The Unreal Reality
The Unreal Reality
There was this boarding school on the outskirts of town. No one ever seemed to come and go from there. It wasn’t unusual to send kids off to boarding schools but it was unusual that no one visited and no one left. There were definitely kids there. People had seen shadows in the windows. They never came outside though. And if they did, they never made a sound. The building may as well have been inhabited by ghosts. I once saw a girl in a second floor window once. She had black hair so dark it shone against the white walls and equally disconcerting blood red eyes. I’m not too sure about the eyes though. I was 7 when I saw her.
I bolt downstairs, grab an apple, toss on my backpack, press a light kiss to my mom’s cheek, and dash out the door. A very annoyed Anne sits in her car and glares at me. I slam the car door and pant heavily as Anne narrows her eyes.
Sarcasm drips from every word as she mutters, “I’m sorry, did I miss the memo that school was starting an hour late? We’re both gonna be late to school and Ms. Knight is just about at the end of her rope.”
“Yeah I figure.” I sigh back into the seat and pull out a blank assignment.
“You didn’t do the homework either?” Exasperation and disbelief shine on Anne’s face.
I duck my head. “Well, you see…”
“Yeah Knight’s not gonna spare you this time. Honestly, why can’t you do your work for once? I can’t always help you through everything!”
“But you’re going to help me now, aren’t you?”
Anne sighed and tilted her head towards the back seat. “Grab the assignment yourself. It’s in the red folder.”
I run down the halls. Anne is actually going to scream at me. I was late this morning but now I am late again in the afternoon. As I burst out of the doors, I immediately notice the distinct lack of a red Jeep under the tree on the far end of the lot. She left without me.
I groan and shrug my bag higher on my back. Guess I’m walking home. I can only blame myself. I was supposed to walk with her to her car afterwards, we even had the same final class, but I left to go hang out with another group of friends and told her to wait for me. I don’t think I was gone that long, but then I suppose that half an hour feels a lot longer when you’re alone in a car. My rambling thoughts continue in my head until suddenly a cold breeze whips through me. It had been warm and still just five seconds ago. I glance around and see the iron gates of the infamous boarding school rise up across the street. I had forgotten why we usually take another, longer way to school. The school creeps Anne out to the point where she was willing to drive two extra miles just to avoid crossing in front of it. But I didn’t want to walk that far so I cut in front of the creepy building.
I had a weird obsession with it when I was younger. I would try desperately to get some peek of what’s inside and find out the secrets hidden so carefully behind those imposing gates. Eventually, I gave up and moved on to more interesting things. But today, I stop and stare. My eyes sweep along the windows and chipping white paint. The entire building seems to be monochrome with only white, gray, and black. As if the very life has been leached out of the place. I am about to leave and continue home when I spot movement from the corner of my eyes. I freeze in place. My body tries to run, to step away rather than forward, but my mind is suddenly flooded with thoughts of going up to the doors and running into the building. It’s the same girl from when I was seven.
She hasn’t changed one bit. Her hair is in the same style with the same rich, vibrant color and her eyes still look like cut rubies, sharp and blood-red. She hasn’t aged and her face looks like an innocent mask. She’s standing in the same window. Her gaze focuses on mine, trapping and calling, even across the distance. Then she blinks and the trance is broken. I clutch the straps of my bag and run. I don’t stop until I am on my street. Panting and sweating, I try to make sense of those few seconds when I lost control of my mind.
Suddenly, a car pulls up beside me. Anne looks out a window at me worriedly. I straighten and attempt to paste some kind of happy expression on my face but fear and anxiety win out. Anne darts out of her car, leaving it idling as she runs over and hugs me tightly. I love that about her. She always knows when something’s wrong. I gratefully relax into the warmth of her arms. Slowly, the chill begins to seep out of me.
After a while, Anne leans away and looks at me. I’m still shaking slightly but I have mostly calmed down. The terror is definitely still visible on my face though. She drags me to the car, opens the door, and before I can make a half-hearted joke about gentlemanly behavior, she practically throws me into the car. I grunt and glare at her.
