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Children of the Apocalypse
Passion. Vengeance. Redemption. Sacrifice. Destiny.
Children of the Apocalypse
Passion. Vengeance. Redemption. Sacrifice. Destiny.
Skyla Dawn Cameron
Children of the Apocalypse copyright © 2007 by Skyla Dawn Cameron Some rights reserved. Children of the Apocalypse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution–NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. You cannot make copies of or distribute the work without the written consent of the author. You may create derivative works so long as the author is attributed, and all works are noncommercial. This is a work of fiction. Really. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entire coincidental. An Indigo Chick Press Production To order additional copies of this book, please visit www.lulu.com/indigochickpress or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Cover Art © Skyla Dawn Cameron Book Design and Production by Skyla Dawn Cameron Copy Edit by Judy Bagshaw
Produced by Indigo Chick Press Printed by Lulu.com
To all the Children of the Apocalypse readers, specifically the awesome people at my forum: Clare, Elaine, Jeroen, Jess, and Judy. Also, of course, to Justin. And to my babydoll, Hanna.
his is kinda weird—I don't really know what to write for a foreword. I guess I should just tell you about the book, but if you've picked it up, you probably already know what it is… Since 2004, I've been providing free serialized fiction on my website. The first novel, Catharsis, was quite successful among its small, devoted fanbase, so when it concluded in the fall of 2005, I started thinking about having a new serial. Children of the Apocalypse has a long, long history with me. Some of the main characters—specifically Genevieve, Michael, and Sage—have been with me since I was about fourteen, and reappeared in different works in various incarnations. It wasn't until Writers' Craft class in my final year of high school, when I was seventeen that the story began to resemble what you're reading today. We had a simple enough project to do in class: it was a unit on script writing, and we were to write a script. We were supposed to write either a sitcom episode or a half hour of a drama episode of a pre-existing TV show (or make up our own, if we felt ambitious). I was kinda a brat in high school and didn't bother doing the project, initially. But a month after it was due, I had the idea for an almost Buffyesque drama, called Children of the Apocalypse, and I brought in the aforementioned characters and their stories that I'd already been thinking about, and added a few others. Then I wrote the pilot and handed it in. Then I wrote a second episode And a third. And a fourth (which, when the teacher told me he misplaced the pilot, I gave him to mark instead). I ended up completing the first thirteen or fourteen episodes, drafted the rest of the season, drafted season two, and planned the major plot arcs for the third. I got 96% on the project, by the way, though I was docked a few marks for being over a month late.
I never really let those characters and their stories go. Something about it grabbed me and, in my deluded mind, I was certain I'd get to make my TV show at some point. Well…obviously, I haven't made my TV show. After seeing so many things I loved get cancelled—usually by FOX—I've given up the dream of writing for television. But when it came time to have another eSerial, I found Children of the Apocalypse to be perfect for that format: it's complicated and therefore lends itself well to being serialized, there are defined plot and character arcs that act as seasons or "parts", and I can write it for the next decade, if need be, so I don't have to think up a new web novel for awhile. All this being said, the story has undergone a lot of changes since its last incarnation. The bones stayed the same, but as I'm a better writer now than when I was seventeen (no, really, lol), I realized early on that a lot had to be reworked. Even the character's names changed (except for Michael's…he's always been the constant). When Part One turned out to be much longer than I'd anticipated (and with Part Two looking to be even longer) I decided to scrap my plans to rewrite and edit the whole thing when it was done years from now, and just start working on finalized copies as each arc completed. That's right—there'll be no "special edition" for this thing, as there was for Catharsis. Not only would be it physically too unwieldy, but Lulu won't print over a certain page count (plus, let's face it—the damn thing would be bloody expensive). What you hold now in your hands is Part One in its entirety, tweaked a little (and with a new scene or two) but still the basic story as I wrote it in 2006. As a bonus, I've added my original chapter-by-chapter commentary, as well as the Michael-centric short story Surfacing. As write this, Part Two is in full swing and will probably conclude sometime in 2008. If you enjoy this and are looking for more, as always, chapters are posted at the beginning of every month, and you'll find them all at www.ApocalypseNovel.com, 100% free.
he night was warm for September, heavy with the remnant humidity of a hot summer. Genevieve paused her step and listened. The street was silent—dead even—but for her own shallow breaths and the quiet whining of the rottweiler that walked at her side. Funny, she could have sworn she heard something... Her sapphire blue eyes glanced about, studying the scenery for anything unusual. Suburban houses, dark due to the late hour of night, met her gaze. No visual signs that anyone else was about, and though moments passed, she heard nothing out of the ordinary either. Gen wasn't usually the paranoid type. Even if someone was around, watching her or whatever, she wouldn't take notice, and certainly didn't suppose people were hiding in the bushes at night, staring at her, on a regular basis. Her initial reaction was to brush off the sudden feeling of being watched—to ignore that inner voice that everyone seems to have. Still, against her rational mind, she found herself checking over her shoulder, eyes searching the darkness for some sign that she wasn't insane. Her dog whined louder this time and looked up at her, then gave a small woof as if inquiring why they had stopped. Genevieve sighed. "Sorry, Penny," she mumbled. She gave the short leash a slight tug and the two continued on their walk, with Penny electing to take the lead. This was Newhaven, after all. It was by no means a hotspot for anything approaching violent crime. The occasional vandalism, sure, and some drug trafficking. But psychos following girls around at night? That didn't happen. Besides, she had Penny. Amazonian-tall girls walking a rottweiler just don't get attacked; it might as well be a documented fact. She was nearly home anyway—no sense getting herself all freaked out over what was undoubtedly nothing. Both Genevieve and her dog failed to notice the two figures standing only a block away, watching from the protective shadow of a row of hedges.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I'm sorry, but I still have no idea," the young woman whispered to her companion. "You know I can't tell..." "I already know." The man beside her nodded to himself, a hateful stare fixed on the sixteen-year-old girl fading from their view. Her waist-length, yellow hair shone in the lamplight, swinging from side to side as she walked, and was the last thing he saw when she turned the corner towards her home. They didn't need to follow anymore; he'd been tracking her for weeks. He knew her route, her habits, her schedules. "But how can you—" the girl began. "I just know," he replied sharply. He abruptly turned around and stalked in the opposite direction of Genevieve. "If you're right—" "I am." "Well then, what are we going to do?" hissed the girl, struggling to meet her friend's brisk pace with her short legs. "Do you want me to—" "I'll take care of it," he cut in. "But—" "I said I'll take care of it." It had been coming to this for awhile, and finally the time was here. Now he had to act...act alone, if he was to succeed. Tomorrow night. This would end one way or another then. *~*~* "Miss Weist?" Genevieve glanced up to find the entire class staring at her. In front of her desk stood her portly, forty-something English teacher, Ms. Kern. The woman looked annoyed and as if she was expecting something; presumably some answer to a question that Gen hadn't been listening to. "Yes?" Genevieve asked, trying not to focus on the bizarre magenta spandex cat suit Kern was poured into, and the orange silk shirt she wore over it. That was a considerably difficult task—those colours side by side were downright distracting. If she dared look down at the woman's shoes, her head might explode altogether. "Miss Weist, do you plan to join the rest of class today? I asked you a question." "I'm sorry, what was it?" Tiny dark eyes, heavily lined with black and shadowed with orange, narrowed on Genevieve, and if she hadn't already received Kern's infamous glare so many times since the semester began, she would probably be fidgeting in her seat. But she was used to the situation, so she sat quietly and waited for her teacher's sharp reply. "What do the rhyming couplets in act one, scene one, foreshadow?" Kern asked, her high-pitched voice on edge. "What is suggested when they are used in Shakespeare's work?" "Um..." Genevieve looked down to see her English books weren't even open, a small sketchpad and pieces of graphite in their place. This wasn't looking good. Yesterday's homework on the Macbeth unit had been to read...uh...something in the play. Gen couldn't remember what—she figured that since she'd seen the movie, she
Children of the Apocalypse should be able to answer basic plot questions, but foreshadowing rhyming couplets? Polanski didn't spend a lot of time explaining those. A few of her classmates snickered, sending a flush of anger to her cheeks. Like at least half of them hadn't been in a similar situation at least once this semester! Unable to turn and send a glare their way, since Ms. Kern's gaze hadn't left her yet, Genevieve was forced to sit there and endure it all. While floundering around in search of the book and scrambling to find an answer might be choice of many, it wasn't for her. Instead, she leaned back in her uncomfortable chair and crossed her arms, waiting for Kern's inevitable bark of annoyance followed by the reveal of the answer to her own question. The hand of the boy sitting in the desk to her left drifted upward, and Kern's face softened as she turned her gaze his way. "Yes, Levi?" "In this case," Levi began, "as in many of Shakespeare's plays, the rhyming couplets suggest something bad is about to happen. I believe here it also adds to the cryptic ambiguity of the witches that will further entangle Macbeth." "Very good, Mr. Greene," Ms. Kern said, her face beaming with approval. Her expression darkened again as she looked at Genevieve. "I suggest, Miss Weist, that you take the time Levi does to listen in class." She tapped on the sketchbook. "If I see that again, it'll be confiscated." She turned sharply and strolled to the chalkboard, then jotted down in point form what Levi had said. Oh well, Gen thought. At least that's over— "Perhaps volunteering to read for us the lines of the first witch might refresh your memory?" Any relief Genevieve felt dissipated under the sound of Kern's voice. Shit, she really wasn't talking to me, was she? Kern turned to stare at Genevieve, planting her hands on her hips. "Well?" Damn. Gen snatched the book up and flipped it open, skipping through the introductory pages. There were a lot of those. Stupid Shakespeare, writing all deep and complicated, and requiring editors centuries later to fill her book with so many extra pages! Gen finally reached the play itself, only to realize she had no idea where the class was in the story. "Act one, scene one," Kern reminded her. While Genevieve looked for the page, her teacher selected two other students to be the sister witches. "Haley, you can take the second witch, Izzy the third—" "No," Izzy Marx replied coldly. Genevieve paused her searching to swing around and face the girl. She sat with her shoulders squared, back straight, and chin up in defiance, with a slight smile on her face, as if she took pleasure in pissing the teacher off. Knowing Izzy, though, that was probably an accurate assessment. Genevieve existed on the hope that she could get by class without drawing too much attention to herself; Izzy thrived on having everyone stare at her in horror for being such a shit disturber. "And why is that, Miss Marx?"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Because Shakespeare's depiction of witches is not only highly inaccurate and ridiculous, but offensive, and I'm not taking part in acting out a stereotype." "It's fiction, Miss Marx, and if you refuse to participate in class, we can take up your 'issues' after school with the vice-principal." While the prospect of spending any more time with Ms. Kern than the provincially mandated allotment was horrific to any normal person, it didn't seem to faze Izzy. "Okay," she said instead. "And while we're there, we can discuss your unwillingness to take a moment to differentiate between real witches and this disgusting depiction in Macbeth, which has seriously offended the religious beliefs and practices of myself and other Wiccans in the class." As far as Genevieve knew, there weren't any Wiccans in the class—probably not even Izzy, but then she was the kind of person that seemed to seek out something to be in opposition to. Last year it was the "exclusory" terms in an out of date textbook. She had gone over the words in white-out and written over top of them in her copy. This was likely no different. "This is English class, not 'Religious Tolerance: 101,'" Kern said, calling her bluff. "Yeah, well, it's not Drama either—if I wanted to act, I wouldn't be in English class being offended by my bigot teacher, now would I?" Gen was pretty sure she heard the collective jaw of the class drop at that one. "I'll speak to you after class." "I look forward to it," Izzy replied. Genevieve could at least thank Izzy for taking the focus off of her, if only for a day. There was no way Kern would still be pissed off at her after that— "Miss Weist can take over the part of the third witch as well," Kern said. Damn it!
After class, Genevieve stalked toward her locker, muttering under her breath. "What was that?" Levi asked as he caught up. "I don't think I quite heard you." "I said, 'Evil Demonic Bitch from Spandex Hell,'" Genevieve replied, causing a chuckle from her friend. "I wonder what you'll say when I tell you I was only reading from the notes written in my copy of Macbeth by whatever student had it last year." Annoyed but unable to really blame Levi for that, she twirled the dial of the combination lock on her locker furiously and had to attempt it three times before she actually got the damn thing open. "I'd feign surprise, but then I'm a terrible liar. You're one of her basketball players, after all. You could hand in everything late, bomb every test, and she would still say, 'Are you sure you'll have enough time for basketball practice, hun?'" "Yeah, that 'honey' thing is pretty creepy," said their friend Stephie as she flopped against the locker next to Genevieve's. "Try being on the receiving end." Levi shuddered.
Children of the Apocalypse "You sure there's not something going on you're not telling us about?" Stephie asked with a grin, brown eyes twinkling at the look of horror on Levi's tanned face. "Is she Mrs. Robinson-ing you or anything?" "I know you think you can tell me anything, Lev, but please, never ever tell me that," Genevieve said before he could respond. "My stomach can't handle that kind of thing." Levi still looked too appalled to form words at that point, and Gen had to laugh. She stowed her unused English notebook and copy of Macbeth in her locker and hunted down what she needed for her next class...only then realizing she didn't know what her next class was. "Guys, what do I have next?" she asked. "Definitely Physics," Stephie replied, as if she was certain of it. Gen sighed. "I doubt it because I'm not taking Physics." Why hadn't she taped her schedule in her locker like every other student had? That way, when her memory failed her in the third week of school, she wouldn't have to rely on the height of unreliability—usually stoned, wannabe punk-Goth, Stephany Meyers. Neither the punk, nor the Goth community would actually have anything to do with her, so she found herself quite at home in the company of artsy-slacker Genevieve and the "Ihate-jocks" jock, Levi. "Well, I know it's Thursday...maybe it's Art?" "You suck, Steph," Levi muttered. "Only for the nice boys who buy me dinner first," she replied with a wink. "So tell us, Oh Great One, what do I have next?" Gen asked. "Nothing—it's lunch time," he announced, and held up his sports watch to prove it. The digital clock read 11:34 pm. "Well, I was close," Stephie said as they started down the hall toward the cafeteria. As she wiggled her way between her friends, she threw one arm over Genevieve's shoulder, and the other over Levi's—a task that was only accomplished because the huge heels on her boots helped her come near their matching heights of six feet. "How is Physics close to lunch?" Gen asked. "Wait—never mind, I don't want you to even try to explain that one." Lunch hour found the three of them sitting in the east stairwell where they always ate, trays of cafeteria food barely fit for human consumption stacked to the side where Levi picked through what remained of his friends' lunches. He ate indiscriminately, not caring how sick the pasta salad looked or how questionable the origins of the veggie burgers were. He had already consumed three large fries on his own—Gen often observed he had a metabolism like no other. Genevieve kicked off her shoes and stretched her long legs out, then pulled out her sketchbook and a piece of graphite. The main Visual Arts project that year for her class was a series of self portraits using various mediums...as if any artist was really that interested in drawing herself. Though the students had been encouraged to use photos if they chose to, Gen went by memory, deciding it would be far more interesting to see how she saw herself. So far, she seemed to have a caricature going—her eyes, while large and round in real life, had taken on Anime style
Skyla Dawn Cameron proportions, and dominated her heart shaped face, while her bow lips were pulled into a pout. She debated sticking an evil looking Ms. Kern in the background waving a copy of Macbeth wildly over her head, but she knew teachers talked, and that would get back to the witch somehow. At the beginning of the year, she hoped that perhaps her close friendship with one of Kern's favourite students, friendly and well liked by all point-guard Levi, might soften the woman's opinion of her. Gen had heard that worked for other people, but Kern seemed just as set against her as she was with half of the class. That was unusual for Genevieve—usually teachers paid her little mind, only bothering to reprimand her when the most important projects were late. Otherwise, she was quiet and didn't disrupt the other students, so most of her teachers didn't bother with her. "So, what are you two doin' tonight?" Stephie asked, dropping one of the braids she had put into Genevieve's waist-length, thick blonde hair and picking up another clump of tresses to begin again. "Not going out with you to wherever you're going," Genevieve replied. There would be no living with her mother if the police called her after being found at a rave. "Levi?" "Basketball." "Game or practice?" "Practice. First game of the year is tomorrow." "Cool—wanna go to a basketball game, Gen?" Stephie asked, once again demonstrating her attention span of a fruit fly. Before she could answer, a guy a year older than them—who looked remarkably like Levi—joined them, as did his girlfriend. "Hi Hayden," Genevieve said. Stephie offered a similar greeting, though Levi's gaze went elsewhere. "Hi Sage," Levi said, addressing his brother's girlfriend first. Two years later and he's still pining for her, Gen thought. This crush was no longer kind of sad—it was borderline pathetic. Not far from creepy, too. But nothing she said would sway him from it. She didn't blame him; Sage was pretty. Only around five feet, five inches in height, she looked much taller given her trim, athletic build. She had absolutely flawless skin in a rich medium brown. Good bone structure. Definitely striking, but she wasn't the only pretty girl in school, and she lost points on personality. She rarely spoke to anyone, leaving most to believe her highly stuck up. All that aside, Gen suspected Levi just had a thing for unattainable women. First there was Genevieve herself, and now Sage—his older brother's serious girlfriend. Next he'd be looking at a nun. Sage barely glanced in Levi's direction, nodded her hello, and continued looking bored while Hayden talked about having to work that night and how Levi had better not forget his house keys again else he'll be stuck out there all night. While she seemed a little rude to some, Genevieve had decided she was just reserved. There had to be some actual personality there underneath her cold surface, or else why would Hayden, of all people, be with her for so long?
Children of the Apocalypse Another possibility was that she knew Levi had a thing for her (and how could she not?) and just didn't want to encourage it. But while Hayden, a twelfth grader, seemed like the best of friends with all his little brothers classmates, Sage—who was actually their age of sixteen herself—seemed awkward and out of place. Never flat out rude, but never warm or friendly either. "So, Gen, game tomorrow night?" Stephie repeated her earlier inquiry. "I don't know," Genevieve replied. "Aw, c'mon, it'll be fun. We can paint our faces maroon and gold and cheer for the team!" "School colours are navy and gold," Levi pointed out. "That really doesn't make any sense," Genevieve said. "You're the Phoenixes...shouldn't you have red or something?" "One of the other county school teams we played against a few years ago had those colours...things got confusing on the court," Levi replied. "Whatever," Stephie brushed him off. "We can write 'Levi rocks' across our boobs and flash them during half-time." "I'll skip work tomorrow and go to the game if you're doing that," Hayden said with a smirk and Sage smacked him. "Really sweetie, these are beautiful, empowered womyn and I completely support their right to be topless if they so choose. I also support you joining them." "I'm sure you would," Sage muttered, then she gave him a "Can we please go now look," that he pretended not to notice. She even inched back a bit away from the group, showing her displeasure at being there. Forget reserved—she's just a bitch, Gen decided. "Hey, Gen, game?" Stephie asked again, leaving Gen a little shocked her friend was able to focus on the same subject all this time. "Maybe," Genevieve replied, though actually meaning "no," but not wishing to reveal her reasons why. Someone had been following her lately—she was sure of it. While she had tried to ignore those thoughts last night, she spent the entire evening glancing out her window to the front lawn, checking to see if anyone was out there. Though her rational mind couldn't explain the feeling, she grew terrified at the prospect of being out there alone. Though she could probably find a ride home from the game, for the next couple of nights she wanted to stay home where she could be certain the doors and windows were locked. But how long could she be expected to keep that up? The mere remembrance of being out with Penny last night seemed to darken the atmosphere of the stairwell for her and sent a shiver reverberating through her. Her mouth went dry and all other thoughts fell away as the memory overcame her; footsteps that mimicked her own, a figure she could have sworn she saw in the shadows, the overwhelming sense of being watched. She gave an involuntary shiver. "You okay, Gen?" Hayden asked, shaking her from her thoughts. All at once, the memory retreated, and she was once again back in the stairwell with her friends. "Just flashbacks from English," she said, and gave another shiver, exaggerated for effect this time. "I think Kern's outfit might have branded itself in my memory."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Someone definitely should offer counselling for her students," Hayden agreed. "I had her last year and I think a few times I went legally blind. I'm a guy, and even I can tell the clothes she picks don't match." Gen nodded and even managed to offer a weak smile while her thoughts lay elsewhere, with something infinitely more terrifying than Kern's questionable fashion sense. There might really be someone out there, following her. God, I hope I'm wrong about this. *~*~* Rebecca Weist dropped her fork on her plate and turned her blue eyes to her daughter all too overdramatically, or so Genevieve thought. She shook her head of greying blonde hair. "Well, I don't understand why that teacher treats you as if you're some idiot like the rest of the class," "Mother, I don't think that's a fair assumption to make," Genevieve said, rolling her eyes and stuffing a spoonful of potatoes in her mouth. "That's right, dear—for all you know, Genny is on par with the class' stupidity," her father said with a wink in her direction. Genevieve groaned. "Can we please not talk about this?" "You brought it up," Leo Weist pointed out. "Yeah, 'cause she asked how my day was. You want me to lie?" "Of course that would be preferable, sweetie," he said. "That way you keep your poor mother from worrying." "I should give that woman a call and let her know what an exceptionally bright student you are," Rebecca said, then looked at her daughter pointedly. "Or at least you can be when you put your mind to it." "First of all, if you do that, I'm moving out," Gen said. "Promise?" her dad joked. "Ha ha," she replied. "Second of all, it won't do any good. If I'm not on the basketball team, she wants nothing to do with me." "Well then, sign-up for the basketball team," Leo said. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." "That's hardly helpful," Rebecca said, sending him "the look." It was a look Gen caught all too frequently, when her dad didn't seem to be backing her mom up on whatever she was saying. He was just a laid back kind of guy, though; he knew it was pointless to pounce on the little, silly things in life like her mother did. "You say that now, but wait 'til Genny joins—she'll have straight A's. I'm telling you." "Yeah, I'll sign up right away because I'm so coordinated and athletic," Gen retorted. "At least stand up for yourself in class," Rebecca said, returning some of her attention to her meal. "The next time she embarrasses you like that—"
Children of the Apocalypse "I wasn't embarrassed!" Genevieve protested, but she knew it was of little use. When her mother got an idea in her head, it was impossible to change her mind about it. "The next time it happens, call her on her behaviour. Report it to the head of the English Department and—" "Oh my God, what century did you go to high school in!" Gen sighed and stood up from the table. "Can I be excused?" Without waiting for an answer, she took her dishes into the kitchen and loaded them in the dishwasher. "Is that what you do in class every time this teacher yells at you?" her father called after her. "Ask to be excused?" "I have homework," Gen said with annoyance. "Leaving now—goodbye." "Run away, Genevieve—run away!" he said with a chuckle. "Beware of confrontation!" "Have a nice meal!" she returned. Christ, who were they kidding, anyway? She always mouthed off in school when she was little, and her mother had been constantly hauled into the principal's office for meetings about it. Then her mom just argued even more with them, and her teachers soon learned whom she got it from. At about age eleven, Genevieve discovered her father's way of doing things— passive aggressiveness. Just as infuriating to people, but it usually resulted in less hassle. "Gen," her mother called just as she started up the stairs. "Penny's sitting here whining—you should take her out now." Hmm, good point. They had to eat later than usual due to her mother's work schedule, and this was usually the time Penny went out. And it wasn't like she was really going up to do homework. "C'mon, Pen," Genevieve said, and the rottweiler came bounding over. She led her dog to the back door and let her into the yard. "Hey," Rebecca said. "She should be going for a walk—don't be so damn lazy." "Too tired tonight," Genevieve lied, not wishing to try to explain to her mother the footsteps she swore she heard following her at night. Either she'd call her a liar or phone the police right away, and neither reaction seemed like the best course of action. Of course, hiding in her house all night may not seem like a bright idea either, but at least if she was crazy, no one else would know. "Genevieve Sarah Weist, get your shoes on and take your dog out for a walk! You knew the rules when you got her—either take care of her or—" "Yeah, yeah, God, I hear you already." Penny waited eagerly at the door anyway, as if knowing what her mom and grandma were discussing. With the leash on Penny, Genevieve was nearly out the door when the phone rang and her mother hollered for her again. "What!" Gen shouted back. "Don't you take that tone with me or I'll—" "Sorry, sorry," Gen muttered with a sigh. "What is it?" "Levi's on the phone."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I'll call him later," Gen replied and slipped out the door before her mother could force the phone in her hand. They both knew "I'll call him later," meant she would just wait and talk to him tomorrow. Genevieve started down the front steps when she felt herself hauled backward. She turned to see Penny still standing by the door, frozen in place and staring off into the distance. "C'mon." Gen gave the leash a tug, but unfortunately, when a rottweiler isn't interested in moving, there isn't a hell of a lot anyone can do about it. "Penny, move it—" Penny hunched her head down low between her shoulders and let out a low growl. Jesus, what the hell? Penny didn't growl! What was her problem— The dog whined and backed up, and try as she may, Genevieve couldn't get Penny to move. Oh, shit. She swallowed hard as she warily glanced around. It wasn't just her now—Penny sensed someone too. Deep breath, Gen...deep breath... This was insane. They couldn't stand out here on the steps all night! She turned to Penny and gave the dog a stern look. "You need to go for a walk. Come on." Penny didn't budge. "Okay, how about a cookie?" That got her attention. "Want a cookie, Penny?" Penny's gaze darted around Genevieve, hoping to find the treat was in her possession. "Let's go for a walk and you can have a cookie." Her fears forgotten, Penny leaped down the steps and bolted across the lawn toward the sidewalk. I wish I shared her enthusiasm, Gen thought as she gazed around nervously. Especially 'cause no one's giving me a cookie for being out here. But no one would dare come near a girl walking a rottweiler, no matter how crazy-stalker-y he was...right? When they got back, after she found that dog treat for Penny, Gen was definitely hunting down some cookies for herself. She walked without incident and without running into anyone. Eventually she began to relax, as did Penny. She was just being paranoid, that's all. Besides, Penny was scared of Stephie's pet budgie—who knows what set her off earlier. They were nearly home and— Both Genevieve and Penny froze at the sound of a shoe scrapping on the cement somewhere behind them. Penny growled and tugged her in the direction of their house, but slowly Gen turned to confront the source of the noise, almost afraid to look. At first she saw nothing. Trees, a few hedges, cars in driveways, nothing out of the ordinary... From the heavy shadows surrounding the side of a house on the corner of the block stepped a tall figure.
Children of the Apocalypse Genevieve's heart beat just a little faster as the figure cut across the lawn. It's okay, he can't possibly want anything to do with me...just someone out for a walk, or on his way to work, or— She began to back up, and as she did, the stranger's pace quickened. A lump formed in her throat. She tightened her grip on Penny's leash, turned, and began swiftly walking back toward her home. Only four houses from hers, and she cast a glance back over her shoulder. He was on the sidewalk with her now, facial features and any distinguishing details obscured by the shadows cast by trees. His stride was even and brisk, and she realized he really did mean to catch up with her. Genevieve broke into a run.
kay, I am not really being chased down my street by some creep dressed all in black... Despite her rational mind's protests to the contrary, Genevieve Weist knew she was, indeed, being chased down her street by a creep dressed all in black—a creep who, she realized as she glanced over her shoulder, was gaining on her. Her dog, Penny, perceived their faster pace as a challenge, and bounded off ahead, nearly yanking Gen off her feet. It was hard to argue with the brute strength of a rottweiler, so Genevieve dropped the leash, figuring Penny knew where she was going anyway. The dog disappeared up the front porch steps just as Gen neared the driveway. Almost home, she thought, then cast a glance over her shoulder. The figure was even closer now, and decimating her lead at a stunning pace. Gen turned her gaze back toward her house and pushed on, flying up the stairs. Without hesitation or even a quick glance behind, she threw open the front door and she and Penny dove inside. Genevieve slammed the door shut, locked it, and sank down onto the floor, panting. Her heart pounded in her ears, and for a few moments, that was all she could hear. That didn't just happen, did it? She wasn't really just chased by some random man? She felt hot, moist breath on her cheek, and looked over to see Penny sitting at her side, the dog's nose only inches from her face and eyes fixed on her. "S'okay, girl," Gen whispered reassuringly, and reached out to pat Penny's head. "We're okay now." "Genevieve, what are you doing on the floor?" Gen looked up to see her mother standing in the hallway, staring at her in confusion. "Oh, nothing… Just running for my life from some creepy man outside!"
Children of the Apocalypse Her mother's gaze narrowed, and she let out a little, "Tsk," before rolling her eyes. "Did you even leave the house? You know Penny needs lots of exercise—" "I'm serious!" Gen exclaimed. She stood and buckled a little, her legs suddenly feeling as though they were made of rubber. "We were walking, and there was this man and he started chasing me!" "Why would someone be chasing you?" Rebecca said with skepticism. "Uh, I didn't exactly stop to ask him! Jesus Christ, he was probably some rapist or killer, and I could have ended up in a ditch—" Her mother sighed and walked over, then moved Genevieve aside and threw back the lock. "Mom, don't!" Gen protested, but her mother was already opening the door. "Hello out there!" Rebecca called out into the darkness. "Any scary men following my daughter?" She waited expectantly then raised an eyebrow as she cast her gaze in Gen's direction. "See? No one there." "Come on, it's not like he's going to answer!" "If you were being followed, don't you think he'd be hanging around the lawn? No one's there." "Penny saw him too—" Rebecca looked down at the dog, then back at Genevieve. "You expect me to ask your dog for confirmation of this?" "Jesus, Mom! Penny was growling and freaking out too and—" "Penny growls at chipmunks." "What, after all this crap over the years telling me to be careful and to always tell you if I'm like molested or something, some guy finally stalks me one night, and you tell me I'm crazy?" "So now he molested you too?" "No, but maybe I should ask him to if that's the only way you'll believe me!" With a roll of her eyes—and without another word—her mother closed the front door and returned to the living room. Nice of her to be so concerned. Sure, she tells her mom her English teacher yelled at her and she flips out and prepares to call the school board, but a man stalks her? Nope, she's just seeing things. Nice message to be sending. For a moment, she debated telling her dad. She wasn't sure he'd do anything about it—Leo Weist, while caring, didn't always take the serious things all that seriously. Genevieve parted the curtains in the window beside the door and gazed outside. Nothing. No sign of anyone out there. So what had she seen? A casual jogger? Penny growled all of a sudden, and Gen glanced down to notice the dog's gaze was fixed at the door. Genevieve took a wary step back, expecting someone— possibly wielding an axe or chainsaw—to break in at any moment. The minutes ticked by, but no one came. She sighed. Okay, so she was paranoid. No killers breaking in. Time to at least try to relax.
Skyla Dawn Cameron After releasing Penny from her leash and finding her the promised treat, Genevieve ran up the stairs to her room so she could continue with her original after-dinner plan and not do homework. Besides, a new season of T.V. shows had started, and she was a sucker for lame-ass sitcoms. She still retained hope after all these years; one day, rather than the standard fat, incompetent husband with a hot, intelligent wife, there might actually be a fat wife and hot husband. Or two fat, incompetent husbands. T.V. might one day be progressive. Just as she reached her room, the phone rang. "Ya-huh?" she said as she picked up and flopped down on her bed. "What are you doing?" Stephie. She loved the girl, really—she was fun. But she was the type of person who would call and ask her twenty times what she was doing and never actually talk about anything. "Just got in after being stalked. You?" "Talking to Levi on MSN. He wants to talk to you too—come on?" Oh yeah. She was supposed to call him, wasn't she? "I can talk to him at school tomorrow," Gen said. "I don't know if his sanity's going to last that long—he's completely hyped up about tomorrow's game. Just come on MSN now." "But the computer is all the way downstairs and I just came from there." "God, you're so lazy—just a sec." The phone clicked and there was silence on the other line. She probably put the call on hold or something—Stephie had better not forget about her like she did that other time. Another five minutes, and she'd be hanging up. A sudden growl caused Genevieve to bolt upright and look around. Penny had wandered into her room, and was now standing at the window, staring into the darkness of the front lawn. "Penny?" Gen called, but the dog ignored her. "'Kay, back," Stephie announced. "Got Levi on the line too." "Hey," Levi said. "Gen, you won't believe—" "Just a minute," Gen interrupted as she stood and flipped off the light. Penny continued her low growling, gaze fixed outside as Genevieve started for the window. Gen parted the curtains with caution to peer outside. "Is that Penny growling?" Stephie asked after a few seconds of silence. "Yeah." "Penny doesn't growl at anyone," Levi pointed out. "I know..." Her gaze followed the lines of the houses across the street, checking every corner for her pursuer. No one was there. The trees similarly yielded nothing, but still, Penny stared and growled. There didn't seem to be anyone there— A flicker of movement across the sidewalk caught her attention just as she was about to step back. There, by the tree trunk, she saw a booted foot. Slowly her gaze traveled up the leg of the person standing there, to the three-quarters length black coat. At the top of the figure she could barely make out a face in the shadows...
Children of the Apocalypse Her eyes focused on his and the phone slipped from her grasp. Pure hatred met her gaze—hatred so intense, Gen was sure she'd never witnessed anything quite like it. Her heart thudded in her ears and everything else faded away as she stared at him. She couldn't be certain how long she stood there, just watching him watch her. Periodically, thoughts entered her mind, reminding her she could step back away from the window at any time, call for her parents, yell at the creep and close the curtains...and yet she felt her body weighed down suddenly, unable to move from its current position. "Genevieve!" Stephie shouted over the phone. Trembling, Gen stooped and picked up the receiver, then sat gingerly on the end of her bed. "There's a man out there," she whispered, still unable to take her eyes from the guy outside. "What?" Levi asked. "Man out where?" Stephie added. "This guy—he was following me when I was out with Penny, and she's been growling like she knows he's there, and now he's just standing out there staring at me through the window!" "Are you naked?" Stephie asked. "That could be why he's staring—" "This is serious!" Gen exclaimed. "There's no nudity involved here—just a creepy man, standing out there, watching me." "Maybe it's Matt—he's creepy. I wouldn't put stalking past him." "It's not Matt, Stephie," Gen said, irritated that her friends seemed about as concerned as her mother had. "How do you know?" Stephie asked. "'Cause I'm looking at the guy right now, and it's not Matt!" "Oh, you can see him?" "Yes!" "Is he cute?" That completely broke Genevieve's attention. Was he cute? She rolled her eyes. He had been chasing her for Christ's sake—what the hell kind of question was that! "I bet he's a bible salesman or something," Levi said. "I had one of those following me around once." "I didn't see any bibles," Gen said, turning her gaze back toward the window. Nope, no bibles—in fact, no person there at all. She absently sighed as relief washed over her, and she sank back onto her bed. "He's gone now." "You sure?" Levi asked. "Yeah..." Well, no, she wasn't sure. Penny was still staring out the window. Had she not been growling, Gen might have thought it was just a cat out there, but alas her dog still seemed pretty freaked out about something. "I don't know. Penny's acting weird. I don't suppose either of you want to come over and do a stake out?" "That's actually not a bad idea," Stephie said. "She probably didn't mean a party stake out," Levi said. "But if you need me, Gen, I can come over—" "No, listen—you could go out there and ask him what he’s doing, and—"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "No!" "Why?" "Um, because he's scary?" Gen said. Really, that kind of thing would have been obvious to anyone but Stephie Meyers. "You don't know why he was chasing you—maybe you dropped something. Or maybe he's a secret agent who needs your help to save the world." "Or maybe he's a serial killer!" "She's right, Gen," Levi said. "You can't just hide in your house—not if he's going to wait for you." Though highly reluctant, Genevieve knew damn well she wouldn't get any sleep all night knowing someone was out there. Time to take her mother's advice—for once—and be a little proactive. Three hours later, when she was certain her parents were in bed—and the prickles on the back of her neck told her he was still out there—Gen dressed and made her way outside. Penny followed her and seemed hurt when her owner told her to stay inside. Gen desperately wanted to bring the dog along—she felt crazy to be going out there alone—but with an apologetic look, she closed the front door, leaving Penny to whine at the window. Turning to face the night outside her house, Genevieve found the street looked particularly foreboding. Though only eleven o'clock, people in this neighbourhood tended to go to bed early. Most of the homes were owned by middle class families with children who tended to be in the ten and under age group, so the houses were dark and the street was quiet. After taking a deep breath, she finally put one foot in front of the other and stepped off the porch. Dammit, she hated being proactive. She started with a regular walk, going her usual route. It wasn't that out of character for her to go out walking without Penny; sometimes she liked to wander and clear her head alone, so she hoped the guy didn't think anything of it. Forgoing her usual jeans or skirts, she opted for straight black track pants and a black hooded sweatshirt that she found at the bottom of her closet. It was dull and really not her thing, but it helped her blend in the shadows. That was what she needed right now. No more than five minutes had passed before she was certain she heard footsteps somewhere behind her. The urge to send a quick glance over her shoulder to check was strong, but every time she felt her head start to turn, she forced it back. She had to play this cool...and try not to start screaming. Picking up the pace, Genevieve casually pretended to shudder from the nonexistent cold, and pulled the sweatshirt hood over her head. Not too subtle, and she knew it, but it gave her a way to disguise her long hair, which she'd tied into a braid to make it easier to hide. While her heart raced and she was pretty sure she was near a faint from the sheer terror of her situation, at the same time she couldn't help but feel incredibly lame. Dressed all in black, trying to trick a person who may—or may not—be following her? Attempting to be all cool and stealthy? Oh, she'd laugh about this in the morning. That is, if she survived that long.
Children of the Apocalypse Certain he followed, Genevieve started to jog, then pushed into a full run. Keep moving, keep moving...ignore the tightness in your chest, Gen—dammit, why did I always skip Phys Ed? She couldn't keep up running for long, but it looked as though she wouldn't have to. Only a block ahead, there was a bend in the road and the house on the corner had a huge hedge. She'd make it there—she had to. No problem. He wasn't gaining ground—he couldn't be. Of course, she could maybe just check... No, no, she couldn't let him know she thought he was there. If he'd truly been following her at night for at least a week or two, he was definitely following her now, so there was little point in looking. At the last minute, as she rounded the corner, Genevieve peeked around her hood to take a millisecond-long glance over her shoulder. He wasn't there. Hidden by the hedges now, she stopped dead on and slipped the stupid hood off her head. He had to be there—he just had to be! She could have sworn she...she felt him there. Which was just plain crazy, and Genevieve rolled her eyes at the very thought. Sure, everyone always says women have a sixth sense about things, but everyone also always tells women to be wary of every man out at night because he's likely a rapist or something, so maybe she felt like she was being stalked because it's ingrained in her that she probably is— Goddamn it all, now her thoughts were babbling. This was insane. She was insane. And so were Levi and Stephie for even telling her to be out here. Still not quite prepared to start home, Genevieve pressed her back up against the hedge and peered around the corner. Nope, there was still no one around. It seemed Gen was almost a little disappointed by that. Had someone been there, of course she might have been in real trouble. It wasn't like she wanted that. But when the street revealed no one had been following her, it turned out she was just insane, which wasn't all that great either. With a heavy sigh—and a quick prayer of thanks that no one had been around to see this humiliating display of paranoia—Gen started around the corner... "Were you going to try to surprise me?" Genevieve froze. After a few not-so-calming breaths, she spun around to face the source of the cold, deep voice behind her. At that moment she was too startled to tremble, run, or even respond in any coherent way. Instead, she stared back at the man standing only two feet away. Though he couldn't have been more than an inch taller than her, she felt dwarfed in his presence, and involuntarily sank back against the hedges. "Were you?" he asked, taking a measured step forward. All her will went into forcing a few words from her dry throat while she mentally asked herself why she hadn't thought to grab a kitchen knife or something. "If you're the creep who's been following me then yeah." Surprised at how calm her voice sounded, a spark of strength came back to her She straightened her back
Skyla Dawn Cameron and crossed her arms at her chest, hoping the look she gave him showed her displeasure rather than absolute terror. "Should I know you from somewhere?" "Yes." His voice, while low and quiet, came out with a fierceness that was enough to shake the courage she had attempted to build up again. She forced back her fear long enough to study him and see if she did, in fact, know him from somewhere. His age seemed indeterminable; she might put him at mid-twenties, but there was nothing youthful in the air about him. Short, unruly medium brown hair, a square, stubble-free jaw, smooth pale skin, and dark brows launched into a frown over a pair of glaring eyes. Shoulders were broad, though not huge, and beyond the dark jacket, he wore a black shirt and dark jeans, which seemed to help him blend into the night far better than her ensemble had. No weapons, thankfully—at least not ones that she could see. While she processed the face through her memory, she was certain she had never seen him before in her life. More importantly, however, she wasn't interested in seeing him now. "Well, I don't recognize you—I think you're probably confused or something." Which might have happened when you escaped from the mental ward, freak! "I'm pretty sure you don't know me." He took a step forward. She took one backward, only to hit the hedge again. "No, unfortunately, I do know who you are." Another step forward on his part. Gen inched backward, branches scratching the back of her head and catching in her hair. "Unfortunate for who? You?" she asked quickly, once again surprised at how calm her voice sounded. "Because really, I'm not that bad. I know rumours get around and stuff, but I swear, I'm actually pretty great. In fact, even when I'm stalked, if the creepy guy lets me go, I completely promise not to phone the cops or testify against him in court." He continued stepping forward until they were half a foot apart. "So yeah," she continued babbling, heart pounding and throat going dry. "Yeah, just let me be on my way, and you can continue on yours, and we'll forget all about this." "I can't let you go," he said in complete seriousness. "Yes, you can, it's really, really easy. Take a step back and I'll slip by you, and that's it! I'm out of your life forever!" Genevieve's eyes pleaded with him, though she knew right away there'd be no swaying this guy, whoever he was. Think, act calmly, be smart—scream, kick to the balls, run like hell...it'll be fine, you can do this Gen... He shook his head. "I'd like nothing better, believe me, but that won't be happening." "You know, I always tested well with logic, so maybe you can tell me why you can't let me go, and then we can talk it through and come up with some other doable solution—" "That isn't possible," he said. "You sure? 'Cause—" "I know it isn't, because you're going to die."
