The Realm

May 29, 2015
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Prologue
    Everything was in chaos. People were running around frantically looking for shelter, a sturdy building, anything that would hold up against the attacks. Buildings were burning and crashing to the ground. Children were crying out for their mothers who would never come. Men and women, boys and girls, defended what they had left of their lives. Horrid cries of help and sorrow filled the air. Men were screaming in a guerrilla battle. “Fire!” one of the officers commanded. Rounds of fireballs and arrows filled the air as citizens frantically tried to hide. Striking everything in sight, the metal balls of fire would collapse anything in mere seconds of its release. Where peaceful homes once stood was now an ash and blood filled battlefield. The two armies would fight to the death until one of the Brothers was under control.
     The Brothers were waging war against each other; the older wanted the throne. The days were peaceful when the King reigned the land, but he was dead. There were rumors going about that he was killed by an assassin, or perhaps from old age. No one knew the real reason. All that mattered was who was going to be in control.  Two devastating years of bloodshed and loss all because of a jealous sibling.
     In all of this madness, the Guardians sat in their tower, wondering, watching, waiting like a hawk and its prey. It wasn’t hard to spot the little girl and her brother who could save everything. They observed their every movement as they searched for protection. She was trying to help, yet she didn’t know how. The boy was too young to understand. They watched them with sorrowful eyes. When they disappeared behind a building, the Guardian spoke.
    “It’s time. The soldiers are almost here.” Alek looked at his fellow Guardian and slowly lifted up his hand to eye level. The other did also. “You concentrate on where. I’ll concentrate on when. Yes, it has to be this way.” The female Guardian had given him a pleading look. As they pressed their hands together, a ball of light formed between their shaking palms. Images of the children floated around in the rays. Another figure floated around, but was too vague for either of them to figure out who it was.
    “Though separated by time and by space, we will always be family,” they said in unison. The undefined figure faded so much, it was nearly nonexistent.
     “How will this work? The older girl isn’t a part of our family,” asked Clara. There was a great bang on the thick, wooden door. The ball of light flickered.
    “Concentrate, Clara, we haven’t much time. It will work because she is close friends with our children,” he whispered urgently. Clara’s eyes widened with shock.. The names of Guardians were only used in desperate situations. Watching the whole loss of a kingdom was bad enough, but now her own children? She swallowed back the motherly feelings and nodded. The ball of light glowed brighter as she focused her mind on where they had to go. “On three, OK?” Clara nodded yes without taking her eyes off of the ball.
    “One.” Another huge bang on the door. The wood splintered under the pressure.
    “Two.” Beads of sweat appeared on their brows. Dust was streaming through the crack in the door. The shouts of the soldiers went unheard by the Guardians as they made eye contact.
    “Three.” The Guardians concentrated on their different Points as hard as they could.. The ball of light exploded with blazing, intense beams that drowned the darkness with its brilliance. The Guardians were thrown backwards by the force of the explosion. The guards outside the door were momentarily blinded as it shone through the door.
     Somewhere in the village, the little girl and boy started glowing with the same light in the tower. The girl screamed in outrage. She was busy trying to fix things, and now she was being sent away. Then, with her brother in hand, she permitted it to simultaneously start building up energy with the tower, taking them away to who-knows-where. They caught one last glimpse of the brick tower that contained their parents as the world flashed in a second of white. Images flashed through their eyes of their mother, father, friends, childhood...and war.
     The entire kingdom was struck with rays of white sprouting out of the certain point of the girl and baby with the beanie. A second of blinding light was startling enough to cause others to look, but not for long.
     The boy clenched the tattered bear and the girl’s hand as they appeared in a place filled with lights. The ground was hard, unusually so. Her eyes were barely used to the light before they ran. There were huge roars as metal machines hurtled past them. A horn blared at them. The girl grabbed her little brother’s hand as she ran to safety. As they looked around, they spotted a sign that read,
    “Welcome to Irvine, California!”

