Posted 19 February 2012 - 05:16 PM
There is no wind blowing through an open window, no creaks echoing down the stairs, and no flickering lights throwing shadows against the wall. The school is silent, dark, and dead. As she steps through the door, Darren’s vision relies entirely on the glowing crystal hovering in front of her. The stone was latched to one end of a chain, the other end of which Darren held in her hand.
The scrying crystal tugs her forward and leads further down the hall. Despite the advantage it brought to her search, Darren was still bothered by the situation. Why would he run off like this? Why to this abandoned hellhole? And more importantly, why was she sent to go looking for him? Isn’t this the exact reason we were bringing in new recruits, so that the actual sentinels wouldn’t have to spend their time looking for freaking runaways?
The crystal shifts direction and points down a different hallway. Darren follows without hesitation. The walls are lined with graffiti-tagged lockers and the half-smashed debris of old desks, but the building is otherwise empty.
A bell rings.
Darren turns. She stares down an empty hallway. Perhaps she imagined it; then it rings again.
It was the same bell, not a school bell, but a single tone, soft, metallic, and clear. Darren spins towards the newest sound, yet the crystal points the other way.
“Winston? Is that you?”
A child’s laugh echoes down the hallway; a small figure walks into view. It was little Winston, or should I say Winston Little. His hair went long in a shaggy bowl across his ears. He bounced a rubber ball on the floor. It was barely inflated and hardly dribbled, but it remained a brilliantly shocking orange. It was the same color as his eyes. Darren steps forward.
The boy laughs; the ball drops from his hands and thumps across the floor as he went running. Darren follows.
“Hey kid, slow down! I’m here to help!”
Winston sprints down the hallway as Darren tries to keep up, the maniac child laughing all the way. A pair of double doors stand in his way. He tackles through them, the doors whipping backwards. As Darren approaches they swing back the other way. With slight irritation she shoves through them, going after him.
But he was gone, and she is instead greeted by the stench of chlorine. This school had been closed for years, but the pool was filled with pale greenish water that stank to high heaven. Darren scans the room for any signs of life. There was nothing, and the scrying crystal was still pointing back the way she came in.
The ring echoes again.
And then there he was. Winston sat at the edge of the pool, splashing his feet across the side. Darren wraps up the clearly overpriced and malfunctioning crystal and placed it in her pocket.
“Hey, Kiddo,” she says in a pleasant chirpy voice two octaves higher then normal, “my name is Darren. The Sentinels sent me to come and get you.”
Winston says nothing but his smile widens; his eyes still glowed orange. Darren notices this but kept moving in, her hand outstretched to him.
“I’m sure you had a good reason for running away, but your parents are really missing you. Why don’t you come with me?”
Winston stands, his wet feet tapping against the floor as he walked forward. His smile creeps wider and wider. It widened beyond his face, a Cheshire Grin that opened to a gaping mouth. Darren sighs.
The boy-creature leaps, its open maw engorging upon her outstretched arm. Darren collapses backwards, slamming against the wet floor tiles. Time to move in for the kill. The grinning mouth opens once more to engulf her whole. Darren said nothing as the child bared its razor sharp teeth. If only it knew she didn’t have to say anything in order to beat it.
The blast emerges from her swallowed hand and breaks through the being like lightning. The tiny boy-thing goes flying backwards from the magical blow. As it falls its gangly limps outstretch. Winston lands on all fours, then crouches ready to pounce. The grinning mouth turns vicious and hisses. Its skin begins to steam. Darren rose to her feet and stared at the hissing, steaming, child.
“You’re not really Winston, are you?”
Flames erupt from the husk of the boy. They twist and build in the air, taking the form of a towering cat, its mouth open, its eyes glowing orange. The living inferno charges the magician once more. Darren was ready, eager.
She stood in front of the flames; her body taking the creature’s fire but never burning. An unearthly howl shakes the room, the fire growing stronger, and Darren began to strain under the pressure of absorbing all its energy. The howl builds louder and higher in pitch, until climaxing in a hissing whine; the fire flashes white hot in an explosion that tosses Darren away.
She escapes the heat, hitting cool green water.
Everything is blurred. There was no light beneath the murky cover above her. Something ripples through the space nearby. It was something fast, something blurred beneath the green. Darren slowly pushes her way upwards towards the air.
Her head breaks the surface of the pool, hair clinging to her shoulders like a wet mop. She gasps in panic. Darren awkwardly dogpaddles to the side of the pool. She looks, but sees nothing around its edges. The noise of the room is restricted to her own heavy breathing and the light splashes of water against the border of the pool. Amongst Darren’s clumsy struggling in the water, smaller more subtle movements dart across the surface. The ripples dart towards her, a black form swimming beneath her legs. It moves swiftly.