Children of the Apocalypse "No, I'm not," she replied, hoping against all rationality that maybe he might just buy that and leave her alone. "You are," he said instead, his tone matter of fact. His steady gaze hadn't let up yet, and she felt herself weighted down by the sheer force of it. "You're going to die, now—" She launched herself forward, palms ahead of her to push him away, and then she bolted around him. He caught her arm and twisted it, pinning it behind her back and pulling her against him in one swift movement. Genevieve cried out and struggled against his tightening grip. A sharp pain tore through her arm and up her shoulder as he twisted it further, preventing her from wrenching it free. She wasn't ready to give in yet, though. Stomping back randomly with her heel, she hoped to catch his foot, or perhaps to kick his shin in the process, but she was having trouble judging the space and seemed to keep missing. "Let me go!" she shouted, reaching around with her free hand to claw at his hand. "Let me—" Genevieve froze as the slim, silver blade of a knife entered her view. The detailed hilt was clutched in his hand, and he held the weapon near her throat. A single tear burned a path down her cheek as she ceased her struggle and stared at the blade. It slid nearer to her throat, and in moments she felt the cool metal threatening the skin over her jugular. "Don't do this," she whispered. While he did lower the knife, he didn't put it away. "Listen to me," he breathed into her ear. "Okay, absolutely—listening intently now, I swear!" she cried, letting her arm go slack to show she wasn't putting up a struggle. Maybe then he'd loosen his hold on her and she could get away without breaking her arm. He hadn't hurt her yet—that must mean he didn't want to, not right now, and not right there on the sidewalk. She had to calm down, and get through this... "You're in trouble, aren't you little girl?" No shit, weirdo!, she felt like shouting, but refrained as he hadn't let her go yet. "I'm—" His words broke off as Genevieve felt herself pushed forward. The man let go of her arm suddenly, muttering under his breath. She spun around and back-pedalled out of reach, should he try to grab her again. A second figure—one she recognized—appeared behind her attacker, and tried to shove the man away. Levi! Her stalker immediately stepped out of the way, bringing his arm up to elbow Levi in the face. He took another step to the side and swung around to watch as Levi ran to stand next to Gen. The man's eyes went from Levi to Gen, then back to Levi again, as he seemed to be reassessing the situation.
Skyla Dawn Cameron She nearly elbowed Levi in the side for taking so long, but she decided that wasn't appropriate considering he had probably just saved her from being raped and murdered. Not to mention he'd been smacked in the face, and that probably hurt. "Leave her alone." Levi wrapped a protective arm around her shoulder. "Or the next time you bug Gen, you'll have the entire Newhaven junior boys’ basketball team beating the shit out of you with baseball bats." Without waiting for the guy to reply, the two turned and walked briskly around the corner, back towards Genevieve's house. Gen glanced over her shoulder a few times as they went, ensuring they weren't being followed. Apparently Levi had managed to scare the guy off, because he was nowhere to be found. Satisfied they were out of danger, Gen halted a few houses away from hers and turned to Levi. "You see I'm not just paranoid now? That guy has been following me for at least a week!" "Fuck, Genevieve—you told me you were going to surprise him over on Water Street!" Levi said, his voice shaking with anger. "But there was that hedge thing, and Water's only a block away. I figured you would have seen—" "Yeah, I saw you right when he grabbed you! What if he had like a van or something there? Or a weapon?" A weapon? "But..." she began, then paused. Levi had been standing behind the guy—he hadn't seen the knife, and since he was so pissed off at the moment, she elected to let that bit of information slide by. "But it's no big deal because he didn't?! What if—" His ranting ceased and he took in and let out a deep breath to help calm down. "Sorry. You're just so fucking careless sometimes—" "Hey, I wanted to hide inside like a sane person," she reminded him. "You're the one who thought I should go out and confront him while you played stake-out boy and kept watch in case things got scary and violent. I'm the smart one—not you." Levi muttered something, but unable to argue with her about that point, they started walking again. "We should have just called the police," she continued. "Right, because the Newhaven police department is so helpful. You know Bernie's Milk downtown got robbed last week when Andrew was working there? Took the cops twenty minutes to respond to the alarm, and they're like three blocks away. They'd just give you a stack of paperwork to fill out and you wouldn't hear from them again. Besides, you're welcome for coming to your rescue." "Oh, Levi Greene!" Genevieve declared with a dreamy sigh. "You're my hero!" She threw her arms over him and gave an intentionally girly squeal. "I'm going to hang a poster of you over my bed, and bake you cookies every day, and promise to have your many babies!" "My many babies, you say?" he said, raising a brow suggestively.
Children of the Apocalypse "Yes, because your heroic, manly seed will produce many offspring." Unable to keep up the joke, Gen burst into laughter, and Levi joined her. "Do me a favour," he said. "Anything," she replied. "Never say 'heroic, manly seed' again, okay?" "No promises. So where'd you park?" "Across the street from you," he replied just as Genevieve noticed Hayden's beat up Toyota. They paused in front of her house. "You see that guy hanging around here again, and you phone me, all right?" "Why—you can't possibly expect me to think that the Phoenixes will really show up at my door to defend me." She knew Levi's jock friends—they didn't like her, and she didn't like them. Well, that was actually more one sided; most of them probably didn't know she existed, but those that did often went out of their way to be mean to her. For that reason, she had decided she didn't like any of them. "Of course they will." "Right, they'll be happy to help out your 'stupid dyke friend' with her male stalker troubles." "Okay, Chris said that one time, so you've got to drop it now." "Whatever," she muttered, annoyed that he'd defend the guy. True, she knew that when Chris had said it last year during Phys. Ed., Levi whacked the guy over the head with his badminton racket and both were suspended over it, so it wasn't like Levi didn't care. It's just that she held a grudge, while he apparently forgot the seething rage brought on by a derogatory slur towards his best friend. "I'm serious. You are completely T.V. lesbian hot, so they'll come here if I ask them to. You might have to make out with a girl in front of them as payment, but..." "Hey, you find me a hot and willing girl, and I gladly will," she said with a wink. "I promise you, I'll get right on that," he swore. "Yeah, I bet." "I mean it, Gen," he said as she started down the driveway towards her house. "You see him, you call me. Whatever time." "I will." She was all seriousness as she looked back at him and gave him a genuine smile. "Thanks, Lev." "No problem." She slipped back in her house as silently as she could, and found Penny still waiting for her at the door. As she knelt down to pet the dog and reassure her she was home for good—or at least until school the next day—she still couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't over yet. No one stalks a girl, attacks her, and threatens her, just to be scared off by some teenage boy and his vague threats. And what if next time she had no warning? If Levi's promise of baseball bat armed Phoenixes wasn't enough, if the guy broke into her home...? There were too many what-if's, and Gen knew she wouldn't be sleeping that night.
hy is it that all of the thoughtless, lazy, self-absorbed and uncaring people all end up in the Environmental Geography class?" Genevieve asked. She had intended the question to be rhetorical, though Levi felt it was his place to answer. "That isn't fair, Gen—you're not that self-absorbed." She shot him a look. "Not most of the time anyway." The two stood just outside the Geography classroom, observing the students trickling in. They were the usual straight C's kids, mostly boys, who were each loud, obnoxious, and generally cruel to fellow classmates. True, it was a general level class, and considered by most to be an easy credit, but none of that had occurred to Genevieve when she signed up for it. It was called "Environmental Geography"— she had, foolishly it seemed, assumed that those taking it might be remotely interested in environmental issues. Near the back of the room, Randy Weir downed his bottle of Coke, tossed it over his shoulder, and let out a loud belch. "Hey, wanna skip today?" Gen asked. "Please? You don't need Biology. You're not going to be a biologist." The second bell rang before he could answer, though she knew what it was going to be anyway. "Have fun," Levi said with a smirk as he turned to race for his classroom. Genevieve started into the class, dragging her feet as she went. She should have switched to something else at the beginning of the semester. There wasn't much else she was the least bit interested in taking though. Kern had a Canadian Literature class, but, obviously, that was Kern who would be teaching it; signing up had been completely out of the question, since one of her classes was more than enough. There was also one of the few Art courses Genevieve hadn't taken yet that was held at the same time—Arts and Crafts. Now that, while boring, she could have gotten
Children of the Apocalypse into without a problem, and only two days into the semester, she'd even made an appointment with the guidance counsellor to change it. But something—or specifically someone—had changed her mind about it, and as she slid into her seat near the front of the room, she was reminded again why that was. Janine Marlin-Garcia. She sat four seats across from Genevieve and one seat ahead, and days into the semester, she had transferred into the class when Gen was planning to leave. Called into the counsellor's office about switching to the Arts and Crafts course, Genevieve thought and debated in her head over the decision, then finally elected to stay in Environmental Geography. That meant five months with people she loathed—five months that could have been spent in an easy Art class...but also five months to daydream about Janine. Daydreaming was all she had, though. Everyone knew Janine had a girlfriend— a steady one at that—from one of the neighbouring high schools. Plus they had different friends. Completely different social circles, in fact. And there was the small matter of Janine not even knowing Genevieve existed. But it still seemed more fruitful than a straight girl crush, so Gen stuck with it. Janine's best friend, Lisa Anne, leaned in and said something to her. With the roaring laughter and shouts from the boys behind her, the joke went unheard by Genevieve, though she saw the effects of it as Janine threw back her head of shiny dark hair and chuckled. The disturbing events of the night before almost seemed like a dream now that Genevieve was sitting in class, and the more she thought about it, the more surreal it became. Stalked, threatened, attacked? Had all that really just happened to her? The creep must have been confused about who she was. He had to be. She couldn't think of another explanation for it. Well, except that he was a lunatic. Gen supposed it was the kind of thing she would normally brush off. But that knife...that made it all way too real. Every time she seemed to be pushing the experience from her mind, an image of a cold silver blade, threatening her throat, flashed before her. A pair of rich, chocolate brown eyes met hers, and Gen's cheeks flushed as she realized she had been staring at Janine all this time while lost in thought. "Can I help you with something?" the object of her affection asked, one dark, shapely brow raised in a look of amusement. Genevieve felt her face grow even hotter. She quickly shook her head and looked away, cursing herself for being so stupid. Though she swore she felt Janine's eyes linger on her a few beats longer, she didn't dare look. No sense getting her hopes up. Janine's laughter erupted again, followed by the giggles of Lisa Anne. After folding her arms on the desk, Genevieve's head slumped down in prayer for class to hurry up and end soon...or at least start, so she could focus on something other than Janine laughing at her.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Their teacher, Mr. Lambert, showed up seven minutes late, hurriedly imparted the day's task then left with the claim of having a meeting. He seemed to have a lot of those, though Genevieve tried to avoid hearing the rumoured explanations why; she wasn't interested in knowing about the internet porn alias of her Geography teacher. Yet another independent project was left for them to work on. They seemed to have a lot of those, and Gen usually didn't mind, but this time they were told to work in small groups. The instructions also said something about making posters to explain air pollution to be posted in the library, as if anyone in their generation didn't already know all there was to know about the subject. Sitting up, Genevieve took stock of the room. Janine was, of course, already grouped with Lisa Anne and her boyfriend, so her as a partner was out of the question. Even if I could get up enough nerve to ask her, she thought wistfully. Everyone else—or at least the dozen or so that intended to do the assignment—immediately gravitated toward one another and started planning, while the ones that never bothered continued to not bother, choosing instead to continue talking. Why didn't I skip?! Oh well, this was hardly the only project she'd be missing this semester— "Um, hi," said a quiet female voice. Genevieve glanced to the desk in the next row and found the hopeful gaze of a girl she didn't know. The desk behind her was empty, and it was clear she probably didn't have any friends in that class either. She tucked a chunk of thick, dark, shoulder length hair behind her ear, revealing a pair of striking auburn brows that didn't come close to matching her coffee brown hair colour. Grey T-shirt, indigo blue jeans, shoulders that seemed to naturally turn inward, and a ghost-like presence—this was a girl who didn't like to be noticed. Genevieve appreciated that in a person, especially in a class of attention whores. "Do you want to be in a group?" the girl asked. "Sure," Gen replied with a shrug. As the girl moved her desk over, Genevieve racked her brain for a name. She'd see her in class before, she was sure of it, but that was where her familiarity with her ended. Despite the lazy dye job on her hair, she was pretty, though not the jaw-dropping, stare-at-her-constantly kind of pretty like Janine. With her curvy build—and if she stripped her hair back to its natural colour—just a different set of clothes and proper posture could make all the difference, though. Still, Gen had no idea what her name could be. Hopefully it would be on one of her books, so Gen didn't have to go through the embarrassment of asking— "I'm Meredith," she said. At least now I don't have to ask. "Genevieve." "I know," Meredith said, and then quickly fumbled to correct herself, her shy voice barely above a whisper. If the classroom din got much louder, Gen would
Children of the Apocalypse have a difficult time hearing the girl at all. "Well, I mean, I'm in your English class, so I know who you are." Damn, Meredith was in at least two of her classes, and she didn't know her name before this? As someone who prided herself on being observant of people, this was just humiliating. "Ah, so you were audience to yesterday's show, starring me and the spandex hell beast," Gen replied. "I was a little unsure of the performance at the beginning myself, but I really felt it picked up during the second act." "She can be kind of scary," Meredith agreed with a laugh. She swept back her hair into a ponytail and opened her notebook. "Is that why you didn't go today?" "Yeah," Gen lied. The truth was that she didn't fall asleep until nearly four-thirty in the morning. Every time she began to drift off, something startled her, be it Penny shifting on the bed, or a noise outside. When she finally did pass out, she slept straight through until noon. At least being stalked had some perks—she missed out on another class with Kern. "She asked about you," Meredith said. "Kern?" "Yeah. She asked if anyone knew where you were." "Did she seem mad?" "Um...kind of," Meredith confessed. "Someone told her you were home with food poisoning, though, so she didn't mention it again." "Someone?" Who the hell would tell her that? "Uh...I don't remember his name—he's that guy you hang out with a lot. I mean, the one that was just outside of the class, a few minutes ago—not that I was paying attention or anything, I just saw him, and—" "Levi," Genevieve filled in for her. "Right. Sorry—I'm new, and there's just so many people here." Her sentence was punctuated by a shout by Randy behind them as another guy sucker-punched him. The two fell to the floor, play fighting and knocking desks around, to the cheers and delighted squeals of their audience. "And many you could probably do without knowing," Genevieve replied as she opened her notebook as well. Just as her pen touched the top of the paper to copy the instructions from the blackboard, a small, pea-sized lump of wet crumpled paper flew over her shoulder to land on the book. Gen shuddered at the sight of the spit ball on her paper, but the roaring laughter behind her suggested several guys were involved, and turning around to bark at them would probably just get her wad in the face. "Do you ever wish you had magical powers you could use for the forces of evil?" Gen asked with a sigh as she tore the ruined paper from her notebook and crumpled it up. "It's definitely crossed my mind," Meredith agreed with a sympathetic smile. For a class that usually felt as though it dragged on for hours in its short, seventy-minute period, the time seemed to fly by. Soon the bell was ringing, and everyone filed out of the room, leaving the desks and poster supplies in a state of disarray.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Do you want to meet after school or maybe tomorrow at my place to get the rest of this done?" Meredith suggested as she and Genevieve followed the other students into the hallway. While she didn't have any particular plans for that evening, Gen still preferred to keep to her house, at least for one more night so she could keep an eye out for any more stalkers. "Tomorrow sounds good," Gen replied. "Great." Meredith scribbled down her address and tore the sheet of paper from her notebook, then handed it to Gen. "Ten o'clock, maybe?" "Hmm, if it's a Saturday, better make it closer to one—trust me, you don't want to deal with me in a sleep deprived state." "Okay, how about one-thirty then. See you." Meredith gave her a quick, shy smile then went on her way, easily slipping amongst the throngs of students and disappearing from view. "Did you just get some girl's phone number?" Levi asked as he fell in step next to Genevieve. "Ha ha. Funny." "She's kind of cute." "But not my type. No, we're working on a project." "Wow, you made a friend? An actual, new, real live friend?" "Again, you're so funny, Lev," Genevieve replied dryly. "If basketball doesn't work out, maybe you could try lame stand-up comedy." Sure, she didn't have a lot of friends. She liked the ones she had, and never felt the need to make new ones, which probably seemed odd to Levi—both he and Hayden seemed to build fast friendships with anyone they met in a matter of seconds. "Are you coming to my game tonight?" he asked. "Uh..." "Yeah, yeah, of course not." Levi sighed. "Think you'll at least make one this year?" "Probably. As soon as I'm sure my stalker is gone. Hayden's probably going though, right?" "Nah, he's working." "Guess you'll have to lose without an audience then." "Yeah, I guess so..." His voice trailed off, and Gen didn't really need to look to know where his gaze strayed to. Sage was headed toward the doors that led to the parking lot, and she brushed past Gen and Levi on the way without so much as an acknowledgment. She had to have seen him there, Gen was sure of it. But she completely ignored him, the skank. "So I guess Hayden won't be bringing her along?" Gen guessed. Levi shook his head. "Even if he could go, she probably wouldn't be able to make it. I think she went to one game with him last year." "So why do you bother getting your hopes up?" He shrugged, and they both knew there was no good answer for that one. She had Janine and he had Sage—two girls completely out of reach for either of them,
Children of the Apocalypse and they knew it. Of all the things she and Levi had in common, Gen wished that wasn't one of them. *~*~* "No, no way," Sage said firmly. "It'll only be for a few hours." Hayden gave her that look—that please-just-do-thisfor-me-look that she always gave into. But no, not this time. She was putting her foot down, damn it. Well, at least she would be figuratively. Literally, she sat on the hood of his car, which was parked in the school's lot. Her jean-clad legs dangled over the edge. Hayden put a hand on either side of her thighs and leaned in to kiss her lightly. Lightly turned heavy in a hurry, however. He never played fair. "He won't even notice me there," she insisted as she pulled back. She saw it was a losing battle though, and not just with him. No, with her own resolve as well. Hayden's hazel eyes pleaded with her, and she knew that when she walked to his car—even before she heard what he had to say—she'd eventually say yes. He always did that to her. It didn't matter if she'd made up her mind about something; he'd change it, usually with just a grin. Always did, and likely always would. "Oh, he'll notice." Hayden smiled and Sage rolled her eyes. "You know he'll notice." "Not funny." "I had to get something from his room the other day for Mom, and this notebook was wide open—" "Stop telling me this!" "'Dear Diary,'" Hayden said in a high pitched voice, and Sage couldn't help but chuckle. "'I know the prettiest girl in the whole wide world but she won't give me the time of day.' And then there was this little sad face." "You're kidding, right?" She waited with bated breath, but he didn't respond with anything more than a grin. "Right?!" "Duh," he replied. "But that's what you seem to expect him to say. This isn't ninth grade anymore." Ninth grade. Sage shuddered to think about it, to imagine this had gone on that long. It was thanks to Levi—or, more specifically, their ninth grade History teacher for putting them in a group together for a project—that led to her meeting Hayden, and she'd always be grateful for that. But gratitude wasn't enough to encourage her to spend any alone time with the guy. "He isn't daydreaming and drooling over you all the time, surprisingly," Hayden continued. "At least go to the game, it'll mean a lot to him. "But why should I—" "Because none of his friends ever show up, and I have to work tonight on his first game of the season. You've avoided him for two full years—you have to make
Skyla Dawn Cameron an effort. I could understand you being a little uncomfortable when we were first going out, but you should be used to him by now." This was ridiculous. They both knew why she avoided Levi. It was something they just didn't talk about. Ever. That was the unspoken deal. How long could a guy hold a crush, anyway? "I have classes tonight," Sage said, still trying to wiggle out of it. "You have classes every night, hun. You manage to miss them when you want to, like last weekend when we went camping—" "Which is why I can't skip tonight. My teacher will have my head." "I don't think they do that anymore, if they ever did. And it's just this once. C'mon, for me. Go to his game, sit in the stands, maybe clap if you can stand to." "Stop making me out to seem—" "Do this for me, Sage?" She sighed. "Of course I will. What time?" "Seven-thirty. It should last a couple of hours." "Not the way they play." "Touché." She pushed him out of her way and hopped off the hood of the car. "You owe me big time," she said, crossing her arms and trying very hard to look defiant and angry. "And I look forward to working it off," he replied with a grin, leaning down to kiss her again. One hand slid to her waist, the other caught in her shoulder-length braids to pull her closer. His watch beeped suddenly, interrupting the two. "Ten to three," she said as he glanced at his watch anyway, hoping it was a mistake. Sage knew it wasn't, though—Hayden was always on time, which was part of the reason that damn accountant hired him to help. It probably wouldn't hurt him to be a little less responsible and dependable sometimes, but then he just wouldn't be Hayden. "Maybe it's a little fast..." "Nope, you gotta go." She poked him in the side. "Don't be so lazy." "I know, I know. Want a ride?" Sage shook her head, as Hayden knew she would. "Since someone wants me to skip class tonight, I should get some exercise in. I'll jog home." "Okay, wish him luck for me." "Maybe," she replied as he walked around the car to get in the driver's side. "But I'll definitely cheer, and do all sorts of useless things like cartwheels and twirl pompoms." "Hey, don't knock the cheerleaders—they provide a valuable service to the community." "The community, you say? And here I thought it was just the varsity boys' teams." Hayden feigned shock. "And here I thought you were more progressive than—" He closed the door and she couldn't hear the rest of what he said. He started the
Children of the Apocalypse car, but didn't drive yet. Instead, the passenger side window rolled down, and Sage leaned in. She rested her arms on the door to continue their conversation. "Nope, sorry, not me—not progressive in the least." "So then you'll stay home and cook my food, clean my house, and be my love slave?" "No, but I'll make catty remarks about airheads whose sole accomplishment in life is to finding new words to chant that almost rhyme with 'Newhaven.' I will, however, consider the roll of love slave if you make it to work on time so you can get your pay check and buy me a present." He pretended to think it over, but shook his head. "Nope, no deal. I think I'll get myself one of those cheerleaders instead." "I've got news for you babe—they'll be wanting presents too. Probably more expensive ones at that." "Nah, you don't know cheerleaders very well. They're more interested in the box it comes in anyway. Plus who cares for diamonds when you've got shiny wrapping paper?" "Well then, you might also want to try bubble wrap. It provides hours of entertainment for those of little brain cells." "I'll pick some up on the way to work," he agreed. "Call you later." "You'd better." "Love you." "Love you too." Another grin that said to her, "Ha-ha, I got you to spend the evening with my little brother who's in love with you," and he was off. *~*~* Here they were: first game of the season, and the Newhaven Phoenixes were going to get their asses handed to them. There was no doubt about it—at least not in Levi's mind. They lost all but two games last year. This wouldn't be any exception. He drummed his fingers impatiently on his knee as the rest of the team filtered out of the locker room and sat down. Yes, they were going to lose, but he wanted to get out there anyway. Regardless of the score at the end of the night, he just enjoyed being on the court. "So, what are our odds?" Warren Humber, team captain, asked as he sat next to Levi. The two guys looked at one another and started laughing. "Odds of winning or odds of just not embarrassing our school?" "We won't embarrass anyone," pointed out another team member. "It's not like we're expected to win." Levi glanced across the court to see the visiting team gathered in a circle, and the ref walking to centre court. "I think we're starting," he said. Warren jumped up in front of the team and spoke in his mock-excited, commanding captain voice. "So, what are we going to do?"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Lose!" chanted the team on the bench. "How much are we going to lose?" "A lot!" "And will we be good sports about it?" "Never!" "Why?" "Because we're the Newhaven Phoenixes! Phoe-nix-es! Phoe-nix-es!" The team stood up and shouted their own name, and the home crowd in the stands went wild cheering with them. Usually Levi stood back to chuckle in amusement at his school's acceptance—and even pride—in the fact that they'd be losing...but his attention was drawn to a single figure in the stands. The shoulder-length black braids, nondescript athletic clothing, gorgeous face... Is that...? No, it couldn't be. She wouldn't be here... No, wait, there was no mistaking that expression of utter boredom. It was definitely Sage Bethany. He scanned the people around her, but didn't see Hayden or anyone he recognized that well. Sage came here alone? To the game? His game? "Hey," Warren called, and Levi realized his team was already lined up to greet their opponents. "C'mon, we've got a game to lose!" To hell with that! Tonight, they were going to win!
The Newhaven Phoenixes lost the game. While Levi would defend the score of forty-six to seventeen as a sign that they had definitely put up a fight—as it was rare they cracked the double digits—they still lost. He didn't bother showering when he ran into the locker room after the game; he simply grabbed his duffle bag, threw on his jacket, and flew back out the door. Warren and a few of the others called something after him, but he wasn't listening. He had to find Sage. Levi found the gymnasium virtually empty, with only a few stranglers hanging behind. None of them was Sage. Next he tried the hallways outside of the gym, the front foyer, finally ending up in the parking lot. It was dark outside, and though he scanned the people getting in and out of their cars, he saw no sign of her. Great, where did she go? He was about to give up when he spotted someone far out in the field, jogging in the direction of the ravine way out behind the school. Hayden had commented several times on her cutting through there on her way home from school...what if that was her? I should probably just talk to her tomorrow, he thought. But here she had come all the way to his game; he ought to at least thank her for it. Nothing would ever happen between them—this he knew. She was over at his place every other day, and though it was vaguely annoying to see her and Hayden together, it was clear they were happy. It would be different if his brother was a horrible person or something. But
Children of the Apocalypse even as kids, they got along. Hayden was too easy-going to pick a fight with, and Levi himself didn't have any complaints in the sibling department. Except that his big brother managed to not only get a girlfriend—which in itself was an accomplishment given his preference to never leave the basement in favour of playing video games—but snag Levi's budding crush and stay with her for two years. But why come to his game? Especially alone? He had to find out. Levi crossed the parking lot and jogged in her direction. "Sage!" he called when he reached mid-field. I hope I catch up to her... It would be hard to follow her through the dark ravine. "Sage!" She didn't even acknowledge she heard him, instead running along at a steady pace. Damn, she's fast, Levi thought as he pushed himself ever harder to close the distance between them. Sure, he could blame his windedness on the fact that he just finished a game, but she'd been going steady for awhile and hadn't slowed a step. "Sage!" he called one final time before she disappeared down the steps that lead to the creek and fields. Great! He supposed he could call her and thank her later... Levi was about to turn around when he noticed four tall, broad shouldered men dressed in dark clothing come out from the trees near the steps. They conferred for a moment then glanced down toward the creek. They were too old to be from Newhaven High. And they almost looked as though they'd been waiting for someone... The memory of the guy who'd been stalking Gen invaded his mind suddenly, sending a chill down his spine. Was there some sort of gang in town bothering high school girls? He scanned his memory for any recent news of similar attacks. Usually, that sort of thing warranted an announcement or possible school assembly to warn people, but nothing like that came to mind. There were multiple flashes of silver as each man pulled something out of his jacket. Dread filled Levi's gut as he realized they had knives. The men filed down the stairs, moving slowly as if trying not to be seen. Sage... Levi glanced back at the school. It would take twice as long to reach the pay phones inside as it would to run down to the ravine and make sure they weren't after her. Dammit, why did he never remember to bring his cell phone? He started for the stairs. Last night wasn't so bad—it had just been one guy who grabbed Gen, and Levi had the element of surprise. Now, however, he was looking at more than an elbow to the face for his efforts. What was he going to do against four men with weapons? Nothing. He knew it. Hopefully he wouldn't have to do anything, though—Sage seemed pretty fast, so they could possibly outrun the guys. Maybe. He'd find out in a moment. He paused at the top of the staircase, staring down into the abyss-like darkness below him. No lights were around to penetrate the night down there, and since trees shaded most of the path, he was facing a trek through the ravine in pitch black. The shadowed bottom of the stairs was a huge mouth, waiting to eat him whole, daring
Skyla Dawn Cameron him to tread forward with the promise he might help Sage. But scary darkness or not, he couldn't leave her. His heart racing, Levi thumped down the steps, gaze probing the night for any sign of them. At the bottom of the staircase, his eyes adjusted to the lack of light. The small creek moved fast tonight, water rushing over the rocks. It was about knee-deep in middle, though the wooden bridge off to the side saved anyone from wading through it. He ran across the bridge and studied the clearing through the break in the trees. There was no one there. So where the hell did they go? Levi was about to head for the clearing to continue his search when the rustle of tree branches stopped him. Swinging around to the left, he watched the trees closely, but saw no one. A trickle of sweat slithered down his forehead, and as he reached up to brush it away, he realized he was trembling. Great, some big hero he was… And then he caught sight of Sage in the distance. Near the middle of the creek, she stood on a rock sticking out of the water, her back to him. She waited there a moment, back perfectly straight as she studied the water in front of her, then she hopped off the rock onto another a few steps away. She seemed okay... Levi opened his mouth to call out to her when the men from earlier appeared from the trees not far from the creek's edge. There was one...two...three...damn, where was the fourth? He didn't have time to wonder—they were closing in on Sage. Perhaps it was due to the noise of the busy creek that she didn't notice them approaching, because she continued hopping to the next stone without so much as a glance behind her. Levi started jogging toward the scene, but they were still several yards away. The man nearest to her treaded through the water without hesitation, twirling the knife in his hand and swinging his arm in an arc toward her— Sage turned and kicked the knife out of his hand with one swift movement. Levi stopped dead in his tracks, stunned as he watched her move with the grace of a dancer, kicking off the ground and twisting mid-air. Her heels swung upward in a smooth arc, one after the other, striking the man in the head as one of her hands touched down on the stone for balance. She landed perfectly back on her rock again after completing her strange, one-handed cartwheel, then stood upright and surveyed her opponent. He fell back into the rushing water, too stunned to move. Her gaze moved to the others now advancing on her. What the...? Her new attacker approached, while the third waited only steps behind at the water's edge. Just as her opponent drew near, she grabbed his head and—to Levi's astonishment—vaulted over him and landed on the man behind him. They both fell to the ground, and Sage rolled off of him and flipped onto her feet. Sure, Levi knew from Hayden that she took a bunch of self-defense classes or something, but this was insane! That just...that wasn't humanly possible. Whether it was possible or not didn't seem to matter to Sage, though; she now took on two armed men, and was quite clearly winning. She guided each punch thrown at her to the side, sending her attackers sprawling to the ground. She took
Children of the Apocalypse the odd hit to the face, but every time it seemed the men were gaining ground, she pulled out some new trick and turned their attacks around on them. The sight of the fourth man breaking through the trees disrupted Levi's daze. At first, it relieved him to see he didn't appear to be carrying a knife like the others...then he noticed the dark object in his hand, and how he was taking careful aim... Scanning the ground for any sort of weapon, Levi's gaze landed on a large branch. He scooped it up and ran at the guy wielding the gun. Just as he tried to slam it down on the back of the man's head, the gunman immediately ducked, as if he knew Levi was there. When the branch didn't connect with its target, it threw him off balance, and he fell easily when the gunman elbowed him in the back. Just as he turned the gun Levi's way, the teenager swung the branch against his legs. As the fourth attacker stumbled, Levi's grip tightened around the branch, and he slammed it against the side of the man's head. The wood connected with a thud against his skull, and the attacker fell to the ground. Sage's opponents were also down for the count, and her eyes drifted over the bodies and fell on Levi, who struggled to stand. He gaped at her, still uncertain of what to say. He really just saw that, right? She really knocked out three armed men? He tried to talk to her, to ask if she was okay, to find out if she knew what the hell was going on, but the words stuck at the back of his throat. She casually stepped over the bodies, kicking the gun in the water as she passed it. "H-Hi," Levi managed to stammer as she walked past him. She paused, pulled a small earphone from her ear, and he then noticed the iPod at her waist. "Hi," he said again, giving her a look of utter confusion. "Hi." She stared at him for a moment, awkwardly biting her lip as she contemplated something. "Good game tonight." With a weak and uncomfortable smile, she started jogging out of sight. Levi gazed after her for a moment, and then looked at the still unconscious men once again. "Good game tonight?" That's all she had to say? What the hell was going on?
bitter wind rustled Genevieve's long dark skirt and blew a thin layer of snow over the toes of her boots. The air held that kind of cold that can't be stopped by layers of clothing or good circulation or a nearby fire—it gets into a person's bones and takes up residence there, ignoring all attempts at evicting it. Genevieve felt that cold now, standing at the top of a snowy hill, looking down at the worn trail that wound throughout the village far below. Snow capped the log houses of the village, so white that when the bright midday sun hit them it was near blinding. On the snow in front of her were two blue-grey shadows, one hers and one belonging to the person who stood silently to her right. Wind whipped at the hair and skirts of both shadows, moving the tresses and fabric in unison. "Why do we stand out here?" Genevieve asked. "It's so cold, but here we are anyway, in the wind, shivering inside." She glanced to the right to see if her companion would be answering. The girl didn't look back at her; she simply stared at the empty air in front of her. Her long blonde hair danced around her head, twisting and weaving designs, but never tangling. That face seemed so familiar to Genevieve—the high cheek-bones, slightly upturned nose, fair skin. She wore a long, old-fashioned dress of russet tones that seemed modest enough, though the top buttons of the bodice were undone, and the tie at the neck of the white shirt beneath had fallen apart in the wind. While that only seemed casual to Genevieve, as if the girl had just found the upper part of the ensemble too constricting, she immediately got the sense that wasn't how her clothing should be. The state of dress should be confining, should be humble, but here she stood, audacious in her choice to ignore the norm. Her shoulders were pulled back in either defiance or confidence—Genevieve couldn't be sure which. It was possibly both. Whatever the attribute behind it, she looked strong, proud, and full of certainty. "Why are we here?" Genevieve repeated.
Children of the Apocalypse "This is where we need to be," the girl replied. She turned her bright blue eyes in a sideway glance at Genevieve, and her lips held a faint smile. "It's not as cold when you're used to it." Genevieve shuddered. "I don’t think I'll ever be used to it." "You already are, Genevieve." Her companion took a few steps forward into the snow, paused, and then turned around to face her. "Then why am I freezing?" "You don't remember how not to." Genevieve's hair blew in her face, and she swept it back to see the action mimicked by her companion. It was then she knew her—recognized that face, that hair. The brazen air about the girl had thrown Genevieve off at first, but now she realized she stared at herself. Or, rather, another version of herself. "How can I remember, then?" Her double stepped toward her with slow, calculated steps, then stopped inches away. She produced a thin, spiral bound sketchbook similar to the one Gen carried with her every day. "Work on your project," she replied. As Genevieve reached out to take the book, she found it floating midair, her double gone. Wrapping her fingers around the book's edge, she felt their tips warm immediately. The heat wound around her hands and up to her arms, then all through her body so she was nearly sweating in her heavy, dark clothes. She stared down at the book, struggling to read the scrawled letters across the front. Nothing was coming to her—for some reason, none of the dark lines made any sense to her brain. Still, this book had made her warm somehow, and she clutched it to her chest thankfully. Heavy footsteps crunched the snow behind her, but Genevieve didn't look. Filled with the warmth now, she knew these steps, knew who made them, knew why he was here. The sight of his shadow on the snow approaching hers seemed familiar to her—comforting even. She smiled. "You're back," she said quietly. He didn’t respond, although his shadow moved closer. The shadow paused, melding with hers and suggesting he stood just behind her. Confirming that was the hand she felt on her waist. "I wondered when you'd find me," Gen said. She was about to turn to face him when she felt something sharp pierce her side. Genevieve cried out and arched back involuntarily, dropping the notebook into the snow. Her gaze followed it to the ground, glazing over from the pain as she glanced around. Blood slithered down the side of her dress, staining the pure white snow where it began to pool. This couldn't be him, he wouldn't...he wouldn't do this, not now, not anymore... As if knowing the doubt in her thoughts, the man's grip on her waist tightened, holding her in place as his other hand thrust the knife deeper into her side. Just when she thought the pain couldn't worsen, he gave the blade a twist then tore it out of her side again.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Genevieve slumped onto her knees, gripping her side. Blood, as cold as ice, gushed past her fingers, weakening her further with every second that ticked by. She felt her body sinking forward, falling down, crashing face first into the snow, then laying there, motionless, as she tried to muster up any remaining strength. Her brain screamed at her to get up, get help, but her body seemed to realize it was too late. All she could manage was to turn onto her back and stare up at the shadowed figure above her. Blinding sunlight shone down as he stood over her, casting all of his features into darkness. She tried to form questions, to ask him why he would do this, why kill her...but within her, she knew. A single tear, cold as her blood, gathered in the corner of her eye and slid down her face as the man—her killer—knelt at her side and brought the bloody knife up to her throat. The sun faded as her vision began to fail her, though her gaze managed to settle on his lips, turned upward in a cruel grin. While he enjoyed watching these final moments of hers, they didn't seem to be moving fast enough for his liking. He pressed the tip of the blade to her throat and gave it a violent slash.
When Genevieve opened her eyes and awoke in her bed, she still felt the cold of her dream. At a young age she had developed the habit of kicking off the blankets as she slept, but when she woke after this dream—this nightmare—the thick layers of sheets and comforters were still wrapped snugly around her. Disliking the feeling of anything constricting her when she was laying down, her immediate instinct was to throw the sheets off of her onto the floor, but the cold air that had frozen her face and exposed shoulder made her hesitate. It wasn't even October yet—why the hell was the house so cold? At first she thought it might just be the after effects of the dream, but no, there was a definite chill in the room. The dream... The memory of it came rushing back to her as she slowly sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She was standing on some cold snowy hill wearing an ugly, oldlooking long dress, talking to her evil twin dressed all old-fashioned as well, who was telling her to finish her art project? Freud wasn't needed for this one: obviously she was having some inner conflict. That her other self was telling her to do homework seemed a little odd, sure, but it was something she tended to avoid, so no wonder her subconscious wanted to shout about it. And it had clearly been a sketchbook in her hands, suggesting she should be working on that stupid independent, semesterlong self-portrait project for Art. Remembering the final moments as she lay dying, however, sent a fresh stream of involuntary shivers through her. That was clearly a reference to her stalker. It was something else that had been on her mind for the past two days, though she'd been trying not to think about it. But there it was, popping up in her dream.
Children of the Apocalypse The meaning of her dream/nightmare settled, Genevieve was about to get out of bed when she felt her body hesitate. Though she had no desire to leave the warmth provided by layers of blankets, it was more than that—it was that the mood of the dream seemed to carry with her into the real world. Gone was the comfort of her bedroom, her personal space. Sketches and paintings on rich violet walls, the dark Venetian blinds, the old brass bed she'd had since childhood—at first glance, all of it looked the same. But now it was cold. Foreign, even. While she'd awakened to the room for over a decade, it suddenly didn't feel as though it was her sanctuary anymore. Somehow, it had been invaded by her dream-killer, and as much as she wanted to get out of the room, she was almost too afraid to move. I'm being ridiculous... She closed her eyes and forced away the dream. Think happy thoughts. That's all she had to do—she'd forget in no time. So what was happy? Not clowns; they were scary. Puppies made her think of puppy mills, which definitely weren’t happy. Ah, Janine. Definitely a happy enough thought. She'd just keep a mental image of Janine handy, and the nightmare would slip away. She cursed her mother's choice to have bare hardwood floors as she swung her legs to the side of the bed and touched the ground. The place was freezing—who the hell cared if bare floors were better for her allergies? This was ridiculous. Gen had no sooner sleepily wandered out into the hall towards the bathroom when her mother, hearing Gen's footsteps due to her super-parental-hearing abilities, thumped up the stairs to start yelling immediately. "Goddamn, Gen, I've been calling you to get up for—" Genevieve stopped in the bathroom door way and swung around to face her mom. "I just got up—you can wait the four minutes it takes for me to pee and brush my teeth to tell me whatever it is that has you screaming at me on a Saturday morning." "Did you even look at the clock? It's after twelve!" "Saturday afternoon, then." "Levi has called you over half a dozen times this morning!" Oops, Genevieve thought, a hint of guilt entering her mind. He had called the night before as well, while her mom was out at a meeting and she and her dad sat in the living room watching South Park. Thankfully, Dad had answered, and after Gen gave him the, "I'm not home!" look, he passed on the message that she was busy doing housework and would talk to him later. "Imagine my surprise when he said you were supposed to call him back last night—that damn phone has been ringing off the hook since eight o'clock this morning!" Wow, eight? Levi didn't usually get up that early on a Saturday—they must have won their game. "Uh, sorry?" Gen offered, knowing there was nothing she could say that would make her mother chill out. "Are you going to call him?" "Sure," she said. On some level she meant it, though deep down she was aware that she probably wouldn't get around to it that day before she left for Meredith's.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "No, of course not," Rebecca said. "You'll just put it off and put it off! God, you're just like your father." Well, Genevieve couldn’t argue with that. "We're going to Stephie's for movie night tonight anyway," Gen said instead. "I'll be seeing him there." "I'm not taking your calls all day," she declared. "Damn it, just an ounce of responsibility from you some times would work wonders on my sanity!" With that, she turned and stormed back down the stairs. Gen didn't know who her mother was kidding—even if both she and her dad made an effort, Rebecca Weist would still find plenty to get worked up over. There seemed little point in trying. Half an hour later—twenty minutes of which was spent standing under the hot water of the shower, wishing she didn't have to leave the warm bathroom and venture into the arctic wasteland that was her house—Genevieve was dressed and wandering into the kitchen for a rather late breakfast. "Your mother informs me you are to phone Levi," Leo Weist called from his perch on one of the barstools pulled up to the kitchen's island. The newspaper crackled as he turned the page to scan the sports section. "Where'd she go?" Gen asked, assuming the only reason her mother wasn't there to provide the reminder herself was that she was no longer on the premises. "There's a problem with the air conditioner, and since she wasn't getting an answer when she called the company, she decided the only reasonable action was to go down there herself and personally ask that they come and look at the system." "Of course...that's the only reasonable solution." After letting an eager Penny out to run around the backyard, Gen returned to the kitchen. Never a big eater when she first woke up, she simply grabbed an apple from the fridge for the walk to Meredith's place, and filled her worn messenger bag with sketchpad and art supplies. "Hey, where are you going?" her father asked as she started for the door. Gen back-pedalled into the kitchen to pause at her dad's side and give his cheek a quick peck, as she had every time she went out to a friend's house since she was a child. "I'll be back later." "I'm pretty sure that didn't really answer the question I asked," he responded, though she was on her way to the front door again. "And I am to say you didn't call Levi back because...?" "I’m going to someone's house to work on a project," she replied. "Seriously, Genny—where are you going?" "I am serious! Her name's Meredith, and we're doing a Geography project." "Meredith what?" he asked, displaying an uncharacteristic amount of skepticism. "Meredith..." Damn, she didn't even know the girl's last name! "Well, I don't remember. She's new." "Sure she is." Genevieve slammed the front door shut behind her with a little too much force. Whatever. Like it was so impossible to imagine she was doing homework on a Saturday with a new friend...