 

 

 

Chapter 1-Applebee’s   
    My new home was a street curb. I always thought street curbs were for useless bums who didn’t make money, but apparently I was one now. The weight of my current troubles almost balanced my old ones.
     Almost.
     Pax sat there, bawling his eyes out until they were an intense, dark red. After the bright light that took us away, Pax and I were being chased by gigantic mechanical beetles, screaming at us in an array of different notes. Terror had washed over me. Where was mom and dad? I had seen them just a few seconds ago in the tower. Did it get destroyed? All of these questions hurt my head as I pulled Pax away from the machines. My hands were shaking so badly, it was hard to hold Pax’s. He was trembling so much, he looked like he was vibrating. The horror was showing clearly through his cobalt eyes. I’m sure he could sense mine too.
Sniffles came from him, following rapid coughs and sneezes. Irvine’s air was infecting him. I knew we had very little time to find some shelter for the night before Pax’s lungs reacted to the pollution. People were passing us right and left, staring at the holey cloth that made up my dress. My favorite dress! Ruined with gaping holes through the stomach and near the legs. Stupid light. Burning my dress for no reason.
     None of the people looked very friendly. I noticed a raggedy man a few feet away from us asking for spare change. Occasionally, someone would give him a coin or two. I grabbed Pax’s hand and started walking away from the curb.
     "Where are we going, Zoe?" Pax asked me. He was still recovering from our transportation.
     "Somewhere far away where there aren't any metal beetles." I kept pulling him along as we got farther and farther away from the road. Suddenly, Pax let go of my hand and sat down on the curb. I turned around. “C’mon, we have to get away from this place.”
    “I’m tired. Can we go home?” His lisp was really starting to come out. It always does when he’s scared. I sat down on the cold concrete beside him. The moon was full, gleaming like a beacon. As I gazed at it, Pax put his head on my shoulder, closed his eyes, and fell into a light sleep. He mumbled in a muffled voice, “Zoe, when will I see mommy?” I hesitated. Honestly, I didn’t know the answer. Mother and Father might as well have left us on the side of the road. Wait, that’s what they actually did. Thanks, mom, I thought. We may never see our parents again. My eyes watered as I thought of these things. No, I told myself. I have to be strong for Pax. His cute, 3 year old face perked up as I whispered back,

     ”Soon Pax, soon.” I lied. Guilt made my heart throb as he closed his eyes again with a smile on his face. We sat together as my eyelids dropped lower until the moon was out of sight. We were both out like a light.

Chapter 2-
    I woke up first, about to get ready and hug Mommy and Daddy, but I remembered I was not in my bed. I felt a whimper rising up in my throat and held it back. Daylight hit my eyes, almost blinding me with its immense rays from the glowing fireball. Large towers surrounded us; it looked like they touched the sky. The sidewalk we were lying on became hotter as the day wore on. Pax was still asleep. His beanie was lop-sided, showing a part of his ears. I quickly pulled it straight again before anyone could see. This mysterious place was nothing like home; I was sure even minor differences would make us be questioned. We had to figure this place out just by the looks. They have a different lifestyle. I observed the surroundings as the beetles passed us. People were hurrying to who-knows-where, holding miniature slates in their hands, swiping them constantly; some even held mini suitcases against them. No one took notice of two small children on the edge of the curb.
    Pax stirred. Immediately, I helped him up. He blinked the last folds of sleep off, yawned once, then said,
    “I’m hungry.”
    Crap. I hadn’t thought about food. I was just as starving as my stomach growled at me. If only there was a “Mutton, Scones, and More” around here. There was bound to be some around here place. My nose started moving on its own. It detected food close by. An aroma of different things came to mind: mutton burgers, steak, curly potatoes, and something greasy. Man, I could really use a good Snappy Meal right now. Crowds surrounded the building with a sign that read, “AppleBee's”. A sly smile crept across my face. Pax noticed and gave me a worried look. “Are you OK, Thoe?” he asked me. My smile got even wider as a plan formulated in my head.
“Yes Pax, I’m perfectly fine. We’re going to rob the place of Apples and Bees.” Pax looked worried. He knows when something is up.
"But I no want to eat apples and bees, I want eat mutton burgers!" he exclaimed.
     "OK, OK, here’s the plan.” I whispered it into his ear. When every detail had been thought through, he smiled too.
“Wets do dis!” he whispered enthusiastically. 

