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Chapter One: Restart
I walked slowly through the dark hall. The air was as thick as water, nearly asphyxiating. Dim lights from somewhere above tried to break through the gloom, but to no avail. I crawled, inching along at the pace of a turtle. The wash of undulating fear overwhelmed me and pushed me dangerously close to the point of hysteria. My head tilted to the left and my own azure eyes reflected back. Suddenly my head snapped back into place, and I was swimming again. The fear quickly rolled away as the lights seemed to brighten.
I trudged for an eternity down the murky hall, but I stopped with yet another mirror in front me. This mirror stretched from the high ceiling to the flat floor. My eyes tentatively unstuck themselves from the floor and crawled up the mirror, taking in my bloody, bare feet, pale legs revealed by black shorts, pink tank top covering curves and showing pale arms, which led up to a white face with small features and arctic blue eyes clashing with red stained lips.
My heart thundered in resolute refutation. What have I done? Many answers rushed through my mind, all of them very gory. Good thing I didn’t know what was about to happen. It was worse than anything my mind could come up with.
A muscled arm covered in black scales and carved with three long gashes came out of the mirror, the looking glass rippling like a pool. Frozen, terrified, I gaped and swallow dryly as the reptilian arm was followed by a scale clad masculine body. He was badly cut up, dripping dark blood onto the floor.
The sharp claws of the maimed appendage grasped my throat. I flailed helplessly, my hands blindly scratching at the arm around my neck. I dug my fingers into the long cuts, slicking them with blood, and making the thing choking me screech. Then the world went dark as I fell from his grasp and when I opened my eyes, I sat straight up in bed. I looked around, checking that I remained in the same bed with dark blue covers, surrounded by bare white walls. My dark mahogany desk sat quietly in a corner with its rolling chair and a matching mahogany nightstand graced the space next to the bed. A white bladed fan spun constantly because the open window didn’t help much with how hot it was at night. Reassured I released the breath I had unwittingly held and flopped back down on the bed.
I dreamt the same sequence every night for a week, waking up at exactly twelve thirty, the time I was born, precisely one minute before the birth of my sister, Cornelia. Our mother, Gwyn Shannon, gave birth to us at the tender age of nineteen. After getting married to Milo Roscoe, our father, they both cared for my sister and me until about our tenth birthday. Our parents fought endlessly over nothing and finally divorced after our fourteenth birthday. My sister and I now happily live with our father.
Our father owns a large ranch where we live and tame horses. He also wisely invested in the stock market and with that money, contributed to the building of a popular amusement park. From said park he gets a percentage of the profit, as per the deal he and the company made. Our mother, on the other hand, tells a different story. She still works the same well-paying nursing job, spends all her time working, and lives in the same small town in the farthest corner of Kentucky. I reflexively scowled because tomorrow, we’re moving. But that doesn’t mean I have to be morbid about Podunk, Nowhereville. I have to stay positive. Still, I didn’t know how to stay positive when my entire life was about to change.
Cornelia was any mother and father’s dream child. Sparkling sky blue eyes, dark hair, and fair skin made her a princess right out of literature, and her exterior reflected her interior. With gentle, graceful looks, Cornelia is equally graceful and kind-hearted; however, beneath that lovely shell lays a core of pure steel. Lia’s drive shines brilliantly through all she does. She works hard at what she wants and achieves her goal without fail. If she wanted the best grade in class, she earned it flawlessly. Unlike her, I am a leaf afloat on the river of life. Talent and luck saw me through my struggles, but I digress. Everyone has their flaws.
Lia and I tried out for our high school’s drill team our freshman year. That same year she became a cheerleader while I became a line member in the drill team.
No one was surprised when she was voted Junior Captain of her cheer team. I, too, was voted Junior Lieutenant of my drill team. This year was supposed to be ours. This year was supposed to be the beginning of the reign of Cornelia and Regan, masters of school spirit. This year turned out to be our greatest challenge: to leave our school, the life we built, and the home that we grew up in for Podunk, I mean, Riverback, Kentucky.
I sighed and rolled over to face the wall. Our dad, an IT specialist for an internet company relocated first to Texas and now to Alaska to help establish more internet lines and data grids. Mom, spying her chance for female bonding, demanded that Cornelia and I stay with her at least until Dad finished his work. Unfortunately Cornelia wasn’t taking our move as well as I was trying to.
Yesterday she threw a fit as she finished packing. Lia screamed so loud that I swear our house was haunted by a banshee. Then things started flying: first her books, then her clothes, and then the heart of the torrent. She threw the mattress and sheets she slept on over the second floor balcony down to the backyard. She and Dad decided to play tennis with their screaming voices after that, which ended in him slamming the door to her room, leaving with steam coming out of his ears. I padded softly across the hall, and knocked quietly three times, paused and knocked twice more; our secret knock for when our parents fought or had people over and we weren’t allowed to come near them. The knock meant that I wanted to talk peacefully and hoped to be received with some grace.
When Cornelia opened the door, her big blue eyes rimmed with red, and fresh tears kept pouring down her face I closed the door behind us and wrapped my arms around her like I used to do after Mom and Dad’s more serious confrontation and Cornelia whispered,
She quietly sobbed into my shoulder as I rubbed her back. Lia squeezed me tightly, holding me in place for a long time. Gradually, her tears let up and I urged her to the bed. This was the time to talk before we donned brave masks and go to Mom’s. As if reading my mind, Cornelia started,
“Ray, why do we have to go?”
The same question gnawed at me since we found out two weeks ago. The question bothered me so much that I asked Dad the same question not three days ago. I unconsciously twisted my mouth into a frown before I told Lia what Dad told me.
“Well, Mom asked Dad to let her have us while he went to Alaska.”
At first Lia’s sculpted eyebrows shot up in surprise, but a deep glare and scowl took the place of shock. Lia looked down at our clasped hands that had fallen that way when we sat down. I saw the doubt imprinted on her face. After all, why would the woman who basically cut us out of her life call to see us now? She must have an ulterior motive.
The question hung in the empty air with neither of us wanting to break the silence. That was one of the scariest questions I ever heard, because I asked the same question over and over again in my mind, but still the answer continued to be unannounced.
I rolled over in bed again pulling the sheets tighter despite the balmy seventy-five degree weather. I tried not to focus on that now or else I would never go back to sleep. Tomorrow I would wake up and leave my home for a ridiculously long cross-country drive to my new house. Regardless I was determined to ensure our happiness.