good.” He smiled wider and I was running out of social interactions.
“Well, Daphne I was looking at your previous grades and I think you may need a little catching up, especially since you’ve had a two week absence from school recently,” I remember thinking it was kind of him to avoid the word “suspension” but it still stung when it was brought up again.
“Ok,” I said shortly.
“Good.” He sounded relieved when I agreed, “Well, we’ll start one hour of math tutoring a week and see how we progress. How’s that sound?”
I didn’t like math, it never agreed with me. I tried, a lot, but I always ended up being mediocre at it at best.
“Fine,” I nodded.
My agitation kept rising as I walked through the hallways to lunch. Every time someone’s eyes caught mine my heart pounded in my chest. But always the glances would be brief, accidental, innocent.
I kept telling myself that he wouldn’t tell anyone. Who would believe him?
Worst case, they would use it as a joke to taunt me. No one would actually believe I was a freak, but they would still make me feel like one.
It’s ok, I told myself, I can handle it.
As I sat down at one of the tables and pulled out my lunch box my eyes scanned the room. Callum West seemed to have vanished like a ghost.
I prodded my chicken casserole with a fork as I began to rethink each tiny detail of that fateful Monday where I ran into the boy.
Did he already know when he bumped into me?
Was it actually an accident? Or did he plan to do so in order to talk to me?
“I believe you have a very unique talent?”
His tone at first had sounded like a threat, like he was intentionally going to expose me. At the very thought my defensive conscience went into overdrive coming up with ideas to prevent that horrible reality from happening, starting with asking him not to and ending with threatening his life as a last resort. I shook my head furiously. I couldn’t let this take control of me.
However, I couldn’t control the rising frustration and nervousness. By the end of lunch I had given Carrol Steiner a bean dip facial. Tall, blonde and a constant snotty brat, she was exactly the sort of person who should play my arch nemesis if there ever were to be a movie created about my life.
As I stared unknowingly at Carrol’s lunch, a wave of rage swept over me at the prospect of Callum West single-handedly destroying my already miserable life when suddenly,
The container burst open and her face was covered in gooey green dip.
Her shrill scream made me wince.
During her years in this school Carrol had made enough enemies to earn a few laughs from the surrounding tables but not me. I sat shrinking into my skin as I saw her boyfriend next to her give me a deathly glare. His eyes alone threatened to strangle me on the spot.
I was very worried, my hands were shaking and my palms were clammy, with good reason. I’d barely been back a week since I got detention and I had done it again! And now as I watched him I could see Carrol’s boyfriend Malcolm trying to put two and two together. My heart started to hammer against my ribs again.
I hastily abandoned my lunch and fled to the gymnasium for P.E.
Carrol Steiner was not someone who would take such an incident lightly if she were to find out who was responsible for it. For now all I could hope for was that she wouldn’t know I’d been staring at her dip or in fact anywhere near it!
I arrived early at the gym, well before the bell rang and decided to get changed while I waited. Clumsily I shoved my feet into my gym shorts nearly losing my balance and changed quickly into my grey T-shirt.
I put my bag and sketch book inside my locker and pulled my hair back into a pony tail just as the rest of the class entered the gym. My eyes widened, and my throat went dry. Right behind Lisa Cross and Howard Hill was none other than Callum West.
Who in their right mind shows up for the last two periods of school?!
I watched as he entered the gym through the double doors talking animatedly with Jesse Adams. His eyes shifted slowly to me and lingered for a split second as he talked as if to gauge my reaction. I looked away swiftly ignoring my closed windpipe.
The coach’s whistle blasted.
Volleyball, the sport that taught me it was called ‘contact sports’ for a reason. Brilliant!
The whistle blasted once more. Tired and looking forward to my free period and end of the school day I headed over to my locker breathing deeply. I wanted nothing more than to change and get out of the gym.
With a sigh I pulled on the latch of my locker, but the door did not open. Irritated and not ready for anything else to go wrong today I kept pulling furiously at the latch making the door rattle loudly. People were looking at me now, but the door did not budge.
With all the noise of the students talking loudly as they filed out of the gym my frustrated growls went unnoticed. But…
“COME ON!” I pounded on the locker door with my fist.
There was a series of loud BANGs as all the locker doors burst open in quick succession.
My fist trembled upon the cold steel of my own. People leaving the gym paused at the doorway, shocked at what happened. They stared back at me as if I was some lunatic who they shouldn’t feel safe around. My breathing was fast and shallow. I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen, crippled by the fear that followed my adrenaline rush.
In the dead silence where every pair of eyes pierced me, my shaking fingers pulled once again on the latch. The thin screech of the door as it opened made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I swallowed searching the corners of my eyes.
In a split second my hand reached in and grabbed my bag and sketch book. I slammed the locker door closed and hurriedly stepped away from them only to meet the judgment of many eyes barring the doorway. With emotions quickly overtaking me I turned and bolted into the girls’ bathroom.
Calm down. Everything’s ok. It was just an accident. A harmless, accident.
Everything is ok.