After “borrowing” some sunglasses, we walked through the crowd, straight through the doors, and up to the greeter. The man seemed completely unaware that two children were ordering. He must've thought I was a midget. After he shook our hands and led us to a table, he handed us two menus, one for an adult and one for children. This was way easier than I imagined. I looked at the menu. Which dish would cause the most trouble? I smiled as I scanned the food. Pax had found some crayons and was coloring a sheet of paper, totally consumed with keeping the color in the lines.
    “Excuse me, miss, are you ready to order?” I looked up at the waiter. He was short, pudgy, and had a flamboyant mustache which he absentmindedly groomed. His suit was one size too small for him; his buttons were about ready to burst.
    I quickly found the dish that I wanted, and said, “I will have the Steakhouse Bruschetta Sirloin, with a side of green leaves and the beer of root for the refreshment.” I closed the menu, clasped my hands, and looked up at the waiter. He stared at me uncomprehendingly. I rolled my eyes. This one was obviously one of the stupid ones. He stammered and almost started talking. Luckily, I stopped him with a quote from one of my favorite people. I held my finger up and said, “Don’t talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the entire street.” Pax looked up from his drawing at my comment and asked,
“Can I has some macawoni?” The waiter blinked a few times, scribbled down our requests, and waddled off.
“Thank you, Sherlock,” I muttered under my breath. Pax went back to his coloring. I looked around the restaurant at all of the people. They all looked so weird, with their straight hair and discolored eyes. The voices floating around were similar to the ones back home, but not exactly the same. They seemed louder and more celebratory than folks at home. After a few minutes, Pax held up his picture.
“Wook, Zoe. That’s us when we were wunning away fwum the big bettles.” He pointed to his paper as he spoke. I grabbed it and looked at it more closely. He had drawn us, hand in hand, running away from the metal beetles that were in the road. On one of the rear ends of the bugs, there was an eye that was familiar, yet I couldn’t place it. I knew I had seen it before. I handed him his paper as the food arrived.
The waiter was different. It was a girl, with a very high bun, red lipstick, and dark mascara. She was smart, I could tell. That’s one thing I’m good at, telling if a person is smart or not. She laid our plates in front of us with grace. Her name tag read Susan.
“Thank you, Susan, for replacing that oaf of a man. I don’t think I could’ve stood it if he served us,” I said. She thanked me, then leaned down and whispered,
“He has a problem with people. He’s very shy and only took this job for the money. Freezes up whenever he has to socialize. Poor chap. May I ask what your name is?”
Pax spoke up first. “My name is Pax, and dats Zoe. We is eatin’ here ‘cause you has mutton burgers.” Susan looked surprised at his comment. I shook my head to tell her not to make a comment. She mouthed OK and walked away. Pax had already made a mess with his fork. I picked up my utensils and began eating. The taste of meat cooked with spices almost knocked me out. Mutton burgers were nothing compared to this. After we had eaten, we sat in silence, letting our stomachs digest the food. Then, a different waiter came to take our money. Shoot. I had forgotten about this part. The food had addled my logic. I looked up at the new man, winked at Pax, and shouted,
“YOLO!!!” I grabbed Pax’s hand and ran towards the front door. Shouts of “Stop them!” and “BLock the door!” followed us as we weaved our way in and out through the tables. “C’mon Pax, we’re almost there!” I shouted over the uproar. I spotted the door and ran with all of my might. Suddenly, a gigantic wall of flesh blocked the door. Since I hadn’t thought of anyone actually trying to stop us, I didn’t have time to put on the brakes. Therefore, I ran straight into the blockade. My sunglasses broke and fell of of my nose. I was exposed. Gasps filled the room as they realized I was just a child. Then, just as the man was about to grab us, I smiled my evil, “I know what I’m doing,” smile and ran into the kitchen. We ducked underneath tables covered with vegetables, carts carrying knives, and out the back door.
The place was in chaos. I could hear it as we ran away. My heart was pounding as we rounded the corner into a dark alleyway. Pax was out of breath. I clamped my hand over his mouth as a hoard of people ran past the opening. As soon as they were gone, he shoved my hand away and looked at me angrily.
“What?” I asked. He scowled and turned his back to me. “What?” I said more forcefully. He rounded on me and practically shouted,
“I don’t like wunning away from our probwems. If we didn’t have da money, we shouldn’t huv run away from da people.” He then proceeded to sob. I just stood there, dumbstruck. How could he feel bad? We just got really good food and we was complaining about it. Suddenly, it dawned on me. He felt bad because he had never done it before. He was still a child. I took a breath to explain this to him when he said, “Don’t twy to excuse stealing because you were a little hungwy. It’s like taking money from people because just ‘cause you need a little bit to buy something you don’t need. It isn’t right and I’m not helping you anymore. Mommy wouldn’t want us to steal just because we can.” He had stopped crying and was talking with confidence. I was amazed. My little brother, capable of standing up for something. Wow. I sank to the ground, overcome with this new realization. After a few minutes, I said quietly,
“You know Pax, you’re right.” He turned to face me. Skepticism was written on his face. “No, you really are,” I said. “We need to support ourselves, not take from other people. So, what do you suggest we do?” He thought for a second. Suddenly, his eyes lit up.
“Why don’t we ask for coins, like dat man on da stweet? he said. His lisp had come back. I hugged him around his shoulders and said,
“You know, that’s a really good idea for a three year old.” He smiled up at me. At that moment, I knew we were going to make it. We were going to survive.

