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The Protectors- part three of chapter one
When tThe door bell rang, I jumped in surprise. I gathered my things, left a note for my parents, and made my way out the door.
"Excuse me." I said, opening Lexis', Ace's older sister, car door, and made Demitri move to the backseat. Ace was driving, Demitri now in the back with Skye, and I hopped into shotgun.
"Everyone ready?" I asked enthusiastically. Skye and Ace smiled. Demitri tried.
"Can your stubborness for just one day," I said, turning back to face him.
"I'm actually looking forward to this." He smiled truly. I turned back, surprised.
Not too far down the road, we had the radio blasting, and the mood was exhilerating. We took a turn to a side road, and I heard a flicker in the back seat.
Ace checked her rear view mirror, then groaned loudly. "Don't even think about it."
"Some things never change." Demitri laughed, returning the cigarette and lighter in his jacket pocket.
"I agree with Ace," Skye said in all seriousness. "I don't want you to do that near the wildlife. You'd give me a heart attack smoking next to all those plants!"
"I didn't think of that." Demitri said. "Sorry."
"Say it to Smokey the Bear when you start a forest fire." Skye said, still serious.
"Oh," Ace laughed suddenly. "I was gonna say, 'Tell it to my mom when she accuses me and Lexis of smoking from the bad smell'."
I rolled down the window and stared out into the night.
"Turn right here," Skye said, pointing to the street coming up. We pulled in, and Ace stopped the car in the back of the parking lot.
When we were all situated, Skye pulled out a map. "There's a trail right here-" She ran her finger along a blue line weaving through the forestry. "-it comes out to this field I used to come to when I was younger. We can hang out there for a little bit, cross, then come back on this trail-" Her finger moved to indicate a red line. "-that will lead us along side the river to the parking lot. Sound good?"
We all nodded and turned on our flashlights. I shone mine on the trail with the blue marker Skye was pointing to. It didn't seem that steep of a hike. I took a closer look at the dark trees too far to illuminate. A branch cracked not too far away. It almost sounded like somebody stepped on it. I dismissed all heart-pounding thoughts from my brain. No way was I going to scare myself before this trip even started, but when I heard it again, louder and closer, I twirled around a little to quickly and ran face first into Ace.
"I'm sorry!" I said. She poked me.
"Callie, what's wrong?" She asked when I didn't react.
"Nothing." I said casually.
"Oh, c'mon." She pulled me toward the hood of the car, away from Skye and Demitri, who were debating on which route to take first. "You always get that look when you feel something strange."
"Well, it's not exactly an emotion." I said, shrugging. "I just keep hearing noises. It's probably just the animals."
She didn't look convinced. That's the way it always was with us. We could always tell when something wasn't right with each other, or when one of were being lied to. "Well, just tell me if you get any weird brain waves or anything. It's amazing out here, but that doesn't take away from the creepiness."
"We've seen to many movies." I concluded. We smiled in the dark for a brief few seconds.
"Guys? C'mon!" Demitri said, already running towards the entrance to the trail. Just as he passed the blue marker starting point, I caught a dark shadow run across his frame. Before I could blink, it was gone. I shook myself mentally and warily followed him.
The trail was shockingly really even, and for not being able to see my feet that well, I only almost fell twice. The atmosphere had slowly returned to our normal happiness, and not even a few yards into the woods we were laughing and goofing off like we always do. Demitri and Ace were making shadow pictures from their flashlights, and Skye and I were marking off the different night animals we'd seen or heard so far. Behind us, Demitri and Ace were laughing hysterically, and Demitri stopped in his tracks. He pulled out a bag of lifesavers and opened it with ease.
"Remember when we went to camp last year?" He asked, and handed us each a small package of the hard candy.
"Oh yeah!" Ace said. "C'mon! This will look so cool."
We all took out one livesaver and placed it in our mouths. The directions were not to chew or lick it, and you had to not touch it as much as you possibly could. We all shut the lights off on our devices, and stared at each other. I looked at Ace, her face beaming.
We all chomped down on our candy as hard as we could. Still looking at Ace, I saw the inside of her mouth light up, like mini lightening. She cheered as she saw Demitri's light up, and I looked over at Skye as fast as I could, but what I saw was not what I was expecting.
In the one second of brightness coming from the lifesaver, an outline of a human being behind her caught my attention. I couldn't tell if it was male or female, it went by so fast, but the more I thought about it, the more I...felt. Now the emotions were coming in clearer, and if I could feel emotions, that meant somebody was here with us.
I screamed. What else could I do? Reaching frantically for my flashlight, I aimed it right into Skye's eyes by mistake and she covered them with her hands in pain. Looking beyond her figure, the person was gone. The feeling was still there; the mysterious and eerie moment of confusion making my skin crawl. I tried to focus on what the person was feeling. Shocked, but... desperate? Huh? Some crazy lunatic was desperate? To what, kill us? Yeah, that must've been it, I tried to calm myself, but there was nothing that could calm the situation.
"Callie?" I could hear several voices asking me what was wrong.