“Okay what happened to you?” Her voice leaves no room for argument.
“Uh… You know that boarding school up on the hill?”
“You mean the one we never go past?” Anne’s face pulls into a grimace and her eyes shadow over.
“That’s the one. Okay so, um, I didn’t want to walk another two miles to get home. So I cut through the road that passes in front of the school.” Anne tenses. “There was this girl. I saw her when I was little but I thought it was my imagination.”
Anne suddenly smirks. “You don’t have an imagination, dear.”
I roll my eyes and continue. “She was so creepy. It was like looking at some kid dressed up for Halloween but it was real. Her eyes and her hair can’t be real though. People don’t have red eyes. They just don’t.”
Anne jerks to face me, smirk disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Her voice drops to a whisper. “Red eyes like... jewels?”
I slowly turn to her. “Yeah! And black hair! She hadn’t aged one bit since I saw her when I was 7 either. Anne you’re scaring me.” Her face steadily drains of color and her eyes are so wide you could see the whites all around her pupils. “Anne you’re supposed to tell me that I was possibly hallucinating or dehydrated or something, anything that is not looking more scared than me!”
She continues in a low voice, “Did she… Did weird stuff happen when you looked at her?”
“I never told you why that place creeps me out. I thought I was crazy. That such a person could never exist. He had purple eyes like amethysts. And his hair was so white. Not in the way old people’s hair is white but like… His hair was just so shockingly white. He locked eyes with me and I lifted off the ground. Literally. Suddenly he looked away and left. I didn’t leave my house for a week after that. I always thought that I was crazy or something.” Her voice tapers off near the end. A cold feeling washes over me again.
If only one of us had seen that then it could have been dismissed as a fluke but both of us? Something was up and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out what. Anne, however, seemed to be quickly getting over her shock and terror. A look of grim determination replaced them.
“We’re finding out what’s in that god forsaken school! I am tired of being terrified every time I get within a mile of that place!”
I shook my head slowly. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, Anne. I think whatever they did to us was real and dangerous. I don’t like the thought of going into that building.”
“Well even if you don’t come with me, I’m going. I can’t do this. Everyday I wonder and I question myself. I am scared out of my mind every time I am alone outside. I am scared I’ll run into that boy. I see his eyes every time I close my eyes. It takes all my energy to act as if I’m fine. And I’m tired of it.”
“I’m not letting you into that place alone. We go together or we don’t go at all,” I pull my lips into a half smile, “what are best friends for, other than exploring creepy places together?”
She grins back just as tentatively and tugs her seat belt on. She must be going through a lot if she’s willing to venture into the boarding school despite how badly it scared her. I am about to steel myself and sit back but then I notice the setting sun.
“Anne let’s go tomorrow. I like the idea of going there in the dark and without a flashlight even less than going there during the day.” She grimly nods in agreement. This serious, shaky version of my best friend sends a chill down my spine. She is the happiest, most carefree person I know. I wonder how much of that was to convince herself that she was okay.
I stumble out of bed. For once, I am not looking forward to the weekend. Sunlight slants through my window and the clock beside my bed tells me it is 10 in the morning. I tug on a hoodie and walk downstairs. Mom is bustling around the kitchen while bickering with dad playfully. My little sister perches on a stool and pokes at her pancakes. I feel detached. I know it sounds gloomy and pessimistic but I am actually worried what would happen if and when I walk into that building. Some tiny, nagging part of me wonders if I’ll even come out.
I sit down at the island though. I wait for Anne to come pick me up. I reflexively check my phone every few minutes but nothing. I eat my breakfast mechanically and then walk back upstairs. I call her but it goes straight to voicemail. My hand clenches into a fist. Anne’s phone never goes to voicemail. She sleeps light and her phone is always in her hand when she’s awake. She isn’t even afraid to hang up on someone she doesn’t want to talk to. And by a general rule, her phone is never dead. Something is wrong.