Darren screams. The black form darts away. Darren looks back down; the space was empty now, the cloudy green pool showing no signs of life. The water near her leg was turning darker as blood seeps in. Darren clutches at the side of the pool, and pulls herself out. She rolls onto the tile floor, a razor-thin cut bleeding across the length of her calf muscle.
Darren stood somewhat weakly and looks over the pool. It was as murky as ever. She backs off.
Pushing through the double doors she slowly limps away into the hall. She constantly checks her path with wary suspicion, but nothing emerges from the darkness. Seeing this she pulls the crystal from her pocket once more. It immediately points the way. She follows the glowing stone through the labyrinth till it reached a classroom. Darren places her hand on the door and pushes slowly.
She saw tiny glimpses of the room one at a time, never moving too quickly. A blackboard, a row of desks, a globe on a shelf, a dog cage in the corner, and finally the boy in the small cage. The crystal begins to spark and shone bright yellow. This was him all right.
The boy’s head perks up. He startles, retreating back to the far corner of the cage.
“No, no, its okay,” Darren says, “I’m with the Sentinels. I’m here to help. My name is Darren.”
The child looks back at her, still unsure. Darren examines his eyes, they were light brown. She sighs in relief and points her index finger towards the cage. A tiny magical zap smashes the lock. She swings open the door, but Winston still hid towards the back. Darren kept her hand still, and eventually he moves forward to take it. As soon as he was out of the cage he seized onto her side.
“Its okay kiddo, its okay… What happened?”
“The bad girl,” Winston mutters, tears staining his chin,
“She said she wanted to play, so I followed her, and then I fell into the water, and then I was here, and they wouldn’t let me out. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, I should have stayed at home, I shouldn’t have gone with her, I’m sorry,”
“No, its not your fault,” Darren replies, “Its not your fault.’
If she was irritated by the onslaught of whimpering she didn’t mention it. She pulls him by the hand and began leading him out of the room. As they make their way through the maze of hallways his cries begin to die down. Darren seemed relived, but her troubles had not entirely been erased. The scrying crystal could only help her find him, it couldn’t show her the way out. To make it worse, the bleeding wasn’t getting any better. After a minute or to she found herself at an intersection of four hallways. She needed time to find which way she had come from.
The bell rings, echoing in from all directions. Darren spins in place.
“Shhhhoot.” She says in front of Winston.
She searches the space around them for options. On the wall next to her stands a line of tall metal lockers. She drags Winston over to them and throws one of them open.
“What?” Winston yells, “No, I want to stay with you. Please don’t lock me up again.”
“I’m not locking you up, but it is very important you stay hidden. You get inside and wait there until I come to get you, and only come out when I come for you. Do not leave until I tell you to. Understand?”
“Good, now get in the locker, and be quiet.”
She pushes him inside, then safely closes the door behind her. Winston watches her walk away through the small gaps between the vents in the locker door. She is quickly out of view but he can still hear her feet echo down the hallway for some time. Then she is gone, and everything is quiet. Winston waits.
Time slows down. He feels his heart knocking at his heart trying to escape. Terror races through his small body like a tidal wave. But he stays put. He stands in utter silence, waiting for her to come back. The bell rings again.
Footsteps approach. Winston begins breathing heavily. A form slowly stalks into view of the slits of his locker. He sees her; Darren has returned. She doesn’t call for him yet, but he can tell it’s her. He can see her flowing cerulean cloak, her sparkling aquamarine hair, her glowing orange eyes. Wait, no.
Winston remains in the locker as the thing that looks like Darren begins strutting past his location. It sniffs the air. Its face then curls into a smile; it smelled something it liked. The creature scan the hallway, its eyes rolling over Winston hiding in the locker. It paused as it looked at the locker. It said nothing; Winston tried his best to calm his rapid breathing. The Darren-creature sniffs the air once more. It steps closer.
As it moves, Winston hears the clear chiming ring from a tiny bell tied around its neck. It was a step away now, and Winston holds his breath as the creature peers at the row of lockers, slowly covering each one. The glowing eyes in its skull narrow, it turns towards Winston. It skulks closer, eyes coming upon him, until,
Its ears perk up, rigid and catlike. The Darren creature’s head swivels back with an inhuman twist. The glowing eyes on its face widen and its lips twist into disgust. It flees. Winston hears light the footsteps as the creature pads away; he continues to wait. He finally takes a breath, relaxing some. Then he hears another set of footsteps echoing closer and closer. He stops again.
“Winston,” Darren whispers from outside, “its okay, you can come out now.”
He pushes his way out and peers around. The real Darren was standing not far away. He grabs her hand and they proceed further through the school. Darren moves slightly faster, as if she now knew which way to go. The pair bend around corners and keep moving till the glow of sunlight through a pair of far doors finally greets them. Their escape was not far off. They continue down the final corridor, but Winston tugs against Darren’s hand.
“Don’t,” he said, pointing to the floor.