Children of the Apocalypse Okay, she had to admit that was odd. They were already probably assuming she was on drugs or something—the next step would be weekly urine tests and a curfew. That might turn out to be a problem with the occasional joint and beer she had when it was Stephie’s turn to host their weekly movie night. Guess I should call Lev back, she thought, and began the search for her phone. But it was true what she said to her dad; she’d be seeing him tonight anyway. Gen stowed the phone back in her bag; she’d call him when she got back from working on the project. Meredith lived at the other end of Newhaven, in an area Genevieve wasn't too familiar with. At one point it had been an industrial district, but the factories had closed down years ago. Most of the buildings were torn down to make room for subdivisions, while the odd one remained to be converted into apartments. As Genevieve looked over the address scrawled on the paper she'd been given the day before, she realized Meredith lived in one of the expansive ex-warehouses. It looked like hell on the outside, but it was probably damn expensive. She hadn't gotten the sense from Meredith that her family had that kind of money, but here she was, about to knock on the door of a studio apartment that probably went for a few hundred thousand. The front door was steel and at least four feet taller than Genevieve. She reached up to knock, but couldn't quite force her knuckles to connect with the door. The face of the warehouse was a dark red brick, and double sets of huge, dirtylooking factory windows were spaced around the front. It was a stark, ugly building that seemed out of place among the nicer, newer houses—she was surprised the neighbourhood hadn't petitioned to have the place torn down yet. Even with the considerable space inside and the studio-like appeal, as Genevieve gazed up at it, it seemed a blemish in the perfect blue autumn sky. Just knock, Gen, she coached herself. Yeah, the place is creepy, but Meredith is nice enough...just knock. Her parents were probably like artists or architects or something. That's what drew them to the place—it was unique. They weren't like serial killers or anything. As Genevieve was about to knock at last, the door suddenly swung open. Instinctively, she took a step back, feeling her heart beat just a little faster. "Hi," Meredith said brightly from the other side of the doorway, her expression uncharacteristically animated. "Glad you found the place okay." "Uh, yeah, me too," Gen replied, still a little taken aback. The place was definitely creepy, and though she didn't know Meredith well, she wasn't used to the girl seeming so...at ease, she supposed was the feeling she got from her. In class she had been all shy, tripping over her words and keeping her head bowed most of the time. Now she stood straight—confident even—and had continued speaking even when Genevieve stopped listening long enough to ponder this odd character development. "I thought maybe we could work in the kitchen," Meredith was saying when Genevieve tuned back in. She stepped back so Gen would have room to walk through the threshold.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Genevieve realized she was supposed to enter the place now, but she couldn't quite force her feet forward. This was crazy—she was just here to work on a project with a classmate. Why feel so much trepidation? Meredith still smiled, and if she wondered what exactly was going through Genevieve's head right then, she didn't show it. Stop looking like an idiot and get in there already! Gen commanded herself. Finally she forced one foot in, stepping through the framed threshold into the space. Immediately, Genevieve questioned why she had stood out there so damn long; the place was stunning. The same dark red brick covered most of the walls, except for the one to her right, which she suspected was added to divide the space and make separate rooms, for three closed doors lined that wall. The ceiling easily reached thirty feet or so, and the space above was undisturbed by a second floor, except for a loft at the back of the room. A half wall ran around the loft, preventing any view of what lay back there, but Gen assumed it was probably a bedroom. "I love your place," Gen commented, at last starting to feel at ease. She took a few more steps inside, and Meredith closed the door behind her. "Thanks," Meredith replied, and stepped quickly to the left. "The kitchen is over here..." Gen knew she should be following her hostess, but she was lost in the space for the moment. She had heard these warehouses and factories were made into apartments, but this place didn't seem to be divided at all. It was mostly one huge room, with hardwood floors and only a couch, loveseat, and armchair off to the side. In the corner was a large punching bag, as well as a smaller one against the wall, and a big, black cupboard. A strange place for a punching bag, maybe, but then this wasn't exactly a traditional house, and it didn't seem like Meredith's family had much else to fill the space with. Other than that, the place really was bare. Gen imagined there were probably more personal items in the adjoining rooms or upstairs, but randomly wandering up there would probably seem a little too weird, so she kept her curiosity at bay. Genevieve finally turned around and found Meredith waiting near the kitchen area. One half of the space was devoted to a long counter, fridge and stove, while the other several feet were lined with shelves that housed hundreds of books. In the centre was a long wooden table with several chairs tucked around it, reminding Gen of something one would see in a library. "So," Gen said, sliding her bag off her shoulder and onto the strangely empty table. "Did you remember to bring the other stuff?" For a moment confusion clouded Meredith's face, but then she nodded suddenly. "Oh, right—yeah, the Geography stuff. I left it in the other room, just a sec." Well that was a little weird. Gen watched as Meredith took off towards one of the rooms. Maybe she had bizarre parents or something and was a little nervous having someone over. But then, if that was the case, why even suggest having Gen come over in the first place? Genevieve left her bag on the table and wandered toward the book shelves. Most were hardcover and musty smelling, and she didn't recognize any of titles. At
Children of the Apocalypse least half were in foreign characters and languages she didn't know. Maybe Meredith was one of those home schooled kids? The kind that could speak seventeen languages and was absolutely brilliant, but the only people she had a friendly relationship with were her parents and Jesus. Meredith didn't seem to be on her way back anytime soon, so Genevieve left the kitchen area and strolled into the main part of the room. Straight black curtains covered some of the windows while framing others, as to only let in a bit of natural light. The place would make a great art studio—Gen was definitely getting herself a house like this someday. On the far wall, set in the space between two windows, was a large, flat cupboard of some sort. It was only a few inches deep, about five feet tall and four feet wide, and was made of a rich, dark walnut with intricate designs around the door. Gen reached out and traced the designs, following them along the face of the cabinet until she came to the bottom corner of the left door. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Meredith still hadn't returned. Though she wasn't normally the kind of person to go through people's things, this cabinet was right in the middle of the central area, and—she gave the door a little tug—unlocked at that. It probably contained a plasma T.V. and a state of the art sound system... She opened the doors and took a step back. The cabinet swung wide open, revealing an inside lined with dark red velvet. It housed dozens of weapons. Swords were pinned in place, their blades and hilts polished and shining under a row of lights inlaid into both the bottom and the top of the cabinet. Dozens of throwing stars and small knives were fastened in rows along the bottom and on the inside of the left door. Most disturbing were the half dozen silver handguns, all pinned in place inside the cabinet. Boxes and boxes of bullets were kept in holders on the right inside door. The swords she could kind of understand—some people collected those things. Knives and throwing stars too. But guns? Handguns at that? The bullets weren't even locked up...this was definitely illegal, and very high on her internal scale of creepiness. "Genevieve..." Gen startled at the sound of Meredith behind her. "Sorry!" she said swiftly as she turned around. "I didn't mean to..." Her voice trailed off as her gaze settled on the eyes of the person across from her. Not those of her host, Meredith, however—eyes that were all too familiar and instantly filled her with fear. Next to Meredith stood the very same man that had been stalking Genevieve for over week, and by the smug look on his face, she knew the truth of the situation... He was expecting her..
enevieve took an instinctive step backward. Neither Meredith nor the man made any move toward her, and instead remained still just outside the doorway of one of the far rooms. Mulling over her words for a moment, Gen's gaze darted from Meredith to the man, back and forth, trying to make sense of what she saw. Her stalker knew Meredith... And Meredith had been the one to approach her to work on the project... She seemed to know me...know my friends...God, has she been helping him? "What the hell is going on?" Genevieve managed to sound far calmer than she felt, though she attributed that in part to the fact that neither Meredith nor the creep had moved near her yet. "It's okay," Meredith said gently. "You're going to be fine—just let me explain—" "Explain what?" Gen cut in. "That you're apparently friends with my stalker?" "He's not a stalker—" "He was following me and standing outside my house, which in some circles— like law abiding ones—is considered stalking!" "It's not like that—" "Okay, how about attempted murderer then?" Confusion furrowed Meredith's brows. "What are you talking about?" "I mean he attacked me and grabbed me and threatened to kill me!" "He didn't..." She paused as she glanced at her companion. "You didn't really threaten her, did you?" she hissed. "Yeah, he did," Gen said before he could. Her gaze travelled across the room, refreshing her memory of her environment so she could plan her escape. There were few obstacles impeding her path to the door, but Meredith and the creepy guy were closer to the exit than she was. They'd catch up with her. Gen's eyes fell on the table in the kitchen area. There sat her bag, which while lacking something useful like a Taser, did hold her cell phone. She could call the
Children of the Apocalypse police. Granted, she didn't have the slightest idea what the hell to tell them, but she'd worry about that once they arrived and arrested these people. "I can't believe you threatened—" Meredith began. "I do what's necessary," the man said, keeping his eyes on Genevieve as he directed his comment to Meredith. At least Gen thought his words were for Meredith—the way he stared at Genevieve herself, she couldn't be certain. "This is why I said we should talk about approaching her," Meredith replied. "Dammit Michael, you just ended up freaking her out—" "Oh, it's Michael, is it?" Gen interrupted. "Got a last name I can have so I know who the restraining order should be made out to?" "It was just a misunderstanding then," Meredith said. "Just stay calm and I'll explain—" "Call me crazy, but right now I'm less interested in hearing why you lied to me and put me in a room with the guy who attacked me, and more interested in getting the fuck away from you and Mikey." "Gen—" Meredith started towards her, but Michael put up his hand to stop her. She ceased her approach and instead took a step back, allowing him to take the lead. "Look, you guys can give all your explanations to the cops," Genevieve said. "We don't have time for your idle threats," Michael said coldly. Gen glanced towards her phone again. It was at least four metres away. She could make it as long as he didn't figure out what she was doing. "Believe me, they're far from idle." "You think you can make it to your phone before I reach you?" "I'm counting on it," she replied, seeing no sense in lying about what she was thinking. "Because your boyfriend and his friends will come and rescue you?" he asked. A slight smile pulled at his lips, as though the thought of that highly amused him. It couldn't compare to the humour Genevieve found in it, and that was enough to break some of her fear. "My boyfriend? You're a pretty shitty stalker if you think I'm going out with Levi." He seemed unfazed by her remark, and Gen wondered if he had been serious about the boyfriend comment to begin with. "I know what I need to know about you," he said instead, taking a step toward her. While there was still a considerable gap between them, Genevieve stepped back on instinct. Michael paced toward her again, and Gen continued to match his steps backward to maintain their distance apart. "That seems to be a Pavlovian response with you," he said, observing her quick retreat as he moved forward. While her immediate reaction was to stop running and march toward him, Genevieve was quick to recall he carried a weapon when they last ran into each other. Best to keep the hell away from the guy. "What can I say—you hold a knife to my throat, and I learn my lesson the first time."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "A knife?" Meredith repeated, staring at Michael. "You actually brought out a knife?" Michael turned his head to glance back at her and address her question. The moment his eyes left Genevieve, however, she took off for her phone. Gen hadn't gone two feet before a knife whizzed by her face. The tip of the blade struck the space between two bricks and stood straight out of the wall, buried at least an inch deep. Genevieve froze, staring at the still-humming knife, which had missed her face by only a few centimetres. "I haven't finished speaking to you yet," Michael informed her. Slowly, she sent a sideways glance his way, almost afraid to look in case he had any more sharp projectiles in hand. He appeared to be unarmed, though she definitely wasn't trusting appearances any longer. "This isn't going to work," Meredith said to her companion, her voice pleading with him. "She isn't going to listen to you if you keep scaring her!" While Genevieve hated them discussing her as if she was some frightened, cornered animal, in truth that was how she felt. She kept her silence, but remained on guard. "She should be scared," Michael responded calmly. "If she steps foot out that door, she'll be killed." "Please, Gen," Meredith said, giving up on persuading Michael and turning her pleas to Genevieve. "Just sit down and listen—that's all I ask." "It ceases to be 'asking' when some maniac is throwing knives at me!" Gen shot back. "What will make you feel safe enough to hear him out then?" Meredith asked. "Nothing." "Please, there's got to be something..." "How about a public place? Or the police station?" "Not an option," Michael replied. Genevieve thought about it for a moment, and then her eyes settled on her messenger bag. "My phone," she said. "He," she pointed at Michael, "proves he's not carrying anymore weapons, stays the hell away from me, and you," she gestured at Meredith, "give me my phone." "That sounds fair enough, right Michael?" Meredith said, glancing at her friend. He stared at Genevieve a moment longer, scrutinizing her, studying her expression, weighing her down with his very gaze. At last he nodded his consent. "Fine." "Okay then—let's see the lack of weapons." This time Michael wasn't wearing his jacket, and even with his loose black shirt and pants, there weren't many places he could hide things. He rolled up his sleeves, turned out his pockets then gave her a shrug. "Let's see under your pant leg," Gen responded with skepticism. Clearly he wasn't expecting that, and hesitated for a moment. "I watch movies, you know—let's see."
Children of the Apocalypse With a heavy sigh, at last he reached for his left ankle and pulled out a small black semi-automatic handgun. Gen felt her heart jump into her throat as he carelessly tossed it on the Persian rug in front of him. "Now the other one." Sure enough, strapped to his right ankle was a set of small throwing knives. He unhooked the belt-like strap and tossed them next to his gun. "He's not going to hurt you," Meredith said. "You're really not the one who's going to strengthen his case right now." Without another word, Meredith went for the kitchen to snatch the bag off of the table, while Michael walked back to lean against the wall opposite Genevieve, watching her. Her attempts to remain calm weren't getting any easier with Michael's green eyes boring into her, so Gen averted her gaze and tried to be patient as Meredith picked up the bag and walked over. "Here." Genevieve snatched her messenger bag and rifled through it. She briefly ceased her search as she felt the familiar hard plastic of the phone. I have my cell—it'll be all right. But no, it wouldn't be all right. Would she have time to call for help? If she did get a hold of the police, would they even get to the house on time? Though it would be nice for her parents to at least be able to find her body, dying wasn't exactly high on the priority list. If she could, she had to get away from these people... And that wouldn't be happening until she had leverage over them. "I hope we can talk about this now," Meredith began. In a split second, Gen made her decision. She let her bag—and her phone— drop to the ground. At the same time, she reached for the knife plunged into the wall, and yanked it out before Meredith realized what was happening. Her dark eyes widened as Gen grabbed her and spun her around, pressing her arm over her chest and thrusting the knife up against her throat. Oh God, I did not just do this—I'm not really holding a knife to this girl's throat... Despite Genevieve's realization that this was a completely insane decision on her part, she nonetheless found herself pinning Meredith against her, threatening the girl the very same way Michael had with her two days earlier. "It's okay—calm down, Genevieve," Meredith said soothingly, as if unfazed by her current predicament. Gen couldn't be sure if Meredith knew she was serious or not—hell, Genevieve herself didn't know if she was serious. Meredith's attempts at calming her captor were interrupted by the slow, rhythmic clapping of Michael. The eyes of both girls shot to him. "And her true colours emerge at last." While a cold grin played at the corners of his mouth, it never quite extended to his eyes. He didn't seem surprised by her actions, but while he had an air of smug satisfaction that she behaved as he predicted, he also seemed almost...disappointed at the same time. All of which told Genevieve she was crazy and just reading too much into the creep's expression.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Just let me leave. Please." She knew she shouldn't be pleading; the whole point of grabbing Meredith was to show she was strong—that she wouldn't be pushed around and she was capable of fighting back. But Michael clearly didn't believe her anymore than she believed herself. "Perhaps you weren't listening before. I told you, if you step foot outside that door, you will be killed." "So just don't kill me! Is that so difficult?" "More than you know." "What the hell—" "Michael isn't going to kill you, Genevieve," Meredith cut in. "He's trying to protect you." "And what a fine job he was doing, what with all the following me and threatening me and trying to kill me!" "If I wanted you dead, you would be," Michael replied. While she didn't doubt that for a second, it did little to convince her he was in any way interested in helping her. "So you weren't trying to kill me when you held a knife to my throat?" "Do you intend to kill Merri right now?" That question made her pause. Well, no, the truth was she didn't intend to hurt Meredith. She couldn’t bring herself to lie about that. "No," she replied, her voice low after a long pause. "But—" "But you want us to listen to you—to take you seriously," Michael finished for her, and waited as the pieces fell together in her mind. "When the situation calls for it, a person does what he has to." "Or you could have just come up to me and talked to me like a non-stalker-y crazy person!" "Which, you may recall, I tried to do. You ran." Shit, he had her there. Though in her defense he still seemed pretty scary even when he wasn't holding a knife to her throat. "So who were you trying to protect me from?" Gen asked, still not ready to relinquish Meredith, her only bargaining chip at this point. "Take a look at that blade you're holding." Though she loathed to take her eyes from Michael, even for a second, she didn't think he'd actually go through Meredith to get to her. At least she hoped not. Gen glanced over Meredith's shoulder at the small silver knife. While she didn't exactly spend a lot of time studying knives, it looked like the one he had been "protecting" her with two nights ago. Now, in the light of day, she could better see the designs that wound around the hilt and extended onto the thin blade. What looked like foreign writing of some sort was etched into the metal, though it didn't look remotely familiar to her so she couldn't be certain. "What about it?" she finally asked, returning her nervous gaze to Michael. "I took that from one of a group of people who tried to kill Merri," he replied. "Right," Gen muttered. "It’s true," Meredith said. "He saved my life."
Children of the Apocalypse "Nice that he’s concerned about someone’s!" Gen said. "I wasn’t trying to kill you," Michael said. "And I have no immediate plans to, either. Let Merri go." Slowly, she released her grip on Meredith as some of the tension dissipated from the room. Michael was right—if he intended to kill her, he probably would have grabbed his gun and shot her as soon as he knew she wouldn't really hurt Meredith. She looked over the knife again as Meredith stepped out of the way and Michael walked toward her. "Look, I'm sorry someone was after her and all," Gen said, handing the knife to Michael then scooping up her bag. "But I don't see what—" "What this has to do with you?" He held the knife up at eye level in front of her, keeping the tip pointed downward in a non-threatening fashion. "You can't read that?" "Uh, no, I don't know creepy knife languages." With a roll of his rich green eyes, he tucked the knife into a small sheath on his belt. "This blade was meant for Merri's throat. There's an identical one meant for yours as well, carried by an assassin." "Wait...assassins?" Oh my God, this guy is fucking insane! "Do you need a dictionary or something?" What an asshole. "I know what a goddamn assassin is," Gen replied sharply. "The skepticism in my voice came from disbelief rather than confusion over the word." "Yes, assassins." His tone matched hers now, equally as sharp and annoyed, though far more intimidating. "Why me? Oh, wait, it's my English teacher, right? She's always had it in for me, after all." "This is serious, Gen," Meredith, who had been silent thus far, cut in. "No, crazy is what this is, but I'm listening and eagerly awaiting his point." Michael went to the couch not far from where she stood, but rather than take a seat on the cushion, he leaned his tall frame against the back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Does it even matter right now what my point is? You won't believe it." "No, probably not, but I might find it amusing, so please: explain." "Michael," Meredith pleaded. "Just tell her. Let her know it all and make up her own mind." It's already made up, Meredith, Gen thought, but she refrained from bringing up that fact. "What do you know about the end of the world, Genevieve?" he asked. "Um, I think it’s scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the National Enquirer." "Funny," he said without laughing. "It’s unfortunate you don’t know much about it, considering your role in it." "Oh, my role in it? Where’d you hear that?" "Reliable texts." "Oh shit, you are a bible salesman, aren't you?" Dammit, Levi was right!
Skyla Dawn Cameron Michael ignored her. "Texts and various sources have listed the signs, and right now, the signs are here." "And what is the end of the world going to entail?" "What you would expect." "So the usual pain, death, destruction, a few plagues, war, famine, and all that jazz?" "Essentially." "You know, you didn't deny the bible salesman thing, and this is sounding pretty Revelation-y to me." "The powers that provided hope for the world exist in the form of three women," Meredith took over. "Known as the Children of the Apocalypse, the three would come together and be the sole force to prevent hell on Earth." "They're going to save the world?" Genevieve asked, trying to keep the "wow, you guys are crazy" tone from her voice, but doing a poor job of it. "So I've heard," Michael replied. "I'm guessing I'm one of these Armageddon kids, right?" "Children of the Apocalypse," Meredith corrected. "Whatever." "Yes, you're one of them, as is Merri." "So...I'm supposed to stop the end of the world..." Gen casually slung her bag over her shoulder and wandered to the chair near where Michael sat, and then hopped onto the arm. "That means I've got super powers, right? So what can we do?" He must have known she was joking—in fact, his expression of annoyance told her as much—but he indulged her nonetheless. "Each of you is different." "But of course—it wouldn't be very fun if we were the same." "There's a witch, a warrior, and a seer." "What are you?" she directed to Meredith. "The seer." "Hmm...well, I'm pretty sure I’m not a warrior, so that leaves witch, I suppose?" "Excellent deduction," Michael muttered, his words dripping with sarcasm. "Because at this point the lesbian witch is so original. How do I use my super powers then? Wiggle my nose?" "I know this seems weird, but we're serious," Meredith said as she took a seat near Michael. "Oh, of course, I know you think you are. Tell me this, though—if I'm one of only three people who's going to be stopping the end of the world, and I have these mystical powers, why do I need this guy to protect me then?" Her gaze drifted from Meredith to Michael, to see if either of them had an explanation for that. She doubted it—crazy people weren't exactly known for their logic. "Because you're unskilled, unprepared, weak, and useless at the moment," Michael responded nonchalantly. "I suspect you need to rethink your brainwashing techniques, because insulting me isn't going to be helpful."
Children of the Apocalypse "The potential is there, you just haven't developed it yet," Meredith said, again choosing softer phrasing than her companion had. "Or maybe I'm the wrong person. Did you try Izzy Marx? She says she's a witch. How about I get you her number and you can check." Gen stood, gave them a little wave, and started for the door. Though eager to leave, she kept on her guard in case Michael decided to throw anything else at her. She made it to the door without incident however, and spun around to face them just as she twisted the doorknob. "Have a wonderful day, and don't ever bother me again, okay?" She gave them her sweetest smile. "Genevieve," Meredith began as she started to stand. Michael put his hand on her shoulder and drew her back, however, shaking his head and motioning to let Gen go. Meredith sent one last look Genevieve's way. Concern filled her face, and for a moment Gen almost felt sorry for her. It was too bad she turned out to be a raving lunatic who was friends with a madman; she might have been cool. But there was no sense lamenting the end of a friendship that never was, so Gen pushed open the front door and stepped outside. At first she almost expected some knife-wielding, crazy assassin to be out there screaming her name and taking swipes at her. Not wanting Meredith and Michael to know they had gotten to her, though, she quickly closed the door behind her so they wouldn't see her pause and glance around before she actually left the safety of the building. She continued down the next few streets on her way home, encountering kids playing street hockey and the odd dog-walker, but not a single assassin. The more she pondered what they had said, the more bizarre it all seemed. Not merely the apocalypse bit, but that they would involve her in it. She had never met either of them before in her life. And it wasn't like Genevieve was opposed to being some cool save-the-world person. That would kick ass, actually. But if she'd ever, in her entire life, exhibited any sort of mystical powers, she was pretty sure she'd have remembered it. Ahead of her was the entrance to a park. She'd seen another entrance on the other side during her trip to Meredith's place, and she realized now cutting through there would shave several minutes from her trip. Gen found the park empty and silent. The sign outside the fence suggested to her why: no dogs were allowed. Nothing annoyed her more than that kind of park, and she'd always avoided them herself. Apparently the other residents of Newhaven felt the same way. As she entered the park, she fished through her bag for her phone then dialled up Levi's number. I can't wait to tell him this, she thought wryly. "Hey, it's Gen," she said as he picked up. "You won't believe what just happened to me—" "Oh my god, me too! Last night was insane—" "Hold on, me first. So I was going to Meredith's and—"
Skyla Dawn Cameron A dark, moving shape in Genevieve's peripheral vision drew her attention away from the phone call. As she turned to look, something solid collided with the side of her head. Her phone slipped from her hand and spun out of reach, and Gen fell hard on the dirt ground. She swore under her breath, thinking she couldn't wait to fill out a police report against that damn Michael... Then she looked up and saw four men standing around her. Two were in their late twenties, while the third was middle-aged, and the final one was a good ten years older than that. Not one of them was Michael. "I already talked to your friend," she said. "I told him I'm not your girl, so just take your little cult and..." Blank eyes stared back at her, as if they didn't hear a word she said. Three of the men took out knives that matched the one Michael had, while the fourth man pulled a handgun from the pocket of his dark pants. Sweat slithered down Genevieve's brow, but she was too terrified to breath, let alone wipe her forehead. "This is a mistake!" she insisted. Breathe deep, be calm... "Go back and check with that Michael guy—he'll tell you." Gen tried to scramble to her feet, but a sudden kick to her side pushed her back down. The wind knocked out of her, she gripped her side, trying to catch her breath and certain the kick had cracked a rib. The next moments occurred as a blur; bits of images and sounds strung together like pearls, though Genevieve had little remembrance of the actual string. She was on the ground, grumbling in pain, and almost more annoyed than scared at that point because this stupid cult had mistaken her for someone else. Then there was an odd click, and she glanced up to see the barrel of a cocked gun aimed straight at her head. Before she could plead for her life or babble about their mistake again, the gunwielder cried out. He squeezed the trigger, but he was already stumbling, and the bullet narrowly missed Genevieve's leg. A fifth figure had appeared near her newest attackers. Michael's eyes met Genevieve's for a second as he looked down at her, and he uttered one single word. "Run." She didn't need him to tell her twice. While Michael struggled to hold the four attackers at bay, Gen grabbed her fallen cell phone, swung her bag over her shoulder, and raced toward the other end of the park. She dared to pause for only a second to glance back and check the scene behind her, but there was only a blur of figures fighting, grappling, and seriously damaging one another. She couldn't even make out Michael, to see if he was harmed or even alive at this point. This is insane, she thought, I should go back there and help him... But what could she do? Shout at them maybe, and then get smacked in the head again? She had been in one fist fight when she was in elementary school, and that had been against a girl
Children of the Apocalypse her age—she was way out of her league now. The more the group fought, the less and less likely it seemed even Michael would be getting away from them. Run. His simple command echoed in her head again. With a surge of inner resolve, she backed out the gates of the park and then spun around and ran, not looking back. Gen was nearly out of breath as she burst through the end of the long walkway that led away from the park, and stopped dead as she found herself in a small court of houses. Her abrupt exit caused the two kids playing ball on the lawn of the house near the walkway to stop their game and stare at her strangely. Though she mashed the buttons of her mobile phone, the damn thing didn't seem to be working—the fall must have taken out something vital, because now it wouldn't even switch on. Genevieve ran toward home again, glancing over her shoulder as she went, checking for a sign of any member of the group of crazies, be it her attackers or...well, technically Michael was an attacker too—she hadn't yet forgotten his first impression. But at that moment, if she had to see anyone following behind her, she'd prefer him. She had slowed to a half-walk, half-run by the time she was nearing her home, but as soon as her house was in sight, she was back to a full run. Thudding up the front steps breathlessly, she pushed through the front door and crashed inside. The car parked outside told Gen her mother was home from ranting at the central air company, and it was only a matter of moments before she was stomping through the hall, ranting at Genevieve. "Why the hell would you just run off to someone's house without leaving a..." Rebecca Weist froze in the hallway as her gaze settled on her daughter, and then she rushed forward. "Gen, what happened..." The words stuck in Genevieve's throat. "Gen..." Her mom had her face in her hands now, turning it as she inspected the cheek that had been hit, brows knitted together in concern. Rebecca's gaze went from one eye to the other, searching, questioning, trying to decipher what Gen was thinking. "What the hell happened?" Gen gazed back at her mother, trying to force out the story, to tell her the truth, but something held her back. "I...uh..." she started. This was it. She had her mom's undivided attention—she could tell her the truth. Explain what happened the other night; reveal what happened less than fifteen minutes ago. It could all be out in the open... The shrill sound of the phone ringing interrupted her, and she felt a wave of relief as the sound broke her mother's attention for a second. "Don't worry about that," Rebecca said as she returned her focus to her daughter. "Your dad'll get it." She waited, but the ringing continued. "Leo, pick up the goddamn phone!" A few more moments passed, no doubt just to set her nerves on edge, then the ringing ceased as Leo finally picked up the phone.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Now, sweetie," Rebecca was back to motherly concern as she looked at Gen once more. "What happened?" What happened? Some people tried to kill me... "Gen?" Michael's words flashed in her mind again. Assassins sent for her—because of what they thought she was. What Michael thought she was too. Either they were all drinking from the same hallucinogenic-laced fruit punch...or... "Gen, what—" "A-a car," Gen replied at last. I'm so going to regret this... "A car?" "I-I was...it was stupid of me, I wasn't paying attention, and this car was pulling out..." "Oh God, hun, did you get the license plate? We need to phone the police and—" "No, no, it's okay." She wasn't taking time to even think up the story at this point—the words just poured forth, mechanically almost, her tone even and emotionless. "It was my fault. I wasn't paying attention and it was backing out of a driveway. I tripped trying to get out of the way. Fell against the curb." She was surprised at how quickly the lie slipped from her lips...and how easily her mom believed it. "It doesn't matter—they should have been watching where they were going—" "I'm okay, Mom." Gen offered a smile. It was weak, she was sure, but after studying her daughter a few moments longer, Rebecca's look of concern seemed to soften. She believed her. "Come on, let's get some ice on that." Nestled in her mother's protective arm, Gen felt just a few seconds of relief and familiar security, but even that was fleeting. In a repeat of two nights ago, she almost expected someone to come barrelling through the front door at any second, wielding a weapon of some sort. "That was Levi," her father announced as they entered the kitchen. "He's on his way over..." He paused to look at Genevieve with unabashed curiosity as she sat down at the dinette table, while her mother put an ice pack together. "Genny, I seriously hope the other guy looks worse." "Your daughter barely missed being hit by a car, and that's all you have to say?" Rebecca shot back, thankfully explaining the situation so Gen didn't have to continue with her fabricated story. "You sure it missed? That's one heck of a shiner." Rebecca muttered something under her breath and shook her head. Leo walked to Genevieve, gently took her chin in his hand and turned her head to the side so he could better view her wounds. She began to fidget under his gaze, fearful he perhaps knew something didn't add up. "You okay, Genny?" he asked, voice full of concern and telling her, joking aside, he was troubled.
Children of the Apocalypse She forced another smile, this one somewhat genuine because she truly didn't like him to worry. "I'm fine, Dad." He leaned in to hug her and planted a kiss on her forehead. "We'll have to get you helmet just for when you're walking now if this is what happens when you try to cross a street." "You know, this wouldn't be a problem if you'd just let me start driving," Gen suggested with a smile. "After seeing what kind of damage you do with just your hundred and fifty pounds of all bones and hair? I think not—there's no way I'm giving you a two ton box of steel to play around with. Didn't you make it to your friend's house to work on the project?" She was spared having to scramble for answer for a few moments as her mother pushed her father out of the way, and applied the ice pack to her face. "I messed up the time," Gen explained. Wow, all this lying is sure as hell making me look like an idiot today—first I walk in front of a car, then I forget the time I'm supposed to meet someone. "She and her parents were about to leave for somewhere—I was supposed to be there in the morning." "You see why you shouldn't be sleeping in all damn day?" "Yes, Mom, I now recognize the error in my ways—all of this would have been avoided if I just got up earlier." "If they were going somewhere, why didn't they give you a ride home?" Gen hoped she didn't look as startled as she felt suddenly at her father calling attention to the hole in her story. While it was impossible he knew what had actually happened to her, it wasn't a far stretch to guess he knew she was lying. Normally that wasn't something he would call her on—that was her mother's job—but this time she had been physically harmed. He was relaxed on most things as far as parenting went, unless it came down to her safety. "Full car," Gen said quickly. "The back was filled with some boxes and stuff going to a relative's house and there wasn't room for me." "Boxes?" "They just moved here," she replied, surprised at how easily the lies fell into place. "It was stuff they sorted through, to give to some people." "Next time, how about you have her come here, and we'll make sure we give her a ride home so she isn't hit by a car, okay?" Gen nodded. "Okay." "So after all that you didn't get your project done?" her mother asked, back to hyper-parental mode. "Yeah Mom, I planned it all so I wouldn't have to make a stupid Geography poster." "Don't get snippy with me." The doorbell rang then, and Gen realized with a sinking feeling that her father had said Levi was on his way over. While she was glad to see him, she remembered they had been on the phone together when she was attacked. She didn't know what he heard, but it could completely blow her story so far.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I'll get it," Gen announced as she stood, but her mother put her hand on her shoulder and sat her back down. "Sit there and keep your cheek from swelling." They all knew no one needed to get the door anyway; Levi had had an open invitation to enter since he and Gen were eight. Moments after ringing the bell, Levi stepped inside, kicked off his shoes, and went in search of the home's occupants. "Hey Mr. Weist," he called when he spotted Leo in the kitchen doorway. "Is Gen home yet?" "At the table," Leo replied, stepping back so Levi could enter the room. Her friend caught sight of her and his eyes grew wide. Please don't let him say anything... "What the hell happened—one minute you were talking to me, then I heard a bang and voices and—" "Apparently some car backed out and nearly hit her," Rebecca answered before Gen could. "She tripped and smacked her head on the curb." "I thought maybe it was that g—" Conscious of her parents watching, Gen tried to warn him with her eyes and the slight shake of her head. Thankfully, he caught the gesture right away and scrambled to correct himself. "That maybe you were just hanging up on me. Because...you didn't call me back earlier. That was mean of you. You're a bad friend." While lying through his teeth wasn't his forte, neither of Gen's parents seemed to notice. Leo wandered back toward the T.V. room while Rebecca checked once more on Gen's cheek, then went to busy herself with obsessively dusting the downstairs hallway. Still concerned they might be listening in, Gen stood and gestured for Levi to follow. It wasn't until the two reached her room upstairs—with the door closed— that either dared speak. "Did that asshole come after you again?" he said angrily and in a loud voice Gen hoped her mother didn't hear. "Shh! And no, of course not!" "Then why were you making the secret blinking code to keep me from mentioning him?" "We have a secret blinking code?" "Damn it, Genevieve—" "Okay, okay." Time to stop stalling. "I just don't want Mom and Dad worrying about that guy bugging me, so I didn't tell them, and I don't want you to tell them either." At least not until I know for sure what's going on... "But you already did tell them—you were complaining the other day about how they didn't believe you!" "Yeah, well, I changed my mind." "Gen—" "Really, I mean it. I haven't seen him hanging around at all, so you probably scared him away for good. It's okay."
Children of the Apocalypse "If you say so," he said, taking a seat on the rattan chair in the corner of her room. Gen hopped on her bed and discarded the ice pack to the wastebasket by her nightstand. She glanced in the mirror to see her red, swollen cheek, and winced at the sight. A nasty bruise was forming. Even if she wore makeup, there was no way in hell she'd be covering that up. "So, aren't you going to ask me about my game?" "I'm guessing you lost," she said. Levi rolled his eyes. "Of course. That's not my news, though—guess who showed up." "Hopefully no talent scouts." "Sage," he revealed with a grin. "Sure she did." What a liar. "She did!" "Hayden was able to make it then?" "Nope." "You are not seriously sitting there across from me, trying to tell me Sage Bethany, Queen Bitch—" "Hey—" "—who's been ignoring you for the past two years, went to watch you lose your game, unaccompanied by Hayden or any other friends she might possibly have in some alternate universe?" "She has friends...probably. She's a very deep and complex person." "Sure she is." "That's not half of it though. She left right after the game, and I followed her. She jogged home through the creek—" "This story is making you sound like serial killer material, you know." "Just listen! I was going to leave, and then there were these guys who followed and they tried to mug her!" Gen could only imagine how pale her face went, though Levi continued rambling on about the exciting details of his story. Four men. Carrying weapons. Intent on killing Sage... "So she totally kicks their collective ass! I mean, I've never seen anything like that! Hayden said she has like all these martial arts classes and stuff but she never competes so I had idea she was that serious, but it was like something out of a movie—it was amazing!" Each of you is different—there's the witch, the warrior, and the seer... "And then this alien flew down from Earth's secret second moon and gave a pack of chipmunks abortions while Kim Jong Il and me ate popcorn and watched." "What?" "Goddamn, I knew you weren't listening!" "No, no, I was, I promise." "Well then, what do you think?" he asked, sitting forward eagerly, probably waiting for her to leap up and be just as excited with him. I'm starting to think Michael might not be so crazy...
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I think you fell and hit your head," she replied instead of giving him her thoughts. "Well, I think you should give her a call and see about some self defense lessons sometime." I think I need to call her about more than just that.
evi didn't stay long at Gen's house, though he spent quite a bit of time trying to urge her to meet up later at Stephie's house for their usual Bad Movie Night. She declined, citing every excuse in the book and a few that would probably be thrown in the appendices. She rarely missed one of their nights, but she knew she wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything...not until she got a few more answers. Of course, Gen lied later that night when she went out again after her walk with Penny. It was nine-thirty and her parents had retired to the living room. While they wondered why she was leaving so late for Stephie's, she assured them Levi just got Hayden to pick her up after work and she was going to meet him at the corner. They wouldn't call and check up on her. They trusted her, after all. Why would they bother suspecting her of doing something crazy, such as returning to the park where she'd been attacked at gunpoint earlier? Saturday was far from the best night of the week for a girl to go walking at night, even in a place like Newhaven. There were usually a bunch of teens drinking and smoking up in quiet areas around town, but that night the park was empty and silent. She paused near the ground where the men had been scuffling earlier. Grass had been torn and boot treads dented the ground. She went to the swing set and took a seat, deciding to wait and think before heading all the way to Meredith’s. Michael seemed like he was telling her the truth...but he wasn't exactly a picture of trustworthiness. In the pocket of her light jacket, she felt her phone vibrate. Her dad had played around with the broken phone all afternoon, and returned it to her, insisting it would work. She hadn't believed him, but it seemed to be in decent condition now. Gen pulled out the phone. The LCD screen blinked with Stephie’s phone number. "What’s going on?" she asked as she answered.
Skyla Dawn Cameron A fit of giggles met her ear. "You’re missing the best movie ever!" Stephie declared. "What’s it this time?" "Seventies sexploitation flick. It’s hilarious! Oh-mi-god, hold on, Lev wants to saying something..." Somehow in the process of handing the phone over, the receiver fell, and it took a few moments for Levi to pick it up. Gen kicked her feet off the ground as she waited, gently swinging back and forth. "Gen!" Levi shouted into the phone. "Okay, I was thinking something. Wait...okay, now I remember. Why is the name Lois spelt like i-s? Why can’t it be like i-c-e? Like Lo-iiiiiiiicccee..." "Because that would be ‘ice.’" "No, like what about Wallace? Wall-issss..." "Lev, you’re stoned, and I’m hanging up now." "Hey, did you call Sage yet? Saaaage. Ge. Why can’t it have a 'J' in it?" He giggled again and in the background she heard Stephie laughing as well. "You’re gonna call Sage, right? So you can learn like kung fu or something. Oh, I’m so brilliant! We should watch a kung fu movie next week!" "Goodbye Lev." Just as she tucked the phone back in her pocket, something yanked the swing to a halt, and the force nearly pitched her to the ground. After correcting her balance, Gen sent a scowling look up at Michael, who stood next to her with the chain of the swing in his hand. "Dammit, you scared me!" "Sorry," he said unconvincingly. "No, you’re not." "That‘s true." He let the swing go and sat in the seat next to hers. From what she could see, he had a few bruises, but otherwise seemed alive and well. Still a sadist, sure, but physically well enough. "You believe me now, don’t you?" he said, the volume of his voice not far above a whisper, but the tone clear and deeply serious. "No," she lied, not yet ready to admit as much to herself, let alone him. "Being stubborn isn’t going to help you survive." "Neither is you being creepy." "But you understand I’m serious now; you would have died today had I not intervened." "No, I don’t understand that. For all I know, you led them here and you’re so delusional in your belief about all this that you convinced them of it too, and put me and Meredith in trouble." "It’s the other way around. I followed them here. They led me to Merri." "And to me?" "You I found on my own." "So you did lead them to me—" "They would have found you regardless. It’s what they do." "But who are they?"