“I’m going to Anne’s place!” I dart out the door before anyone can say anything. I sprint down the street and burst into her house. Her mom nods, cheerfully wishing me a good morning before plopping down some fruit salad in front of me.
“I already ate, Mrs. Brown.”
“Nonsense! You have to eat the fruit salad. It’s your favorite.” I smile despite the worry growing steadily inside me and begin to eat. “Hey, where’s Anne?”
“She told me she had a sleepover at someone’s place. She’ll be back later today. I’m surprised she didn’t tell you.”
Me too, Mrs. Brown. Me too. She didn’t have a sleepover and despite everything, I know she wouldn’t go alone. Now I’m really concerned. What happened last night?
“Ah okay, thanks Mrs. Brown.” I walk back home slowly. I can’t shake the feeling that whatever happened to her had to do with the boarding school. I really don’t want to go in there alone but what choice did I have? She’s my best friend. And we always look out for each other.
At home, everyone seems dressed to go somewhere, probably grocery shopping. I make my excuses and go upstairs. As soon as I hear the car leave the driveway I slide down the railing. I grab a flashlight and change out the batteries just in case. I consider taking some kind of weapon but if those kids actually have some weird powers then anything sharp or heavy will be just another thing for them to use against me. Finally, I just shove my phone into my hoodie pocket and leave the house.
The boarding school looks more ominous than ever. Maybe it’s my fear or maybe it’s the sun hitting the building just right and making the right shadows. I steel myself and inch closer to the iron gates. A symbol is etched in the center: a black crown. Obsidian. I once saw an obsidian stone at a jewelry store. It seemed harsh back then too but set into a necklace it had an element of beauty to it. Carved into the door, it just seems like a warning, against what I know not. I pushed open a smaller door set into the right gate. It’s unlocked and swings open on oiled hinges. An uneasy feeling skitters down my spine. The sun is suddenly blocked out by clouds.
I tiptoe to the front doors. They look like they’ve stood for decades. Rust lines the metal engravings and the wood panels show signs of rot. As I am about to walk in, I cast my gaze over all the windows and pause. Every place has another door. I creep along the walls, looking for one. Instead, I find a window close to the ground first. I flatten myself onto the ground and peer inside. It leads into an unassuming basement room; I can only see dust in the room. I push on the window gently and it opens. The same uneasy feeling skitters down my spine again. This time I recognize it. No one’s supposedly left this place in years. Yet, the door was well-oiled and a random window is conveniently open. Is it a trap?
I slip into the room and from there, the hallway, my eyes scanning for trip wires or cameras or anything else that could give away my presence. It is a futile exercise though. I had walked across the open front lawn and anyone in the windows could have seen me even if I couldn’t see them. Damn it, Anne! I need my best friend for this. I’m way too paranoid and way too clumsy. And little side note, these kids, or whatever they are, possibly have powers and my only ability is managing to escape Ms. Knight’s infamous wrath after coming to class late five days in a row. I smile to myself and promptly trip over my own feet. I groan and push up onto my elbows, lining up my eyes with a pair of old-fashioned school shoes. Still disoriented, I duck my head down then look again. The person those shoes belong to hadn’t been there five seconds back.
I crane my neck up to look at the person and immediately jerk back five feet. I didn’t even know I could move that fast. It’s the boy Anne described. White hair and purple eyes. My hands move and I start to stand. Then I realize that I never told my body to do that. I struggle but the pressure returns stronger than before. The boy’s eyes flash like gemstones. My wrists touch and my legs move, cuffing me without cuffs and making me follow the boy down the hall. I feel a shudder rush through my nerves but my body stays perfectly still. He’s now in complete control.