"Calantha!" Ace shouted, making me look at her. Her brown eyes were filled with worry. I could feel everyone's panic bombarding my brain. "What happened?!"
"I saw.. saw.. someone..." I gasped.
"Did you get anything out of them?" She whispered. She looked around us in a full circle, checking to see if she could spot anyone.
"It felt like, whoever it was, wanted to find us," My breathing evened, and I tried to go over it again. "Urgent, searching, and panicked when I caught him."
"What?" Skye voice was shaking. "You mean someone's here? Following us?"
"She heard stuff earlier," Ace explained. "She didn't think it was anyone before."
"That's cause I couldn't feel anything," I clarified. "I can only get emotions from some animals, so I didn't think that much of it to tell you the truth."
"You still should've told us, Callie." Demitri said, worried now.
"I'm sorry." I said, shaking from the cold.
"Don't be," Ace said lightly. "Now let's get out of here before anything else happens."
We made our way back to the car hurridly, trying not to stray off the trial. Demitri stepped in front of us protectively, scanning the area. It came to me again, but this time, I knew I wasn't feeling emotions or hearing thoughts- the person was speaking.
"Hm... Artemis picked right with the boy..."
I froze, and Ace bumped into me. "Did you guys hear that?" I asked.
They all stared wide-eyed at me, like I'd gone crazy. "Somebody spoke, just now."
"S***!" Demitri yelled, and I knew what he was seeing.
Barely visible, I could make out the frame of a tall man ahead of us. He had no weapons that I could see, but with the movies I've seen, anything was possible. We all came to a stop before we could run into him and Demitri, still in front of us, pulled out his pocket knife. Skye and Ace tensed, and I knew if Demitri didn't do something fast, we'd all be dead meat.
"Get away from us!" He shouted, waving the tool.
The man stepped forward and in the moonlight, I could make out his features a little better. He seemed to be thirty, maybe? I couldn't be sure. His eyes were wide and he slowly brought his hands up defensively, almost as if he was afraid of us hurting him.
"I won't hurt you," the man said calmly. "I've been looking for you."
"Is that what you were talking about?" Ace whispered in my ear.
I nodded slightly. Even the smallest movement I made was shaky with fear. Who would be looking for us? Was he a cop? We didn't even do anything!
"Who are you?" Skye asked for me.
"My name is Cicero," he answered. "and I would very much appreciate it if you didn't point your weapons at me, Demitri."
I turned to meet Ace's gaze. How did this creep know Demitri's name? Did he know ours? I could sense her questions. Everyone's confusion consumed me, out of control feelings threatening to make my brain explode in my skull. I couldn't take it anymore.
"Can everyone just calm down!" I shouted, my voice echoing through the trees. I put my hands to the side of my head, now covered in sweat. "I can't concentrate!"
I stepped out of the huddled circle Ace, Skye and I had formed and faced Cicero. I could feel Ace and Skye controlling their thoughts, trying to cut my powers some slack. Demitri was still huffing, knife still aimed, but the waves coming off him were much smaller than before. Now that our uncontrollable panic was out of the way, I could focus on what Cicero's feelings were. I stepped forward, and despite Skye's small squeak of a protest, I found myself slowly approaching the strange man. His shock subsided, and the most dominant emotion I could detect was pride. None of it made any sense.
Not taking my eyes off of him, I held my hand out and asked Demitri, "Pass me the flashlight." He did so, and I turned it on. The man- Cicero- was no taller than me, five foot one. His eyes were distant, like he had seen to past centuries, and had dark brown but graying hair. Around his neck was a gold chain, which had a circle like symbol attached to it, with a cross inside of it.
What did this guy want from us?
"I have much to explain to you." Cicero said quietly. The threat I had felt before was starting to melt away, like it hadn't even existed to begin with. His voice was more reassuring, and I almost wanted to hear what he had to tell us. His gaze was gentle, and he motioned back towards the pathway entrance. "Perhaps we can go somewhere more private, out of the cold?"
I weighed our options, and looked back at where Ace, Demitri and Skye were standing, clearly worried. I stared at them and said, "Let's just hear him out so he can leave us alone."
Demitri stepped closer to me. "Are you crazy?" he said. "We have no idea who this guy is."
"Yeah, but I keep getting these weird vibes from him," I explained. "It seems like something really important."
Eavesdropping on our conversation, Skye said, "If anything happens, Callie, it's all your fault."
I smiled nervously and said, "Okay, but it's Demitri's job to get us out."
"Hey," Ace came up from behind Skye and joined in. "I am perfectly capable of saving myself!"
We all turned to face Cicero, still standing in the dark, patiently waiting for a reply.
"There's a shelter just up ahead," Skye pointed off towards the direction we came from. "We could discuss things there."
"That would be perfect." Cicero smiled, and with Skye leading the way, we all followed her further into the darkness. Demitri was alert, Ace was still looking for any more people, and I was pondering over my lately discovery.
I've finally found them. The Protectors.
Had I really just picked up one of Cicero's direct thoughts, or was it just my imagination?