Children of the Apocalypse He raised an eyebrow skeptically and gave her a sideways look. "You were there for our discussion earlier, right?" I hate this guy, she thought, grinding her teeth. "Yeah, I remember, but who are they? What are their names? Who sent them? Why can’t we have them arrested?" "They don’t have names." "Everyone has a name." "They used to, but they don’t now. Stripped of name, of identity, of anything but the mission, they exist simply to find you and the others." She remembered the look in their eyes then, and the vacant, soulless expression that sent shivers of fear through her. Michael still watched her, however, so she brushed the feeling aside. "They can’t be that tough—I mean, you’ve fought them off a couple of times now." He shot her a look. "Not that I’m insulting your fighting abilities or anything," she added. Please don’t let him stab me. "But four guys against you, and you’re still alive. I like them odds." "Their mission isn’t to kill me. It’s to kill you." "That's not a reason not to kill you." "It is for them." "But then why didn’t one of them run after me or shoot me while I was leaving the park? I think they suck at their mission." "I suspect the person who sent them is testing you right now." "Me?" "And the others. He wants to know what you can do, where you are in terms of abilities, what resources you have available." "Why bother if he’s just going to kill us?" "I haven’t figured that out yet." He sighed. Gen didn’t know if he was tiring of her questions at that point, or just pissed that he had to reveal to her he didn‘t have all the answers. "If all of this is true—and I’m not saying it is—but hypothetically if you’re right about it all, why are you doing this? Yeah, you saved my life, but you’re far from cheerful about it—why are you helping?" "I really don’t know," he muttered, and she believed him. "Okay, again with a hypothetical...what am I supposed to do now? Just carry on every day like someone isn’t trying to kill me, and hope to god they leave me alone?" "I start working with you and Merri while I look for the warrior, then with the three of you together, we come up with a way to remove the assassins from the picture completely and see who’s pulling the strings." "Gee, is that all?" "To start with." "So what kind of, like...uh...dammit, you realize how cheesy and ridiculous this seems?"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Yeah. But you’d like to know what it is you’ll be able to do? What the others can do?" He seemed to read her a little too well, and she shifted uncomfortably under his steady gaze. "In a nutshell." "As you might have guessed, Merri sees things." "Like dead people?" "No. Like auras. Like dimensional tears. Future events, remote viewing, entities invisible to the naked eye, and a person’s true form." "Is that it?" she joked. "At the moment." "Wait, so she can already do all that stuff?" Either this guy is bullshitting me, or I’m in serious trouble, because I sure as hell can’t do anything like that... "A few gifts are stronger than others, but she’s learning. You’ll be able to affect physical matter, control the elements...at least in theory." "Oh, ha ha." "Then there’s the warrior. As I would hope you’d have guessed by now, she’s a gifted fighter." "So she just kicks ass?" "No, she's a warrior. It's not merely physical prowess she possess, but mentally, she's someone who knows war." Though she’d been dreading this part, Gen knew she’d have to fess up eventually. "Uh...about the warrior chick..." She told him what Levi had described to her; the fight, Sage’s easy win, how she moved with a speed and grace that couldn’t have simply been taught. Michael didn't say anything for a few moments after she'd finished. A look of understanding crossed his face, though, and suggested he knew the reason she decided to believe him was because what he described seemed to match information she received from a more reliable source. "He wasn't lying?" Michael asked at last. "C'mon, it's Levi." He gave her a look, as if "it's Levi" wasn't explanation enough for him. "He wouldn't lie, especially not to me." "Exaggerate?" She wavered on this question. Considering it was Sage, he might have exaggerated a bit...but she wouldn't dare tell Michael that. "No—if he said that happened, then it happened." Michael sighed. "Then I guess I'd better talk to her." *~*~* Not once on Saturday did Genevieve think that she would spend the next day sitting in the house of a man she thought tried to kill her, phoning a girl she didn't know—or like—particularly well, all because a group of people were stalking and planning to kill them both because of their supposedly mystical powers.
Children of the Apocalypse And yet that was where she found herself, sitting on Michael's kitchen table, hanging up a cordless phone after calling Sage. "Well that was a world of weirdness," Gen commented with a sigh. "But she's on her way over?" Meredith sat next to the table. "So she says. I don't know if she'll stay or just think we're all crazy, though." "Did you call yet?" Michael called from across the building. Gen glanced over to see him staring at her from the upper loft. "Yes, I did, and you'd know that if you were down here!" "If you had called her half an hour ago like I told you to, she'd already be here." He disappeared from view before Genevieve could reply, leaving her fuming. Why the hell did he insist on sounding exactly like her mother? "Is he always like this?" Gen nearly shouted, too easily taking her anger out on Meredith. Merri shrugged. "Not really. I don't think he likes you very well, though." "I hadn't noticed," Gen muttered. She talked a little to Meredith while they waited for Sage. At first, Gen couldn't help but be abrupt and short with her; she had lied to her, after all. Add to that the fact an entirely different person emerged from the shy girl she met at school, and Gen remained uncomfortable with her. Merri revealed she didn't live in the old warehouse building herself; it belonged entirely to Michael. Everything he told Gen the night before had been true, as well. Merri had recently moved to Newhaven, and it was one night a few weeks ago that she was coming home from the store, and the group came after her. Merri, of course, always knew there was something different about her; she couldn't help but see things others didn't. "You knew about...well, did you tell Michael I was like this witch person or something?" Gen asked at last. Merri shook her head. "I can't tell, not since it's a part of you. Some other person who'd had something magically done to them? Sure, I could tell that kind of person right away. But not you, and not Sage." "How did..." Gen lowered her voice and sent a wary gaze to the loft. There was no sign of Michael, and they sat far enough away from him that she hoped he didn't hear her. "How did Michael know? About me?" "He wouldn’t tell me." Merri shrugged, and in all honesty, Gen believed she really didn't know. "Just said he knew." "That’s...like disturbing, actually. God, he's weird." "I can still hear you," Michael called from somewhere in the loft. "Then later I won't need to repeat that I think you're creepy and psychotic!" Gen returned. While she still hadn't completely ruled out him suddenly killing her, she'd made more than a few questionable remarks already, and he hadn't done much more than glare at her. A knock sounded at the door. Meredith and Gen exchanged glances then Merri rose to answer it. Gen waited at her spot on the table; Merri could explain this one. Gen didn't have a clue what to say to Sage about all this. "Hi, Levi told me you kick ass, and we think you might be like Buffy or something." That'll go over really well.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Gen glanced to Michael's loft, but there was no sign of him. Goddamn, after all that nagging her to call Sage, he better not just check out on them. "Gen's in here," Meredith said, back to her cheerful—and in retrospect, quite deceitful—tone of voice she had used the day before when greeting Genevieve at the door. She led Sage to the kitchen. Sage, as always, looked completely disinterested in her present company. On top of that was a healthy dose of annoyance, and Gen wondered if perhaps this was not the best idea after all. "So?" Sage said, crossing her arms over her chest and waiting. "What questions did you have?" "Questions..." "Your social science project? Local girls involved in martial arts?" Genevieve figured she should start making more of an effort to remember all these ridiculous lies she was coming up with. Sage glanced at Merri, probably hoping for more of a response from her. "Right. The project." Merri looked to Gen. So did Sage. "Um..." Genevieve's gaze shot to the loft again. Where the hell was Michael? "I have somewhere to be this afternoon," Sage said coolly. "If we can do this at school tomorrow, that would be preferable—" Other than Sage speaking, the room had been so quiet that Gen didn't notice Michael until the moment he appeared near them. Her eyes went over Sage's shoulder to where he stood just in time to see his closed fist about to strike. Before Genevieve could open her mouth to warn her, Sage seemed to sense the attack, and pivoted out of his way before his strike connected. What the hell is he doing?! Gen thought, horrified to see him quickly recover from the missed hit, and attack Sage once more. Initially, she'd been glad to know that at least he didn't plan to stalk Sage around town as he did her, but this had to be worse! Sage's responses surprised Gen; though on the defensive, she managed to deflect most blows, adapting with ease to a situation that must have seemed surreal. It wasn't long before it became clear Michael had the upper hand, though. Offensive tactics didn't seem to be getting him very far, however as soon as Sage took the initiative, he was able to counter her attacks with little effort. Sage kept her face expressionless, but Gen caught a glimpse of surprise in her eyes at how quickly Michael managed to turn the tables. In only a few minutes of fighting, he had her pinned to the ground on her stomach, his one knee pressing down on the small of her back, and his strong hands twisting her arm into a gruesome position that made Genevieve shudder to see. Well, Gen mused, guess she's not the one we're looking for. "I'm not here to kill you," Michael said, staring down at Sage. She could only twist her head so far, and was unable to meet his gaze. Sweat poured down her forehead, and her brow was pulled together in a wince of pain. She didn't say anything, though; not a word of protest or a cry of pain, not even a request for an explanation as to why he was keeping her in such a horrible position.
Children of the Apocalypse "I'm going to let you up now," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you, but we've got some things to discuss. All right?" Sage gave a quick nod, then let out a heavy sigh of relief as Michael let go of her arm and stepped back. She pulled herself into a sitting position and rubbed her sore arm, glaring up at Michael warily. "So it's not her?" Gen asked as Michael walked to the kitchen table and leaned on the surface not far from her. "Of course it is," he replied. What the hell? "But you just beat her; I thought the warrior—" "It's her." Sage stood up slowly, still gripping her arm, and her gaze went over each one of them. "This doesn't make any sense." "What doesn't?" Michael asked. "You...no one beats me. Ever." "You're faster than me," Michael agreed, "and you're more agile, probably just as strong, and your instinct borders on precognition. You're just not as skilled...yet." "But...but I've been doing this for years—" "I've been doing it longer." Meredith vacated her chair as Sage walked over then she went to get the exhausted girl a bottle of water. "So it is her?" Genevieve asked, thoroughly confused at this point. Michael nodded, his gaze still on Sage. "What's me?" Sage asked, her impatience growing. Neither Michael nor Meredith seemed about to explain, and since she found Sage's eyes on her, Gen realized with a sinking feeling that this task was being left up to her. I hate you, Michael. "Okay...there's no easy way to say this," Gen began, really wishing someone else would do it for her. She glanced to her companions, but both appeared to waiting for her to continue. "Alrighty then, essentially there are these people who are all coming together with special abilities and they're going to play some important role in the apocalypse. You're one of them—the fighty one, to be precise." Sage looked at each of them again strangely. "I know, it's weird and crazy, but that's why those guys attacked you after Levi's game the other night, so you're just going to have to trust us on this one." The warrior herself seemed to ponder this for a moment, her gaze sliding over the others. At last she nodded. "Okay." Huh? "Okay?" Gen repeated. "Just like that? You're fine with all that?" Sage shrugged. "Makes sense." "But..." God, was Genevieve the only sane one here? She sighed and flopped down onto the chair next to her. "Oh, forget it."
Skyla Dawn Cameron Meredith explained in more detail, touching on all the things she and Michael said to Gen the day before. When she finished, Sage just nodded again, as if she couldn't imagine a more rational explanation for it all. "So why is she here?" Sage asked, gesturing in Gen's direction. What a bitch. "She has a name," Genevieve answered for them. "Gen's the witch," Meredith replied. Sage looked Genevieve up and down, clearly skeptical. "Now that I do find difficult to believe." "Something still doesn't make sense to me," Gen directed to Michael. "Why is she able to beat those guys without getting a scratch, meanwhile you got all banged up, but you still beat Sage? I know what you said about testing us, but I still don't see why the four of them would just stand there and get their asses handed to them—" "They did what they were told to do," Meredith spoke up, and all eyes went her way. "They only do what they're told to." "But I gotta agree," Sage said. "That doesn't seem right—" "I saw it," Merri said quietly. She dropped her eyes. "Saw it in them when they came after me. They're like machines now...and they're just waiting for their orders. They tested you Sage. If they had actually been instructed to kill you, you probably wouldn't be alive now." In watching Sage digest this information, Gen wasn't sure if the girl really believed that bit or not. Whether it was arrogance or just confidence, Gen couldn't say, but Sage hardly seemed prepared to accept that the only reason she won a fight was because her opponent more or less allowed her to. "This is why we need to get started immediately," Michael said. "All of you do. We can't afford to waste time." Sage glanced down at her watch and frowned. "That's great, but I was serious about having to go. I'm already late for my class—" "Cancel it," Michael said. "I can't—" "Cancel it," he said again. Gen inched back a bit in her chair as the tension between Sage and Michael became palpable. This was one fight she didn't want to get into. "I can't cancel it," she said coldly. "Do you have any idea how long it took me to find a Muay Thai class that I could get to easily? Or how difficult it was for me to sneak out today to go to it?" "No, and I don't care." "What can you possibly teach me that…" "Kenjutsu." Sage stared at him, disbelieving, and Gen couldn't help but feel she was missing some vital bit of information they both knew that she didn’t. "You can't be serious," Sage said at last. In response, Michael stood and walked to the weapons cabinet Genevieve had looked into the day before. He pulled out a katana, walked to Sage, and handed her
Children of the Apocalypse the blade to look over. She studied the sword for a moment then looked at him skeptically. "I wish I could have the sword," Gen leaned over and whispered to Merri. It seemed like Sage got all the cool stuff, which was seeming less and less fair as the discussion went on. "Maybe you'll get fireballs," Merri replied with a sly grin. "Now that would be cool." "This is for real?" Sage asked, handing the sword back. "You know kenjutsu?" Michael nodded. "And I'll teach you, as well as anything else I know." Sage mulled over this for a moment. "I want to keep my Muay Thai class too, though. It's only one afternoon a week." After a moment, Michael agreed. "All right then." *~*~* Sage was almost relieved to skip her afternoon class, because that meant heading to Hayden's home earlier than expected. She crept down the staircase to the basement, knowing by heart all the spots on the steps that created the most noise and avoiding them so he wouldn't hear her coming. After slipping through the short hallway, she paused outside the basement room where a couch and T.V. was set up. Hayden sat on the floor, back against the couch, X-Box controller in hand, focused intently on the images that played on the screen. She watched him for a moment, not yet ready to announce her arrival, and smiling to herself. He was so different from her—a polar opposite, even—and yet she couldn't imagine being with anyone else. After an incredibly strange couple of days that seemed surreal to her now, Sage could take a deep breath, let it out, and will it all to disappear. Strange guys following her. Michael. Bizarre tales of apocalypses. The involvement of that obnoxious friend of Levi's. But with all that gone, there was still something that remained; the promise of something she wasn't sure she'd ever have... Purpose. Meaning. A reason for being the way that she is. Hayden loved her more than she'd ever thought possible, and probably more than she deserved, but that was the only thing he could never give her. Years of feeling there was something more, something she knew was there but couldn’t see, and now this. "You going to just stand there all day?" Hayden called, not taking his eyes from the screen. "Why do you always know I'm there?" she said with a sigh as she walked over. She dropped to the floor next to him and sat cross-legged. "My mutant mental powers, of course. You're around early." "Change in my schedule. So what's up this afternoon?" He waited until he had finished killing some aliens, then put Halo on pause. "Heard Uwe Boll is making another film, so I was preparing voodoo dolls." "How's that working out for you?" "Haven't heard any cheers in the streets yet, so I'm guessing not well. Oooh, and this morning I unlocked Princess Kitana's second outfit for you."
Skyla Dawn Cameron Sage rolled her eyes. "Guess I'll have to play now." "Hey, maybe you'll win this time." She couldn't explain it, but for some reason she was incapable of playing fighting games. Take on a group of men with weapons in real life? Sure. No problem there. But defeat Hayden when he was playing as Shang Tsung? Impossible. Hayden returned his attention to the game, went through a couple different screens, then passed Sage the second controller. "Here, you can help me." Sage muttered under her breath, but picked up the controller anyway. She looked at the T.V., but it being a first person game, she couldn't figure out which character was hers in the split screen. "Which one is me?" "Bottom of the screen." She could see her own character in Hayden's window. "You gave me pink armour?" "It's light-ish red. Now come on, we've got aliens to kill." "How do I do this again?" "Stop stalling. Just start shooting." He ran ahead, while her light-ish red guy stayed hiding behind a rock. "C'mon," he teased. "You can do it. Take a deep breath and just yell 'Leeeeeroy Jenkins!'" "What?" "I seriously need to nerd you up one of these days," he replied with a sigh. She tried—with little success—to involve herself in the game, but thirty seconds after she started playing, her character was brutally killed by a grenade. Sage could merely sit back and wait for Hayden to re-spawn her character, but a better idea entered her mind then. She slid her arm over his shoulder and gave his ear a playful nip. "Hey..." He tried to lean out of her grasp while maintaining his winning streak onscreen, but that resulted in his character slipping over a cliff. "You're not content to just lose peacefully and be a good sport?" he said with a sigh as he tossed the controller down. "It's just I can think of more than a few things we could be doing instead." She grinned, and he eagerly met her lips as she leaned in to kiss him. Sage fell back on her elbows under his weight, happy any gaming attempts were forgotten, and content to lose herself—and memories of her rather surreal day—in him. "Bow-chica-bow-wow!" Sage gritted her teeth at the voice coming from the doorway. What the hell was he doing home?! Hayden's hand, which had been dragging up the hem of her t-shirt, paused heavily on her bare skin for a moment then reluctantly smoothed the material out. He sat up with an audible sigh. Annoyed, Sage did the same and crossed her arms over her chest, not even glancing in hello at Levi, who slouched in the doorway to the basement.
Children of the Apocalypse "There are several rooms in this house that have doors," Levi informed them, as if they didn't already know. "You couldn't pick one of those ones for your NC17rated adventures?" "Maybe you could mind your own business and stay out of the room when you see people otherwise engaged?" Sage snapped. Generally, she didn't usually say two words to Levi, so her sudden outburst caused a look of confusion from Hayden. A distant buzzer sounded, interrupting the tension in the room. "And that would be the laundry," Hayden said as he stood. "Fabric softener time." As he disappeared into the laundry room at the end of the hall, Sage stood as well and tried to follow. No way was she waiting in the awkwardness of the rec room for him to return. Levi stepped in front her, however, blocking her from going any further down the hallway. While she felt confident she could put him through the drywall if necessary, she stopped long enough to see if he'd move on his own after she issued a warning. "Please, get out of my way," she said, making no attempt to hide her annoyance. "We gotta talk about the other night," Levi said, in a voice loud enough for Sage to glance behind him at the laundry room in concern. She hadn't breathed a word about that night to Hayden, and she didn't plan to. "There's nothing to talk about," she hissed. "But who were those guys?" Levi lowered his voice to just above a whisper. "It doesn't concern you, so just forget it!" She tried to move past him, but he grabbed her arm to halt her. Sage glared up at him, immediately tensing up at his touch. "Sage—" She wrenched her arm from his grasp and pushed him out of her way. "Does Hayden know?" She spun on her heels to face him. "Know what, exactly?" "That...that you can do all that..." "It's not important." "But—" "Leave it alone, Levi!" "Hey, hey," Hayden interrupted, returning from the laundry room. Sage sank gratefully against him as his arm encircled her waist, her anger dissipating. "You two look ready to kill one another." "It's nothing," Sage said before Levi could comment. She turned to Hayden with a bright smile, attempting to forget her exchange with his brother seconds ago. "Want to head upstairs now? Perhaps to one of those nifty rooms with doors?" "I know just the one—it even has a lock." Sage happily left Levi behind in the basement, her hand in Hayden's as they raced up the steps to the main level. Though she expected they'd head to his room on the second floor, he pulled her into the kitchen instead. "I don't think this actually has a door," she began. "What was that all about?" he asked in all seriousness.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "What was what about?" Though she'd never been good at playing dumb, it was particularly difficult with Hayden. He usually saw through it, and this was no exception. "Your rather heated exchange with my brother. What was that about?" "Nothing," she said, perhaps too quickly. "He just...I didn't stick around after his game the other day, and I think he was a little pissed about it." It was clear from his expression he didn't believe her. What precisely he thought she was lying about, she couldn't be sure. Should he call her bluff, she didn't have a clue what she'd tell him, but she breathed with relief as he finally sighed and nodded. "Guess that's the last time I'll ask you to do that, then." He grinned. "Now let's find that door with a lock."
am just saying that, logically, it's not something chicks should be allowed to do." Levi put up his hands defensively, as if that would do anything to shield him from Stephie smacking his arm or Gen tossing fries at him. "That is the most ridiculous, sexist bullshit I've ever heard!" Stephie said. "The only reason guys do it is because they can't get a girl to do it for them. Girls, on the other hand, will have no such problem finding a guy to help with such a problem, which is why there's no compelling, rational reason for a female to masturbate." "There is if she wants it done right," Stephie countered with a grin. "How did we get on this conversation?" Gen said. "Well," Stephie started. "I called Levi a jerk-off, and you decided to question why no one ever calls girls that. So it's your fault." "Then I'm deciding that we're dropping the topic while I'm eating." Gen followed her request with a sigh, then dropped her half-eaten fries to the ground beside her. Nothing like the mental images said conversation was conjuring up to completely ruin her appetite. Thankfully, Hayden arrived—with a reluctant Sage in tow—which distracted Levi long enough that he forgot what they had been discussing. Though Hayden sat down, ready to spend the rest of the lunch hour with those sitting in the stairwell, Sage didn't join him. Instead, her gaze went to Genevieve. Gen knew that look. God, the girl was obsessive; she'd probably end up dropping out of school if she thought she could get away with it, all in the name of "training." Gen got exhausted just watching her some days. "I thought we could skip this afternoon and head to the library to do some studying," Sage suggested pointedly.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Genevieve shrugged. Whatever. Like any of their "studying" was doing her any good. But by not showing up, she'd only give Michael an excuse to criticize her lack of progress even more, so she gathered her things. "I have to drop some things off at my locker," Sage said, shifting at Levi's notably steady gaze. "I'll meet you outside." After giving Hayden a quick peck and promising to call him later, she didn't seem able to get out of the stairwell fast enough. "You're studying with Sage?" Levi said immediately, rightly confused with how absurd the concept sounded. Genevieve herself wondered on more than one occasion what Sage was thinking coming up with that one. "She said she's tutoring you in Chemistry, right?" Hayden asked. Goddamn it, Gen wished she could just tell everyone the truth. Now not only were her own lies making her sound like an idiot, but Sage's were as well. "Yeah, Chemistry," she agreed as she stood and prepared to leave. She waved a goodbye and started for the main doors, which led to the parking lot. "Gen..." She turned to see Hayden jogging after her. His usual grin was gone, a look of concern in its place. "What's up?" Gen asked. "Did Sage happen to tell you where that new dojo is?" Gen hoped she didn't appear quite as startled as she felt. "Hmm?" "I guess she wouldn't..." Hayden stared off in space for a moment, thinking, though of what, Gen couldn't tell. "It just sounds like Sensei Michael has her on a strict schedule or something. I've barely seen her all week." Shit! Sensei Michael? What the hell had she been telling Hayden?! "I haven't heard anything about it." Please don't let the words, "I'm a big fat liar!" be written across my forehead right now... "Okay then. I just thought...I don't know, that maybe I could talk to the guy or something, just to let him know she needs a break now and then." Because that will go over really well with Michael, Gen thought. "If she tells me anything, I'll let you know," she said instead. He gave a sad smile, and Gen felt genuinely bad for him. Under any other circumstances, she wouldn't want even the slightest involvement in Sage's life outside of what was required of her, but she liked Hayden; Gen was definitely bringing this up to Sage later.
"So he thinks something's up?" Sage said after Gen's long summary of speaking to Hayden earlier. Of course, trust Sage to throw all of the delicacy and sensitivity of the talk out the window, and boil it down to something like that. "He's concerned," Gen corrected her. "I take it you haven't seen him in awhile?" "I've had to get spare time to train from somewhere. It's not that I see him any less, it's just now I'm not even around when he calls."
Children of the Apocalypse "He also asked about Michael—what the hell have you been telling him?" "Just that I found a new sensei to teach me sword arts. I did lie about the kenjutsu part though—I don’t want him looking that up and getting worried, so if he asks you, tell him it's kendo." "What's the difference?" "The one I'm doing is highly combative. It's the closest to actual warrior training you'll find anymore." "And that's a bad thing?" "It is if your mother is mine. Aikido and Tai Chi were okay because she thinks they're all self-defense, and Hayden agrees with her. If either of them learn I'm doing sword fighting, I'll be in for it." So, in actuality the warrior wasn't allowed to be a warrior...pity Gen's parents couldn't forbid anything on the witch front—at least then she'd have an excuse. "Well, he seems worried already, and I'm not going to remember anything you've just told me, so you'd better tell him something yourself." Not a word passed between the two of them for the rest of the trek to Michael's, except for Sage's occasional muttering about Gen being incapable of jogging, and how they would already be there if she'd just hurry up. Next time, either I'll wait and walk with Merri, or just go alone, Gen thought as at last they reached Michael's front door. No way was she putting up with another half hour walk with Mini-Michael. Once they were inside, Sage went immediately into the back room to change. During the past week, she followed that routine without exception: she showed up, changed into her worn, loose-fitting karate uniform, then did her stretches and waited for Michael's instruction. She said little to Gen and Merri in that time, and it wasn't until the end of the evening, when her "class" was over, that she uttered any word to either of them, though that was something Gen considered to be her good fortune. Her luck didn't extend to Michael ignoring her as well, however. "You were supposed to be here last night," he barked just as she set down her messenger bag on the kitchen table. "Well, I'm here early today to make up for it." Really, that kind of logical thing would only ever escape him. "And at least I'm here—I don't see Meredith around anywhere." "She's meditating in the other room." Well then, that should teach me not to try to make myself look better by bringing down others. Or, rather, it should teach her not to bother when Michael was concerned. She avoided his gaze—which she admitted was childish, but he really tended to bring that out in her—and waited for whatever instructions he had for her. It was because she wasn't looking at him that she had no warning as he slammed an object down on the table in front of her. She flinched, but immediately regretted it as it gave him another source of amusement at her expense. On the scratched wooden table, just a foot in front of her, was a white pillar candle. Oh God, not again...
Skyla Dawn Cameron Michael lit the wick then returned his lighter to his pocket. "You will put that out today." Sure, she could put it out...if he let her use a candle snuffer or something. But that wasn't what he wanted; he insisted she ought to be able to magically make the thing extinguish solely using her mind. She'd been trying to do it since Sunday evening. Now it was Thursday, and she was no closer than she had been a week ago. "Maybe I should try something else instead," she said. "Like?" "Like I could try lighting a candle. Maybe that's easier." "You think I'm going to let you learn how to start a fire without knowing how to put it out first?" "Well...you could get a fire extinguisher?" In response, he turned around and left her in the kitchen to attend to his star pupil, who seemed to have finished her warm-up stretches. And so I spend the rest of the day doing this, she thought, staring at the stupid candle flame. Michael had to be insane. There was no way she could do this... Gen glanced at her watch. Perhaps she could leave early and be home for dinner, which would mean only...god, another five hours to go. "You're not leaving until you've put that candle out," Michael called from across the room, somehow knowing her thoughts once again. You can do this Gen. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind, like he told her. Deep breath in. Lungs filling. Diaphragm expanding. Hold the breath, clear the mind. Exhale slowly. Let the flame extinguish... She opened her eyes. The wick was still lit. I really can't do this. For the next few hours, Gen occasionally snuck glances at Sage's training, which seemed to be going far better than her own. She didn't get a sword yet—apparently that came after time. Instead she got a stick, which she used when she practiced a series of movements again and again. Michael snapped orders. Corrected her when needed. Barely offered any praise, but Sage never made a single complaint. She always did what was asked, always showed him the utmost respect, and even bowed before and after every session. No wonder he doesn't like me if that's the kind of stupid behaviour he's expecting. Gen went back to staring at her candle. "Nothing happened yet?" Genevieve started at the sound of Meredith's voice beside her. Damn, that girl could be quiet when she wanted to be... "Nope. I think I officially suck at this." Merri pulled up a chair. "So there's not even a flicker?" "If I shift the table, yeah. Otherwise, it's super flamey as always. Maybe it's one of those trick candles or something." "And he didn't give you anything else to work on? Just—" "Just the candle," Gen finished for her. "Not even a book about stuff to read?"
Children of the Apocalypse "Just the stupid fucking candle. Ideally, I'd like to throw a fireball or shoot lightning, but he said I can't do that." "That would be cool," Merri agreed. "So what are you doing instead?" Gen sighed heavily, causing the pathetic candle flame to flicker, but not go out. "He said I'm supposed to be learning something about controlling the elements." "Elements as in fire, water, air, and that?" "Probably, but I asked if we would be starting with hydrogen, or if helium might be a bit safer." Merri stifled a laugh. "What did he say?" "He threw a book at me." "A book?" "A book." "Which one?" "I didn't bother checking, though it was a hardcover. I was going to throw it back at him, but he still had that sword training stick of Sage's, so I decided against attempting violence." "Merri," Michael called. "Leave her alone—she's busy." "Jesus, she's probably exhausted!" Merri shot back. "She needs a break." Though "she" can speak for herself, I think I'll leave this one to Meredith, Gen thought. "I'm not having this discussion with you. Leave her alone." Though Gen hoped Merri would protest some more, instead she stood and didn't say another word about it. "Everyone's probably starving," she said instead. "I'm putting something on for dinner." Genevieve scanned her watch. It was almost six—when the hell did that happen? "I can't stay—I've got to eat at home at least one day this week." Gen picked up her messenger bag again, preparing to go. "First of all, you ate at home yesterday when you weren't here," Michael informed her matter-of-factly. "Touché," she replied. "But still—" "Second of all, you're not leaving that table until you put that candle out. Merri, dinner can wait." Slave driver. Meredith sent an apologetic smile Gen's way, then left the kitchen and went to sit on the couch. This is so stupid. I can't do this. Anyone else would see her lack of progress and admit that Gen wasn't in fact the special person they were looking for. Anyone but Michael. Instead, the more she disagreed, the more insistent he had become. Just make the candle go out, Gen. Piece of cake. Then maybe you can go home... She snuck a glance at the others. Sage and Michael were practising synchronized movements together, while Merri watched on without comment. No one was looking at Genevieve... With a swift exhale of breath, she blew out the candle, then sat back in her chair and pretended to be pleased with herself.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Okay, I did it!" she announced. Michael looked to her and she gestured to the candle. Bad enough I have to lie to everyone I know and actually like...it's time Michael join that club too. "See, it's out. You were right, I just needed to—" Michael stormed over to her, green eyes blazing and lips set in a straight line. Gen shrank back against her chair, as if it could somehow protect her. "Do us both a favour," he said as he stopped next to the table, glaring down at her. "And don't lie to me." "I-I didn't." There's no fucking way he can tell! "I was just concentrating and—" She jumped as he slammed his hand down suddenly on the table in front of her, then she stared, eyes fixed on his fingers, as he scratched at the wood near the candle. Some white flakes were left. "See that?" he said. "Splattered wax from when you blew out the candle." He lit the wick again and returned to Sage, sending a, "I don't want to hear from you until you put that out for real," over his shoulder. Gen slumped down in her chair, tears blurring her eyes. She could try it again, being careful not to get any wax on the table this time, but what was the point? Obviously, he didn't believe her. So what the hell was she going to do? Just sit around here for the next few days, or weeks, or months or whatever, until he finally realized she didn't know what she was doing? Arguing won't do any good, said her rational mind. And arguing with him wasn't exactly fun either. She could wait it out, avoiding confrontations for a bit longer, then she'd go home and not come back here again. Ever. He couldn't force her. Besides, she was only here because he'd scared her into it. Who's to say any of his stories were true? Sure, she had Levi's word that he'd seen the event with Sage. But what other evidence had there been? Meredith? What the hell had she actually done, that Gen had seen? And even if it all was true, so what if some supposed assassins thought she was this magical person? They had Sage and Meredith now too. They'd be too distracted to pay any attention to her, and Michael seemed more than capable of taking care of them. If they ever did come near her, she'd just call the cops or something... "Close your eyes and focus," Michael called to her. She glanced at him, but he wasn't even looking her way; he was busy with Sage. Of course. Perfect Sage. Christ, why the hell did she have to be so annoying? "Focus!" he barked again. Her anger building, she squeezed her eyes shut. Don't get mad, don't get mad... She took a deep breath, but it didn't help her. Let my mind rest... No thoughts. No emotions. Focus on the breathing. Breath in. Breath out. Relax the muscles... But nothing was happening. Nothing would ever happen, because this was a complete waste of time. "You know what...this is fucking useless!" Gen shouted, surprising even herself with the outburst. She stood up suddenly, her chair scraping on the hardwood. Michael, probably sensing she was seriously nearing the end of what she would take, stopped what he was doing with Sage and turned to face her. Meredith stood and walked towards Gen, preparing once again to attempt to calm her down
Children of the Apocalypse "Actually, you are fucking useless," Michael said. "There's a difference." "When are you going to get it through your head that I can't do this?! You keep telling me that I need to learn, because some people are coming to kill me, but what good is blowing out a candle with my mind going to do to stop them? Hmm? Nothing!" "She's right," Sage spoke up. "None of that is going to help her, at least not short term." I can't believe Sage, of all people, is actually defending me... "Merri too," Sage continued. "I mean, let's face it, if anyone—even your everyday mugger—comes after them, they're both dead. Just look at them; they're weak." "Okay Sage, you can stop helping me now," Gen said. "I assume you have a suggestion, then?" Michael directed to Sage. "Yeah. I teach them to defend themselves. Just basic stuff, for maybe an hour a day." "And you think that's going to help them? How exactly?" Merri had inched a bit closer to Genevieve and the two of them watched Michael and Sage's rather insulting discussion of them. "I liked it better when she wasn't trying to help us," Gen whispered. "Think of it this way; at least we might get swords." Merri grinned. "Awesome." "At the very least, they'll have confidence," Sage continued. "Yeah—false confidence, which is incredibly dangerous," Michael pointed out. "But confidence is also encouraging, and maybe you'll get more out of Gen if she's feeling more secure." "Excuse me, but I'm perfectly secure," Gen cut in. "I'm just...incredibly incompetent." "Or maybe you're not incompetent, you're just too insecure to see that," Meredith suggested. "Hey, he doesn't need any help, so don't start backing them up," Gen said. "And I don't see how any of this is going to make a difference either—I can't even hope to match these other people's skills, like ever." Whether it was because he agreed with Sage's idea, or he just didn’t like Gen agreeing with him anymore, Genevieve couldn't be sure. But Michael relented, and nodded his consent. "They're all yours."
Any relief Gen might have felt in the fact that Sage would be working with them rather than Michael was short lived; Sage wasn't any fun either. She also decided the best idea would be to work with Merri herself, and pair Gen with Michael for demonstrations. "First, I'm going to tell you the most important thing about self defense," Sage began.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Oh, I know this one," Gen spoke up. "It's 'SING.'" "Excuse me?" "You know...solar plexus, instep, nose, and groin. Hit those, and it's all good. S.I.N.G." A look of abject disgust crossed Sage's face, which immediately made Gen wish she could go back to staring at the candle. "That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard," Sage said. "Where the hell did you get that from?" "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous." "My first piece of advice is to stop watching lame Sandra Bullock movies then." "Excuse me, but While You Were Sleeping was a really good movie—" "And next, I'd advise you to stop interrupting me." Genevieve went silent while she waited for Sage to continue. "Okay," Sage said, "the most important thing you can remember is to always run. Not fighting should be your top priority." "Rightly so," Gen agreed. "Also, know your environment and use it to your advantage, but we'll get to that later. Now, if fighting is unavoidable, and you're going to go for one place in particular when attacked, and you're stuck with close range, I'd go with the eyes." "The eyes?" Gen was already horrified at the thought. "While poking them will work, it's far more effective to drive the thumbs under the eye then hook them—" "Oh, God, I'm going to be sick..."
Though Genevieve didn't actually throw up, fifteen minutes later—after hearing a thorough explanation of the eyes and the best way to blind a person—she hadn't yet ruled out the possibility. "Besides blinding people, what do we need to remember then?" Merri asked. "Use the stronger parts of your body against the weaker parts of your opponent's. For example..." She grabbed Merri's arm, and gestured for Michael to do the same with Gen. "I don't trust him," Gen immediately announced as Michael took a too-tight grip on her arm. "And you shouldn't," he replied. "I'm your attacker in this scenario." "Shut up and watch, Gen," Sage cut in. Genevieve bit her tongue after that. "So, someone grabs your arm. Pretty common. Try pulling away and see how tough it is." Neither Merri nor Gen could break loose, though given their "attackers" it was to be expected. "Your own arm is incredibly strong, however—you just need to use it against something of your opponent's that is weak. Instead of trying to pull free against
Children of the Apocalypse your attackers four fingers, which grouped together put up a lot of resistance, bring it against their thumb..." Sage had Meredith demonstrate, yanking her arm against Sage's thumb, and freeing herself immediately. Gen tried the same thing. Michael seemed to tighten his grip instead of letting go. "He's cheating," Gen declared. She wasn't sure precisely how he might have been cheating, but she was certain he must have been since this simple task couldn't be merely chalked up to her incompetence. "I'm not cheating." "He's cheating—I can't get loose." "Maybe you're just weak?" "This isn't fair—I should have the element of surprise or something, right?" "You think if you just point out that fact, a mugger is going to apologize and be sure not to grab you so hard?" "Can I gouge out his eyes yet?" "Okay, both of you shut the hell up!" Sage snapped. She caught Michael's eye then, and bowed her head. "Sorry, Sensei Michael. Genevieve, you shut the hell up." "That's better," Michael agreed. "You know, Miss Congeniality was so much more fun than this," Gen muttered stubbornly.
By the time eight o'clock rolled around, Gen knew for sure she, once again, wouldn't be home for dinner. First she phoned her parents to say she was at the library, then she ordered take out because, in her opinion, Michael's refrigerator was seriously lacking. That didn't actually mean they would be taking a break, however— Sage, though frustrated, insisted they continue, and Michael was far too amused to tell her otherwise. "You know, I don't actually object to you going home to eat," Michael revealed as they practiced to get out of a neck hold. "This isn't a social gathering; if you're not working, you shouldn't be here." "So I'm not expected to get dinner until I go home at what, ten o'clock? You're insane, and you're so paying when the food gets here." "How about I pay if you can get me to let go before dinner is delivered?" he suggested. At that, Michael held his arm tighter, and Gen was certain he was close to crushing her windpipe. "Sage," she gasped. "Help." A glance of her dark eyes their way, and Sage shook her head. "Help yourself." Bitch. Rationally, Genevieve knew it was only a simple practice session, but as her airway was constricted even more, she began to panic. He was exceptionally strong—his grip was like an iron vice and he didn't seem to have a sense of what
Skyla Dawn Cameron was appropriate for this sort of informal training session, nor did he have any consideration for his opponent. Gen's mind blanked on everything that Sage had been talking about for the past two hours and her next actions were based on instinct; she twisted and struggled, which just made her dizzy. Though she elbowed him hard in the ribs, it was like hitting a brick wall, and he didn't flinch. She tried to hit the solar plexus, but with him located behind her, she didn't have a clue precisely where that spot was. Sensing her distress, Sage left Merri and calmly looked Genevieve in the eye. "Stop panicking and give yourself a moment to think." Gen's eyes got huge. She was supposed to think? To calm down? Christ, she wouldn't be able to breathe in a second— "Genevieve, stop struggling," Sage continued, prepared to talk her through it. "Think. What of his is weak right now?" Gen tried to drive her heel into his groin, but he was prepared for that and she missed. She swung her fist back towards his nose, though she missed as her hand went straight through the air. Stomping on his instep didn't seem to help either. Sage shook her head. "Jesus, forget Sandra Bullock already!" "But she's..." Gen sucked in a short breath of air. "...cute." "C'mon, something you can see, Gen—something easy to reach. Just think." By now Gen was positive her face was bright red and she no doubt looked ridiculous, but Michael wasn't letting her go and breathing wasn't getting any easier. Her hands flew to his arm, where she clawed and tore at his skin, but still he didn't release her. Weakness, weakness... Her hands slid along his arms to his hands to where she felt his calloused fingers. Weakness. She grabbed his pinky finger and yanked it backward until he let out a yelp and loosened his hold on her. Next, she dropped to her knees and slipped out of his grip, then scampered across the floor away from him. Adrenaline rushed through her veins and her heart pounded as she grinned. "Ha! How was that?" "Great," Michael said without smiling then he pointed to the kitchen. "Now get over there and put out the candle." "Oh, you are such a sore loser—" Someone knocked on the door. "—which is why I think you should go pay for dinner now." Michael rolled his eyes, but didn't argue. At least he was honest about a deal being a deal. He pulled out his wallet and stalked towards the door. "Oh my god, did you see that?" Gen turned her grin toward Sage and Meredith, neither of whom looked anywhere near as impressed as she herself felt. "I'm awesome." "You would have blacked out in that time if he'd actually tried to hurt you," Sage said doubtfully. "You have to think faster." "Whatever. Meredith was impressed, weren't you Mer?"