 

 



Chapter 3-Emma’s Horrible Day
     The wind blew my blue tinged hair into my face as I walked to my home, if you could call it that. Just another horrible day at University High School; stupid teachers, stupid people, stupid grades and the reward for all of this was coming home to a deadbeat father. My life was always filled with disappointments, but by this time I had learned to roll with the punches. Because I don’t have any friends, I walk alone, have my own locker, and sit by myself at lunch.
     Today was more of an annoyance than usual, though. Being in 9th grade is difficult and involves immense amounts of pressure. It’s even harder when your school has over 600 students in each grade. I’m a failing student in some of the easiest classes. I just don’t get what their teaching. The only one I’m good at is History, and only because I am practically an expert on the battle tactics used in the various wars.
     Madison May, the most popular (and annoying) girl in my grade, actually noticed my messy blue hair and bland clothes today. I was surprised when she noticed me, especially because she was surrounded by her popular crew. I do my best to melt into the background, yet it doesn’t work. She flipped her dark brown hair and said in her sassy, honey dripping voice, "You know, I think it is so sweet that you avoid dressing nicely as a personal statement against our society. Is that why you gave up on hygiene, too?" People were whooping around me, shoving "burns" in my face. I could sense my face turn bright crimson. My hands started shaking along with my confidence.
     "What's the matter, did your father get broke enough to finally sell his love for you?" another girl taunted. My father, my messed up, dead-beat dad, was now being mocked. Even though I hated him sometimes, he was the only family I had. She had crossed the line, but I was just holding it back.. My fists clenched and an overwhelming urge to lunge at Madison’s whitened teeth and knock them in threatened to engulf me; I didn't allow it. As usual, there was no one to support me, nobody at my back to stand up for me.             So I just stood there, trying not to show how much it hurt, as the crowd roared in laughter. My life was just one big mockery.
The 12:00 bell struck the ears of teens in the school and people rushed out of their prisons cells to the place of serenity: the cafeteria. It was always a marathon getting to the lunchroom as hundreds of students raced to the line like a pig to their troph. I was in a decent spot today as only a few hundred people were in front of me. The big computer screen next to the front of the line flashed, “Today’s Special: Beef Broccoli Sandwich”.
     Goodie, my favorite! I thought to myself, in a very sarcastic tone. Usually in lines, people take out their phone and text, Snapchat, or do other things. I just stood there, alone, for half an hour, give or take, with 10th grade jocks in front of me, running their mouths with sick jokes and football plays. I finally paid for my food and was about to walk over to my empty , circular table in the back when my feet stumbled on one another. Everything seemed to slow down as the ground came closer to my face. The sandwich splattered on everything in its circumference, leaving green and orange splodges on the victims. People stared and howled in laughter. The hot, shivery pain came to me again. I just crawled away from the mess that I caused.  My favorite shirt was soiled, again. Some staff members helped clean up the mess, totally ignoring me. As I crawled away, in the mean time, a girl with medium dark blond hair holding a satchel with with an odd inscribing of what looked like an eye on it, stared at me with a discovered face. Everyone in the grade called me “Food Tripper” for the rest of the day. Hopefully, I can get out of the nickname by tomorrow. Otherwise people will call me that for the rest of the year. I couldn’t even hide the fact that I did it. Madison has probably already posted the mess on every social media site ever, so there was really no point in denying it.