I am marched to a hall that I presume was once gorgeous but has since become dusty and gloomy. It has a raised dais on the other end and silver chandeliers hang from the ceiling, providing the only light other than a few candelabras here and there. I scan the room for Anne but the only people other than me and the boy are three hooded figures sitting on throne-like chairs on the dais. I am brought to them and thrown at their feet. The figure in the center stands and waves an arm dismissively. The boy walks out. I keep my eyes trained on the figures out of sheer fear. The one on the right shifts their hood to my right. A girl steps up and as soon as I take a good look at her, I jerk away again. She’s the girl who I’ve seen in the window twice so far. Her eyes are thankfully pointed at Right Hooded Figure. They flash for quite a while before they settle into a normal red color, or as normal as natural red eyes can be. Right Hooded Figure turns to the other two and stares at them for a few minutes. Center Hooded Figure seems to be assessing me under the hood. I really want to see their faces but then I’m not too sure about that.
Left Hooded Figure moves for the first time. A slim hand pulls the hood off her face. Her eyes are almost normal. They’re an ice blue so potent I want to drown myself in their depths. She tilts her head slightly. I tilt mine too. She straightens, satisfied.
“This one’s frightened but there’s something… Something special…” Her voice is melodious but in a way that makes your fight-or-flight response flare up. But she said “this one” which means Anne is probably here somewhere, so I guess I’m staying.
I scramble away pathetically. “There’s nothing special about me! I’m just a kid in high school who came here because they couldn’t find his best friend after a very specific conversation last night. I can barely keep up with homework.”
Her gaze languidly slides down my body, eyeing it in curious distaste. “No child. There is something about you. Something I can’t put my finger on.” She pivots snapping her fingers. “Rhea!”
Right Hooded Figure, who I suppose is Rhea, shrugs off her robe. The heavy fabric falls off delicate shoulders and pools at her feet. A black gown is draped over her slight figure, highlighting her red eyes. She lifts her chin and stares at me. As her eyes are about to lock into mine, I cast my own to the ground. Rhea begin to chuckle. Her voice is nothing like Blue Eyes. Hers is sharp and scathing. I flinch causing the girl next to me to giggle harshly. She grabs my chin and yanks it up, making my eyes lock with Rhea’s.
Instantly, my mind gives in. I am aware of the fact that I am completely pliant just as much as I am aware of the violating presence in my mind, searching and clawing. Some tiny part of me fights back weakly. Rhea’s eyes widen. She sweeps off the dais and yanks my head towards her. I squint at her flashing eyes and her nails dig into my skin as her mental attack worsens. I wince, trying to do something to ease the pain in my head. I mentally picture putting up and shield and then using a spear to attack like I saw in a movie once. Rhea rears back and stares at me in shock.
“You-- You’re one of us!”
I scrambled back, terrified. There was absolutely no way I was like them. I didn’t have weird eyes or what not. I didn’t make stuff move or control people with my mind. I don’t even know what Blue Eyes does. I am just a kid who walked into a creepy school for their best friend. I repeat that over and over again hoping it’s true. Then, Blue Eyes speaks up again.
“Rhea, normally, our powers don’t affect each other. Even your skills only extend to communication with us. Your powers affected the kid properly at the beginning. Somehow, the little devil fought them. Call Remy!” The purple-eyed boy from earlier walks in after a few seconds. Blue Eyes pins him with a frightening glare. “Did the kid fight your powers in any way, Remy?”
Remy looks at her emotionlessly yet his voice is tinged with fear and respect. “Yes, at the beginning.”
Rhea’s eyes flare up with anger. “And you didn’t think to mention that?!”
Confusion flits across the boy’s purple eyes. “That’s not normal? Wouldn’t anyone resist that?”
Rhea grits her teeth and growls, “Out!”
The boy turns on his heels and runs. After a quick glance, the girl follows too. I watch them go and scramble a little further back. Rhea returns to her place on the dais. A cold feeling is taking over my entire body. Suddenly, the hood falls off Center Hooded Figure. While the other two women were beautiful, this one has jagged scars littering her face and neck. I am instantly wary of whatever caused them. Her hands stay hidden in the folds and vibrant purple eyes study me curiously. I am not quite so fearful of her for whatever reason. Then she speaks, her voice is deep and strong, “Child, what is your name?”