Children of the Apocalypse Merri didn't answer, and Gen was about to prompt her again when she caught the strange look on the girl's face. She stared at the floor, auburn brows pulled into a frown, and shoulders turned inward, as if she was tensing for a hit. "Merri?" Gen said again. After a few seconds, her hazel gaze drifted upward to meet Gen's. Her eyes glimmered in the light strangely. "Sorry, I...it's...I don't know..." Just as Michael opened the front door, Meredith's eyes got wide in understanding, and she turned his way. "Michael!" Two quiet "pops" sounded, and at the front door Gen caught sight of Michael hitting the wall by the door and slumping to the ground. With two bullet wounds in his chest and blood drenching his shirt, he didn't seem conscious and she wasn't sure if he ever would be again. Her gaze instantly travelled to the familiar man at the door, who fired another bullet into Michael, then turned his gun in the girls' direction. Heart pounding, Gen couldn't think to move, and it was only Sage's tug on her arm that drew her to the floor behind the couch and kept her from being shot. Three more bullets struck the far wall behind them, and another drove the punching bag, spilling sand across the hardwood. The events seemed to register in Gen's brain long after they actually occurred, and she took a moment to breathe and try to think. Maybe the police would come— someone had to have heard the gunfire...no, wait, he had a silencer. So no police. Maybe they could get to a phone? Gen remembered her own mobile was still in her bag, which rested on the kitchen table about thirty feet away. Michael's phone was also in the kitchen. She didn’t know if Sage or Merri had a cell phone, but— Her eyes scanned everywhere she could see from her vantage point, but there was only Sage crouched beside her, lost in thought. Meredith was nowhere in sight, but Gen hadn't seen her go anywhere. What if she had been shot? It would be okay, though. Michael...he could do something... No...Michael was dead. Dead. At this point, he was the only real hope they had, and now the three of them were alone, and... Slow, deliberate footfalls struck the bare hardwood floor and Gen squeezed her eyes shut, tears spilling onto her cheeks. Oh God...
iding behind the couch and out of view of her potential murderer, Genevieve expected the first sensation she felt would be the bullet striking her. She sat there, tensed, waiting for it to hit, wondering if it might be quick and hit her somewhere vital, or if it would take a few shots in her arms and legs before she finally bled out and died. She waited for the pain and fire to tell her it was over. Instead, she felt Sage shaking her arm. Gen opened her eyes to see Sage looking at her. Sage pressed her fingers to her lips, motioning for her to be quiet. Great, and what the hell else did she expect her to do? Start shouting? Swiftly, Sage started mouthing words, and it took all of Gen's focus to figure out what she was saying. At last she understood, and immediately wished she didn't. Distract him. Distract him?! Sage was mad. She had to be. Why would she ask her to do that? What was she supposed to do? Melt his icy heart with a warm island song? Gen shrugged, horrified that this task was being left up to her, but Sage waved at her impatiently, then pulled herself into a crouch and faced the broken punching bag. Distraction, distraction... Not even being able to magically blow out a candle with her mind would come in handy right now. Hanging over her shoulder, Gen caught sight of her long blonde braid and, more importantly, the hair band that held the bottom. If years of shooting elastics back and forth in class with Levi when their teacher's back was turned had taught her anything, it was that they could be pretty damn distracting. She tore the elastic from her hair just as she heard the gunman draw closer, then she yanked it between her index finger and thumb, and sent the thing flying over the
Children of the Apocalypse couch and towards the right wall. The elastic struck the brick, and she heard feet shuffle as the noise startled their assailant. At that moment, Sage took her cue and leapt toward the punching bag. With a speed and grace Gen wouldn't have believed had she not see it firsthand, Sage took a handful of sand from the floor and flung it at the gunman. Gen snuck a glance over the couch to see the man reach for his eyes and stumble backward, the sand having temporarily blinded him. His next few bullets missed Sage entirely as she hopped over the couch to face him. Unable to see much of the action from her vantage point, Gen slid across the floor and around the side of the couch to watch the fight unfold. Though Sage managed to kick his gun from his hand, the assailant recovered quickly. Regaining his sight, the man threw a series of punching combos at her, which she could do little to block or avoid. She pivoted out his reach, but ended up backed against the couch, and in seconds his hands were around her throat, squeezing. She kicked at him and tore at his arms, but his face showed no sign of pain—only annoyance. He kept one hand on her throat, tightening his grip to the point she gasped and her eyes nearly popped from her skull, then grabbed her wrist with his other hand and wrenched it in a twist. Sage might have screamed if any sound could breach the stop on her windpipe. Gen looked around wildly, hoping to find something that might help— something to hit the guy with or throw at him in distraction, but this time a hair elastic definitely wouldn't be doing it... The sound of gunfire ceased her search, and she turned to see what had happened. Please don't let there be any more of those guys... But no, they were still alone, only now blood was splattered across Sage's face and upper body, and the assassin slumped to the floor in front of her. There were two bloody holes in his head. Both Gen and Sage stared transfixed on the image of Merri standing in the middle of the staircase that lead up the loft, a gun held expertly in her two hands and pointed at the unmoving corpse. "Shit," Gen muttered. She looked from Merri to the dead guy, then to Merri again. "You killed him." Meredith walked down the stairs without a word, her face emotionless as she stopped next to the body of their former attacker, and emptied three more bullets into him. She flicked on the gun's safety and rested it on the back of the couch, then regarded Gen with a steady, cold gaze. "Yeah, and we should probably move him before much more blood stains the floor." It was about then that Genevieve's nerves finally snapped. "I don't...I just can't...this is insane—we were just shot at, then you killed a guy and there's blood everywhere and Michael's dead. I just can't—" "Michael's not dead," Merri cut in. "He was shot three times—" "He's not dead."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "No," Michael called from where he still sat against the wall. "But thanks to all of you for checking on me after dispatching of the threat." Sage looked just as shook up as Gen felt, but she regained herself quickly and ran over to Michael's side, along with Meredith, to help him stand. Gen was too busy staring at the dead guy on the floor to think to help. He was dead. Granted, he was trying to kill them, so it wasn't like she would be mourning him, but...but still, a strange sickness overcame her, and as she wrapped her arms across her chest, she realized she was shaking. The others brought Michael over to sit on the couch while Gen paced back and forth across the floor, the speed of her stride increasing as she went. She was nearly frantic by the time Sage grabbed her arm and pulled her to a halt. "Jesus, Genevieve, would you calm down—" "No!" Gen yanked her arm from Sage's grasp and spun to face her. "I won't calm down!" Under normal circumstances, she would hate to cry in front of any of these people, but she was too upset to think to be embarrassed, and the tears flowed freely from her eyes. "I shouldn't be calm right now! Am I the only sane one around here?" "Look," Sage said, her hand shaking a little as she ran it through her dark braids. "We'll get him to the hospital and we'll figure this out—" "I'm not going to a hospital," Michael said. Gen took a moment to look over where he'd been shot. One bullet clipped him in the upper arm, the other in the shoulder, while the third was the only one to actually hit him in the chest. Still, there was a hell of a lot of blood there, and with his pained expression, it wasn't hard to assume he was hurting. "You look like you need to go to the hospital," Sage said. "Someone show's up shot, they immediately call the police," Merri said. "No hospital." "And you don't think the dead guy on the floor won't attract the cops too?" Gen shouted. "Not with a silencer on the gun, but your yelling might," Michael barked. "So shut up already." "Shut up?! Fuck, we just got shot at and you're almost dead but still as unpleasant as ever and Merri killed a guy and Sage was almost strangled and—" "First, we need to get the body out of here," Michael said to the others, ignoring Gen for the time being. "Merri, get something to wrap him in and bring my car around to the front door." Meredith nodded and disappeared into a back room without argument. "Wait, we're disposing of a body now?" Gen said. Michael shot her a look. "You're not doing anything, nor are you leaving this place until you calm the fuck down." "You can't go anywhere all shot up," Sage said. "I won't be—you and Merri can take care of moving the body." As Meredith returned with a box of garbage bags, Michael wasted no time dispersing more directions to her. "Get me the first aid kit as well, and then I want you and Sage to wrap up the body and get rid of it." While Merri went to get the
Children of the Apocalypse first aid kit from the bathroom, Michael turned to Sage with surprising gentleness to his voice. "Are you all right?" Sage absently reached for her neck. "I'm okay." "You did well." She looked doubtful of his compliment. "But he would have killed me if Merri hadn't—" "You didn't panic. You did well." She gave a short nod. "Thank you, Sensei." "Merri will know what to do with the body; follow her instructions." "Can I please go home now?" Gen said, her voice close to breaking as tears threatened to start once more. "No—go to the kitchen, get some cloths and a fill a large bowl with water." Merri returned then to hand Michael the first aid kit, then as she and Sage set to wrapping up the corpse, Gen turned her back on the group and went to the kitchen. She hunted through the cupboards for the items he requested, happy at least that she had something to distract her now. She heard the front door open and the others grunt and mutter over moving the heavy dead body, so she turned on the tap and let the water run on full. She really didn't need to hear that and be reminded of the dead guy. "Boil the water first," Michael growled from behind her. Gen jumped and swung around to see him leaning against the kitchen table. Sweat poured down his forehead and he was noticeably pale. "You look like you've lost a lot of blood..." "Just boil the damn water." Gen rolled her eyes—she didn't know why she bothered feeling bad for him. She found a kettle and filled it with water, then set it to boil on the stove. Reluctantly, she went back to Michael to see how he was doing, and hoped he didn't have any more tasks for her. "Scissors," he said. "What about them?" "Get them!" "Stop shouting at me!" "Excuse me, but I was just shot three times, and you're bitching about me yelling at you?" Without a word, Gen hunted down the scissors, and handed them to him. He cut through his shirt, which seemed awkward with only the use of one hand, but Gen abstained from offering to help because he'd probably just growl at her some more. Once he had sliced down the middle of his t-shirt, he cast the scissors aside and peeled the bloody material back. "Did any of the bullets go through?" he asked. "I would know that how?" His impatience was growing, but if Gen was lucky, he just might pass out before he could yell at her anymore. "You'll know if there are any holes in my back." Oh, right. How could he be bleeding to death, and still swifter than her?
Skyla Dawn Cameron She counted two bullet holes in his back, and while she'd never thought of herself as all that squeamish before at the mere sight of blood, the fresh wounds were making her shiver. "There's one there and there." "Where and where? You know I can't see my back, right?" "Well, I'm not going to like touch them or something!" "Are you capable of telling which hole in my back corresponds with which one on my chest?" That she managed to do, and if she never had to see another bullet wound after it, she'd be happy. "How are you going to get the bullet out?" she asked, almost afraid to know. "The way one usually does," he replied as he opened the first aid kit and pulled out a strange looking pair of tweezers. "Pull it out." Gen's eyes got wide. "You don't mean for—" "Fuck no, I wouldn't trust you. The water's done boiling—pour it in the bowl and bring it to the table to cool." She did as he instructed, thankful she wouldn't have to be doing any emergency bullet surgery herself. "There's a removable mirror on the bathroom wall—go get it." She did that as well without complaint. "Hold the mirror," he said as she returned. "And please...keep it steady." Gen averted her eyes the entire painstaking time Michael was pulling the bullet out of his chest. Surprisingly, it didn't seem to take that long. She couldn't be certain because she hadn't looked at her watch since before all the gunfire, but it didn't feel like much time had passed before he said, "Okay, you can put the mirror down now." She set it on the table and hoped that would be all he required of her for now, but the tasks weren't complete yet. Michael emptied out the first aid kid onto the table and picked out several packages of bandages and sterile cloths. "Watch what I do here—I need you to do the same on my back. Got it?" Gen nodded. It didn't seem terribly complicated; hold something there to stop the bleeding, clean of the blood afterward, disinfect the area, and dress the wound, though she still wasn't eager about it. "Have you done this a lot?" she asked. "What?" "Removed bullets and patched up yourself?" "More times than I'd like to have," he said with a roll of his eyes. "Can I ask you something?" "I don't imagine I can stop you, though I'd prefer you talk and work." She went to work on his back, following the same steps he had demonstrated. "Do you get it yet?" she asked as she cleaned the blood from his back. "I'm...I'm not this person you think I am. I can't do this. I mean, I froze back there— completely froze."
Children of the Apocalypse "You helped." "Oh, right, yeah. I flung a hair elastic at the guy because Sage told me to." "Sage told you to throw a hair elastic?" "No, she told me to distract him." "And you did. That was quick thinking on your part, and demonstrated competent problem solving skills." "Gee, that almost kinda sounds like a compliment." "Don't let it go to your head—I still think you're pretty useless." She soaked a cloth in the hot water and pressed it to his back with little care. He flinched from the contact and sent a glare over his shoulder. "Sorry," she mumbled, only half meaning it. "Besides the fact that you froze, what makes you think you can't do this?" "Because...because Merri shot a guy. I can't shoot guys. Or girls. Or anyone. I'm like a pacifist." "Like a pacifist, or are a pacifist?" "I don't know. It doesn't matter. The point is I'm passive and I don't want to be shooting anyone." "Well, you don't have to worry about that." "No?" "No. I'm certainly not going to be giving you a gun." "That's really a comfort." After cleaning around the wound and disinfecting it, she set to taping bandages in place. "There. Can I go home now?" "Sit down." With a sigh, she sat on the table about a foot away from him and waited while he downed a few aspirins. He tied his shirt into a temporary sling and slipped it on. "You want to know why you can't put the candle out?" he asked her. "I already know—it's because I don't have any supernatural powers." "You're half right; there's nothing 'super' about your powers..." She was about to mutter something about him being an asshole when he continued. "They're completely natural for you. Your failure to put out the candle is not a lack of ability, it's a psychological block. You haven't been able to do it because you're afraid." "Well, duh. Freud, you're definitely not—you haven't even reached Dr. Phil status. I've said how many times already this terrifies me? That isn't news." The loss of blood was either doing something to his patience, or he was just having a delayed reaction to everything, since Genevieve observed he wasn't as quick to throw out berating comments as usual. With some luck, he might pass out at any moment. "You're afraid about what it'll mean if you can put out that candle," he said, ignoring her insults. "Right now, it doesn't matter what happens—you don't have to believe it. By believing it, and accepting it as real, will mean admitting the responsibility this brings, and that scares you." She pondered this for a few moments. He wasn't wrong, though she loathed to admit it.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "But I...I'm not going to be able to do this. I can't kill people—I know myself well enough to say that for sure. I still can't wrap my head around what Merri did..." "You're going to have to learn—they will kill you." "Sage couldn't even stop them, though! And if she can't—" "What's the difference between you and the man that came to kill you tonight?" "Uh, let's see..." She started listing things on her fingers, one by one. "First, he had a gun. And he's got mad fighting skills. And he's stronger than me. And he's experienced, presumably. And—" "And none of that matters." "Really? 'Cause it looked like it did to me, and probably to Sage too." "The only difference that matters is he wouldn't hesitate to kill you. You can have a gun, and fighting skills, and strength, and it wouldn't level the playing field with him. Sage could have ended all this a week ago if she'd taken care of them after she knocked them out, but she didn't for the same reason you can't—when it comes down to making the killing blow, you'd hesitate, whereas he wouldn't." "Yeah, well that sounds like a good thing to me; I don't want to kill anyone." "For a lot of people, it's perhaps an admirable quality," he agreed. "But you don't have that luxury. Your life is more important than that." "But so is his!" she insisted. Tears started forming in her eyes again as she grew more and more upset. "And don't give me this B.S. about him just being a killing machine—it's still a person. It's still a life—a life that's not better or worse than mine." "And that's where you're wrong. You, Sage, and Meredith—your lives are infinitely more important. More than his, more than mine, more than anyone else you know. You three matter." She buried her face in her hands for a moment, too overwhelmed to listen anymore. Everything he said…it hurt. More than any physical pain, more than anything else she could think of. The weight, the pressure—it was all too much to handle. At last, she wiped some of the tears from her eyes and looked up at him. "I don't want this." "It's not about what you want, Genevieve," he said evenly, as if impervious to caring how upset she was. "This is what you are." "I don't want to be this..." "And I'm telling you, there isn't a decision to be made about this. It's done. Either you survive it, or you fuck over the whole world because you're scared." Well, when he put it like that... "So what are we supposed to do now?" she asked. "Exactly what we have been. You need to stop fucking around and do what you're supposed to, and I have to hope to hell Sage gets her act together too." "But you said—" "She did do well, for where she is, but that's far from where she should be right now. And the three of you need to be more careful. Stay with one another at all times, and never go anywhere alone. Before today, they haven't come to anyone's home, though, so things could be stepping up a bit..."
Children of the Apocalypse "My home? You mean, like, with my mom and dad and my dog? But—" "Honestly, I don't know what they'll do now. But one is gone. This might draw out the others, then there's just three to take care of." "And whoever sent them." "Right." "That's still a lot of dangerous people." "Then you'd better get working."
Once Merri and Sage returned, Michael went to his room to slip on a fresh shirt and an actual sling for his arm. Just as the group was getting in the car to leave, the delivery boy arrived with their ordered food, though no one felt much like eating. Merri stowed it in Michael's fridge for another day. They dropped Sage off first then drove to the Weist residence. Gen had never been so glad to get home, though she had been thinking that every time she came home for the last week. Though ready to bolt from Michael's car as he pulled up in front of her house, she froze as he called, "Wait." She met his eyes in the rear-view mirror. God, what the hell could he want now? He sent a glance to Merri, who seemed to understand what he wanted without him uttering a word. She leaned forward, popped open the glove compartment, and handed him the book she found inside. Michael looked at the slim, hardcover book for a moment, then met Gen's gaze again in the mirror, and thrust the book over his shoulder. At least he's not throwing it at me, she thought as she tentatively took the book. "What's this?" she asked as she flipped open the cover and leafed through the pages. Some sheets were blank, while others contained several paragraphs of writing here and there, though she couldn't read anything in the dim light. The format itself seemed annoyingly familiar, however. "It looks like a workbook." "It's a journal, so to speak," he said. "Something for you to record things in, be it your progress, dreams, weird occurrences—anything." "Should I be expecting any weird occurrences?" "You might find it helpful, Gen," Meredith said. "Just every time you practice something, or try a spell or whatever, write stuff down. Keep a record." "You do this too?" Gen asked. Merri nodded. "I have for awhile." "And all the other writing and things?" "It's something you shouldn't be trying for awhile yet," Michael said. "Is it magic?" "They are exercises," he corrected her. "Fireballs?" "No." "Damn." "I don't think I need to remind you to keep this private," Michael said.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "No, but you probably will anyway." "Don't leave it somewhere for people to find, and don't be waving it around." "I won't." Jesus, how old did he think she was? "Uh...thanks." Penny was eagerly waiting for Genevieve when she opened the front door. And the dog wasn't the only one. "Where the hell have you been?" Rebecca Weist said, pouncing on her daughter the moment she stepped in the door. "Studying at Merri's house." "Who?" Gen rolled her eyes. "Meredith McCreary, the girl from my Geography class. I told you that this morning. You're losing it—it's probably 'cause you're old." "Don't you take that tone with me today, young lady—you and I need to have a talk." As her mother started for the kitchen, Gen slipped the journal Michael gave her into her bag then followed. "Sit down," Rebecca said, and as Gen complied, her father entered the room as well. Uh oh... God, it was bad enough Genevieve felt like crying into her pillow with the weight of everything on her already, and now her mother was going to lecture her about something stupid? "Do you want to explain to me why I came home to a dozen messages on the machine from your school?" Her mother crossed her arms over her chest and waited, one blonde brow arched in expectation. "Hmm?" I was busy being nearly killed by some guy with a gun, my friend murdered him, another guy got shot, and so I couldn't be home to erase the messages before you saw them? That didn't seem like the kind of answer her mother was looking for, however. "Presumably because I skipped class today to go to the library to study with Sage?" Gen said instead. "I thought you were with Meredith." "Yeah, I met up with her at her place tonight." "Genny, you've never studied a day in your life," her father said. "Well, I thought it was a good time to, uh, start?" Gen's gaze went from her mother's to her father's. Neither seemed to believe her. "If you're doing all this studying, why didn't you hand in your English essay?" What the hell? "Um, what?" "Your English teacher called me this evening to inform me if you didn't hand in your last essay." "Jesus, I can't believe that—I was in her stupid class today and rather than say something to me then, she called you about it? What a bitch." "That doesn't matter—the point is you should have had it done." Christ, who was her mother kidding? Since when did she get anything done on time for class? "And what happened to your arm?"
Children of the Apocalypse Genevieve glanced down at her bruised wrist and recalled Sage's "training session" earlier that paired her with an overly-strong Michael. His grip coupled with the fact she easily bruised produced some questionable marks on her wrist and forearm. "Phys Ed. They had us out there playing rugby, co-ed and everything. It was way rough—I'll probably skip it next time." "You won't be skipping anything," her mother warned. "Not anymore. You are to come straight home tomorrow, you're staying home all weekend, and you're going to get that damn essay handed in." Gen was going to argue more, but truth be told, she felt safer in her house anyway, so she wouldn't put up a fight about missing out on being at Michael's tomorrow. With any luck, crazy killer people would just harass the others, then Merri could shoot them all, and Gen wouldn't have to deal with it. Problem solved. "Do you hear me—" "Yeah, yeah, I'll do that. In fact, after I take Penny out, I'll run upstairs and work on it right away, okay?" Though she wasn't sure that satisfied her mother, Rebecca didn't complain further, so Gen tossed her bag by the stairs, grabbed Penny, and hurried out the door. After a quick walk with Penny, Gen slipped back inside the house and tried to be as quiet as possible. Apparently she was more than quiet, because as she crept up the stairs to her room, her parents didn't notice her and continued their discussion about her in their bedroom. Normally, Gen didn't eavesdrop on her parents' conversation. She almost did once, and hearing them say one sentence about their sex life was enough to traumatize her for life. Just as she passed their partially open door on the way to her own room, however, she paused as she heard her name. "She hasn't been acting right for the past week," Rebecca insisted. Leo sighed. "What do you think, then? Drugs?" "I don't know—I can't see that. But have you met any of these new people she's been with?" "No, and it is odd," Leo agreed. "She's not exactly sociable. I don't think she's gone anywhere with anyone for the past three years other than Levi and Stephany." Gen rolled her eyes at this. God, her parents didn't have many friends either— what the hell were they complaining about? "I know she said she was in an accident on the weekend, but then her arms today... I don't like it." "You don't think that..." His voice trailed off before Gen could learn exactly what he meant by that. "I don't know. I hope not. I'm sure Levi would tell us if she was with anyone hurting her..." Why the hell? They thought she was in an abusive relationship?
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Dammit, I was so relieved she wouldn't ever be dating boys for this very reason—and the pregnancy thing—that I didn’t even think she could get knocked around by a girl too." "I probably should have made more of an effort to talk about this with her," Rebecca said. "I know girls can be just as violent as boys are these days." No kidding, Mom; you should meet Sage. Having had enough of the conversation, Gen crept the rest of the way to her room, and after Penny was inside, she shut the door, flung her messenger bag on the bed, and sank down against the wall to sit with her head buried in her knees. How could it be that in merely a week her life had gone from happily uneventful to one where her parents were arguing over her supposedly abusive girlfriend while she hid from them the fact that she was almost killed a couple of times? And let's not forget that pesky apocalypse thing that's supposed to be coming up, she thought. Michael hadn't said another word about that, which she was thankful for because any more pressure might just make her head explode. To top it off, she had an essay on Macbeth due that she'd neglected to hand in—or even finish—days earlier. That wouldn't have been her top priority even before all this happened, and it certainly wouldn't be getting done now, despite what she told her mother. Instead, she opted for a different sort of homework. After rummaging through her free-for-all dresser drawer for a few minutes, Genevieve came across an untouched scented candle and some matches. She flicked off the lights then walked across the dark room until she came to her low windowsill, where she set the candle. She knelt in front of it, then lit a match and touched the fire to the candle wick. Yellow light spread across her face, casting shadows in the dark room. Michael was right, though she'd never breathe that aloud, and certainly not to him. There was no more being scared of this. No more denying what was actually happening to her. Either face this now or... Or she may not live to have another chance. Letting her mind relax, she regarded the candle flame with distance this time rather than the single-minded focus she had tried before. Extinguish. She couldn't be sure, but she swore the flame flickered ever so slightly. Thinking it could be all in her mind, she checked to see if there were any drafts sneaking past the closed window—and there weren't—then sat back a bit to ensure she didn’t accidentally breathe on the candle. Extinguish. That time it definitely flickered. And the next few tries produced the same results. Something still wasn't right...and she couldn't entirely place her finger on it. You're afraid. That was what Michael said. Sure enough, even now, with the comfortable temperature of her room, Gen felt a chill overcome her. Michael chalked it up to fear of accepting what was to come, but what if there was more to it than that?
Children of the Apocalypse Maybe she shouldn't bother with anything more tonight... Gen pulled her bag off her bed and took out the journal Michael gave her, as well as a pen, and went to the first blank page. Tried putting out the candle, she wrote. Didn't work. Still not sure about this. Also, Michael is a douche bag. Well, that seemed a little brief now that she looked at it. What else could she write about? The strangest occurrence so far had been the guy trying to kill her, and she wasn't ready to put that to the page yet. What else was there... Dreams. And she'd had plenty of those. All at once she recalled the eerie dream/nightmare from nearly a week ago—the dream of the girl who looked like her, but at the same time was so different. She had no sooner put the pen to the page when it hit her what she really feared... If I can do this, what will I become? Would she still be herself? Lazy, full of self-doubt, and passive, sure, but that was all she'd ever been. She didn't want to be someone else. But somewhere in the darkness of her room, Gen felt that other girl standing there, all proud and confident, beckoning to her—calling her out of her shell, to face what she couldn't escape, no matter how she avoided it. Genevieve felt the warmth overcome her—no chill, no cold could touch her now. Her blue eyes went to the candle flame, only another's gaze seemed to be with her own, both familiar and foreign at the same time... Extinguish. The sight of the flame dying suddenly took her aback, and she blinked a few times, fully herself once more. Oh my God... She did it. It was out. She put the stupid candle out! Unable to control her grin, Gen hopped to her feet, flipped on a bedside lamp, and grabbed the journal to start writing. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. *~*~* Michael saw the candle flame snuffed out from the driver's seat of his dark sedan across the street of Genevieve's house. Seconds later, her room filled with light. Her face had been barely visible in the dim glow of the candle, and she appeared to be really trying this time. He didn't doubt that she was. And so it begins. His hand on the key in the ignition, he was about to turn the car on, when he paused to take one last glance at the window. Was there relief now that she could finally do it? Or dread? Michael pushed his worries from his mind and started the engine. Relief or dread—did it even matter anymore? They'd all know which it was soon enough.
know it's a cliché and all, but thank god it's Friday," Genevieve said with a sigh as she opened her locker door. It wasn't just Friday, either—it was the end of the last period as well. Freedom, at least until the hell known as Monday morning arrived. Sage took the opportunity to check her reflection in the mirror pinned in Gen's locker. There was an ugly black ring of bruises around her neck, so for the first time in years she had worn a turtle neck. The shirt was hideous and uncomfortable, and people probably assumed she was hiding a hickey or something, but at least that was better than them wondering about the finger-sized bruises on her throat. "And what makes you think your week ends now?" Sage said, eying the people in the bustling school hallway around them then lowering her voice in case others were listening. "We've got somewhere to be tonight anyway." "And that's where you're thankfully very, very wrong—the only place I have to be is home, pretending to work on an essay, per my mother's orders." "That'll go over well with Michael." Gen stowed her books in her locker, then slammed the door shut and snapped the combination lock in place. "Michael probably died in the night from an infection due to his gunshot wounds because he's too damn stupid to go to a hospital, therefore Michael can bite me." "I'll let him know you said that." "Good. Please do so." Genevieve seemed abnormally cheerful, especially considering the events from the evening before, or so Sage thought. For someone who still looked near tears in Michael's car on the ride home last night, Gen seemed surprisingly at ease any time Sage ran into her that day at school
Children of the Apocalypse She doubted, however, that Gen would be all that pleasant when Michael finally got a hold of her for skipping out on them that night, if she truly decided to follow through and not go. "You realize I'm not covering for you or anything," Sage continued as they started down the hallway in the direction of the front of the school. "He'll see right through anything I say anyway." "That's fine—I'll just ask Merri to do it." "And you saw her around here today?" "Well, no..." Gen pulled out her mobile phone. "I'll just call her and tell her to tell him then." "I wouldn't do that." "Oh no?" "No, because she's probably at Michael's." "She's there a lot." "That's 'cause she's got this thing you probably haven't heard of—it's called dedication." Gen stuck her tongue out at Sage. "Very funny. Maybe they're having a torrid affair." "Don't even joke about that." "I know. She could do so much better." "And the potential statutory rape doesn't bother you?" Gen shrugged. "He doesn't look that old. He's just an ass, and I still think Merri could do better. Hey, maybe she spends so much time there because they're related. That could be it." "Related how?" "I don't know. Brother? Cousin? What's his last name?" It was Sage's turn to shrug. "I don't remember him ever saying." "Great—we've been spending all week with the guy, trusting what he has to say about all this, meanwhile we don’t even know his goddamn last name?" "Does he even know ours?" "Possibly. I guess that would depend on what Merri knows." "Merri knows what? Huh?" said a voice behind them. Sage shuddered a little as Stephie Meyers wiggled her way between them and looped her arm with Gen's. The girl reeked of tobacco and weed and Sage noticeably kept a few inches away from her. "Who's Merri and what does she know?" Stephie asked. "What are we talking about?" Levi said before either Gen or Sage could respond, falling in step beside Genevieve. Of course—where Gen and Stephany are, he appears. Sage purposely avoided looking at him. Or maybe it's wherever I am... Thankfully, she felt an arm slip over her shoulder, which calmed her grated nerves considerably. She absently slid her arm around Hayden's waist and pushed the voices of the other three from her mind. "Need a ride to class tonight?" he asked. "Nope, I’m walking."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Doing anything this weekend?" "You mean besides going to class?" And probably getting my ass handed to me by Michael, she silently added. "Yes, I mean besides that." Sage shrugged. "I don't know—why?" "Wanna check out a movie tomorrow night?" "Is there anything good playing?" "No, but I thought we could throw popcorn at the screen and make-out." "Hmm..." Sage pretended to think it over. "You mean pay a ridiculous amount of money to not watch a crappy movie?" "And make-out with me." "Well, when you put it that way..." Truthfully, she had planned to train all weekend, but as they reached the main school doors to go outside, and she stopped for a moment to meet his eyes, she found herself grinning in agreement. If Gen could skip out for the weekend, she too could take a few hours off. "Okay, but it had better be a really, really bad movie then." "Predictable romantic comedy or predictable action thriller?" "Surprise me." "That I will, sweetie." His lips came down on hers in goodbye then he left for the doors to the swiftly emptying parking lot. "Is that hooky you seem to be planning to play this weekend?" Sage turned back to Genevieve to find—thankfully—Stephie and Levi had taken off. "If Michael asks, I'm not going to cover for you," Gen said with a smirk. "He won't ask, because I'll be there tomorrow morning until early evening." "Gosh, I hope one day I can be as perfect as you are, Sage," Gen said in a mock-dreamy voice. "Good luck with that," was Sage's dry reply. The two of them stopped outside the front of the school among the throngs of teens that stood around chatting and waiting for rides. Though Sage was eager to get away from them all, the truth was that she probably would have to answer to Michael as to why Genevieve wasn't there, and she'd much rather have Gen show up herself to explain why she wouldn't be staying. "Twenty minutes there and back aren't going to kill you—" "Twenty minutes? Please, this is me we're talking about." "Okay, forty-five minutes—" "And I can't. Home right after school. Mom was clear on that. Guess you're on your own." "Doesn't your mother work?" Gen opened her mouth to answer, but paused, considering her words and shifting her gaze to the side. Got her there. "It doesn't matter," Gen said instead. "She'll just know. She'll call or something—"
Children of the Apocalypse Her pathetic excuses were interrupted by a phone ringing—Sage's phone, which was odd because she almost never received calls. "Who would be calling you?" Gen asked, echoing Sage's own thoughts. "That's really none of your business..." Sage checked the number of the incoming call. "Except it's Hayden. Hold on." She answered the phone and held it to her ear. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be heading to work?" Silence followed her words. "Hello?" Still nothing. Sage ended the call and tucked the phone back in her pocket. "I guess he got cut off—" The phone rang again. Irritated, Sage pulled it out once more. "Hayden again?" Gen asked as Sage checked the number. "Apparently...text this time." She opened the message from Hayden. Sorry I missed you. What the hell? Sage thought. She saw him like five minutes ago. "What's he want?" Gen asked. Sage was about to snap a comment about her minding her own goddamn business when another message came. I'm sure HE is too. Sage's heart beat just a little faster and a chill crept over her. "Everything okay?" Gen asked, her brows furrowed in concern. Words escaped her as her throat went dry. Sage couldn't answer—couldn't think of what to say. Something didn't feel right… She punched in Hayden's number and held the phone to her ear to listen. She could barely hear over the drumming of her own heart, and ceased her breath when the ringing stopped and someone answered. No one said anything, but she was certain she heard breathing... "Hello?" she said, her voice shaking a little. "Hayden?" "He can't come to the phone right now," said an unfamiliar male voice. Sage swung her gaze around, studying those in the crowd surrounding her. Gen opened her mouth to speak, but Sage raised her hand to silence her. "I'd offer to take a message for him," the voice continued. "But I doubt he'll be available to receive it." "What have you done?" she whispered, terror gripping her and not letting go. "You killed one of mine," he said matter-of-factly. "And as they say, eye for an eye and all that—" The phone slipped from Sage's grasp and hit the pavement, cracking open and ending the call. "Sage? Sage, what happened? Who was that?" She felt someone shaking her shoulders, and she met Gen's eyes. Her look of concern was enough to break Sage from her stupor. Move. The command echoed in her brain, and she felt her feet moving in the direction of the parking lot. Gen hollered something behind her, but she kept running.
Skyla Dawn Cameron She slowed to a jog once she reached the nearly empty student parking lot around the side of Newhaven High. No students were around and only a few cars remained. And one of those cars she recognized. "Hayden!" she called, picking up the pace and entering a full-on run. "Hayden!" She ran towards the front of the familiar, beat-up car that sat alone in a corner of the parking lot. Bright afternoon sunlight struck the windshield and the glare obscured any view of whether or not someone was in the drivers' seat. No, no...please, no... Sage stopped dead once she reached the car. The drivers' window was rolled down and Hayden lay slumped in his seat, his head rolled to one side, unmoving. A dozen bloody holes littered his chest and stomach. She didn't know if she was crying or screaming or moving at all—it was as if the ground had given out below her and she was overcome with dizziness and nausea. Stumbling toward the car, she reached in through the window, desperate to get near him, to touch him, to perhaps prove to herself that maybe all of this wasn't real. "Please...honey, wake up..." Don't be dead, don't be dead... He didn't respond to her touch and all she felt was the blood, clinging to her fingers and soaking her sleeves. Genevieve was shouting behind her, calling for someone to get an ambulance and the police. Sage felt herself pulled back backward, out of the car then realized it was Gen's arms holding her steady. "We'll get help," Gen said. "It's okay." She pulled open the car door and felt for Hayden's throat. "I think he's still breathing!" Her voice broke through the numbness surrounding Sage. He's breathing, he's breathing... Others were joining them now and about half a dozen people were on their cell phones, calling the police. Sirens sounded minutes later, and even more people were milling about. Paramedics wheeled a stretcher around, pulled Hayden out of the car, and then loaded him in the ambulance. Though the emergency workers shouted things back and forth, their words were lost to Sage in the din around her. Police stood near her, asking questions that Gen answered, and then Genevieve took her by the arm and the two of them got in the back of a police cruiser, the hospital their destination. Please be okay... *~*~* Sage tightened her grip on her knapsack and knocked on the door again. Levi, from class, had told her and the other guy in their peer group to meet him at his house around four…so where the hell was he? Dammit, she'd knocked like three times already— The door swung open, then. Hayden, the co-op student from business class, stood before her. "Hey…" He leaned on the doorframe, out of breath. "Sorry, just…heard the…bell. I was in…" He gulped down some air. "In the basement."
Children of the Apocalypse Sage bit back a grin. She'd been waiting outside for several minutes and her supposed host apparently wasn't home—she should be furious. The anger wasn't there, however—she couldn't even muster up a frown. "The stairs are killer," he said, offering her a charming, lopsided smile. "I bet." "Levi's not home. Were you supposed to work on that project tonight?" "Yeah. There was another guy too." "He's not here either. And Lev didn't say anything about it to me." Goddamn it, she was going to kill that guy. It wasn't easy cutting time out of her schedule of evening classes, and he insisted on them meeting at his house that night. A glance at her watch revealed it was quarter after four. She could still make it to Aikido if she hurried… "Want to wait inside?" Hayden gestured behind him. His dark brown gaze held hers for a moment and a strange, unfamiliar feeling settled deep in the pit of her stomach… Butterflies? "I don't know, I should probably—" "Lev'll probably be home soon. We're kinda low on food, but I am an exceptional chef and I'm sure I could whip something up." He raised a brow in question. "C'mon, we've got like six hundred channels—there'll be something to watch while you wait. If you don't mind my company, that is. I could help you plot your revenge against my brother." She should go—she knew it. But something seemed to push her forward; something beyond her control or comprehension. "Okay." He stepped aside so she could enter the house. After slipping off her shoes, she moved into the kitchen and slid onto a barstool at the island counter. "So…" Hayden said as he went to the freezer. He opened the door, reached in, and produced a couple of boxes of pizza pockets. "Three cheese or deluxe. Your choice." "Exceptional chef?" she asked. "Um…yeah, I lied about that to get you in the house. So which would you like?" Sage smiled without realizing it, lost in the moment. "Surprise me."
In Newhaven General Hospital, a small cluster of people sat in the waiting room for news. The Greenes' jumped up every time a doctor went by, hoping for news of their son. Levi and Genevieve sat huddled in a corner together, saying little but crying plenty. For hours everyone waited, occasionally speaking to the police and sometimes in prayer. Sage sat alone. I'm sorry I missed you... The killer's messages repeated in her head again and again. She should have been with him. The killer, whichever one of those guys it was, must have been expecting her there. Of course, if they knew where Michael lived, they had been following them all. Watching them...
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Baby..." Sage looked up to see her mom sitting down next to her. She still wore the suit she had on that morning, suggesting to Sage she just got off of work and had come straight to the hospital. Trailing Diana Bethany were Sage's two sisters. Kat, thirteen, looked as if she'd been crying. She loved Hayden like a big brother, so Sage wasn't surprised. Kat took a seat on their mother's other side, and pulled their five year old sister, Cecilia, into her lap. Her mother's arm went over her shoulder, but Sage felt her body stay rigid. No, no comfort. No letting it out. There wasn't the time for that. "Jackie called me," her mom said. "I grabbed your sisters and came right here. What happened?" People came looking for me and they found him. Sage couldn't force her voice from her throat. What was there to say? Gen must have given the police some story, sans the apocalyptic details, because they hadn't asked her for anything further. "Sweetie, are you okay?" Diana had her daughter's hands in her own, and she tugged on the sleeve of Sage's sweater. "Jesus, is this blood? Were you hurt—" Sage managed to shake her head. "Not mine," she whispered, and her mother understood. "I'm going to talk to Jackie and Felix for a second—I'll be right back." She was only dimly aware of her mom standing and going to speak to the Greenes'. A few moments later, Kat also stood and walked to Levi's side, taking Cecilia's hand and bringing her along. Thankfully, Sage was alone again. I'm sorry I missed you...I'm sure HE is too. If she had been there, he would have been okay. They wanted her. That was all. If she had just gone with him— You killed one of mine... That was Merri, true, but it was her responsibility too. They should have known there would be some sort of retaliation... An eye for an eye. The people clustered together who waited so far from Sage for news of Hayden all jumped up together and swarmed a doctor who entered the waiting room. Somehow, Sage found the strength to stand herself and walk over. "He's out of surgery," the doctor was saying. "And he's conscious." God...awake...alive...thank you... "Can we see him?" his mother asked. The doctor nodded. "Family only right now." He started down the hall, and the Greenes'—as well as Sage—followed. While the doctor led them to the room and stepped back so they could enter, he gave Sage a strange look, and she remembered technically she wasn't family. "I'm sorry, it's family only—" "She is family," Levi said quickly. The doctor looked her up and down, and then at Levi with skepticism. Being far from Caucasian, she wasn't surprised he didn’t believe them. "Really," Levi said, throwing his arm over her shoulders. "It's Cousin Sage." "Even then, it's immediate family only—"
Children of the Apocalypse "That we adopted," Levi interrupted. "She's legally Hayden's sister, you know." Sage didn't think for a second the doctor would believe them, but the Greenes' joined in. "Please, Dr. Khare," Jackie Greene pleaded. The doctor didn't protest any further—instead, he waved them into the room, and added, "He'll be tired, so don’t stay long." Sage held back a few steps as Hayden's parents and brother entered the room and rushed to his bedside. Only when they were busy talking with him did she allow herself to slip into the corner of the room where she could see him. Though the sight of all the IV tubes and machines hooked up to him unnerved her at first, she reminded herself to be grateful for it all. He was alive. That was all that mattered, and this hospital stay was only temporary after all. "Police were already in here," Hayden was saying when Sage tuned into the conversation. "I have no idea who the guy was, though—I barely saw him, and then I woke up here. The detectives are asking all these stupid things about gangs and..." He grasped a pillow to his chest and hugged it, squeezing as he coughed hard. It took several seconds for the coughing to subside, and even then, his breathing was laboured. As his mother reached for the cup of water next to his bedside for him, his eyes drifted across the room to Sage. "Hey, hun." His fingers stretched in her direction and he weakly raised his arm, beckoning for her. She found herself moving forward at his request, and she slipped her fingers over his when she reached his bedside. "Hi, baby," she whispered. "Police said you found me?" She nodded. "Sorry I gave you a scare. But really, if you and Gen hadn't been there so quickly, I might not be here right now...so thanks." He caressed her fingers with his, then gave her hand a squeeze and looked at her pointedly. "You saved my life." Save him? God, she practically did this to him... And that was enough to break the dam in her, and she let out a sob, then another, until finally she was crying so hard she couldn't see past her own tears. "Oh, hey, it's okay..." He looked to his family for a second. "Two minutes? With my girl?" "We'll be right outside—I want to talk to the doctor some more anyway," Mrs. Greene said then the three of them left the room. "It's okay, Sage..." Hayden's hand slid over her arm to her waist, and he pulled her closer. "I'm fine. Please don't cry." "I'm sorry," she mumbled as he drew her into a hug. "Don't be." He pressed his lips to her cheek in a kiss. "But don't cry. C'mon, you're my kick-ass Amazon chick. Amazons don't cry." She pulled back and took a deep breath, then wiped some of the tears from her eyes. "It's actually a pretty sweet deal I've got going here," he continued. "I have to stay at the hospital for awhile, but then I get to go home and skip out on work and school for a couple of weeks. I've been meaning to replay Final Fantasy seven
Skyla Dawn Cameron through ten-two anyway. I might skip nine though, haven't decided yet. Seeing Vivi again is tempting, but I don't think it's enough to suffer Zidane. Then I'll be back at school just in time for you and me to hit the Halloween dance." Sage sighed. "I hate those things." "I know, but we'll be celebrating my recovery. Levi and Gen will be going as Riff-Raff and Magenta again, so this year we can do Brad and Janet. I've already picked out some lingerie for you..." "As long as I get to pick out some boxers for you," she said, a grin hovering on the corner of her lips. "Deal. So be happy. Besides, this whole thing got me something I've never had before." "What's that?" He held up his hand and wiggled two fingers. "Two collapsed lungs. I mean, lots of people have one collapse, but two? That’s pretty cool." "That's not funny," she said without smiling. "It is a little bit." When she didn’t respond, he slid a few inches to the opposite side of the bed and made her sit down next to him. "It's okay, hun. When they told me what happened...honestly, I was pretty scared too. But I'm fine. You found me in time, and now everything's going to be okay." But it wouldn't be okay, would it? Something could still happen to him. Something could happen to anyone; her mom, her sisters. No one was safe. Not yet, anyway. "I'm sorry I wasn't with you," she whispered. "And what would you have done besides get stabbed too?" She didn't reply. That may be true, but it was me they wanted... "I'm glad you weren't there. I don't know what I would do without you." "Hayden...this is my fault." He raised a brow in scepticism. "Oh really?" "Yeah." "Are you a member of this gang the cops seem to think came after me?" She shook her head. "Are you a member of a rival gang they were after?" Though she shook her head again, she had to admit that was one way of putting it. "Kind of." "Kind of?" He still clearly didn't believe her. "You joined a gang? Is it the Crips? 'Cause that's the only one I've heard of." "Well, no..." A nurse entered the room then, a fresh cup of water and a paper cup of pills in hand. "I'm sorry miss," she said. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave for awhile. He needs his rest." Hayden squeezed her hand. "Come see me tomorrow?" "Bright and early."