Water drips from a leaking pipe above the hallway. Puddles have congealed onto the tile floor, their waters so dark as to appear bottomless.
“The water,” he says, “she likes to play in the water.”
Darren looks at the black puddles. She nods to Winston and slowly moves forward, carefully sidestepping the first puddle. A small ripple breaks its surface. Darren freezes. A moment of stillness passes. The puddle remains motionless, and so she moves on.
Every move was deliberate, slow, and placed as far away from the water as possible. Winston follows her example and the pair inch across the hallway. At the end, Darren found her path blocked by a massive puddle that engulfs the width of the hallway. She crouches low, takes a breath, then jumps.
She clears the puddle, but comes deadly close to its edge. In the landing her weakened leg collapses a bit, yet she quickly regains composure. A single drop of blood hits the water’s edge; its surface ripples.
Darren turns to Winston who remained on the other side. She nods him on, and with the same courage as his rescuer, he leapt. Winston came down on the other side, but loses balance; he began to tip backwards towards the water’s edge. Darren grabs him, he stops. She pulls him to his feet. He and Darren both smile. Then the puddle’s surface ruptures.
A tiny pale hand clutches his leg, yanking him back. He slips backwards, Darren still attached to him, sending them both tumbling into the black water.
It is deep. Dark and deep. Fathoms of black, far beyond what the shallow puddle should entail. Darren feels the icy cold all around her as she gropes beneath the water for Winston. She grabs something that feels human, but she is blind.
A blur shoots past her; a sharp pain attacks her good leg. Bubbles stream from her mouth in pain. She feels the flow of the water around her. Another slice digs into her side.
Something is around them, mocking her, circling her for the kill. She needed to do something.
Blasts of magical energy escape her palms, lighting up the black, giving her sight. Winston was near her, his eyes closed, limbs motionless, and air trickling from his lips. A black figure fades past him.
Darren fires again and again, shooting off into the dark. In the corner of her eye, she thinks she sees light above her; she swims. There is a rush in the water. A razor sharp pain bites across her wrist. The hand spasms and drops Winston. Darren frantically dives back down, swiping at the darkness. She could taste her own blood in the water, and could feel the emptiness of her lungs.
With one hand she grabs onto a shoulder and brought the boy back to her. Just then, she feels the water rushing behind her. She opens her mouth and words equivalent to
“Magical Crystal Restriction”
bubble out of her lips.
Crystals surround a black shape in the water. It freezes, paralyzed. Darren sees the pale face of a schoolgirl dressed in all black, red haze floating from her now immobile claws and fangs. The body sinks deep into the black void.
Water had entered Darren’s lungs as she said the spell; weakness was overtaking her. Grasping Winston she uses what strength she has within her damaged limbs to flounder upwards. Every stroke was harder than the last; she pushes towards what she only assumed was light. Almost there, almost out of breath, almost, almost,
Her head breaks the surface, her mouth opening to loudly suck in air. Winston bobs to the surface as well, but makes no miraculous recovery. Darren pushes him out of the puddle then claws herself out behind him. In between breaths she hacks out inky black water. Darren rolls to her side, unable to stand. She crawls over to Winston, his eyes still closed, body still motionless, yet faint breaths issue from his nose…
Darren needed a transfusion, at least so the doctor said. The Sentinels staff had wrapped bandages across her sliced limbs and stopped the bleeding. Beneath the wraps were the stitches that were keeping her body together.
“What about the kid?” she asks.
“We’ll see,” the white clad physician replies, “he’s still unconscious. I’ll let you know if there are any changes. Until then, try and get some rest.”
The doctor left her room and entered the main medical wing hallway. A half dozen nurses and other doctors bustle past him. Sentinels HQ was always filled with people who manage to get themselves into ridiculous amounts of danger, and tonight was no different.
A loud explosion booms above him, the building shutters in response . The doctor raises his gaze towards the noise above. The building shakes again, like Gods were pounding away at the rooftop. An older doctor, as wise as she was wrinkled, saw him staring up at the ceiling.
“You shouldn’t worry about that,” she says, “Its just Knox. He’s running the recruit combat training round tonight. I think he invited some of his old friends. They’ve been blowing each other up the entire night.”
“Right,” the other doctor says, “Knox. Should have guessed.”
He kept walking down the corridor till reaching a private room. It’s only patient, little Winston Little, was as inactive as ever. A heart monitor beeps rhythmically in the corner, and a breathing apparatus was hooked up to his mouth. The doctor enters the room and systematically checks the machines; everything seemed normal. Though when he adjusted the breathing tube strapped to the boy’s face he noticed something odd. Was that a bell around his neck? Oh well. It was probably nothing. The doctor left to continue his rounds.
As his footsteps echo away from the room, Winston’s ears perk up. He turns to his side, and open his eyes. The glowing orange orbs take in the room and their owner found that he was finally alone. With a laugh he pulls the breathing tube from his lips and grins wide.