A shiver runs down my spine. “Rowan.”
“Rowan…” Her voice caresses my name, testing it, and I feel the sudden urge to tell her how Mom came up with it but then, “I actually named you Miykal. A testament to true power. I thought you were dead. How did you end up with the humans?”
Both women on either side of her are standing with their mouths agape. Probably looking exactly like me. They start yelling questions.
“You knew about this?!”
“How is this possible”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“What do you mean by testament to true power?”
I have even more questions but I keep them to myself. Purple Eyes just stares at me with an amused expression. “Miykal. Stand. Have you really never noticed anything unusual about you? Ever?”
I struggle to my feet. I think back and a realization dawns on me. How I always managed to find stuff within arm’s reach the second time I reached for it. How I never got in trouble in Knight’s class because I’d use this specific voice and she’d give me another chance. How I had an uncanny ability to tell what someone is thinking or feeling even if I didn’t know them all that well. How I was incredibly resilient, both mentally and physically, to lots of things. My knees threaten to give out under me. I always thought I was empathetic, persuasive, was unable to bruise, all sorts of things to create a more sensible justification. Maybe they were true though. How on Earth did such being even exist? Was this a dream? Maybe I’ll wake up and realize that the boarding school is just for weird, anti-social, genetically mutated kids. That is at least marginally more believable and a lot more possible than superpowers.
Someone clears their throat and I am jerked out of my rapidly swirling thoughts. Purple Eyes is still looking at me like I am an incredibly interesting piece of meat. Blue Eyes and Rhea look furious and more than a little confused. I look around for a way to escape and find Anne. Anne! For the first time since coming here my mind focuses, feeling something other than fear and confusion. I have to get to my best friend. She’ll tell me that I’ve been hallucinating or something. Maybe I ended up in a party and got peer pressured into using drugs? The very thought makes me chuckle. I am definitely not cool enough to get invited to those kinds of parties. My chuckle confuses the three women and they all look at each other for some kind of clue as to what is wrong with me. This makes me laugh more. Oh crap. The constant stress is making me process my emotions wrong and now I can’t stop laughing at the littlest of things. I hope Rhea doesn’t go all Skywalker on me. That would end a little badly.
Blue Eyes leans a little closer to Purple Eyes. I should really ask their names. Just as Blue Eyes opens her mouth I interject, laughing, “Hey Blue Eyes! What’s your name?”
Blue Eyes pivots and glares at me monstrously but I keep grinning at her. Shocked to the core, she mumbles out a soft “Vanya”.
Purple Eyes grins back. “Soleil.”
“Is that French or something? Pretentious!”
I continue giggling my heart out. Suddenly I feel a presence in my mind again. Rhea. Her claws dig into my brain and I jerk out of my stress-induced laughter. I push back frantically then fall to my knees gasping.
“That hurt like all hell but thank you.”
“You’re thanking me for attacking you?” Rhea seems to be getting more confused with every word that tumbles past my lips. I, however, am perfectly aware of how I need to be clear minded if I am going to find Anne.
“Well I finally have my senses about me. I’ll work through the surprise and disbelief later. For now, where’s my best friend?”
Vanya smirks. “You don’t order us around, child.”
They said that their powers don’t work on each other yet they worked on me despite Rhea’s claim of me being one of them. They also said no one can fight back like I can. Let’s see if I have powers and they work on them.
I imagine tendrils of my mind stretching towards the women. I imagine walking through a gate into a city and taking control. I’m not entirely sure if I’m going about this right but what other choice do I have? My knowledge of violence stems directly from movies and video games. I lock eyes with each of them in turn and with a final push, I picture clawing into their minds the exact same way that Rhea did with me. The three women’s faces slacken. I open my mouth but the words that come out are too musical. I speak nonetheless, “Take me to Anne.”