Children of the Apocalypse "Good. You can tell me all about your gang connections then. Love you." "I love you too." Reluctantly, she stood and left his bedside. She paused in the doorway, and glanced back. He was okay. He would continue to be okay...provided she did what was necessary to ensure his safety. His parents were still speaking to the doctor when she walked by, so she continued past them without a word, the waiting room—and Genevieve—as her destination. "Sage?" God, what does he want now... She swung around to face Levi. "What?" He didn't have that puppy-dog, sweet look to him now; he stared at her with pure rage. "What the fuck is going on?" "I don't know what you're—" "Cut the bullshit! You know what's going on here—" She turned to walk away again. "You'd better fucking explain it to me, or I'm telling the police everything I know!" "And what might that be, exactly?" she asked as she faced him once more. "I saw those people go after you. A week later, Hayden—your boyfriend— happens to get stabbed a bunch of times? I'm capable of putting two and two together, and so are the police. Now what the hell are you involved in?" Sage visibly stiffened and levelled him with a cold gaze. "It doesn't concern you." "He's my brother and he almost died. It sure as hell does fucking concern me!" "No, it doesn't. You're welcome to go to the police with whatever you supposedly know, but if you think that's going to help him, you're wrong." With that, she turned on her heel and stalked the rest of the way to the waiting room. She met Genevieve's gaze as soon as she entered the room, and Sage gestured for her to follow a ways away from the others. "Is he all right?" Gen asked when they were out of earshot. Sage nodded. "You've talked to your parents?" "Yeah, Mom's coming to pick me up as soon as—" "Call her back and tell her you're staying at my place tonight." "But why—" "Then call Michael and Merri, fill them in, and let them know we'll be by later." "Sage..." Gen's blonde brows were knitted in concern, but Sage would be damned if she'd listen to that girl bitch and whine, today of all days. "Just do it." She left Gen alone to make the calls then went to tell her mother they were ready to leave. Soon, Sage, her family, and Genevieve were all heading to the parking lot. The others spoke a little to one another, but Sage's mind was miles away. You killed one of mine. And as they say, an eye for an eye, and all that... Oh, yes. An eye for an eye. Only this time, she'd deliver it herself. Threefold.
he's lost it. That was Genevieve's overriding thought the entire time she rode in the Bethanys' car late that evening as they left the hospital. Sage sat in the back with her sisters, staring blankly out the window next to her, barely responding when spoken to. After picking up an overnight bag from Gen's home, they finally stopped at the Bethanys' townhouse, and Sage was the first to get out of the vehicle and head to the front door. "She's upset," Diana Bethany whispered to Gen. "She gets really quiet sometimes—it's almost like a meditative state with her. It's best not to take it personally." Gen knew differently, however. One look into her dark brown eyes said as much. That wasn't Sage being sullen and upset; that was Sage thinking. Plotting. Planning something—something big. And it wasn't difficult to guess in what direction her thoughts lay. Though she didn't blame her, as the thought of going revenge-crazy had crossed Gen's mind the odd time too, it was still a troubling development. Common sense told Genevieve that they should be keeping a level head right now, but Sage clearly had something else in mind. Merri sounded concerned when Gen called her at Michael's earlier, but then she couldn't be sure if it was actual compassion or fake. She couldn't tell what was genuine with that girl anymore. At first, Gen suspected the original shy/innocent act was to get Gen to the house to meet Michael, but even after that she managed to slip between being timid and harmless, to super friendly and outgoing, and even to cold killer. And now with Sage leaping off the edge of sanity, it seemed like the only dependable one would be Michael. Dependably a bastard, sure, but that was more than she could say for the others.
Children of the Apocalypse "You girls must be starving," Ms. Bethany called as she went to the kitchen. She slipped off her blazer and hung it on the back of a chair. "Have anything in mind?" "We're not hungry," Sage said quickly, sending Gen a meaningful glance. "We'll just head downstairs—" "Mind your manners," Sage's mother chided. "You have a guest who probably should have eaten hours ago—you're not warping her to your schedule." Though starving herself, Gen had to admit there were more important things than dinner right then. "I'm not all that hungry, Ms. Bethany—" "First, call me Diana. Second, I'm not letting that daughter of mine push you around. Sage, take Genevieve's bag downstairs and please throw that shirt in the wash. Gen, Kat will take you on a tour of the place. Our home is yours while you're here—make yourself comfortable." Kat was in a bad mood—understandably so, since Gen noticed she looked pretty upset at the hospital—so the house "tour" consisted of, "Bathroom and bedrooms upstairs; kitchen, dining room and living room here; Sage's room and bathroom in the basement," then she slumped down on the couch and turned on the T.V. Gen sat at the other end of the couch, as uncomfortable as anyone would be sitting in a strange house with strange people. The house itself was nice, though. Small, but upscale. Gen never would have guessed that by the way Sage dressed. Not that she looked homeless or anything, but dark, plain track clothes didn't exactly scream, "My mom wears designer suits and our living room looks like something out of a magazine." The phone rang. Though it was right next to Kat, she ignored it, instead pulling her knees up to her chest and turning the volume up a little on the T.V.. A few moments after someone else thankfully picked up in the other room, Diana appeared in the living room doorway, a cordless phone in her hand. "Genevieve, it's for you." Me? But she'd already called her mom... "I think it's your brother," Diana added. Brother? "Teriyaki rice okay for dinner?" Diana asked as Gen stood and took the phone. "Yeah, that's great." She waited until Diana was back in the kitchen, then she went to the silent, empty hallway before finally putting the receiver to her ear. "Hello?" "What time will you two be here?" Jesus Christ, why couldn't she go five minutes without being bothered by him! "I told you, later." Maybe that loss of blood the night before did something to Michael's memory. "And I told you we had things to do—" "Jesus, could you at least pretend to have an ounce of emotion, even for a second? Do you have the slightest idea what—" She paused as a nearby door opened and Sage peered out at her. "Michael?" Sage guessed.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Gen nodded and handed her the phone. Though she could only hear Sage's half of the conversation, Genevieve could guess the rest. "We should be there soon," Sage said. Well, I need you here now because I'm a pompous ass and I don’t care about anyone but myself, Michael would say. "We'll leave right away then—" "I don't think so," Gen interrupted. "I'm not going another night without anything to eat." Sage thought that over for a moment. "Another hour or two, maybe," she said. "After dinner. There shouldn't be any problems staying for awhile." Make sure you bring Genevieve because my day isn't complete without making her miserable. "Yeah, she'll be there." Sage sent Gen a quick look, before returning her attention to the phone. "She'll definitely be there." "It's been a long day," Gen said as Sage hung up the phone. "Do we really, really need to be there tonight?" "Yes." "Like it's absolutely necessary?" "Yes. It's definitely necessary." "Damn." "You can come to my room if you don't want to sit with Kat," Sage suggested, and without waiting for a reply, she jogged back downstairs herself. Gen followed her into the finished basement. Though the rest of the house hadn't been what Genevieve expected, Sage's room seemed apt. Grey walls, sparse furniture, and little decoration. On one side sat her training equipment, with everything from punching bags to a gymnast's balance beam. On the other side sat Sage's bed, a tall dresser, small T.V., and couch. Simple, uncluttered, and boring in Genevieve's opinion, though Sage hadn't shown herself to be particularly interesting to begin with, so she could hardly be surprised. The far corner was blocked off with a curtain, which was drawn open to reveal a washer and dryer. Sage went straight for her dresser, rifled through a drawer, and finally pulled out another turtleneck. "That's really ugly," Gen informed her. "Well, maybe when you know some anti-bruising spells, I won't have to wear this crap anymore," she snapped. "I won't have to if you'd just not get strangled." After pulling out a different shirt, Sage held it up. "Better?" It was a black pullover with a high neck. "Boring, but at least not ugly." Gen flopped down on the couch and picked up the stack of CD cases on the arm. "Didn't know you were a Playstation fan." "They're Hayden's," Sage said quietly. "He leaves his PS One here for when he's over." Gen set the games down again, the sudden weight of the room dampening her attempts at teasing. "Sage, he's going to be okay, you know." "I know."
Children of the Apocalypse Before Gen could attempt any more words of comfort, Sage started the washer and tossed her bloody shirt in. "Hey, can I ask you something?" Gen called when she heard the washer lid close. "Is it why is my sister Chinese?" Sage guessed with the roll of her eyes. "Uh...no." While the thought had occurred to her at the hospital, Genevieve didn't think to ask, as it would seem a little bizarre, and she didn't particularly care. "Friends that come over usually want to know that," Sage said. "You mean you have friends?" Only when Sage shot her a look did Gen realize she had actually said that aloud. "Sorry." "Mom's friend and his wife adopted Ceci from China then died in a car accident a few years ago, so we adopted her." "Oh." "And she's in Cantonese lessons right now, so if she comes up to you and says something you don't understand, that's why." "I'll keep that in mind." "So what were you going to ask?" "Mainly why your mom is so nice, and...well, 'cause you're like really the opposite." "Excuse me?" "But I guess that seems kind of rude, so I'll shut up now." "Thanks."
A familiar scene took up at Michael's place that night though now the air was different. Sage and Michael were just as serious as ever, focused on their task of training hard, but where Sage was merely quiet and determined before, now she drove herself further still. There was little Michael could do, besides give commands and correct her with words, as his arm was still in a sling, but being his solitary focus didn't seem to bother Sage. Her expression was grave, and she barely nodded in acknowledgement of anything Michael said. This was no longer training for enjoyment: this was a single-minded obsession. And it creeped Genevieve out more than a little. When Merri had greeted them at the door, Gen found her back to her sweet, concerned personality, full of questions for Genevieve about what happened, and sympathy for Hayden's condition. Then, at Michael's command to "quit yakking and get to work," it was like a light switch flipped off and Merri was solemn again. She directed Gen to sit in the kitchen while she went to deal with God-knows-what in another room. Though she'd already proven to herself that she could extinguish a candle at will, without Michael suggesting anything else to be working on, Gen dug a candle out of a cupboard, lit it, and set to concentrating.
Skyla Dawn Cameron She began by feeling blocked again, but eventually the same strange sense of warm calm overtook her, and she felt the glimpse of another self there—a self who knew what she was doing. The candle went out. Extinguishing the flame seemed to grow easier and easier the more she did it after that, until it took little effort at all. By then, it was quarter after eleven at night, and she was beyond exhausted. She still hadn't seen Merri, and Sage showed no sign of stopping what she was doing. Though a little nervous about approaching Michael, she hoped that if he got annoyed and threw something at her again, at least this time his aim might be off from the injuries he sustained the night before. "Michael," she said quietly as she drew nearer to him. "Um..." "What?" he barked, barely sending a glance in her direction. Well, fuck being nice then. "What the hell are we doing here?" she shouted instead of continuing with the pleasant approach. "How is this helpful? I can put out the goddamn candle already. There must be something—" She paused as she realized he wasn't paying attention to her. Instead, he turned to look around the large room. "Merri!" he hollered. Seconds later, Merri opened the door to one of the side rooms and stuck her head out. "Yeah?" "What are you still doing in there?" "These things take time—" "I don't care—she's here bugging me now. Hurry up." Though miffed at being referred to as if she was a five year old, Gen was too confused over their conversation to complain. Merri thought over his words for a moment then nodded. "Follow me, Gen." Go in a dark and scary room with her?! That wasn't seeming like a good idea—for all Gen knew, she could be secretly planning to shoot her half a dozen times, then hide the body... "Hurry up," Michael ordered. God, even being brutally murdered by Merri would be better than dealing with him! She started to go, but then turned back to him once more, hands firmly placed on her hips. "Michael," she said. He sent a warning glare back at her. "I just want you to know that if I ever have the chance, I am going to kill you while you sleep. Possibly with a pillow, though I haven't yet ruled out something messy like a butcher's knife. That's all I have to say—I just thought you should be made aware." "Duly noted," he replied, and returned his attention to Sage. "Go and see Merri." Merri waited at the door to the spare room, and stepped aside so Gen could enter. Though Genevieve hadn't been upstairs or to the other separate rooms but
Children of the Apocalypse for the bathroom, she half expected to find a torture chamber or something. Instead, the room was long, narrow, and more or less bare. Sheets of white canvas covered furniture and boxes in the corner of the room, and a few shelves of books lined the far wall. In the center of the room was a wide circle of lit white candles and an open book. Really not liking the look of this, Gen thought. "Just sit down over there, gimme a minute, and we can get started," Merri said. She started to close the door, as if expecting Gen to get out of the way immediately, but Genevieve stood her ground. "You don't like me much, do you Gen?" Merri said with a sad, half smile. "I like you fine," Gen admitted. "I just don't trust you." "You think I'm going to hurt you?" "I think that I don't know for sure you won't. One minute you're all shy, the next it's puppies and rainbows, and then you shot a guy without a hint of emotion. It's damn creepy, actually." Merri pondered this for a few moments, watching Genevieve as she chose her words with care. "We are what we are," Meredith said at last with a little shrug. "But you can trust me, whatever that's worth." Not a hell of a lot. "Will you come in and sit down at least?" Not seeing any chairs, Gen took a few steps inside the room and lowered herself to the ground, folding her legs across one another. "What's going on? And I'd prefer your answer says it doesn't involve me." "We're taking away the element of surprise." "How...cryptic. Then does it involve putting out candles? 'Cause I'm pretty good at that now—I can help with that part." "It's pretty simple," Merri said as she picked up a book from the floor then sat down on the centre of the circle of candles. "And I'm doing most of it. I'll just need you to help me out, okay?" She patted the spot on the floor in front of her and gestured to Gen to sit there. "Please tell me that I'm helping by putting out candles?" Gen asked as she scrambled to the spot Merri indicated. Meredith only offered a smile in response, and Gen realized with a sinking feeling that whatever was required of her wasn't going to be all that easy. "I'll need you to read exactly what is written here," Merri said, handing her the open book. She'd been hoping for a dusty old book with handwritten calligraphy, and an ancient, forbidding power emanating from the pages. Instead, she got plain softcover book with blindingly white pages and a spine without a single crease. So much for a cool, movie-esque atmosphere, she thought. As she gazed over the words on the open page, she realized she didn't recognize a single letter. "Um...Merri, I can't read this."
Skyla Dawn Cameron Meredith tapped the opposite page. "It's spelled phonetically there." "Ah. That's...helpful." "They really fixed it up for the third printing—it's much more accessible to people. Now take a minute to get grounded, then I need you to take my hands, concentrate, and read exactly what you see in the book." "Will anything explode?" "No." "Am I going to kill anyone?" "No." "Is something bad going to happen to me?" "You'll be fine, I promise, Gen," she said with a warm smile that, once again, Genevieve didn't trust for a second. Meredith closed her eyes and held her hands out, palms upward. After taking a few deep breaths, Gen dropped her hands onto Merri's, and looked down at the book. She read through it a few times in her head, getting familiar with the words. Satisfied she'd be comfortable enough to say them aloud she allowed her mind to clear and recited the spell. Nothing happened. Gen glanced around the room, a little confused. Was something supposed to happen? A glowy light, perhaps? Maybe something might float or burst into flames? Of course, Merri hadn't exactly said what to expect; maybe the effects would be felt later... "Again," Meredith whispered. "What?" "Just say it again. Once more." "With feeling?" Meredith didn't reply, so with a tired sigh, Gen read the words in the book once more, and waited. She looked around at the circle of candles surrounding them. The flames didn't flicker or go out, and nothing seemed any different— Meredith's grip on Gen's hands suddenly tightened. "Merri?" Her body tensed, and her auburn brows pulled into a frown of pain. "Meredith?" Gen said again, concern rising in her voice. Merri squeezed her hands tighter still, knuckles going white from the pressure. What do I do, what do I do... Gen glanced to the closed door; should she bug Michael? Would he even care at this point? Was all this normal, or was something bad going on? She twisted one of her hands from Meredith's grip and hurriedly flipped through the book, searching for something—anything—that might help, or possibly tell her what the spell they just did was supposed accomplish. There were just more words that looked like gibberish to her, though. Meredith fell back suddenly, arching her spine and stretching her limbs in a frightfully unnatural position. As she flung her arm to the side, several candles knocked over, and hot wax dripped onto the floorboards.
Children of the Apocalypse "Michael!" Gen screamed, casting the book aside and jumping to Merri's side. Her friend was pale and beads of sweat ran along her forehead. Dread clawed at Gen as she watched Meredith twist with pain—this couldn't be right. This must not be what was supposed to happen... "Michael!" Seconds later, the door burst open and Michael was there, pushing Genevieve out of the way and kneeling next to Merri. Gen watched in terrified silence, feeling as helpless as she had hours earlier upon discovering Hayden near death in his car, as Michael reached for her wrist and checked her pulse. "Is she going to be okay?" Gen asked. "I don't know what happened, I—" "She's fine," he said, still looking at Merri with concern. "She really doesn't look it!" Michael ignored her and watched Merri closely for a few minutes. Eventually she stopped twisting and arching, and then dropped flat on the floor. Eyes closed, Meredith didn't move again, as if in a deep sleep. Michael lifted her upper body off of the floor as best he could, but with one arm in a sling, there was little he could do. "Do you need me to do something?" Sage called from the doorway. "Just get back to work," Michael brushed her off then looked at Gen. "Think you're capable of helping?" "What do you want me to do?" "Put her over my shoulder." He indicated the one that hadn't been hit by bullets the night before. "You sure that's a good idea? I mean—" "And don't ask questions." "Fine," Gen said with a sigh. "But try not to drop her." Michael stood up on his knees and did what he could to help as Gen lifted Merri up and heaved her over his less injured shoulder. She wasn't certain how safe Meredith would be there, but he stood up without help and managed to balance the unconscious body slung over his back fairly well. At first Gen thought he might take Merri to the couch, but instead he veered to the right and headed up the stairs. Though he hadn't told her to follow, he hadn't explicitly told her she was done helping either, so Gen opted to follow in silence. The upstairs loft resembled the downstairs: unpainted red brick walls, long dark curtains over the windows, and rows of shelves filled with an assortment of books. In addition was a short wall in the middle of the room, dividing the space into two. The right half housed a cabinet that resembled the large flat one downstairs—which contained all the creepy weapons Gen had seen on her first day there—as well as a couple of target boards mounted on the far wall. Decidedly that was the more scary part of the room, so Gen directed her attention to the other half, where Michael was taking Merri. A king-sized bed was pushed into one corner, and bookshelves and a rocking chair were in the other. Stylistically, everything was streamlined and simple, with fabrics in black and furniture in dark walnut. It all seemed more or less very...Michael. Except for the art on the walls, that is. Framed sketches and original
Skyla Dawn Cameron oil paintings hung along the walls. Some were classical nudes, others landscapes from places Gen didn't recognize, and all high realism. "Can you clear a spot for her?" Michael said, pausing next to the bed. Gen rushed ahead of him and grabbed up the hardcover sketchbook and array of pencils from where they rested on the mattress, and then set them on the bedside table. "Is she going to be okay?" Gen asked as Michael set Merri down on the bed gently. "Yes." "Did something go wrong or—" "No." "So this," Gen gestured to an unconscious Merri, "was supposed to happen?" Michael ignored her, and set to adjusting the pillows behind Merri's head. He looked concerned, at least to Gen, but she had to trust that if Meredith was in any real trouble, he wouldn't merely be fluffing pillows. She knew how quiet some people got when they were worried or upset too—current example being Sage the entire time they were at the hospital that day—and just in case Michael actually had a single inch of sensitivity in his being, she decided to abstain from drawing attention to it by asking if he was worried. "Grab her a bottle of water from the fridge for when she wakes up," Michael said as he reached over the headboard to turn on the wall-mounted reading lamp. The paper shade dulled the glow of the bulb, and in its light, Merri appeared to be sleeping peacefully. Gen started for the stairs then Michael's sharp reprimand stopped her. "Not there—around the corner." She peered around the short wall and sure enough, there was a mini-fridge tucked in the darkness. "That is so cool," Gen said as she grabbed the bottle of water and set it on the nightstand. "What is?" "That you have a mini-fridge in your room. I always wanted one." He gave her a strange look. "Yeah, yeah," Gen said. "That's probably like really lame sounding." She guessed that since he hadn't yelled at her to go away yet that they must be waiting for Merri to wake up. Still, even in seemingly life or death situations, the tension around Michael was palpable, and Gen looked for a way to break the ice. Her gaze fell on the book that appeared to be a sketchbook, and she reached down to open the cover. "So you draw—" Michael snatched her wrist just as her fingers touched the book and he yanked her arm back. She found herself staring into his eyes, unable to look away, and just as terrified of him as she was the man who tried to kill them the night before. "Don't touch my things," he growled, then dropped her arm. "Sorry." She rubbed her sore wrist, hoping he didn't leave a mark.
Children of the Apocalypse As Michael watched Merri in silence for a few minutes, Gen watched him. He definitely looked worried—there was little doubt about it. On one hand, Genevieve felt a need to rejoice in knowing he was at least human, but stronger still was the pull to be worried herself. He seemed less concerned when he was shot himself, so if this was troubling him... "Michael," Gen began. He turned to face her, ready to snap. "Are you sure..." She frowned as she noticed the dark red spots forming on the upper part of his T-shirt. "You're bleeding again," she informed him, gesturing to the spots. Muttering an obscenity under his breath, he nodded to the stairs. "Merri will probably be asleep for awhile, so you and Sage can go home." Gen was more than happy to get out of the loft and away from him, so she ran straight for the stairs. "Back here early in the morning," Michael called as she thumped down the steps. "What's going on?" Sage asked. "We get, oh, about..." Gen glanced at her watch. "Five or six hours of sleep, then we have to come back." "Is Meredith alright?" Sage slipped her pullover on for the trip back home and packed up her gym bag. "In theory." As the girls stepped outside of Michael's house, they both cast a glance around, now each extra paranoid about what might be waiting for them in the dark. "Maybe we should have called a cab?" Gen suggested. "Just hurry up." *~*~* An hour passed after Genevieve and Sage had left before Meredith awoke. Michael sat in the mission rocking chair across from the bed, reading in the dim light. He'd changed the bandages on his chest as best he could with the use of only one hand, and put on yet another new T-shirt. At this rate, half of his clothes would be bloodstained in only a few short days. Maybe when the threat was disposed off— however brief a time that would be—he could actually have enough time to heal properly. Either way, a new wardrobe was definitely in order. "Michael," came Merri's hoarse whisper. He set down the book and went to her side, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Water?" he offered. She shook her head. "Nothing cold..." After picking up the water on the nightstand Gen had brought from the fridge earlier, he snapped off the cap and handed her the bottle. "Room temperature." "Thanks." She smiled appreciatively and accepted the drink, downing half the bottle. "Are they still here?" "No. I sent them home."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I'm okay," she said, trying to sit in a hurry. "I can—" "You can rest." With care, he pushed her shoulder and urged her to lie down once more. "They'll be here in the morning." "Okay," she nodded, more to herself than him, her gaze drifting off. "Okay. Tomorrow is fine. We have time. Not much, though." "You don't need to worry about it." She rested the bottle back on the nightstand, took the dark red throw pillow cast to her left and hugged it against her chest. Where her thoughts were, Michael didn't know, and he certainly wouldn't pry. If Merri had something to tell him, she'd say it. "Did I scare Gen?" she asked suddenly and her face fell into a frown of worry. "Yeah," Michael said with a half smile. "Dammit...I was going to tell her, but then I didn't think she'd do it..." "You were right—if she knew that would happen, she wouldn't have agreed to help. Besides, it was funny." She smacked his hand, playful but also a genuine scold. "Don't be such a prick. She's trying, you know." "Get some rest," he said as he stood, avoiding any discussions of the witch. "I should go home—" She ceased her arguing as he shook his head. "I'm fine downstairs. They're coming back in the morning, so sleep now." He switched off the lamp, gathered his book, and walked to the stairs. "Michael," she called, and he looked back. "Don't you want to know what I saw?" He wouldn't say no, because he did want to know—their lives depended on it. But he wouldn't make her relive it either, not now, not when she needed time to recuperate...time to prepare for whatever would come. "It can wait," he said truthfully, then went downstairs to leave her to some much needed rest. *~*~* Genevieve didn't sleep well. It wasn't as if her accommodations were awful or anything. Sage insisted on sleeping on the pullout couch, and let Gen have her bed, which she found incredibly comfortable. And the basement was dark and silent, so sleep should have come easily. Instead, she silently cried, burying her head in her folded arms. So much had happened. Hayden had nearly died... Hayden, her best friend's brother. She'd known him for almost a decade, grown up feeling as though he was her big brother too. The sight of the blood and him not moving... Scarier still was the sight of Sage not moving. She stood there by the car, frozen and terrified. Gen never would have expected that, and seeing her be so human was disconcerting. Much like Michael, if something freaked Sage out, they were definitely in trouble.
Children of the Apocalypse She was also drawn back to what Michael had said the night before. Sage wasn't ready. Here, she seemed like the most capable one of any of them, and even she lacked what was necessary to stop the people after them: the ability to strike a killing blow. Had Hayden's attack pushed her enough to take that step? And, more importantly, did Gen want to know if it had? A stab of guilt struck her then. Did it really matter? She'd been too quick to judge Merri. Whatever spell they did earlier had been designed to do something to Meredith—something probably harmful—which is why she hadn't told Gen what it was. Genevieve had carried on about not trusting her and whined about having to do any work, all the while Merri knew in a short time, if they succeeded, she'd be in an incredible amount of pain, and probably pass out for the rest of night. There was little doubt that whatever they did probably relied on Meredith's abilities as a seer. And from what she'd gathered earlier, from snippets of conversations and the expression on Merri's face when talking about certain things, "seeing" was far from fun. Whatever she experienced, it wasn't a picture on a movie screen she was distanced from—it wasn't something she could happily turn on or off when she felt like it. A warrior who couldn't kill, a seer currently incapacitated, and a witch that could barely put out a candle... They were doomed.
he following morning, Sage woke Genevieve up at six in the morning and barked at her to get dressed. After a night of fitful sleep, Gen had only gotten a few hours combined of actual rest. Even still, her eyes shot open at the sound of Sage's voice, and she slid out of bed without complaint. Sage might not be prepared to kill anyone, but Gen didn't trust her not to drop kick her if she didn't get out of bed. Diana Bethany was on her way down the stairs a half an hour later, as the girls were heading out the door. She must have been used to her daughter taking off early in the morning, for she didn't question the brief explanation of, "Going to Sensei Michael's." Sage took the lead once they reached Michael's house, throwing open the door and heading straight to the back room to change. Gen shut the door behind her and wandered toward the kitchen, where she found a pot of coffee on, and Michael taking some mugs out of a cupboard. "Don't you ever lock your door?" she asked. "Don't you ever knock?" was his curt reply. "First of all, that was Sage. Second of all, considering people are like trying to kill us and stuff, it makes sense that you'd lock the door." "You think they wouldn't get in?" "I think at least we'd have some warning." He took his time pouring the coffee into a pair of mugs. "I told you to be here in the morning, so I unlocked the door when I woke up." "Oh." He took a hold of one of the cups by the rim and thrust it in her direction. "Uh, no thanks," she said, but he didn't move. "Take it to Merri." "She's awake?"
Children of the Apocalypse "Should be." Gen took the cup by the handle, careful not to burn herself, and gazed into the depths of the coffee for a moment. "Hey, you aren't going to offer me any?" "Do you want some?" he asked, his nerves clearly well frayed. She wondered if he got any sleep at all. "Well, no, but the point is that you should ask," she muttered, and went to take Merri the drink. In the loft, she found Meredith sitting up in bed. The black comforter was drawn over her legs, and she read a book. "More spells for me to do that knock you out?" Gen guessed as she set the coffee on the nightstand and pulled the rocking chair over to sit near the bed. Merri held up the book up, revealing the title What's Bred In the Bone. "Robertson Davies, for English." "Damn, when are we supposed to have that read by?" "Test is in two weeks." "Oh well. That's plenty of time." They sat in silence for a few minutes as Merri sipped her coffee. "So you stayed here last night." Merri nodded. Gen resisted the urge to ask if she and Michael were, indeed, having a torrid affair. The thought had crossed her mind a few times since she and Sage discussed it the day before, and she wasn't yet certain if she was ready to know the truth, in case the answer was, "yes." She was still lingering somewhere around, ewww as a response. "Didn't your parents get mad?" Meredith pushed some strands of hair behind her ear in a gesture Gen interpreted as nervous. "No," she said quickly. "I already told my mom I might be staying overnight at a friend's place." Jeez, that must be nice—a parent that didn't insist on having the name, number, and full background check on the person whose house she was going to? A dream come true. Silence took up again, until Meredith spoke at last. "What happened wasn't your fault. You don't have to feel bad." "Uh, I think it kind of was my fault—I said a bunch of words, and poof!" She made a dramatic gesture with her hands. "You had a seizure." "It was my choice, Gen. It's okay." "Are you going to tell me what I did?" Merri nodded, took a final gulp of her coffee, and then set the cup down. "I'll come down and tell everyone." Gen put the chair back where she got it and waited while Merri rose weakly from bed. "Merri, I'm sorry," she said just as they started for the stairs. "Just...for what I did—" "It's okay—" "—and for being such a bitch about everything—"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Really, it's okay, Gen," she assured her with a warm smile. "I understand." Genevieve nodded, accepting that she was forgiven—or at least that Merri would never tell her if she wasn't—and followed her friend downstairs to the sitting area. Michael sat on the couch sipping his coffee and reading, while Sage had changed into her training clothes and was busy stretching. While Gen opted for the chair, and as far away from Michael as possible, Merri took a seat on the couch. She leaned over and gave his coffee a quick whiff. "Irish-ed up, I take it?" she guessed. "Only way to drink it." "Should you really be having liquor when someone could burst in to kill us at any second?" Gen asked. Michael fixed her with a cold gaze. "How about I shoot you in the chest a few times and you can see how you do without proper pain killers?" "That wouldn't make me like whiskey any better. And maybe you should have gone to the hospital." "Are we ready to get started?" Merri said, pre-empting Michael's next harsh reply. "Sage," Michael called, while not taking his eyes from Genevieve. Gen squirmed a little under his gaze then dropped her eyes, cursing his ability to freak her out so easily. Sage rounded the couch and sat down cross-legged by Gen's chair, and eventually all eyes turned to Merri expectantly. No one seemed ready to speak yet, but whether Michael was just waiting for someone else, or he wanted to finish his Irish coffee first, Gen couldn't be sure. "Can you tell me now what we did yesterday?" Genevieve asked to break the ice. "I told you, we were taking away the element of surprise," Merri said. "And that would mean...?" "I know where they are and what they're planning," she stated flatly. "Um...what?" "The purpose of the spell you two did was to allow Merri to see what your enemies were planning," Michael explained in that "you're so stupid—shut the hell up, Genevieve" sort of voice that made her want to stab him in the eyes. "It put her in their minds." "Michael was passed some information that we thought might be a plant," Merri said. "It coincided with..." her gaze drifted to Sage sadly, "with the attack on Hayden. An informant told Michael where the other three guys were hiding—" "And you didn't tell us yesterday?" Sage cut in, rage edging her voice. "What the hell—" "It seemed a little strange that this tip would come in so suddenly," Michael said. A warning look in Sage's direction, and she was effectively silenced. She didn't hide the glare in her eyes, but her mouth tightened and she didn't say a word. "So you asked Merri to do that...spell last night?" Gen asked. Michael nodded. "And?"
Children of the Apocalypse He sent his gaze to Merri, and once again Gen detected worry there. Worry for what she was about to say, or just for Merri herself? She'd never been able to read him before, and obviously Genevieve wasn't about to miraculously get any insight into his thinking. Idle speculation it is, she thought. Whatever history might be there, she wouldn't be hearing about it any time soon. "It's a trap," Meredith said. "They are where Michael was told they'd be, but they know we're coming. The idea was to make us strike first at where we thought they'd be—last night, actually—and then get ambushed." "Or divide us," Gen said quietly. The comment was more a remark made to herself than the group, but suddenly they were all looking at her and she felt her face heat up with embarrassment. Michael and Merri were the ones who knew what they were doing—she certainly didn't want to be talking tactics with them. Along for the ride...that's how it was for Gen. "Sorry, keep talking," she said, bowing her head. A curtain of straight blonde hair slipped off her shoulder and fell over part of her face, helping to hide her expression of discomfort. I sound like such an idiot—just get on with it, Mer. "Well..." Merri began, but Michael interrupted. "No, what?" Gen ventured a glance up at him to find his green gazed fixed on her, unwavering. She couldn't be certain whether or not this would lead to another reprimand for bothering them. "I don't know," she said with a shrug. "I just thought..." "What?" he prompted again. Well, colour me shocked—he actually wants to hear what I have to say. "Why come after Hayden?" she said. "Because we killed one of them," Sage said coldly, as if this fact would be clear to anyone with a quarter of a brain. "That's what he said when he called me." "Except why Hayden?" she said, turning to Sage. "Why at school, in the parking lot, with so many people around? And why call you? That doesn't sound like what these guys do..." Her attention returned to Michael, expression animated. She felt sure of herself suddenly, and the ideas poured forth, without any hint of doubt in her voice. "You said they know us. They've been following us, right? Hayden as a target wasn't to draw all of us to them—it was to get Sage. They think she's the threat. They don't know Merri killed that guy—they're guessing its Sage. Obviously, they know I'm not very useful, and who would expect the Seer to be off shooting people? When that guy didn't come back, their options were you," she gestured to Michael, "which was probable, but you've already said you're not the one they're after. And then there's Sage. They assumed she did it, and since she's the strong one, they went after Hayden—her weakness—trusting somehow their location would get back to her, and she'd take off after them. They ambush her, and that's it—we're without a Warrior." Her little explanation done, Gen leaned back in the chair and felt some of her energy dissipate under their stares. This was why she never tried to be serious—they looked like they all thought she was nuts.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "You're right," Michael said at last. "I am?" Gen resisted the urge to check if he was bleeding again, since a loss of blood seemed the only logical explanation for him agreeing with her. "They only really need to kill one of you. Everything I've ever read about this mentions the importance of having you three together...kill one, and the fact that the other two live is a moot point—you won't succeed, and they automatically win." The thought sent a chill down Genevieve's spine. "So these other times they came after us...Michael was able to help me and Merri, and Sage took them on by herself. They were testing us..." "Just not for the weakest link," Michael finished for her, "but for the strongest." "Who cares?" Sage snapped. "Just tell me where they are and I'll deal with them. I'm ready." "No, you're not," Michael said. "Yes I am! I'm not going to just—" "Go." He gestured behind him, and with the look he was giving her, Gen was more than glad to not be the source of his anger for once. "Sit in seiza while the rest of us discuss this." Whatever internal conflict went on in Sage in the following moments, no one could tell, but eventually Michael's command won out. She silently stood and walked to the training area behind the couch, then dropped down onto her knees and sat with her legs folded under her. She stared straight ahead without a word. "The only problem is that I didn't get a sense they were expecting just Sage," Merri said. "Would they know all this, though?" Gen asked. "They're like some guy's lackeys, right? Michael said there's someone controlling them...he's the one who'd have the details." Merri nodded. "True. They were told to kill whoever showed up there...and they wouldn't care about specifics." "So...what are we going to do?" Following the gaze exchange between Michael and Merri, Genevieve suspected that they'd probably already discussed potential plans of action before, and whatever they had in mind, was going to be bad. "They're expecting us, so it's not like we can just go over!" "They won't stop," Michael said. "It's time for action." "Can 'action' involve reconsidering calling the police?" "It's simple," Michael said. "If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in." Gen had no idea what door Michael might have been talking about, but she was more than a little worried. "Meaning what, exactly?" *~*~* As late-morning rolled around, the group sat in Michael's car. Sage still had to visit Hayden in the hospital, so Michael pulled the vehicle around the visitor's entrance and the rest of them waited for her return.
Children of the Apocalypse Sage slipped past the main desk, and went straight for Hayden's room. She wasn't sure if they were still implementing the "family only" policy, but if she managed to get in there the night before, that morning shouldn't be a problem. She found Hayden awake and flipping through T.V. stations. "Nothing on?" she called from the doorway. "I get like twenty channels," he said with a sigh as he turned the television off. "The sooner I get home, the better." She went to his side and sat on the edge of the bed. When he reached toward her, she folded her fingers over his, finding them warm and comforting. "Called you today," he said, raising his brow questioningly. "About an hour ago—your mom said you and Gen went to your Sensei's?" "Wanted to get in some practice this morning." Offering him a shrug, she did what she could to look casual about it. "Yeah, but...you're hanging out with Gen?" He was rightfully confused; even her claim to be helping her study seemed out of character, and Sage knew it. "The truth is..." The truth. Would he believe it? Think she was crazy, maybe? Tell her to leave? "It's okay, I think I figured it out." "You did?" she said quickly, immediately worried. "Yeah. Lev was worried about her—said some guy was bothering her, and he thought she should learn to take care of herself better. She asked you to hook her up with some self defense lessons?" Sage relaxed. At least that was a partial truth. "Yeah, yeah, that's it. Her parents would be worried, so we haven't been telling anyone." "And does this have anything to do with your supposed gang connections?" Dammit, so he did remember she said that... But by the expression on his face, he still didn't believe her, even after having a night to think about it. "Let me guess," he continued with a teasing grin. "Genevieve Weist—of all people—has joined your gang too? Or is this maybe like a kung fu movie with rival martial arts schools?" At least he'd given her an opening... "Yeah," she said suddenly. "It's kind of like that." "And I suppose I was attacked by this opposing school?" She nodded. His grin lingered for a few moments longer until he realized she was serious. "Jesus, have you been to the police—" "They can't do anything. Not about this." "Well, of course they can—" "They can't." She felt her eyes moisten. "And I'm sorry..." "Look, if you're in trouble or something—" A squeeze of his hand and he went silent. "I'm going to take care of it," she promised. "Sage—"
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I have to do this. I'll be back in a few hours." Though she started to stand, his grip on her hand tightened and drew her back. "What's going on?" "I'll tell you everything when I get back." "Is that a promise?" "Yeah. Everything." "No...I mean, you're coming back?" If I'm sure of anything, it's that I'm coming back to you. "Absolutely," she whispered. He gave her hand a tug, and she fell into his embrace, tears glistening from her long lashes as she hugged him back. For a moment she forgot the others awaiting her in the car, let go of what she had to do that day, and lost herself in his embrace. "I love you, Sage," he whispered. She felt him press his lips to her forehead. "You'd better come back to me." "I will," she returned. This won't be the last time I hold you, she swore to herself. I'll do this somehow...I'll see you soon. *~*~* Gen sat in the backseat, chewing at her thumbnail. She'd gnawed off three fingernails on one hand, and she figured she'd make short work of the other one too before they reached their destination. She couldn't for the life of her grasp their logic, no matter how she tried. They knew where the people who wanted to hurt them were all grouped together. Why not then go in the opposite direction! Running straight for them seemed like suicide... Sure, Michael and Merri had a plan. And they were both armed. And they seemed to have plans for Gen and Sage as well. But in between moments of numb surrealism, Genevieve was terrified. "I want to call my dad," she said suddenly. Michael sent her a look in the rear view mirror. "I don't think that's wise." Tears gathered in her eyes, but she was determined not to shed them. Not yet, and certainly not in front of him. "I don't care what you think. I'm probably going to die in like an hour and—" "Gen..." Merri turned in her seat, looking concerned. "You're going to be fine— " "I want to say goodbye to my parents." "Hurry up," Michael said, but Gen was already opening the door and slipping outside the car. For awhile, she simply stared at the phone. Around her, people went on with their lives, oblivious to what she and her companions were about to do. A couple of nurses and patients stood outside the hospital doors smoking, the apparent irony of that being lost on them. Another group of nurses sat on a park bench, their lunches balanced on their laps, enjoying both conversation and the beautiful autumn day.