     As I was wallowing in pity for myself, all I could think about is how to make it for a few more weeks. Soon summer would open its doors and allow me to escape the inconvenience of school through something else, such as a good book. The slummy sidewalk smelled of sewage and garbage. The air tasted the almost the same. It had the humidity of the East. College students passed me, having no care of the girl with the blue hair. Some jocks even chuckled at my mournful look., baggy jeans, and worn jacket. Kicking a crushed Pepsi can as I walked, I heard a voice as clear as day. I unfogged my mind and looked around for the owner.
    “Hey! I’m down here! Do you have any spare change?” I looked down at the curb. There sat a little girl, about 9 or 10 years old, with her hair in one spike on top of her head. It added a good six inches to her height. She was wearing a tattered, short sleeved Aztec-like dress with holes in it. Next to her was a little boy, maybe three or four. He had an olive green beanie hat on and was dragging a ratty, old teddy bear behind him. His onesie had dirt splodges on the back and spilled food on the front. My sassy sensors went off as I finished my inspection. I fished through my gigantic pockets for coins. A quarter appeared.
    “Here.” I pressed the money into the thin, yet strong, hand. The little girl stared at it as I walked away.
    “Is that all you have?” called the girl. Annoyance flared as I turned around to face her.
    “Yes, it’s all I have. If my life were better, I would give you more, but I need the money too.” Tears filled the boys eyes as I spoke. Immediately, the sister bent down and gave the boy a hug, whispering soothing words into his ear. After a few minutes of comfort from her, he stopped crying. The girl stood up indignantly.
    “Pax doesn’t like it when people are annoyed with us. I’m Zoe, by the way. Thanks for the quarter.” She looked both ways, then whispered behind her hand, “You should apologize.”
    After rolling my eyes at Zoe, I lowered myself to Pax’s eye level. I said, “Sorry. I had a horrible day and I wish my life were different.” He looked at me with his big, sorrowful eyes. They carried a certain glow that I have never seen in such a small child. I could’ve walked away, but something was different about these two. Maybe it was the fact that someone wasn’t afraid of showing love to another human. I looked at Zoe. She nodded encouragingly and motioned to keep going. “How about this, I’ll take you to the park to make it up to you. Would that be alright?” He nodded a stiff ‘yes.’
    Zoe almost burst with excitement; she was jumping up and down as we started walking. “Yay! We’re going to the park! Isn’t that good, Pax?” Pax suddenly flashed a smile, clapped his chubby baby hands, and chanted “Park! Park! Park!” in the most enthusiastic of ways.
     “We can swing and jump rope and go down the slides and go upside down on the whirligigs and…” Zoe stopped. “You don’t have whirligigs here, do you?”
    My mind went blank. “Not that I know of,” I said.  “Before we go, I need to get something from my house first. Is that OK?” I asked. No answer. “Zoe?” I looked down. They had disappeared. Panic gripped my heart as I whipped my head around looking for them. Relief washed over me as I spotted them up ahead, laughing and skipping down the sidewalk. I almost smiled at the sight of someone being happy.
     I didn’t find it embarrassing that I was taking two homeless children I had just met to the park. In fact, it made me happier. For the first time that day, something had gone right, even if it meant I had to watch two children who had attitude problems.
I ran to catch up to them. The boy, Pax, had stopped crying and was scratching his ear. For a split second, it looked like his ear was pointed. I blinked and it disappeared. Must have been a trick of the light.