I leaned against a ceramic basin bracing myself on its edge. Listening closely I could hear people leave slowly dragging their feet to their last class of the day. The locker doors shut quietly. Then there was silence. Blissful, safe silence.
I breathed in deeply letting the air that flowed through me calm my nerves. Finally deciding I couldn’t hide out in the bathroom for another hour I pulled my bag roughly over my shoulder, picked up my sketch book and wrenched the bathroom door open.
The lamps in the gym had been turned off after class leaving it dark, with only a sliver light coming in through the door that stood ajar. My sneakers squeaked on the polished gym floor as I rushed toward the door.
“Think you’re funny, don’t you?”
I froze as the voice spoke out of the darkness. My grip slackened and my sketch book dropped to the floor. The pencils rolled out and clattered on the polished wood. I turned my back to the safety of the wall of lockers as I searched for the voice in the darkness.
“What? You can’t do your little tricks and make the lights come back on?”
It didn’t sound like him.
I wondered if he, whoever it be, could get to me before I reached the door. My eyes flickered towards the light that came from beyond the room as I contemplated my chances.
Then I heard it, the thud of the unmistakable first step on wood. My heart began thumping against my ribs more loudly than before. It was a sickening feeling. I waited for the light to catch his face as he advanced. With no escape left to me, I watched, as his features appeared in the dim light looking malevolent and vindictive.
I swallowed. So he had put two and two together. Carrol Steiner’s bean dip fiasco in his mind apparently wasn’t an accident and he was here to settle a score for his girlfriend. But how could he know it was me?
“What’s wrong Marks? No more fancy parlour tricks up your sleeve?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to know what you’re up to. You play all innocent as if you don’t know a damn thing. But we all know you’re a freak!”
The last word ripped through me. I’d heard it so many times before but still, it hurt… every time.
“Shut it!” he cut across my barely audible words.
Malcolm stepped close to me in a matter of seconds and I flattened myself against the lockers. The pegs on them bore into my back as I pressed into them.
“Listen to me you little insect. You may have the rest of the school scared but not me. And today, you try to embarrass my girlfriend? Wrong move, pigeon.” He shook his head slowly, possibly to intimidate me.
I wished I could have reassured myself that Malcolm would never hit a girl. But with him it was different. There was a reason he was the most feared bully in the entire school. Malcolm had no rules.
Fear was overpowering me again forcing my reflexes to the surface as much as I tried to hold back, ready to take whatever beating I was about to get. I couldn’t allow myself to lose control. What Malcolm didn’t know was that if I let myself go, what I could do to him was far worse than any beating he could thrash upon me.
No. No. No. NO!
My hands began to tremble as I clenched them into hard fists behind me. A horribly familiar warmth ran through my fingers. I couldn’t hold back.
Oh my God, no! This isn’t happening!
Sweat beaded on my forehead, trickling down along my cheeks.
“Oy! Are you even listening?” Malcolm’s voice thundered and I looked up at him in shock. What I saw made my stomach twist in horror.
Malcolm stared at me with a murderous glare, his fists clenched by his side unaware of how dreadfully my lack of control could affect him. Just behind his ear I could see three pencils levitating, ready to plunge themselves deep into the back of his skull.
Oh my God. No. Please, don’t let this happen, please… please!
I hung onto the last shred of self-control I had in me. My nails dug into my palms drawing blood. I shivered as my eyes stayed transfixed on the sharp pencil points as deadly as an arrow-head looming ever nearer, trying to hold them at bay.
This cannot happen! No. NO. I SAID NO!
Suddenly the polished gym floor three feet away from us ignited. The moment my eyes turned to the fire the pencils clattered onto the floor. The flames rose high as if a spark had touched gasoline.
“What the HELL?” Malcolm jumped back, recoiling from the flames that spread arc-like across the floor towards us. I however stood rooted, wide eyed and shocked.
“Did you do that?” Malcolm yelled at me. But fear was now clearly evident in his panic stricken voice.
“No! Of course not”
Of course not, I couldn’t…
The flames drew closer towards us and Malcolm quickly backed away from me towards the door. In no time at all he had scarpered, leaving me behind in the fire.
I was hypnotized by something. I couldn’t understand it, I didn’t have this power. I couldn’t just set things on fire. I just couldn’t have done this!
The answer I knew would come to me in a moment I least expected it but for now I had to save my own skin.
I picked up my sketch book and ran toward the door, throwing it wide open as I burst into the corridor. My bag swung around me on my shoulder as I fled the scene.
Just as I rounded the corner I turned back at the gymnasium. As the door swung shut I could see the flames diminish and the fire go out as abruptly as they had appeared.
My breath escaped me as I glimpsed the dying flames illuminate the shadowed face of Callum West...
Malcolm was nowhere to be found. I needed to put as much distance as I could between the gym and myself, so I ran.
Along the never-ending hallways, past the science labs, past the library…
I didn’t stop running till I reached the grounds. Somehow, the wide open grounds struck me as the safest place to be. I bent double holding my knees, breathing hard from the long run.
What had happened? I couldn’t understand what Callum was doing there. Did he see me raise up those pencils? Could it be him that caused the fire?
If so, all my questions would be answered.