Children of the Apocalypse If only it could have been cold. And Damp. Maybe a little misty. There should be something foreboding in the air, but instead it was like a freakin' Disney movie outside, with the tree leaves brilliant shades of orange and red, and birds chirping happily. Genevieve's fingertips trembled as she dialed her home phone number. It took three tries before she got the number right, but all too soon the line was ringing. She paced outside the car. "Hello?" Her voice stuck in her throat for a moment and she bit at her bottom lip to keep from crying. "Hello—" her father said again. "Hi Dad." "Hey sweetheart. Still at your friend’s house?" "Uh, no," she said, trying to keep a level of composure to her voice. "We're at the hospital—she wanted to visit Hayden." "Is he okay? You sound upset." She squeezed her eyes shut, a few tears hitting her cheeks. Between the cool autumn breeze skimming her face and the bright sun, they dried almost instantly. A few deep breaths later, and she attempted to speak again. "Yeah...yeah, I'm fine." Though she forced her tone to remain casual, a few cracks still showed. "It's just...a lot has gone on, that's all. I'm...I'm really tired." "Do you need me to pick you up?" Oh God, yes... She wanted them to pick her up and take her home, and she could forget all about everything. No apocalypses. No special powers. "Genny?" her dad prompted. "I think I have to stay with Sage a bit longer," she said despite her better judgment. "I'll get you if want to come home...but I think it's good you're helping your friend through this. She probably needs you right now." Sage needed her...the thought seemed so odd, she nearly contradicted her father right then. But her gaze strayed to Merri and Michael in the car, then towards the hospital where Sage sat with Hayden, knowing she might not come back to him as well. On some level, it was possible they did need her. This was where she belonged. "Yeah," Gen said quietly. "I think I'm going to be gone a little while longer. Is Mom there?" "She went out to pick out a fruit basket herself for the Greenes—couldn't trust the lady at the store to do it, of course." Gen smiled absently. "Of course." "Do you want her to call you back later?" "No, it's alright." "Are you sure you're okay, Genny?" her father asked after a long pause. "Yeah. I'm okay." She saw Sage coming out the front doors and swiftly walking to the car. "I have to go now." "Talk to you later, sweetheart."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "I love you, Daddy," she whispered and hung up before she could break down any more. Sage slid into the backseat without a word, and Gen did the same. "Ready?" Michael said, taking a moment to meet everyone's eyes, but holding Gen's stare a beat longer. Never, Genevieve thought...and then she nodded. "Ready," she said. Whatever that means.
Michael drove them to an old farm house outside of town. Abandoned and on the dilapidated side, Gen didn't have trouble seeing it as the hideout for a bunch of crazy assassin guys. "What's the plan again?" she asked Michael parked the car half a kilometre from the house. "We go in and kill," Sage said sharply. "It's not difficult." Gen was certain there had been more to the plan than that, but she was too terrified at the moment to bother remembering. Michael, Merri, and Sage each got out of the car. Gen lagged behind, but eventually pushed the door open and joined them. It was all just too surreal still. "What if they're expecting us," Gen said, balking as the others went calmly to the trunk of the car to retrieve their things. "That's the point, Gen," Merri said. "Yeah, but what if they're like standing there at the windows, ready to start shooting?" "They're having lunch about now," Merri replied again, just as warmly as before, her voice fully composed as if what they were about to do was completely normal for her. "You saw the pizza guy on his way back—they're sitting down to eat, and they're not expecting Sage yet." Michael took the little white book Merri had had the day before, opened it to a certain page, and handed it to Genevieve. "You need to focus, keep repeating those words, and stay close to us at all times," he said. She reluctantly took the book and read through the words in her head. It was one thing to have to read it just sitting with Meredith at Michael's place, but another completely when it came to heading into the lion's den armed with a spell she was sure wouldn't work. "Do you understand me?" Michael prodded, as if she was a complete idiot incapable of grasping neither his words, nor his serious tone. "Yes." Sage took the lead, heading up the long gravel driveway towards the house. Michael and Merri walked a few steps back while Gen brought up the rear. Each remained silent, no one daring to speak. The gravity of the situation made words unnecessary. Though Michael had said multiple times she was to keep close to them, she wasn't sure how close "close" was, and asking him to clarify his words didn't seem the best idea. Whether he was worried or even scared, she couldn't tell...but if she
Children of the Apocalypse were to guess anything about his thoughts right then, it was that they ran along the lines of, "If Genevieve says a word to me, I'm going to kill her." Gen kept her mouth shut. The group stopped before the front steps that led to the porch, which wrapped around the house. Yellowed paint peeled from the old wood, and as they stepped onto the porch, the floorboards creaked beneath their feet. Any second now, Gen was certain the whole place would come down on them...why couldn't the scary murderous guys be living in a nice condo somewhere instead? Sage strode to the front door boldly as if she truly was unafraid. Either that or a little crazy...and given the gleam in her eye, Genevieve was putting her vote in column B on that one. Merri took position out of sight on Sage's left, while Michael took the right. He grabbed Gen's arm on the way and dragged her to the wall beside him. "What if they heard us?" Gen whispered. "And they're ready right now—" "Kitchen's at the back of the house," he hissed. "But what if—" "We don't have time for this." They didn't have time for her worrying about her own mortality? Especially when she knew what this spell was supposed to do...? "You said that—" "I'll cover you," Michael said sternly, as if he thought it odd she would doubt his promise to keep her safe. "Now start reading." As she uttered the first word, Sage rang the doorbell. Gen stammered a bit, staring at the door, breathless and terrified, unaware she had stopped reading until a rough nudge in her ribs from Michael got her started again. Sage leaned forward and pressed her ear to the door, listening. Except for Gen's uneven whispering of her spell, no one dared speak. A calm smile came over Sage's lips, as if she heard what she was waiting for then she took a step back and swung a kick into the door. The door flew open, nearly off its hinges, and a grunt within the house suggested someone received the brunt of it. "Keep reading," Michael ordered, rightfully worried Gen would stop as she mumbled through a sentence, eyes wide with terror. She dropped her gaze back down to the book and fumbled through the next passage until she found her rhythm again. Michael took her arm, and she didn't put up a fight when he guided her forward, trusting him against her better instincts. Her feet touched down in the doorway to the house. In her peripheral vision, she caught sight of Sage in a scuffle to their left and Merri close by keeping an eye out for the others. Keep concentrating, keep concentrating... She breathed in through her nose, then pushed the breath out with her words, trying to will some power into them. But it wasn't until Merri shouted for their attention that she had a chance to see if it worked or not...
Skyla Dawn Cameron The other two men had rushed in, and though they didn't seem the least bit concerned about their friend pinned to the ground under Sage where his face was a mass of blood beneath her fist, they were prepared to jump into action. Each grabbed a hold her arms and yanked her back so their companion could stand and catch his bearings. Gen's eyes shot back to the page and she continued reading, yet her gaze floated up again, eager to see what was going to happen. Merri sent Michael a look, and reached for the gun tucked in the waistband of her pants, but he shook his head. They all knew that Sage felt she needed to deal with this on her own, but at the moment Gen wondered how wise a decision that was. And then the older of the group of men whipped out a knife and slashed at Sage's throat. Gen squealed out the next word of her spell and waited, breathless, for the blood and the screaming... But Sage didn't bleed. She didn't cry out. Her skin was smooth, untouched by the knife and fully intact. The strangeness of it did seem to register with her attacker and he stared at her in confusion for a moment. Sage acknowledged his reaction with a cool smile then kicked the weapon from his hand. It worked! Oh my fucking god, it worked!! "Read," Michael hissed into her ear, and Gen realized she had stopped the spell while she stared at Sage. Before she could drop her eyes to begin reading again, however, she found herself staring into the blank stare of one of the assassins. His eyes went from her eyes to the book, then back to her eyes again. The other two men turned to look at her as well, and she realized that somehow...they knew. It was as if they just noticed her, Michael, and Merri standing there, and all their attention became focused on Gen and her book... And if they knew she was responsible for the spell, did they also know it was only affecting Merri, Sage, Michael, but not Genevieve herself...? "Read," Michael said again and Gen fixed her eyes back on her page. She stumbled through the words, fearful gaze flying up to see the men advancing on her then fluttered back to the page, determined to continue. Sage hadn't forgotten about them yet, however. She insinuated herself into the group and started taking swings wildly, not caring who's head her fist came in contact with. Glass shattered, wood broke, bodies collided and smashed furniture— soon Gen couldn't decipher one noise from another. She wasn't strong enough to handle three people, though. Perhaps she couldn't be physically harmed so long as Gen was reciting the spell, but she seemed locked in a stalemate. Just as Merri whipped out her gun, the weapon was knocked out of her hand as the scuffle between Sage and the three men made its way toward her. Gen could barely follow the brawl, let alone read at the same time.
Children of the Apocalypse "Don't you dare move," Michael warned her with a stern glare, and then he left her side to see if he could help. He grabbed an attacker with his good arm and threw the man aside, giving Sage a bit more breathing room. But though he couldn't be hurt anew while Gen was reading, that did little to change the fact that he'd been shot just days before, and when one of the men rushed him against the stairwell banister, he let out a cry of agony. Michael crumpled to the ground, breath lost for a moment. And then Genevieve realized with a sinking feeling that now she was definitely the target. He said he'd cover me...I'll be okay... But Michael was having trouble standing, and the man that put him out of commission was lunging for her. "M-Michael!" she screamed, scrambling to get out of the way. Her back hit the wall, and she found little space available to escape him... Worse still, she then realized that in uttering Michael's name in a cry for help, she had effectively broken the spell, and she'd have to start over again. As she was about to begin once more, the blank face of the younger of their assailants was next to hers, regarding her strangely. "Witch," he hissed in a little used voice. In a time like this, Genevieve wished she was someone clever and confident, who could throw a witty retort his way, followed up by a badass spell. Instead, her eyes got huge and she felt her heart beat so fast it seemed to leap straight from her chest. The man shoved her roughly. As Gen went sprawling headfirst into the side of a cabinet, the spell book slipped from her grasp. Though her head smacked the cabinet hard, she remained conscious as she slumped to the ground. The book, the book... Gen's gaze travelled across the floor—where the hell was the book?! A pair of legs clad in dark jean came towards her, and beyond them she saw the spell book, about five feet away. Impossible to reach. She'd be dead herself whether she reached it or not, but perhaps she could have bought the others a little time... Gen jumped back against the wall as a body collided with the floor beside her. Merri lay flat on her stomach, eyes closed and body unmoving. "Merri?" she called, reaching for her friend's throat. There seemed to be a pulse there... She glanced around the room again to see Sage tangled with two others—clearly losing—and the third still hell bent on stalking her. There was little she could to do stop him as he grabbed her by the throat and hauled her to her feet. It came as little surprise that he produced a knife, similar to the ones they all carried, and she felt tears of dread pool in her eyes and spill over her cheeks. Over his shoulder, she spotted Michael. Their eyes locked and an even greater terror gripped Genevieve then… The look in his gaze frightened her more than the current threat to her life; it wasn't defeat, worry, or anything she might have imagined him feeling at the moment... No, no, he was thinking. Deliberating. She was about to be stabbed, and
Skyla Dawn Cameron though he'd promised her he'd look out for her, he was clearly reconsidering. Did he desire to just give in and let them all die? Forget about everything he'd told them and watch the world go to hell? Or was there something more going on? Whatever it was, the look and his hesitation sent a chill down her spine for the long, breathless moments they gazed at one another… The knife drew her attention again and she squeezed her eyes shut. A gun fired, and Genevieve felt something hot and wet hit her face. The grip on her throat loosened and she chanced a glance at her attacker. Blood ran from his shoulder, and the splatter had hit her face and neck. Another bullet later—this time in his head—and he fell to the ground and didn't move again. Michael stood over the body, Meredith's gun in his hand. "Start reading," he said. "But Merri—" "I'll take care of Merri. Read." She scrambled out of his way so he could check on Meredith, and then she crawled towards the book. Unfortunately, when she dropped it, the thing fell shut. Her throat went dry. She didn't have a clue what page the spell was on. Gen flipped through the book madly, scanning the pages as she went, trying to remember how the spell began, but failing utterly. A metal object hit the hardwood floor and someone grunted in pain to her left. Michael's old bullet wounds were bleeding heavily now after being hit again and she had no idea where his gun went. Hurriedly, Gen went back to skimming the words of the book, hoping for anything familiar. But it's a spell book...there's got to be something in here—something useful... Granted, she didn't know if the book had a specific type of magic within its pages or not, or if any of it required something other than her speaking the words...but at this point, she'd try anything. She flipped to a random page, hoping somewhere within her was a magical sort of intuition she had never been aware of before that day, and that somehow it would lead her to the right passage. It was unlikely, but besides trying to pick up a gun and shoot, it was all she had. Gen found the phonetic spelling of an incantation on one page and began to blurt out the words, trying hard to concentrate with all the scuffling around her, all the while praying whatever she said would be helpful. About midway through the second paragraph, a sense of nausea overtook her. Head spinning and stomach twisting, she struggled through the final words until she felt ready to pass out. As the last words left her lips, the room went dead silent, and she was sure she'd already lost consciousness... But her eyes were still open. She blinked a few times and looked around the room. There was Sage, standing not far from the stairs, looking around thoroughly confused. Merri was still unconscious, and Michael was beside her, his eyes fixed on Genevieve.
Children of the Apocalypse Noticeably absent were the people who had been trying to kill them. Genevieve swallowed hard, certain that lump in the back of her throat was her heart or something. "What happened?" "What were you reading?" Michael asked coldly. "I-I don't know...I lost my page and I didn't know what to do—" "What were you reading!" Gingerly, she held out the open book for him, and he stood and snatched it up. After glancing over the page, he folded it closed and handed it back to her. "Where did they go?" Gen whispered, as afraid to breathe as she was to know his answer. "They won't be back," he said as he knelt by a stirring Merri and helped her sit up. "What did I do?" She neared tears; she didn't want to hurt anyone, no matter the situation they were in... "It worked and they won't be back," Michael said again. "Do you really care the reasons why?" Did she care? Yes. Did she want to know at that moment what horrible thing she had possibly done? Absolutely not. While Sage and Michael helped a dazed Merri to stand, Gen wandered through the open doorway and sank onto the porch steps. They were alive and more or less safe... This time, at least.
Twelve - Epilogue
part of Genevieve didn't believe they had succeeded. The odds seemed too stacked against them, and yet there they were, alive and, besides a few bruises, well. They stopped at Michael's so they could each get cleaned up, but Gen doubted she'd ever get the bloodstains out of her top. At least she could maybe lie to her parents and say it was from the day before when Hayden got hurt. Whether or not Sage felt her need for vengeance quelled, Gen couldn't be sure. She hadn't actually done any killing herself and at this point it was impossible to tell if she would truly be capable of it. Genevieve felt a shiver touch her spine. Maybe Sage wasn't capable, but she herself was. Accident or not, she killed two people... But she, Sage, Merri, and even Michael were still alive. And that was what was supposed to matter, right? Still, no one spoke in the car, least of all Genevieve. She sent wary glances to Michael now and then, but he seemed to be ignoring her. He almost let me die, she thought. There really had been a few moments there when she was certain he was going to watch that man stab her in the chest... Worse still, he had to know that she knew he hesitated. So what would happen the next time something awful arrived for them? Whose side would he be on? "You're going back to the hospital?" Michael asked, glancing back at Sage. "Yeah. I promised Hayden I'd be back." "You're not telling him anything, are you?" By Sage's silence, Gen was willing to bet good money that yes, she was planning to tell him, but Michael was arrogant enough to believe she wouldn't go against his rules, so he didn't argue when she shook her head. "Of course not."
Children of the Apocalypse He swung into the hospital parking lot, paid the toll, and then idled not far from the door. "Here's the list, just in case anyone 'forgot,'" Michael said as he passed Merri a slip of lined paper with small letters scrawled in ink across it, as well as a think envelope that reminded Gen of large cash bribes in the movies. "Shopping list of some sort?" Gen guessed. "You girls keep getting me shot and stabbed, and I'm running out of supplies," he said. "Coming, Gen?" Sage said as she got out of the car. Though she hadn't anticipated being asked to visit Hayden, Genevieve was grateful for the offer, and slipped out the door to follow Sage. Meredith joined them, "shopping list" and cash in hand. "Do you think I should tell him?" Sage said once they were out of earshot of the car. Her gaze was focused straight ahead, and Gen couldn't tell if she meant to ask her, Merri, both of them, or if it was only meant as rhetorical. "It's up to you," Merri said. "What you think is best..." "Yeah, but I mean, do you think he's in more danger knowing or not knowing?" "What do you mean?" Gen asked. "It's just...you know, I don't even know. I get the thinking that the more people who know, the more likely our enemies or whatever are to hear who we are and all that crap, but...but keeping it from him doesn't seem right either." The automatic doors slid open silently, and the girls passed through. Sage stopped in the lobby, still thinking, and Gen and Merri paused as well. "He should have the choice of being with me or not," Sage said slowly, casting her gaze downward. "If there's a chance he could be hurt again because of me..." She shivered absently. "I just don't want to lie to him. He should have the facts, and decide whether or not I'm worth the risk I put him at..." "Hey," Gen said, offering a smile and even going so far as to put a reassuring hand on Sage's shoulder. "I know Hayden. He wouldn't leave you for the world." "If I tell him," Sage said, eyeing both Gen and Merri. "I won't mention either of you. That's no one's business but yours." "Agreed," Gen said. Meredith seemed strangely silent, but it wasn't hard to guess that she shared Michael's opinion on the matter. "And you keep quiet about it, 'kay?" Merri put up her hands defensively. "None of my business." "Well," Gen said with a sigh, unable to deny the weight of worry tugging in the pit of her stomach. "Let's go tell your boy, then." They left Merri downstairs to go visit whoever it was that secretly sold Michael stolen medical supplies and took the elevator upstairs. As they turned the corner to head towards Hayden's room, Gen paused her step at the sight of the Greenes' in the upstairs waiting room. "Sage..." she began, but Sage had spotted them too and was already on her way over. "No telling Levi, though," Sage whispered as the strolled toward the waiting room. "Okay?"
Skyla Dawn Cameron Great, Sage could tell her boyfriend, but Gen was supposed to lie to her best friend? The logic was there though, she supposed. Levi would freak out, and that was if he even believed her. "Hi," Sage said, smiling awkwardly as Hayden's parents noticed her there. "I hope it's okay I brought Gen along—she wanted to see..." It seemed to register with Sage just as it did with Gen that Mr. and Mrs. Greene looked…upset. Eyes red-rimmed, shoulders turned inward. It was then Gen noticed Levi still sat in one of the chairs, and hadn't raised his head when they came over. Fear overcame Gen and her mouth went dry. Something was wrong…she swallowed hard, and was thankful Sage was there to talk. At that moment she wasn't sure if she could... "Sage...dear..." Mrs. Greene paused as her husband's arm went over her shoulder. Genevieve did another quick look around the waiting room, her gaze ending on Sage who stared at the Greenes' with rapt attention. "Can we see Hayden now?" she asked, her voice deceptively steady. "Hun..." "Is he sleeping?" "Hayden had a blood clot earlier," Mr. Greene said. "I guess it happens after surgeries sometimes..." "So he's going back in surgery now?" "The clot ended up in his lungs," Mrs. Greene filled in. "And...Hayden...he's gone." Sage opened her mouth, but no word dared leave her lips. "Oh my god," Gen whispered. "Where did he go?" Sage asked. Her body trembled but her voice remained calm. "To another hospital?" "No, hun…he's gone…" Mrs. Green turned and fell against her husband's shoulder, crying. Her deep sob seemed to echo through the hallway and her body shook. "He passed away about half an hour ago," Mr. Greene said, his voice hoarse. The floor easily could have opened up then and swallowed them all whole just then, and Gen wouldn't have known the difference. She was vaguely aware of her own feet moving backward, then she was sitting, on a chair or a bench or something solid at least, and her hand covered her mouth, as if it could somehow keep the sobs from escaping. Sage stood still, back straight and body rigid—almost stone-like. "But he was okay," she said, once again in an even tone. "I was just here and—" "No one knew," Mr. Greene said. "It was so quick..." Genevieve doubled in half, hugging her stomach and crying aloud. This couldn't be happening...Sage was right—he was fine. They were so worried yesterday, but now everything was supposed to be okay. "I want to see him," Sage said. "Sage, you can't—" "Please?" she whispered. "The doctor won't even come out and talk to us..."
Children of the Apocalypse Sage turned and ran from the waiting room. Oh, God... For the past day, Sage looked ready to kill someone...and that was when Hayden was still okay... Gen bolted from her seat and chased after her, following the echo of her footsteps past the elevator and down the nearest flight of stairs. "Sage!" she shouted after her, but Sage wasn't slowing down. She burst out of the stairwell and raced down the ground floor hall. Breathless from running and crying, Gen came to a halt out in the lobby where she spotted Sage accosting Meredith, who was on her way out with Michael's supplies. "Why didn't you tell me!" Sage shouted as she grabbed Merri by the arm and pinned her against the nearest wall. Visitors, patients, and orderlies all stopped what they were doing to watch the display and whisper to one another. Meredith stared at her, hazel eyes huge with fear, and lips parted in surprise. "Tell you what?" she managed to say. "It's Hayden," Gen said, crying again. "Oh my god..." A look of understanding crossed Meredith's face. "Sage, I'm so sorry—I didn't know." "How could you not know! You're supposed to know things—to see things coming!" "But I don't see everything...Sage, I'm sorry—" Sage let her go suddenly, turned, and stalked through the main doors. Gen and Merri exchanged glances then followed. Stepping outside, Gen found the sun seemed brighter than it had even at midday. Blinding. Harsh. Wrong. She shut her eyes for a moment, blocking out the light, hoping for the darkness where everything was normal again. Opening her eyes once more, she saw Sage racing down the path toward the parking lot. She stopped at Michael's black car and pounded angrily on the hood until he stepped from the vehicle. Merri and Gen ran after her. "You've gotta have a spell or something!" "For what?" Michael sent a questioning gaze at Merri. "Hayden—her boyfriend—he…died," Meredith said, and the words brought a fresh batch of tears from Gen. Hearing her say it...god, could this all be real? "There has to be a spell Gen can do!" Sage insisted. Michael shook his head. "There isn't." "I don't believe that!" Cracks were showing in her voice now—just the tiniest quiver, signalling she could break at any second. "Regardless of what you believe, that's how it is," he said, his tone surprisingly gentle while being coldly matter-of-fact. "He was okay..." Sage whispered. "We took care of them so he would be okay..." No one, least of all Genevieve, knew what to say to her. She breathed deeply for a moment, chest rising and falling rapidly, and though her lip trembled, she wouldn't cry. Instead, she suddenly turned and ran, back across the lawn toward the street, around the next corner and then gone from view.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "There's really nothing?" Gen whispered, teary-eyed gaze falling on Michael's cool stare. "I'd tell you if there was," he said simply. "Okay," Gen said, nodding and burying her head in her hands. Did she believe him? God, she couldn't say for sure. But whether there was something that could be done or something she could do...those were two very different things. A few breaths later, Gen wiped her eyes and smoothed back her tears. "I'd better go see Levi." "Do you need me to come, or want us to wait and give you a ride later?" Merri offered, but Gen shook her head. "I'll call my dad to get me." "If you see Sage again, tell her I'm sorry," Merri said. Gen nodded and began the slow trek back to the hospital. *~*~* Hayden Greene's wake was held Tuesday and the funeral was Wednesday. Newhaven High suspended classes the afternoon of the wake, and several hundred people showed up to the funeral. Gen couldn't be sure if they all knew him or not, but as with a girl who killed herself the year before, everyone in the school attended that kind of thing. Someone their age dying seemed to weird them all out. Though the funeral was to be private, a number of people arrived for that as well. Gen stood around the casket with the Greenes', her arm and Levi's entwined, not really hearing a word the minister had to say. The world looked the same. It was another beautiful day, with sun shinning and birds chirping, as if no one had notified Mother Nature that life was never going to be the same again. The sun shouldn't be up, life shouldn't be going on, and yet there Gen was, still breathing, still existing, watching as her friend was put in the ground. Genevieve's gaze travelled over the dark wood casket to Sage and her family across from where she and Levi stood. She hadn't seen Sage since Saturday when she took off from the hospital—she hadn't even seen her at the wake. Any meetings at Michael's had effectively been put on hold, as Gen much preferred to spend the days with Levi, helping his parents with anything they needed, or just sitting and crying. As far as Gen knew, Sage had barely spoken to anyone since the hospital. Even now she stood like a statue, staring at the coffin without really seeing it, expression stony and distant. She really wasn't okay—that much was clear—but she also wasn't the kind of person who would talk about it, so Gen left her alone. Time seemed to pass too quickly, and soon people were tossing flowers onto the casket. Many trickled away from the scene slowly, casting sad glances back at the grave. Sage was one of the first to leave, and headed straight back towards the cars while her mom and sisters stopped to speak with the Greenes. Across the cemetery, Genevieve spotted a familiar figure standing several metres from the group of mourners in simple black and carrying a bouquet of wild flowers. Since Gen hadn't been at school for a few days, she hadn't spoken to Meredith either, and decided to greet her.
Children of the Apocalypse "Lev..." She squeezed his arm, and Levi turned his red-rimmed eyes her way. "Lev, I'm gonna talk to Meredith for a sec, okay?" He nodded let her go. "Genny," Levi called as she started to walk away. She gazed back at him. "Yeah?" "I love you." Gen felt fresh tears spring to her eyes, and she went back and threw her arms around him. "I love you too." She held him tightly for a moment, then reluctantly let go. "I'll be back in a minute." Levi dropped his eyes and slowly wandered towards where Stephie was loudly blowing her nose and sobbing. "Hey Mer," Gen said, greeting the other girl with a weak smile as she walked over. "You didn't have to stand over here—" "I didn't really know him, so I didn't think...you know, that I should be intruding or anything." Merri gestured to the wildflowers. "I just wanted to come and leave something..." Silence settled, and it seemed awkward to Gen. Merri seemed to have something to say, but was taking her time with it. "Is Michael okay?" Gen offered, unsure of whether she actually cared or not. "A little bitchy," Merri said with a small smile. "But he's surviving. Have you talked to Sage?" Gen shook her head. "This was the first time I’ve seen her, since... I talked to her mom once on the phone, and she just said Sage was understandably upset, and not really speaking to anyone." More silence. "Mer, can I run something past you?" Gen asked suddenly as a thought she'd been mulling over for a few days entered her mind again. "Sure." "You went through that house pretty thoroughly with Michael later, right?" "The farmhouse? Yeah." "Did you find Hayden's cell phone?" Merri shook her head. "I don't remember seeing any cell phones. Why?" "Sage...Sage got that call, remember," Gen said, trying to put her thoughts into words that seemed logical and not paranoid, as they seemed to her. "A man called her from Hayden's cell phone. Those guys at the farmhouse...one of them tried speaking to me and it was all scratchy—like he didn't talk much." "They didn't have much reason to," Merri said, getting that haunted look to her eyes again. "Yeah, I know...so who called Sage? It wasn't one of those guys then, right? So it's whoever sent them...whoever it is we haven't found yet. He was the one trying to provoke Sage, and the one who originally attacked Hayden." Merri nodded in agreement. "Michael said pretty much the same thing like two days ago, actually."
Skyla Dawn Cameron Of course, Michael was always thinking of everything...the bastard. "Then my other question is...do you think Sage knows?" Brows knitted together, Meredith looked confused. "I'm not sure..." "Because if she figures that out, she'll go postal, and we're all in trouble." "Ah, so you're thinking we shouldn't tell her?" "I'm thinking Michael should figure out what the hell we're going to do about it." "Agreed." Merri gazed over Gen's shoulder. "Looks like Levi is getting ready to go." "Yeah, I'd better go with him." "Gen? I just wanted you to know..." Merri cast her gaze to the ground. "If I had known—if I'd seen it—I would have told you and Sage..." It hurt to know not everything could be prevented. Merri was psychic, but some things eluded her still. Sage could beat the hell out of anyone, but couldn't stop her boyfriend from dying in his hospital bed. And Gen...she still didn't know what she had done to those two men, but raising someone from the dead was apparently out of the question too. "I know. It's okay." "See you at school tomorrow?" That was right...back to school, back to life, back like nothing had happened. "Probably." *~*~* "The girls live?" He watched her as she spoke. A smile danced on the corners of her lips, as if she was excited, but would never show him she was. "They do," he replied. "And the others are dead?" "Disposed of completely. Of the three that remained for the final confrontation, one was shot by Parris, and the other two were...neutralized." She cast a curious gaze over her shoulder and raised a shapely black brow. "Neutralized?" "There were clearly tears in the space where it happened. I don't know what dimension they were sent to, but it's highly unlikely they will return nor that their master will be capable of retrieving them." He paused, giving his words some thought. She would know if he kept anything from her, but he savoured one last bit of information, withholding it long enough to heighten the tension to just the right pitch. "And you're not telling me what?" she asked, just as he predicted. "It was the Witch that did it." She turned to face him fully then, wind whipping her long black hair back and forth, expression animated with a mix of surprise and delight. "Really? The Witch?" He nodded. "That's...that's just marvellous. My girls are almost ready."
I'd really like to regale you with tales of how much I hated writing this chapter, but I suppose that would ruin some of the magic for readers (assuming, there is, in fact, magic—you might have already decided the story is lame, and moved on to other eSerials). Still, I hated this. So. Much. Let's take a quick jaunt down memory lane—I still have my original scripts from when I did this for class. Looking over them a few years ago, I felt the pilot moved way too slow. It should be faster and more intense. This is television, after all. All this time I've had that in mind—an exciting two-part pilot that introduced everything and began with a bang. Surprise, surprise, that doesn't work when you're writing a novel. I tried though. Oh, how I tried. It was exciting, fast paced...but also jumpy, mildly incoherent, and lacking in characterization. I also realized that while I know CotA inside out and was eager to get to the action, no one else has been living with the story in their head for the past six years, and might be a little confused. So I cut, rearranged, and rewrote everything several times, changing my original plan of having this exciting three part introduction to the series. The original arc I was going to use is still there, only stretched over seven or eight parts. As a result, I like it better, and I'm more comfortable with it. I hope you will be too. My other hesitation came with keeping the main characters in high school. I wrote the original when I was in high school myself, which is why I set it there, but I began rethinking it the last month or so. College was a possibility I considered—I figured since my target audience is 18-35, older characters would be preferable. But there's something about the high school age and setting that I love. For one thing, it's a time when people discover who they are, which mirrors the events in CotA. But also, public high school is, in a weird way, an example of the real world. It's a place with vastly different people, all with vastly different interests, trying to get along, trying to stay sane, forming bonds only to break them again, trying to survive
Skyla Dawn Cameron under authority figures just as you're beginning to question it all. In high school, you spend your time working and learning things that seem so important at the time, only to find that at the end of it all, none of that matters. That just screams real world to me, and it seems to be the place where my characters need to be at the beginning of the story. I did, however, age them from fifteen to sixteen for the book, so at least they won't be in high school all that long. Now that that's out of the way, onto the specifics of writing the first chapter. While CotA is an ensemble piece, I can't very well begin that way. The reader needs one initial person to connect with, to see the POV of. In this case, it's Genevieve Weist. Gen's been through a lot of changes—the original character was named Sarah, and she was, in a lot of ways, like the typical "Snarky Heroine" that seems to be arising in works as of late. I like my snarky heroines, but I like them with depth, and Sarah was feeling way too two dimensional to me. And so we have Genevieve. Unfortunately, she was acting very difficult while writing this, and I had a hell of time getting a hold of her character. As I was rereading the first few chapters, however, Genevieve Weist really emerged for me. I started noticing how different her reactions were depending on her environment—funny and sarcastic with her friends (Levi and Stephie, or her parents, for example), shy and at a loss for words in situations (or with people) where she was less comfortable (for example, when singled out by Ms. Kern, or with Janine in a later chapter). That's probably why she was acting difficult earlier for me—she didn't know me well enough. ;-) Anyway, with this chapter, I stuck almost exclusively with Genevieve's POV, and probably will in the next couple as well. Besides readers connecting with Gen, I'm hoping they also get a feel for the supporting cast, as well as a sense of the very real danger Gen is in at the end.
This is basically a continuation of the first chapter, so there's little else for me to talk about. Crazy guy follows Gen. Wants to kill her. What's a girl to do? One thing about Genevieve that I found while writing her character is that she doesn't think of herself as strong. She has a very small comfort zone, and anything outside of that fills her with self-doubt. Actually, the more I think about, I suspect that will be an overriding theme—all of the characters, at times, don't think of themselves as strong, which is certainly a departure for me from my usual characters. Also, we have more Gen and Levi going on. I, unfortunately, drifted apart from my best friend during high school when I started dating my current best friend/fiancé. In Catharsis I gave my MC a little sister because I've always wanted one. In CotA, I'm making two of my MC's best friends since elementary school, because I kind of miss that. Gen and Levi have a very strong bond, that I'm tempted to say is sibling-like. Whatever you want to call it, they're very close friends. Now anyone who knows me knows I'm not content unless at least half of my characters are outcasts. I would say Gen's real outcast status rises from her own selfdoubt, and her own antisocial tendencies more than anything else, but when you
Children of the Apocalypse have a "weird" person naturally and add "open lesbian" on top of that when said character lives in a small, not-so-progressive town, that aspect of her becomes an easy target for cruel classmates (which is hinted at towards the end of the chapter). It wouldn't have had the same effect if I moved the characters to college age, so at this moment I'm actually glad I kept them in high school.
Well, we start off with Gen back in school the day after her "ordeal," and we find out she has more than a little in common with her best friend Levi. Namely, a crush on an unattainable girl who doesn't know she exists. You might remember the bit a few commentaries ago where I mentioned Gen's different behaviour depending on who she's around, and Janine was an example of Gen getting all nervous and embarrassed, and her usually sharp tongue goes into hiding as she's suddenly shy. Also, meet Meredith. I'll talk more about her in later commentaries, because nothing much happens here. She's soft-spoken and quite shy, all which helps Gen relax more after the sequence with Janine earlier. This leads us to our first POV change—which I hope wasn't too abrupt—and then to another, which again, I hope wasn't too abrupt. Normally, in fiction I don't change POV in a chapter more than once (and not at all, if I can help it) but because this is a serial and has longer chapters, I figure it's okay. I realized at this point in the story, people might be thinking Gen is a horrible best friend, what with not going to any of Levi's games (plus she didn't call him back the night before, and guess what—when he calls her that night, she'll avoid talking to him). I tried to tone it down a bit because I'm not sure how else to explain that that's just the nature of their relationship. He expects when he calls, he'll only get a hold of her half the time, and the other half, despite the messages he leaves, she probably won't get around to calling him back. If they were newer friends, this might bug him, but he understands that's just her. And he's a bit of a doormat anyway, even though Gen doesn't intend to treat him that way. Also, I have no idea how the Sage/Hayden scene will play. I wrote it one way then realized it appears to the first-time reader as if they were making fun of Levi in their conversation, so I had to switch some things up. It isn't that at all—Hayden's brief diary-story thing was more making fun of Sage for expecting something so ridiculous. Oh, and I swear I don't hate cheerleaders. They are valuable members of society. It comes across as a hatefest there, but that's just Sage. It isn't merely cheerleaders—she thinks she's better than everyone. No hatemail over that, please. The last scene is one of the ones I kept from the original version of this story (the Genevieve-stalked bit was also one of the very first images I saw in my head for it). There were slightly different circumstances, and it wasn't after a game, so the final line of hers was, "Nice night," or something to that effect, but it's one scene that hasn't changed all that much.
Skyla Dawn Cameron
This chapter is quite a bit shorter than usual, and I apologize. I just liked the ending, and I've been too busy when writing it to find anything else to add. We start with a dream. Boy, I sure do like those, don't I? Not only that, but I seem to have a thing for doppelgangers...not sure why. Could be that I like Gen's interpretation of inner conflict as a theme in general, and doppelgangers are a very literal representation of that. Also, in case you're curious, the landscape Gen was looking over in her dream was turn of the century Russia. Why? I don't know. I just got it in my head that in that scene, I needed it to be a Russian village. Again, we have Gen not calling Levi. I'm really glad procrastination fits in with her character because otherwise I'd have a hard time keeping her from talking to him (it's all a shameless attempt to keep her from knowing yet what he saw last night with Sage). Did I mention I liked the end? I seriously hope no one saw that coming (at least not before this chapter). But I would think people should be making some connections now to a scene early in the first chapter. So? Are we there yet? ;-)
Honestly, there's a fair bit of predictability at this point that kind of bugs me, but I'm not sure I can really help it. CotA Part One is an origins story (hence the subtitle "The Beginning"). Origin stories are invariably predictable. Now, thus far it's been about Gen's origins, but as Part One goes on, it'll delve into Sage's as well. We're looking at how heroic characters are forged, which is different for me because a) I usually start a story after the origins/forging process, and b) I almost never write heroic characters. On to the other story bits...okay, so I love Michael. I always have. He's a complete jerk throughout this chapter; sarcastic, unnecessarily cruel, petty, and arrogant, and truth be told, he always will be. You'll see a lot more of him in coming chapters. Though I don't want to say a whole lot right now, I'll admit I love the dynamic between him and Genevieve and the role he plays in both her origins and life. He's both antagonist and mentor, someone who hurts her and protects her. He has quite the backstory, but you won't be seeing it for some time (as in two years story time, and likely more in ours). Let the wild theories begin! Also, I'm aware at this point that any supposed "assassins" are seeming like the most incompetent killers ever. Michael isn't always 100% truthful—as we'll see later—and he'll be explaining a bit more in the next chapter when Gen brings it up. Finally, I'd like to give a quick nod to Gen's parents. It's very rare that I have a traditional "family" in stories. This is one of them. Leo and Rebecca are two very different people that both have an incredible amount of love for their daughter. I hope it comes through well enough in this chapter.
Children of the Apocalypse
Looking back at this chapter, I realize everyone does a hell of a lot of talking. And this was supposed to be an action-y chapter... I had originally meant for the confrontation between Sage and Michael to be a bit longer and more exciting, but this is Gen's POV after all, and a) she doesn't care, and b) she's a little confused about what's going on between them as well. One thing I didn't expect was the level of tension between Sage and Michael. And we also have some tensions arising between Sage, Hayden, and Levi. Honestly guys, this triangle isn't going anywhere any time. And if anyone was wondering about precisely how much Hayden knows about Sage and what she can do, this should answer that for you. Finally, super extra bonus points to those who can explain all the nerdy references in the Sage/Hayden scene. And I really liked the idea of The Warrior being terrible at fighting video games. It amuses me.
These guys really do a hell of a lot of arguing! Damn! Originally, I expected them to get along a lot better, but that isn't happening. Gen doesn't like Sage. Sage doesn't like anyone. Michael doesn't like Gen. Gen doesn't like Michael. Merri keeps out of it the best she can, but ultimately goes along with Michael. Back to the chapter, we'll start by talking about Sage. Obviously, she doesn't give much thought to Hayden's rising suspicions/concerns. I suspect that'll come back to bite her in the ass sooner or later. Also, I'd like to point out that in kenjutsu, the title "sensei" isn't normally used (there are a different set of pupil/teacher terms), but though I haven't explicitly stated it yet, Sage is learning a lot more than just kenjutsu from Michael, so it made sense that she'd use a general term of respect for him, and he wouldn't object. I can't figure out why, but there are always these scenes that pop up in my books where someone is learning some kind of self-defense tactic from someone else. It's odd, because I only ever took one self-defense class when I was a teenager (though my fiancé and I have always done a lot of play fighting because I'm insistent on knowing how to properly take care of myself). For some reason, I keep inserting such scenes my stories. But this one I found particularly funny because of the personalities involved, and I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to force Gen to work with Michael. This commentary isn't sticking in chronological order, unfortunately, but I'll continue rambling anyway. We briefly went back to the high school for the early part of the novel, but I find myself pulling away from it a bit more than I expected. To put it plainly, I don't want this to be like a YA "high school" book (I suppose this aversion is coming from some people labelling RIVER as such, which annoys me to no end because she's a very adult character, and the subject matter is—often times—quite adult...guess I'll just have to stick lots of sex and violence in the
Skyla Dawn Cameron sequel...anyway, I digress...). The characters are in high school because it felt appropriate—this is about self-discovery. I'll be taking them (at least those who live) to college age, and possibly early twenties, so I'd rather avoid having it labelled falsely early on. That's not to say there won't be more taking place at school, but I just thought I'd pass on my thoughts on the matter. Or rant. Whatever.
One thing someone said at my forum awhile ago was she expected Gen's powers would kick in suddenly, right when she needed them. I had to smile at that because yes, that's what you'd expect, which was why I couldn't have that happen. It had to come from a different place than necessity...it had to come from a level of acceptance. There was another bit I managed to get in there that I wanted to mention before, but there was never any place for it; Gen's parents know she's a lesbian, and they're perfectly accepting of it. I read a very interesting article awhile back about lesbian characters in film and television, and how they only have one of two storylines: teen lesbians struggle with coming out, or adult lesbians deal with pregnancy. I felt it important to keep those clichés at bay; her parents always accepted her. That's not to say she won't have a sort of coming out story at some point, but it's just not the type you'd expect. And in case anyone was wondering with regards to the final scene: yes, Michael knows more than he's telling the others. Take that as a general rule with him—he always knows more than he's telling the others.