    “What’s your name and why do you have blue hair?” Zoe asked me. I told her my name was Emma Richelle.
“Sometimes I really hate it. It’s so… simple. What about you? Is your name short for something?” I glanced at her without breaking stride.
    Her answer startled me. “My name is short for Zuelia. Pax is just a simplified meaning of ‘peace.’” She stopped and looked me in the eye. “You will be a good ruler when your time comes.” Then she kept on walking. I was so dumbstruck, I almost lost sight of them; they were so far away.
    “Hey! Wait up! My house is this way. I would just call my dad, but I don’t have a cell phone!,” I shouted as I ran towards them. They turned around and Zoe shouted back,
    “What exactly do you need from your house?”
“I just have to tell my dad that I won’t be home for a while. It won’t take long.” Zoe started walking towards me so fast, Pax was almost flying behind her. Suddenly, she was right in front of me. Her voice rang with authority as she spoke.
    “We are going to the park. Right now. You are watching over us, so you have to follow us wherever we go. We are your charges and you will not disappoint us. I thought you would know that by now. Do you want to make Pax cry again by leaving us?”
     Anger surged through me as we stared at each other. Didn’t she know what he would do if I didn’t come home? She already knew what my name meant, why shouldn’t she know what my dad is like? Her strikingly blue eyes bored into my faded green ones. It felt as if she was looking straight through me, as if she knew more about me than I did. In my peripheral vision, Pax was rubbing his shoulder. After what felt like ages, I proposed a deal. We would go as soon as I told him where I was going. Zoe started laughing.
     “Don’t you know already?” she said through fits of giggles. “He knows where you are. He always has and always will. Isn’t it obvious?” She doubled over as laughter racked her small frame..
     “Isn’t it obvious that I am oblivious to the obvious thing that I’m obviously supposed to know about? I wouldn’t have to go home if I had a cell phone.” I kept my voice quiet. Throughout the years of junior high, I learned that it scares people more if you keep your voice low and soft. She stopped laughing and smirked at me with a look that said, “Wow. How stupid are you?”
I felt a tug on my jacket. Pax was looking up at me from underneath his olive green beanie.
     “Can we pwease go now?” he asked in his cute, heart-warming voice, fidgeting as he spoke. I sighed as feelings of confusion, anger, and impatience melted away. I couldn’t disappoint a little kid.
     Not again.
     I took his hand and walked right past my street without looking at it. If my dad could really see me, he would know who these children were and why they seemed to know so much about me. Zoe followed behind me obediently until we rounded the corner and the Meadowood Park came into view. With a squeal, she grabbed my only available hand and dragged us on to the wood chips. With my arm practically being pulled out of its socket, I allowed myself to smile.

 


Chapter 4-Alicia
     Zoe and Pax played fervently, as if they hadn’t been able to for a long time. I was exhausted after 10 minutes of running around the playground with them. I plopped down onto a bench and watched them climb on the monkey bars for a few minutes. Zoe was an incredible climber,  but most of the time she helped Pax on other equipment. The duo skipped over to the swings, howling my name in demand,

     "Emma, come push us! Come push us!" I was still out of breath, but unconsciously trudged to the swing set. Zoe enthusiastically hopped onto the plastic curved seat while I helped Pax into a baby seat. With both seats held in my hands, I gave them a massive push. "WHEE!!!!!" yelled Zoe as she flew through the air. Pax was giggling happily, swinging roughly but securely, his green beanie falling into his eyes.

 

 

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