The women begin moving instantly. Then, I realize how tenuous my hold on them is. I glare at Rhea and Vanya before whispering “sleep” in the same musical voice as before. It almost sounds like Vanya’s. Maybe it is. The two immediately slump to the ground. Maybe my voice can convince people to do stuff? Am I a combination of the three women? Let’s see if I can levitate stuff. I stare at a candle holder and urge it to lift. The holder trembles but lifts a few inches. I’m not so good at this but it’s passing. I pivot back to Soleil. She still has a blank look on her face. I try to use the same voice again but stronger, “Take me to Anne!”
Soleil brushes past me. Even in her coerced state she walks like a queen. I follow her meekly. I may have powers but I am not too comfortable using them yet. We walk along long hallways and down winding stairs. The place is a lot bigger and more confusing than it appears from the outside. I follow Soleil to a perfectly normal door. She pushes it open and I hear a soft whimper float out into the hall. Anne. Last time I heard her whimper like this was when she broke her arm falling out of a tree.
I walk into the dark room and search blindly for a light switch. Flipping on a light bulb, I turn back to my best friend. She’s covered in bruises and she looks like she’s going to cry any second. Anne never cries. My heart breaks and I turn on my heel. I glare at Soleil harshly. I can feel the anger radiating off of me. My voice trembles with a harsh melody as I growl out, “Who did this?”
Soleil backs away slightly, “Rhea and Vanya ordered it!”
“What about you?”
“I was the one who had the idea to bring her here because you would almost definitely follow.”
I smile scathingly. I want to hurt her the way she hurt Anne. But I also need answers. Something takes over me and my lips curl into a smirk.
“Kill them all. Every one but you. Don’t care how just do it. Now!” Soleil scurries off and I turn to Anne. Tears are running down her face for real this time.
“You-you-you… Freak! Murderer!”
I wince and shake my head. “I am simply punishing them all for doing this to you. I just discovered that I can do this. I don’t even know what’s happening.”
Anne scrambles back again. “S-Stay away from me! You’re not my best friend! You’re not Rowan!”
I smile again, but this time it’s more of a relaxed smile. “No, Anne. I am Miykal. I am true power.”
Anne’s lip wobbles as she chokes out, “You’re going crazy. Don’t you see it Rowan?! You’re going crazy!” She breaks down again and her sobs pull some of my rage away.
I crouch to her level. “Hey let’s get out of here. I promise I won’t hurt you. I really have no idea what’s happening. All I know is that I can do all these things and I am scared out of my wits but I need to keep going. I can’t leave my best friend behind and I can’t risk them coming after her again.”
Anne flinches away from me but nods tentatively. “I’m going to leave with you but once we’re safe, I have no idea what I will do.”
My heart breaks again. I could lose my best friend because of this. I shake my head sadly. At least she’ll get out of it alive. I pull her to her feet and we run out of the room. Soleil is walking up to us from an end of the hallway. I rush to her and grab her arm with my other hand.
“Get us out of here!”
We walk out and the school burns behind us, probably Soleil’s doing. The sun is just setting outside. Anne wrenches her hand out of mine, her eyes blazing with fear and anger. “I’m going home and sleeping. I’ll say I was jumped or something. I am sleeping and I will deal with you tomorrow. The only reason I am even considering that is because you’re my best friend and I don’t take that lightly.”
I can only nod. “Thank you.” She walks away, limping. I want to help but I know that right now she would just push me away.
Soleil speaks up beside me. “Miykal. What are we going to do now?”
I steel myself. “You’re going to hide. We’ll meet at the old park on the other end of town in a week. Anne’s probably going to be there if I can convince her to not hate me. Stay out of trouble. Right now I am going to go home, get yelled at by my parents for being out so late, and then figure all this out on my own for a while.”
I walk away from Soleil. I can hear the building behind me collapsing and a weird sadness runs through me. I need answers but first I have to fix my relationship with Anne and actually process all of this.