CHAPTER 1: SIGHT OF THE UNKNOWN

I drove to school with the windows rolled down. Unlike the normal days, it was thirty-four degrees; the sky was completely pink, the white, hot sun beating down. I drove to my college. I was far too familiar with these roads to need a map. Finally, I reached a place that looked like a school.

There were three large red-brick buildings. There was a small room in the open parking lot marked, “College Applications and New Comers.” Without thinking, I silenced my car engine and walked there. A seemingly kind lady gave me a slip to get signed by my teachers, and as I signed next to my subjects, I saw a bunch of kids looking at me. With their long hair and unruly beards they were undoubtedly bullies. I shook my head, and took the timetable. It smelt strange, for it was newly printed. As I walked to my car and waited for the bell, I shuffled through my new books. I started the introduction to Jane Eyre, our current English novel. Before I could turn to chapter one, the bell rang. I sighed and shoved the book into my bag and started towards the English Room.

I could not tell if the corridors were wide or narrow, but the ceiling looked like a million miles away, making the corridors feel spacious. I hardly had the time to stop and look; a stampede of teenagers approached me, chatting in their loud, thick voices. I jostled past them and turned right into room number four.

The room was bright, with a whole wall of glass windows. The teacher’s podium was set a few feet away from the chalkboard.

The teens in the room were talking. Mr. Bang, who looked fierce with his reddish-brown eyes, greeted me and signed my slip, saying, “Ah! You are Newt Wrathbone, the new boy. You have a very unusual name.” I waited for him to introduce me, but as he did not do so, I walked to the only empty seat at the back and sat lazily, dropping my bag, hoping for a good day.

***

I found fish and chips in the freezer, fried them as best as I could, and ate them looking out onto the silent road. I grinned as I stood and saw the frost shining on the road. I had not made any friends in college for I did not go to the cafeteria. Instead, I sat in the car, scared of the new environment. I could not believe how I could be such a coward and staying away longer only made it worse.

I did my home assignments quickly, scribbling onto the worksheets. Then I sat blankly, staring at the windows, with no one to talk to and no one to love. My heart stung. My brain roared and I was soon soaring in the midst of a dark sleep.

***

I decided to take the next day off. I couldn’t bring myself to regret that decision; I had plans for the day. I wanted some silent moments all to myself. I took a backpack and shoved in a book. With some water and bread and some packed butter, I headed out into the forest.

I pushed through the thick forest, wanting to reach an open field. The undergrowth was creepy. There was no noise except the occasional dripping of the moisture, indicating last night’s rain—how could I be so absent minded not to have noticed the rain?

Soon I was in a field of daffodils. I lay there, staring at the clouds, relaxing my soul. I found the iPod in my bag and listened to Mozart’s symphonies while looking at the clouds which looked like a flock of sheep. I could feel my soul soaring, my body relaxing.

When I returned to my room, I was hungry. I was tired of fish and chips, so I went to McDonalds. I couldn’t think of anything to eat. I hated burgers and I had already had chips. So I got myself nuggets and a Mc Flurry and returned home, carefully lying down on the bed cover. I put on some songs and plugged in the earphones and went to sleep.

In my dream there were loud voices. I could not identify them, and just remembered shrinking into myself, floating in nothingness and being afraid. Very, very afraid. I shot up as I woke, my movement causing the DVD player to fall off the side table. Suddenly my eyes fell on a note on the bed near my feet and I felt as if someone was watching me. I jumped off the bed in one single motion. I started to feel naked, and my mind began to attribute even the slightest of movement to the presence of thieves and robbers. My eyes fell back on the note and I stared at it for exactly five seconds, reading it.

BEWARE OF ANY STRANGE HAPPENINGS

My body reacted before my mind; my hands shot straight up and balled into fists. No words are dark enough to describe my feelings. I looked around but I could hear nothing, see nothing. Someone must have been in my room while I was asleep. Who could it be? How did he get in? Or was it a she? My mind raced. I looked around as shivers ran down my shoulder blades. I wanted to look around for possible trespassers, but suddenly exhaustion was weighing me down. Stop it, I told myself. There was someone in your room, what if he kills you in your sleep? But I fell to the floor anyway. My eyes closed against my mind’s helpless protests. For some odd reason, that night was one of the most peaceful nights I’d had since my parents’ death.

***

I got dressed and looked at myself in the mirror. Some of my hair was already turning white. Good. Soon I would die, and would get to know more about my mom and dad. I didn’t comb my hair. I drank some milk straight from the carton and got into my car and turned the key around with force, thinking only about the note.

At college I did not pay any attention to the first few lessons but then it was lunch and I dreaded it. You chose this school yourself. Now live with it. Besides, meeting new people will be for the better.

I took a bottle of Coke and sat at the closest table. The two friends sitting there stared at me. Shit. Shit. Shit. My mind raced. What was I thinking? Talk, talk, I silently pleaded. Talk to me…Be friendly, please…They continued to stare. Act natural, and they’ll think you’re cool. I sipped my coke. “Hi,” one of the kids said finally, “You are Newton, right?”

“Yeah. You can call me Newt, though,” I said, trying to be friendly.

“I am Edwin, she is Teresa,” he said. His hair was pulled up into spikes. His eyes were green. He had a well-shaped mouth and a jaw which was perfectly aligned, reminding me I still had to buy a new toothbrush. Teresa was blonde, with hardly any neck. Her eyes were blue, and her hair was tied back.

“Thanks for the introduction guys, I really need friends,” I said, sounding like an even bigger idiot than I actually was.

I looked back and caught sight of a group of seven boy sitting at a table, not doing anything, just looking around. There was a special glow in their eyes. They all had pale skin, which was somehow beautiful but made them look as if they were in pain. What was on with those guys?

“What’s up with them?” I asked, cocking my head towards the boys.

“Don’t look at them,” Teresa hissed. “They are the Linton brothers. Orphans. They are real introverts. Like, soquiet,” Teresa said, and when I looked at them again, she said, “Seriously, they are total freaks.”

I smiled but a curiosity lingered in my head.

When I glanced back, one of them, probably called Liam, because that was what they called him, was looking at me. His gaze was so fiery and ferocious that I thought it might put me on fire if I continued to look into his eyes. I suddenly looked around to pretend I was just exploring the new school.

Thankfully, the bell rang. It was time for history—the first history lesson of the week—for me.

Mr. Vent gave me the evils, and I realized I was quite late. He asked about my absence the day before and I told him I was sick. I walked to the closest empty seat and realized it was right next to Liam’s desk. As I came closer, I saw his eyes right before he looked away. They were a rich, dark, red color…I realized he held his breath. He sat as far from my desk as the seat would allow.

I could not pay attention to history that day; I was preoccupied with the strange stranger beside me. He was the first to leave when the bell rang.

***

The next day he was absent, strangely. I was lost the whole time and did not speak much. I couldn’t listen to any teacher or student. People go absent because of lots of reasons. You’re being ridiculous. He’s probably lying in bed back home in a fever. But his strange behaviour had already raised questions in my mind.

***

He didn’t show up the next day either.

And the next.

Another day went by. No Liam. All these days, I realized, were the days I had the history class: the only class I had with him.

A week passed. On Monday, he was back. He stood beside a discarded mirror resting against a wall looking at me. When his gaze shifted from me, I turned my head towards the mirror, expecting to see the back of a human, but instead I saw nothing. He cast no reflection in the mirror.