Why he singled me out? His cryptic last comment, his sudden appearance in the gym, the fire, it all made sense if he was the one who caused it.
Either way, he knew what I had been about to do. I had to confront him, sooner or later.
Of course my decision was made for me when I saw a lone silhouette move quickly across the grass field towards the far gate. Someone was skipping out of school early. I couldn’t understand him at all. He stayed away the whole week and then showed up for the last two hours of Friday’s classes and there he was leaving early again.
I jumped over the low fence in front of the stands and walked briskly towards him who did not turn back but stood still with his back to me, paused a few feet away from the gate.
I needed answers and I needed them now.
The frustration of being confused had given me an odd sense of bravery to seek the truth.
“Hey,” I called again when I reached him. The fact that he had not run from me, something I was used to when I searched for answers, calmed me and my voice was much less hostile as I addressed him.
Callum West slowly turned to face me, “Hello again,”
I didn’t pause to decipher his mask this time, “Who are you?” I asked directly.
Callum’s head cocked to the side with a small mocking smile on his face, “Daphne, you forgot my name already? Tut tut. That is hurtful.”
I gripped the shoulder strap of my bag as I stared at him. He wasn’t going to lie to me about this, not now when I had witnessed it. He was the only person who could even come close to giving me answers I’d searched for nearly half my life. If I had to intimidate him to get them, then so be it!
“I saw what you did,” I said quietly but with meaning, not wanting for it to sound like a threat but still convey the message. I expected at least a small hint of panic to surface. But his face stayed as calm and smooth as always. Maybe he was a spy, trained not to leak emotion...
“I saw what you did,” he countered in an even voice.
My left foot gave a nervous twitch but I ignored it. Callum smiled at my apparent unease.
“Don’t worry. I know you didn’t mean to hurt him. In fact, I know you were fighting it,”
I was relieved he wasn’t denying what he did and that he seemed to think I was half innocent… the best offer on the table. But when he spoke more questions just sprang up in my head.
“How?” I asked curiously.
“It’s my job to know.”
Callum gave a short not in response to my skeptical tone.
“Are you a spy or something?” I asked blatantly, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Do I look like one, Daphne?”
I blinked several times before answering.
“No,” I blushed, embarrassed at my lack of control of my own words.
The wind blew past us, upturning my jacket collar against my neck and ruffling up his tousled blonde hair. I stared into his blue-grey eyes and teetered on the edge, wondering if I should trust him at all. He held my gaze for a long moment, a smile slowly creeping into the corner of his mouth.
“Who are you?” I asked again. This time my question was less of an accusation. I genuinely wanted to know.
“To know me Daphne, you must first understand yourself…”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “Must you always be so cryptic?” I huffed.
He laughed openly, “Daphne, you are such a fascinating paradox!”
“How do you mean?” I felt a pout upon my lips as I asked him.
I’m not a paradox! What the hell is a paradox anyway? A puzzle?
“Well, you spent the entire week avoiding me like the plague, and now you seek me out to interrogate me boldly!” His amusement was evident in his voice but the way he crinkled his eyes as he looked at me told me it was playful banter. He wasn’t trying to mock me.
“You weren’t in school for me to seek you or avoid you!” I retaliated.
“You sure?” his head cocked to the side again with a hint of a smirk. It sent my mind wondering if I’d been too pre occupied with my fear to notice while he walked around right in front of me.
My fingers scratched absent mindedly at the fabric of my bag, pulling at the loose threads. I looked away from his intense gaze and wondered if I should be talking to him at all. He did after all just set fire to the gym.
Somehow it didn’t occur to me to ask him how he did it. Knowing that it was him was enough.
“What is it?” he asked softly as I continued to avoid facing him.
I hesitated, not knowing if I was doing the right thing. I only knew that I wasn’t old enough to understand what the right thing to do was with something as bizarre as telekinesis or creating fires.
I turned back to him, “I don’t know why I am the way I am” the confession started.
“Doesn’t feel special.”
His smile was sympathetic, “Being special, often means being alone… but not for you,”
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
I almost completely believed him at that moment.
“Did you make that fire today?” I wanted to hear it from him, “Be honest.”
“Yes.” Unlike me, he felt no shame for his actions. He somehow justified them, “I had to save you,” he said truthfully. My lips parted, no one had ever said that to me before. No one ever even considered it. It took me off-guard.
“Because, you are one of us.”
I could feel my eyes widen with excitement at his last words.
“Us? There’s more of you?!”
“More of us,” Although his expression hardened and he looked as though he regretted his slip-up, I could tell my curiosity pleased him.
“Who are they? What can they do?” I asked urgently unable to contain myself.
Callum looked at me intently, as if he was studying me,
He gave a lop-sided smile, “Do you trust me?”
It was the longest time I’d ever taken to answer a question. Moreover a question I already knew the answer to. I don’t know why I waited, hesitated, and debated with myself. But in the end I faced the facts…
He was the only person who could tell me who I was, what I was. With him I didn’t have to hide. He held the answers I'd searched for for such a long time. He was the only chance I had to understand what was happening to me...
I had to know....
I looked up into his waiting eyes once more,
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