A short chapter. The first scene was going to end chapter eight, but then that chapter ended up longer than usual, so I moved it here. It would have been a sucky cliffhanger anyway—I think just about everyone had to be seeing this one coming. Let me repeat: origins story. Those stories always have people important to the main characters getting hurt or killed, giving the MC drive and purpose...and an origin, so to speak. BUT, I didn't kill this particular character, so ha! Bet that surprised the readers who know me. I wasn't completely happy or even satisfied with this chapter. It could be the lack of Michael. But there's also a big problem with me not knowing hospital procedures, so I had to kind of flub my way through that one. I don't have the slightest clue if there would be any way to get her to see him in the hospital, but I did it anyway. If you can suspend your disbelief for the magic, just try to keep it going, okay? And I liked that, despite Levi being so pissed at Sage, he would do what he could to get her in to see Hayden. And for fun, here's a line I cut after Hayden asks Sage jokingly if she's part of the gang, and she says sort of...he was going to reply: "Whatevah! I run with twelve gangs and we only commit hate crimes! Whatevah, I'll do what I want!" But I figure
Children of the Apocalypse I should cut down the TV show references, 'cause otherwise that seems pretty random, and I wasn't sure if I could come up with a convincing argument as to why Hayden watches South Park (it's really not his thing and he certainly wouldn't quote it.). The "memory" scene of Sage's, just between Hayden's attack and the start of the hospital scene, was added during edits…I just really like them as a couple and felt they needed another moment together.
I like the glimpse into Sage's home life, in particular from Gen's POV. Gen was too funny with: "You have friends?" "Why is your mom so nice, and you're the complete opposite?" I like that she's comfortable enough at this point with Sage that she says these sorts of things rather than think them. I also like Merri and Michael here. Meredith is fun because she has a lot of layers. She seems nice, but no one can really say for certain what she'll do, which makes her a lot of fun to write. I think after the last scene with her—which involved her coldly shooting a man—this provides a nice contrast, in particular with the exchange between her and Michael. They have an interesting dynamic—there's a lot of respect, a lot of trust, and even some platonic affection. Or is it platonic? Muahahaha! We swing back around to Gen for the final bit. She's repentant about being so quick to judge Merri, and I think it showed a lot of maturity on her part.
Although this is a chapter I have a lot of problems with, I don't dislike it as I did the other one that bugged me. I just have NOT been in the mood to write fight scenes/action sequences. It was physically painful to do, but if it comes across as kind of jumpy or confusing, I'll just say that it was all intentional because it was written from Gen's POV and she's busy trying to read at the same time. Yep. That's definitely it. ;-) I think my other problem is that I write fight scenes quite well from first person POV, when the narrator is the one fighting, but third person observer? Yeah guys, there's the evidence that I'm a talentless hack! Anyway, back to relevant stuff...one thing that bugs me is how underused Sage is in the final bits. With the focus on Gen, I couldn't really change that, and I feel bad for it... I did want to have in there a scene where she has the opportunity to kill one of the men, and yet she hesitates still, because despite it all, she's still not a killer. Everything just got too busy, and I didn't know where to put it, unfortunately. :-( Finally, this chapter has my favourite scene so far—like favourite in all of Part One. But it didn't turn out as well as I saw it in my head (I so am in the wrong career—I see things movie-like and I should probably have gone to film school instead of trying to write novels). Genevieve is about to die, and despite Michael saying he'd cover her, he almost lets it happen. Love it. Love the implications of it,
Skyla Dawn Cameron love the idea of it. Everything just seems to pause for a moment, and she sees him there, staring in her eyes, not moving to help her. Believe me, it's one of those things that'll be haunting her for some time...
Chapter Twelve - Epilogue
I always kill characters in epilogues. Let's flash back to fall of 2005. A close family member died, and though I was a wreck, I refused to talk much about it with people, saying instead that I expressed things through killing characters, and I already had plans for a character in CotA. Um...well, surprise. It was either this, or I let Rune and Dez's fate be what it was in the second last chapter of Catharsis, but I'd already put Eve though hell, and decided she deserved a happy ending. Not that these characters don't deserve a happy ending...but I do have a point to the death. It was "offscreen," and didn't occur during a heroic moment. There were no last goodbyes, no music swelling with emotion in the background. The main point is that it was pointless and tragic and unnecessary. Though characters will change as a result of it and the events of this chapter will directly impact the lives of the characters for the rest of the book, their lives would never be the same anyway after Chapter Eleven, so I didn't actually have to do this. And the final scene was added because I decided to explain what Gen had done to the people in the previous chapter (though I think you all already guessed), and because although I completed the main story arc for Part One, I kind of wanted to leave it on something random to set the stage for Part Two.
For those who perhaps weren't readers at the time, in the fall of 2006, as Part One was concluding, I polled readers on what subject they'd like to see a short story about (to fill the gap between then and when Part Two started in January). The only rule was that it had to be backstory. People voted (after a few forum wars) and the majority wanted to read about from Michael's point-of-view how he first met Merri …and that's what I gave them, in the form of Surfacing. That wasn't all they got, however; this story is less about Michael and Merri, and more about Michael's past (specifically, a young lady named Anne, who you can see in the picture above). It raises more questions than it answers, but I kinda like it. Look for more Michael backstory to come in Parts Two, Three, and Four of Children of the Apocalypse, but for now… Enjoy.
He dragged the graphite across the page. Dark curls swept back from her face, kept in place by carefully placed ties. That was the easy part—he could see her hair so clearly, whether it was ruffled by the wind or damp from the rain, or fanned out across the pillow where she lay. So he would start with the shape of her face then sketch in her hair in long, broad strokes. Always capture the movement. That was what he remembered: the subtle movement in her curls as she titled her head, or turned back to gaze at him. The cell phone on the nightstand rang. Michael set down the graphite and book on the bed beside him. “Yes?” he said as he pressed the receiver to his ear. There was a pause on the line. Heavy breathing suggested someone was there, but though Michael waited, no one spoke. “I suggest you start talking—I don’t like people who waste my time,” he said. A man cleared his throat. “Um…Mr. Parry?” “Parris,” Michael corrected. “Parris,” the man said quickly. “Right, of-of course…Parris… My mistake, I just—” “I also don’t have a lot of patience.” “Right, of course not, sir. I’m calling with regards to a…a ‘request’ I heard was attributed to you—a special request so to speak.” He paused, as if giving Michael a chance to take over. Instead, Michael remained silent. There was one sure way to get himself in trouble: assume the caller knew more than he actually did, and accidentally give away important information in the process. Best to keep quiet and see if the man was fishing for information, or if he had something useful to say. “I heard about the request of a Mr. Parris through certain…let’s say ‘channels’ that I have available to me. I think I might be able to help.” “I’m listening.”
Children of the Apocalypse “Right, yes, Mr. Parris. Now I don’t mean to be rude, sir—and I’m sure you can gather, this is rather awkward—but the information you were looking for is on the sensitive side, and there is the matter of payment to consider…” Michael swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up straight. No one merely trawling for information, or with any dangerous intent in mind, would be so concerned about the money. At least not anyone Michael was worried about finding him. “You get half upon delivery of information, half when I find what I’m looking for.” “That wasn’t what—” “Those are the terms,” Michael cut in. “Very well,” the man replied with a sigh. “What you’re looking for is headed for a town—a fairly small one. Southern Ontario. Your quarry seeks something there.” “And how far are they from their destination?” “Not far. Plane landed in Toronto about an hour ago. They’re on their way, and…and by all accounts, sir, if you don’t mind me saying, these are dangerous people. I’m still not sure I should have done this…” “The name,” Michael said, keeping the man focused. “What’s the town called?” “Newhaven.” Michael committed the name to memory. He hadn’t heard of it before, but then he didn’t know Ontario particularly well. “Is that all you’ll be needing, Mr. Parris?” “Have you something else to tell me?” A pause. “There was someone else there—in addition to the four you were looking for.” “Someone else?” “A man,” he continued. “Or so my sources say.” That didn’t make any sense… “You’re certain that—” “Yes, absolutely. Quite certain. The four you are looking for were headed to Newhaven, and there was indeed a man accompanying them. And that’s not all.” Though Michael waited, the caller didn’t continue. “And that something else would be…?” he prompted. “Someone was following them.” Michael sat up straight, his fingers tensing their grip on the phone. “Who?” “That I don’t know, Mr. Parris. But someone has been following all five for awhile, it seems.” The man cleared his throat again. “Now, sir, about the—” “Who did you hear about me from?” “Why…I shouldn’t—” “Who?” “Bacha…Laurie Bacha, Mr. Parris.” “Good. Contact her, and she’ll wire you the first half of your payment.” Michael hung up without another word. There were others—one accompanying the four, and even someone following them… And if they were who he thought they were…?
Skyla Dawn Cameron This was it; Newhaven was it. At first, he thought the four of them were heading there for one of the girls, but if another man accompanied them—probably the one who sent them in the first place—that suggested they would be staying in the area for some time…that the Children were already gathered in one place. And time was running out. He dialled a familiar number—one of the only ones he knew off by heart. After three rings, a woman picked up. “Yeah?” Laurie said brightly, which surprised him, as she tended to be asleep at three in the afternoon most days. “For once your channels seem to be useful—I got a lead a few minutes ago.” “Oh, I’m so glad something of mine could be of use to you,” she said, her tone mock-sharp. “So you know where you’re going?” “Toronto, to start with.” “Ah, well. Could be worse. At least you don't have to stay in Jersey.” “I suppose that’s true.” “Security’s tight now though, you know. If you give me a couple days I can have a new passport ready—” “It doesn’t look like I’ll have that kind of time…” As the minutes passed, Michael felt himself grow more and more anxious, and he pinched the phone between his ear and shoulder as he stood to start packing his luggage. “I’ll use the old I.D.—I have to catch the next plane out of Newark.” “But you’re sure that’s safe? You don’t know how far this reaches—” “They aren’t traveling alone, Bacha. They’ve got their employer with them.” “What—” “That would only happen if they were settling there. And you can guess what that means.” “Three girls there together then. Shit.” It was a sentiment Michael could easily echo, but there were more important things to take care of than lament something he didn’t have control over. “What do you need from me, then?” she asked, always ready to work. “Have my things ready for shipping when I give you an address.” “Uh…and about customs?” “Bribe them,” he replied. “Right, easy for you to say—you’re not the one doing the bribing.” Michael took the last of his clothes from the hotel room dresser drawers and tossed them in his suitcase, covering the .44 Magnum and box of ammo. “Oh, I imagine I’ll be doing some.” “Be careful, okay Parris? This isn’t sounding good…” “Stop worrying.” “Well, that’s just what secretaries do. We worry.” “You’re not a secretary—you’re an assistant. Secretaries have offices and get cakes on Secretary Day, which as you’ll recall, you don’t.” “If I’m an assistant, I’m definitely due for a raise, then.” “Consider yourself demoted for the time being.” “And if I bribe your stuff through customs in a timely fashion…?”
Children of the Apocalypse “How about you try getting it packed in a timely fashion first?” “You’re on. Call me when you’re settled.” “Will do.” Both parties hung up unceremoniously, as they were beyond wasting time with “proper” goodbyes at this point. Laurie will come through, he thought, zipping up the larger of his two suitcases. Laurie always came through; often with plenty of complaining, and occasionally not as swift as he’d like, but she was there for him. And while he intended to give her some extra money after she sent his belongings to Newhaven, it would be less of a raise and more severance pay. She had been with him for nearly four years now, and that was already too long. Soon she’d notice certain…“things” were amiss. Best to move on before problems arose. After tossing the toiletries from the bathroom into his overnight bag, Michael cast a glance around the hotel room one last time. That seemed to be it… And his gaze fell on his open sketchbook. Anne. One of these days, he’d snap. He knew it. He’d just leave the damn book—and images of her—behind and be on his way. But that day was not today, and he tucked the graphite and book in his bag. Once more he pulled out his cell phone, this time dialling a local cab company. Ten minutes later, he was on his way to the airport.
After his plane landed in Toronto, Michael went immediately to a car dealership to purchase a suitable vehicle. He received the usual sorts of looks from people wondering how someone could be paying with cash and yet show no interest in haggling for a lower price. No one actually asked, however—it was amazing how much faster things went with a little extra money as an incentive. Three months of hotels had worn away at him, and Michael was eager to finally have a place to settle. How long he would be “settled,” though, he couldn’t know for sure; long enough that he was willing to spend a full day seeing different residences in Newhaven looking for an appropriate place. Toward the end of the day, one of the last stops on his tour of buildings for sale came in the form of an old brick warehouse, currently being cleaned and gutted for a planned series of apartments. The surprise of the car dealer paled in comparison to the shock of the real estate agent when he announced he would be purchasing the entire building, rather than wait several months for one of the proposed apartments. Though at first she tried to dissuade him, one call to the building’s owners and a signed cheque later, and she didn’t say another word about it. The deed was his, and he wasted no time arranging for contractors to section off a few additional rooms, patch up the loft, and install a kitchen and bathroom. Left with a few weeks while his new home was being completed, Michael spent his time attempting to locate his quarry before they found what they were looking for…and with any luck, determine who sent them.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Much like the sword of Damocles, there was something heavy over him, and he was painfully aware it could drop at any second. Somewhere in the quiet town of Newhaven, there were three girls who were not only in trouble, but were probably unaware of the threat against them. Three girls, and their time was running out… And then there was Michael, who mostly wished the damn sword would fall already and finish him off so he didn’t have to worry about it. *~*~* All he saw were her large, hazel eyes staring at him. Hating him. Accusing him. There was blackness everywhere else. Blackness that threatened to consume him at any moment—to bite down and tear him from reality, then swallow him whole, dropping him into an abyss. Darkness and her eyes. Her eyes and darkness. Always there, always following him. Somehow he was running, one foot after the other, hitting the black, empty void beneath him. He wasn’t going anywhere, and yet he ran. Her eyes were everywhere. Haunting him. Why did she glare at him like that? Maybe he was running from her…but no, she only followed. There was no use—she’d always be there. He should give up. Just let go and fall down and let her consume him. She would win—she always won. Even dead, she would not let him go. Michael closed his eyes, replacing the blackness around him with memories. Forget that she was out there, waiting for him… Don’t run from her, Michael. No, forget all about her…run to someone else. Run to Anne. God, he missed Anne. But she was nowhere to be seen, not here, not in oblivion. Not in hell. Anne would never be here. And though he squeezed his eyes shut and willed her to appear, she wouldn’t emerge. He was alone. His feet pounded down on something solid. He didn’t open his eyes—he knew outside of him there was still nothing. But he was wrapped up in memories again— memories he didn’t want, but ones that would not let him go. A stone floor beneath his feet. The greyness took shape and now there were walls around him too, narrow and seeming to close in on him. He stood outside of a short row of cells. The place was all too familiar, and he stopped running. Stood straight, terrified. Breath coming in short spurts. Heart pounding. Why end up here? Why always this place, with her? Why not Anne? He moved forward again, step after step, until he was next to a door. The cell beyond was dark, and he saw little through the bars but a shadowy figure huddled in the corner. His conscious mind left him as a distant memory took over and swept him along. “Is that you?” came her cool, rich voice, as brash and unafraid as ever. “You know it is,” was his quiet reply. In the darkness, he saw her form straighten and step toward the door; shoulders back and chin raised proudly. Her long red hair was matted and tangled into a frame about her round face, winding around her bony shoulders and skinny arms. She’d been captive for a fortnight, and she looked it. A filthy, torn shift was the only
Children of the Apocalypse protection offered her otherwise naked body, and by the look of the bruises and singed flesh visible, its ability to shield from harm was painfully minimal. “And why is it you are here?” She cocked her head to the side as she interrogated him, showing even in such a degraded state, she was in control. “Have you come to express your victory?” “Once more, you know the truth of it. I haven’t.” “I know nothing about you, it seems.” “Why are you still here, Elizabeth?” He shook his head sadly. “Simply leave. You could be far from here by daybreak, and none would find you. I will not tell a soul. You have my word.” She leaned in close so her face was nearly pressed between the bars, her hazel eyes rapt with fire and narrowing in on him. “It was your word that put me here. I care little for your vows.” “Elizabeth—” “I am too weak, anyhow,” she continued, dropping her gaze to the bars of the cell door’s window. Her pale fingers reached up to clasp the grimy iron, and she tightened her grip. “Too weak. I would not get far before they found me.” She met his eyes again, fury simmering below the surface. “I should think you ought to return to your home now. I am certain you would not care to be caught here.” “I never wanted this…” How he wished she could believe him, but the proud glare to her eyes told him she never would. “Elizabeth, I—” She reached through the bars to press her index finger tip to his lips. What should have seemed a simple, harmless act, unnerved him. The truth was that, even in this state, he feared her. “No more words,” she shook her head, “no more words, not from you. It shan’t do you any good. I am here now, I will die in three day’s time, and you will regret what you’ve done.” A calm smile overcame her lips, and he found himself taking a few steps back, eager to get away from her. Soon he was retreating, his feet pounding faster and faster against the ground, body suffocating with fear. “And somehow,” she called in his retreat, “I will see it. I shall feast on your regret, Michael”
“Michael!” Michael opened his eyes and found himself staring at a red brick wall. Sheets were tangled about his legs and sweat on his brow; it was as if his running in his dream extended to real life as well. “Michael, pick up the phone already,” came a voice from the direction of his answering machine. He reached toward the nightstand and grabbed the cordless phone from its cradle. “I’m still in a different time zone than you, Laurie,” he growled into the receiver. “Oh, whine, whine, whine,” she said with a sigh. “You got your stuff?”
Skyla Dawn Cameron His belongings had safely arrived at his new home in a manner that was timely for Laurie…which meant three weeks after he told her to send them overnight express. “Yeah, they’re here.” “Good. I gotta go pack up the rest of your books from the apartment…got a flight tonight. Ridiculously late. And have I mentioned I hate Hong Kong? Because I do. A lot. Like, really. I’m not sure I’ll forgive you for this.” Michael glanced at his bedside clock. Four a.m. his time, nine for Laurie. He sure as hell didn’t fucking care if she hated Hong Kong—if he wasn’t firing her already, he’d give her an even worse place to go for calling him. “Anything else before I slam the receiver down on your ear over waking me up at such an hour?” “I just wondered how things were going. Like if you found anyone yet or not.” Michael sighed, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and sat up straight. He wouldn’t be going to sleep after speaking to Laurie—not when she reminded him he had a hell of a lot of work to do. “No one yet.” “What’s the hold up?” “Uh, small town where I don’t have a single contact.” “Good point. And I don’t suppose anyone is wearing a big ol’ sign that says, ‘Hey I’ve got special powers—come rescue me!’” “Not that I’ve seen, but at four in the morning I’m willing to believe anything’s possible.” “Yeah, yeah, sorry. Talk to you la—” Michael hung up the phone. He was wasting time. He knew it. But knowing and doing something about it were two very different things. It wasn’t that he didn’t know the source of his reluctance. He did. He knew what finding them could mean… Go home, he thought. Go back to your life. Forget all about this. Let it go. Who cares if the world goes to hell? He certainly didn’t. His world was already gone… But no. No, he had spent too much time preparing. He had to find those girls. And what if I’m too late? He didn’t know how The Brethren even knew where to find them. Michael had spent so long trying to locate the girls, and had to eventually resort to following his opponent. He had no idea where to look… Or you can keep following The Brethren. He just had to find them, and they would lead him to their targets. And how hard would it be to find four assassins in Newhaven? *~*~* The answer was “very hard.” Not too many people were willing to be forthcoming about whether or not they’d seen four men that Michael couldn’t even describe. A fake I.D. identifying him as R.C.M.P. didn’t get him anywhere either.
Children of the Apocalypse He checked the papers daily. Surely if he was too late, he’d find a new story about the murder of a young woman or two. But nothing turned up… Nothing until one late evening when he drove home from meeting with another useless contact. As his car sailed along the road, down a back street, he saw a teenaged girl racing along the sidewalk. Auburn hair flew behind her, tall black boots pounded on the pavement. He wasn’t about to pay her any heed, when he saw her turn and glance behind her, a look of fear in her expression. Following her gaze down the street, Michael saw four men following the girl. Shit. He swung the car around and the girl paused as he pulled up beside her. “Get in,” Michael said. She reached for the door, and then their eyes met. The girl backed up in terror at the sight of him, and bolted down a side street. Well, that must be the Seer. Michael sped after her, cutting off her pursuers. It came as little surprise that with a car now following her as well, the girl freaked out even more. The street stopped in a dead end, a dark brick building blocking her from continuing. She spun around, hair whirling then settling about her shoulders as she froze. The knapsack on her back slipped from her shoulder, and the strap came to rest in her hand. She tightened her grip on the improvised weapon, ready to attack. Michael stopped the car, popped open the door, and got out. “Get in the goddamn car already.” The girl shook her head. Her wide-eyed gaze travelled behind him, and Michael knew without looking that her pursuers had caught up with them. “God fucking dammit,” he muttered with the roll of his eyes. He pointed to the girl. “You, stay put.” He slammed the car door shut and stalked toward the men. Non-descript black clothing, blank stares, no expressions, and each with an identical silver knife. Yep, these were definitely the latest offering from the Brethren. They weren’t after Michael himself—he could walk away right now and be fine. But since he stood between them and the Seer, his life was essentially forfeit. Though appearances could be deceiving, of the four men, Michael was only concerned with the younger two of the group. They couldn’t have been over thirty, and even if they had less experience than the elders of the group, they were bound to be faster, more agile. At that moment, it was speed Michael was more concerned with. Best not to waste time, he thought, and proceeded to rush at the group. Though he reached for his jacket pocket, he realized he hadn’t brought a single weapon with him. In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest decision he made that day, but there was little to be done about it now. Michael took a swing, which easily connected with the older man’s face, his fist hitting bone. The man’s head snapped back, but no sense of pain registered in his eyes. A chill rolled through Michael at that look; he’d seen a lot of things, but there was something positively disturbing about someone who didn’t seem bothered when Michael hit him.
Skyla Dawn Cameron Soon he was amidst a blur of attacks, and instinct took over completely. Block. Counter. Block. Block. Kick. Block. Avoid the slash of a knife. Bear a punch to the kidney. Try to block the next hit. One on one, he could take any of them. Two on one would be successful as well. But four on one wore down on him heavily; while he wouldn’t admit he was losing, he knew even a stalemate at this point would be a blessing. While he fought with the others, he caught sight of the girl in the corner of his eye. The flash of movement drew his attention momentarily, and he saw her skirt his car and attempt to pass them. Unfortunately, as Michael noticed her, so did her pursuers. Stupid girl… He elbowed and shouldered his way past the two men that attempted to pin him in place, and grabbed a third by the arm, swinging him back into the group behind him. “Goddammit, I told you to stay put!” he managed to yell before his attention was diverted by another attack. A sudden sharp pain in his left side slowed him down considerably. Michael sucked in a breath and punched the man in front of him hard enough that the guy fell down. He felt around his side, and his fingers wrapped around the hilt of a knife. Apparently deciding their quarry was no longer of interest to them, the group of attackers took off. Michael yanked the weapon out of his flesh. The blood pooled around his fingers—it was bad, though he’d be fine. In for a long night of aches and little sleep, sure, but it wouldn’t be the first time. “Will you get in the car now?” he said to the girl, holding his side and wincing with pain. She stared in silence for a few moments, then nodded and slipped in the passenger side. “Where do you want me to drop you?” he asked once they were on the road. “The bus station?” “Not happening.” “I’ll leave if I damn well please.” “You’re needed here.” At this, she went silent. Her fingers drummed nervously on her knee, then fidgeted with the hem of her short pleated skirt, and at last she felt around the pockets of her black bomber jacket until she found a pack of cigarettes. “Mind if I smoke?” she said, the end of one cigarette between her lips and a lighter poised in her hand. “Doesn’t bother me.” She lit the cigarette and inhaled the smoke deeply, then breathed out, filling the car with swirls of grey. A few more puffs, and her nerves seemed to settle considerably. “So who the hell are you?” she asked, leaning back in the seat and watching him warily.
Children of the Apocalypse “Someone who’s trying to help you. Do you know why you were being followed?” She took another deep breath of smoke as mulled it over, then shook her head. The pause suggested to Michael she suspected, but didn’t trust him enough to say. “I’ll explain what I can…” He considered launching into the details right then, but his side ached. Bringing his hand away from the wound, he saw nothing but blood. “That looks bad,” she said. “You okay?” “I really don’t like getting stabbed,” he replied dryly. “But I’ll live.” “Yeah,” she said with a small smile. “S’pose you will.” “We’ll meet tomorrow, around noon. There’s a Coffee Time on Main Street.” “Okay.” “You’ll be there?” he said, remembering her request to head to the bus station. “Yeah. Might as well, right?” She pushed the remainder of her cigarette out in the ashtray, leaving a stub stained in her dark red lipstick amongst the ashes. “Let me out here.” He pulled up next to a twenty-four hour drug store. The girl stuffed her cigarettes into her beat up backpack. “What’s your name?” he asked. She chewed at her bottom lip for a moment, thinking, though what her mind debated, he couldn’t say. “Merri,” she said at last. His gaze fell on the shoulder strap of her backpack, where “Swanson” was graffitied in ink along with peace signs and various other simple drawings. “McCreary,” she said quickly. “Meredith McCreary.” “Michael Parris,” he said, offered her his non-bloodied hand. She hesitated for a few seconds, then took his hand and shook it. Clearly eager to get away, she let go of him and pushed open the car door. “Merri,” he said. She froze, grip tightening on her backpack, body tensing to run, all as she looked back at him again. Her brown eyes, lined as they were in black and shadowed in a smoky colour, seemed particularly huge and fearful as she stared at him. “I don’t care who you are or what you’re running from,” he said honestly. “All that is irrelevant. I’m here to help you.” She didn’t say anything for a full minute then at last nodded her head. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Michael.” He watched as she exited the car and headed into the drug store. You’d better show up tomorrow…or we’re all damned. *~*~* “You must learn patience, Parris-san.” As Michael slept, the old man’s voice echoed in his mind. How could he not be considered patient? After all this time? Stupid man didn’t know anything. Michael was the very definition of patience.
Skyla Dawn Cameron But patience did him no good in the water now. Void of sound, of sight and smell, even of feeling, he floated there under water, suspended in place, unable to find his way to the surface. “Patience…” Fuck you, old man. “True Patience requires faith. Faith that you are patient for a reason—a purpose. And you lack that faith. You cannot wait for the right time because you don’t believe it will arrive.” I know what will come because I decide my fate, and no amount of your crazy ramblings will change my mind about that. “Too much is at work. Too much that you cannot control. If you are patient, you will understand that everything that was done to you was for one purpose only.” I’m glad I slit your fucking throat. “But I do not die that easily, Parris-san. My voice is never silent in your dreams.” No, I should have cut out your goddamn tongue, too. The old man chuckled. Get out of my head. “If you are patient, you will see. You will understand. You have a higher purpose—you are needed.” Just wake up, Michael…wake up, and it’ll be gone until the next night, the next dream… “But perhaps it not only a lack of faith that drives you to disbelief…perhaps it is fear.” I seem to recall you were the scared one when you saw the knife. “Because the paradigm that has been your life and situation would shift drastically if my words were true and that frightens you.” Michael tried to struggle now. The water gave him nothing to grip, nothing to help him, but he wouldn’t be deterred. “If Anne was gone for a reason—for the greater good—you could not bear to face it.” If I ever see you in the afterlife, I’ll kill you again. The water gave way now, and up he went. No light pierced the dark depths, but he knew somewhere above him was the surface. Light. Air. Land. Warmth. Life. Anne. His face broke through the water to the surface. He sucked in a breath, and liquid popped in his ears as he swallowed. And Anne waited for him by the water’s edge. She reached out for him, stretching her pale arm toward him, offering her open hand. But though he tried to swim toward her, he seemed to be treading water in place. “Anne—” “I’m always here,” she said, smiling sadly. An icy hand gripped his ankle and dragged him back down into nothingness.
Children of the Apocalypse
*~*~* Michael sipped from his cup of bitter black coffee and checked his watch. Twelve-thirty. It was possible the Seer wasn’t coming. To make matters worse, he had avoided taking anything stronger than a couple of aspirin for his wound, and now his side ached horribly. At least it wasn’t bleeding, though. The chair across from him scraped against the floor and a figure sat down. She set a cup of coffee down on the table, and wasted no time grabbing the sugar. Michael did a double take, and nearly asked the girl to sit somewhere else when he recognized Merri. She had dyed her hair a dark brown and pulled it severely back. All her dark, dramatic make-up was gone, as was her eclectic jewelry. Even her clothes were different styles all together—punk boots, short skirt, and bright haltertop were exchanged for simple jeans and a faded lavender T-shirt. She was dressed to disappear, but that she sat in front of him suggested she planned to stay. “Sorry I’m late,” she said, stirring the sugar into her drink. “Still finding my way around town.” “That won’t hide you from them,” he said, nodding to her clothes. “They’re not the ones that scare me,” she said dryly and took a gulp of her coffee. “They should.” “How about you explain who they are, and we’ll see how I feel about them then?” He explained what he could—about what she was, that there were others like her, and how there were people out to kill her. She took the news well, but then he expected no less from the Seer. Of the Children of the Apocalypse, she was the one most likely to have grown up with strange abilities, seeing things that others couldn’t, reading people around her… She made describing the situation far easier on him than he expected the others would. She nodded as he finished up. “Okay. Sounds about right. Now do you mind telling me what—” “Yes, I mind,” he interrupted, anticipating what she was about to ask. “But you’re—” “When you’re ready to reveal what you were doing prior to my finding you yesterday, I’ll let you in on my situation.” “Fine,” she said with a sigh. “That seems fair. None of my business, I suppose.” “You suppose correctly.” “So I guess we have to find the other two girls now.” “One would think.” “And you don’t have any information about them?” When he didn’t speak immediately, he knew she suspected there was something he wasn’t telling her, but that wasn’t a conversation they would be having…yet. “They’ll be about your age,” he said at last. “And given that the people after you have settled here in town, I’m willing to bet they live here as well.”
Skyla Dawn Cameron “High school starts in about a week,” she said. “I guess I should start looking there.” “Probably.” “And I won’t be able to tell there’s something different about them? No freaky auras? Nothing helpful?” “Not that I’ve ever heard.” “Okay then, way to give me nothing to work with,” she said with a grin. “If I see or hear about any girls exhibiting strange, magical behavior, I’ll put them on the list.” Merri no doubt thought they were looking for a needle in a haystack. Michael only wished it were so, but already forces drew him forward, and someone beckoned to be found. They should have a clear idea of who it was soon enough. “So do we have a base of operations?” she asked. “I guess my house will do.” Merri drained her cup. “Got coffee?” “You bet.” “Well, let’s go there, then.” Michael finished his coffee, and the two of them stood and headed out of the shop. If you are patient, you will see. You will understand. You have a higher purpose—you are needed. That is why you live. But perhaps it not only a lack of faith that drives you to disbelief…perhaps it is fear. Because the paradigm that has been your life and situation would shift drastically if my words were true and that frightens you. If Anne was gone for a reason—for the greater good—you could not bear to face it. But that is the truth, Michael. Anne is dead. You live. And no matter the monster Elizabeth drove you to become, it was all for a reason. You have a purpose. Though he was awake, the old man’s voice still drummed loudly in his head. But, much like in sleep, Michael ignored it.
I liked writing this story. Why? I heart Michael. He's so much fun to write, for one thing. I love a character when I don't have to worry about readers finding him sympathetic. And I think everyone knows by now that I find amoral characters the easiest to write (I suck ASS at writing heroes). I know he's a total prick; everyone knows this. Some readers like (or love) him, others seem not to. But I absolutely love him as a character. Unconditionally. It's 'cause I get him. I'm privy to Michael's full character arc; what he was, what he became, what he is now, and what he will eventually be. He wasn't always so bad—Michael was a good person who suffered tragedy. You'll notice in his exchange with the mysterious Elizabeth that he doesn't exactly come across as the typical Michael you know and loathe. ;-) He used to be a very different person. After all the tragedy in his life, in another person's book, he might have become a hero with a sad past, rising above circumstance to right wrongs. Or he might have become a semi-dark anti-hero, tortured by past memories, wanting to make amends... But, of course, in my book he became a total prick, and ultimately took on the role of both antagonist and mentor to the main characters. Before he became a prick, however, Michael did some horrible things— unforgivable things, in fact. It's implied in Surfacing, and I'll say it unambiguously here: he is (uh, figuratively) a monster. One character will later ask him explicitly what he's done, to which he replies, "Worse than you'd like to imagine." And when all those things come to light, I'm not sure whether or not readers—or the other characters—will forgive him. Will he be redeemable? Does he even want to be redeemed? When asked by readers before, I had to answer truthfully: I don't honestly know if he's sorry for anything he's done. A few words about other characters seen here...they'll come up again. You'll know part way through Part Two who exactly Anne was to Michael, and more or less what happened to her. Elizabeth's role in his life will become clear and I'd like
Children of the Apocalypse her to make an...appearance, of sorts, a little bit later. ;-) The "old man" in Michael's final dream is never officially seen in CotA, but I will explain him at some point. And I'm not even going to talk about Merri—her past will be known in Part Two, so just hang tight. ;-) Though it won't come up in the story for awhile, you will—at some point—see Michael as he once was. And maybe you'll just love him a little as well.
I'm feeling generous as I put this book together for you, gentle reader. In the following pages, you'll find the first chapter of "Part Two: The Immortal." The official paperback release will probably be a bit different, and isn't due until sometime in 2009 (probably)…but here's a look just for you. Remember, you can find all the chapters available to read online for free.
Children of the Apocalypse
Genevieve Weist sent a scowl down at her English test. Fifty-seven percent? That was absurd. Sure, she only skimmed through the five hundred page book the night before the test, and she'd barely answered half the questions...but her nonstudying ways usually got her better grades than that. She slumped back in her seat. What a way to start a Monday. "How'd you do?" Merri whispered from behind her. Gen held up the test over her shoulder in answer. "You?" Merri handed her the test. Ninety-six? Goddamn! Probably just 'cause she psychic, Gen thought with disgust. There should probably be a rule against people taking tests when they magically already know all the answers. Of course, the fact that she'd actually read the book probably helped with passing the reading test... But ninety-six in one of Kern's classes was just plain wrong. "How about you, Lev?" Gen asked, turning to her best friend. Before he could answer—or cover the paper from her prying eye—she saw the red mark at the top. "Eighty-two? Don't you dare tell my mom or she's going to kill me." "Books gathered up, folks," Kern said. "It's your first work session for your presentations." "We're having presentations?" Gen whispered to Levi. "Yeah. We picked groups last week, remember?" Gen vaguely remembered something like that. "Do we have a topic?" "Psychology in What's Bred In The Bone," Merri informed her. "Ah. Glad you two are on top of things." She had just gotten her notebooks packed in her messenger bag when her gaze caught a figure hanging in the classroom doorway. "Who's she?" Levi asked before Gen could. "Dunno, but I just kind of hope she's staying," Gen replied with a grin. Though of average height and build, her features were cute and girlish. Long, curly brown hair was pulled up into pigtails...and Genevieve just loved pigtails. At least when they were the cute/playful kind instead of the Lolita/whore type.
Children of the Apocalypse "You just sighed." "Huh?" Gen tore her eyes from the new girl to see what the hell Levi was talking about. "You sighed. It was all dreamy-like." "No I didn't!" "Yeah, you did," Merri agreed. Oh well. Maybe she had. But since when were cute girls not sigh-worthy? Kern went to the door to speak to the girl then gestured for her to enter the classroom. "Find a group—we'll be heading to the library soon," Kern told her. The girl stepped inside, glancing around the room, no doubt looking for an available seat— And then she promptly tripped over someone's knapsack and nearly fell headfirst into a desk before she corrected herself. As a few people snickered, the new girl plopped down at the empty desk in front of Gen. "Hi," she said, turning her dark eyes Gen's way. "My name is Peyton Rice, and I'm a klutz." "I'm Genevieve Weist and I'm a recovering klutz," Gen replied with a grin. She caught Levi's gaze then, and corrected herself. "Well, that is to say I have the occasional relapse." Gen gave Levi a look, and he rolled his eyes and nodded his okay. "Would you like to join our group?" Gen said. Peyton appeared relieved at the offer. "Absolutely...as long as you're not worried I'm going to break something. One question though...what are we doing in groups?" Genevieve decided to have Meredith field that question, and she and Peyton took the lead as the class left the room for the library. "She's hot," Levi whispered when he and Gen were out of earshot of Peyton. "She is," Gen agreed. "Yeah, well, don't get any ideas," Levi warned with a snort. "Statistically, it's more likely she's straight, and I don't want you to be all disappointed when she's out with me." "Actually, I've read that all women are at least a little bisexual." "Hmm." Levi gave that possibility some thought. "Okay then, threesome?" "Right," Gen replied with a roll of her eyes. "Fine. Can I at least watch?" "We'll see." Of course, she did know he was right. The fact that she already knew two lesbians, her age, who were out, suggested she wouldn't be meeting any others any time soon. A sure way of telling, however, would be how much Levi decided he liked her. If she was his new obsessive crush...well, odds dictated she was either seriously involved with someone of the opposite sex, or preferred the attention of someone of the same sex. Levi and his unattainable crushes... Immediately, Gen's thoughts fell to Sage. No one had seen her since the funeral, at least as far as she knew, and that had been
Skyla Dawn Cameron over three weeks ago. Levi wouldn't breathe her name, so she had no idea if he was still mad at her or what. He should be mad at me too, she realized, sending a guilty glance at her friend. She knew at first he blamed Sage for Hayden's attack, and probably for his subsequent death, all because she was involved in "something" and that something had trickled into the lives of those around her. But that was Gen's something as well, and it ate at her insides to not be able to tell him the truth. Though Gen had tried calling the Bethanys' a few times, Diana had said Sage was out, and that she'd pass on the message. Sage never called back. Whether or not Michael or Merri had seen her, Gen couldn't tell. Without Sage harping at her to go there all the time—and with the threat to their lives apparently dormant for the time being—Genevieve avoided Michael's place as much as possible, which translated to visiting once every four days or so. She never saw Sage there, and Merri had never said a word about it either. Meredith—ever the studious one—immediately went to look for books once the groups reached the library, while Gen had already forgotten what it was they were supposed to be researching. "So you just moved here?" Gen asked Peyton as the remaining group members pulled chairs up to a round table. "Yeah," Peyton said quickly, then rethought it and shook her head. "Well, like, no, I haven't moved here yet, 'cause stuff got delayed where my dad works, so we had to wait another month, and then they—my parents—decided to send me to stay with my aunt so I didn't miss anymore school, though over a month is still a lot, 'cause I've already missed stuff—didn't even read this book yet." She sucked in a deep breath and blushed a little. "Okay, sorry, I talk, like, a lot." Her face was animated and expressive, and she seemed oblivious to her hands flying around excitedly when she spoke. No wonder she was worried about knocking things over, but Gen found it more cute than anything. "So anyway," Peyton continued. "I ended up coming here, though Mom was all like worried and talked about sending me to the Catholic school—which I'm Pentecostal so why would I go there?—because she thought it was violent because of that guy who got stabbed and died—" The energy around the table noticeably dropped. Levi cast his gaze down towards his books and Peyton immediately realized something was wrong. "I'm sorry—was the guy a friend? Did you know him?" "Levi's brother," Gen said gently. Peyton's eyes grew huge and she clasped her hand to her mouth. "I am so sorry, I had no idea..." Levi shook his head. "It's okay, I know you didn't." "So did they catch the guy who did it?" Again, Levi shook his head, and Gen involuntarily winced. I wish I could tell him... Hell, I wish we could have at least found the guy who attacked him. They'd killed his lackeys, sure, but the head guy? Not yet; Michael still didn't know who it was. She was sure he'd tell Merri if he knew, and Merri promised to keep Gen informed.
Children of the Apocalypse "I'm sorry, Levi, I didn't know—I should probably start thinking before I open my big mouth." "Naw, it's okay." Levi offered her a weak smile. He was dealing, Gen knew. Counselling at the school twice a week. Counselling with his parents once a week. Counselling without his parents two more times a week. He'd be a therapist himself in no time, but Felix and Jackie Greene insisted, and Levi wasn't arguing. Genevieve was about to speak when an announcement came in over the P.A. system. "Ms. Kern, do you have grade eleven advance English there?" the secretary asked. Kern acknowledged she did. "Is a Genevieve Weist in class today?" Gen started at the sound of her name. What the hell had she done now? She never "did" anything. Doing stuff would get her noticed, and coasting was much more fun. "She is," Kern said, sending a glance Gen's way. "She's to come down to the office now, and bring her things with her." Oh, shit. Bring her books? That could only mean she wasn't coming back to class... "She'll be right down," Kern informed the secretary. Gen gathered her bag, which at least she hadn't unpacked yet, gave the others an apologetic wave goodbye, and reluctantly wandered down to the office, dragging her feet as she went. "Genevieve Weist, you called me down here," Gen said when the secretary finally acknowledged her in the office. "Your father called," the woman said, handing Gen a slip of paper. "Said he got you an appointment, and he'd be here to pick you up right now." Gen looked over the piece of paper with the woman's messy writing. Nothing more there than what she had said. "Did he say what the appointment was for?" "None of my business, dear." The woman looked at her computer screen and began typing, making it clear the conversation was over. Under any other circumstances, she would have been glad to be out of English class, but appointments usually signalled bad things, like dentists and fillings... Outside the school, Gen stopped a few metres from the driveway. She didn't see any cars, and figured her dad wasn't there yet. "Gen!" She turned to see Stephie hop up from the grassy knoll where she sat with a handful of other stoners and run towards her. "Hey Steph—" "Okay, quick," Stephie said, grabbing her by the shoulders, voice urgent. "I have an appointment with the guidance counsellor in like ten minutes—does my breath smell like Jack Daniels?" Without warning she breathed heavily into Genevieve's face. Gen scrunched up her nose. "No, but you smell like weed."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "Oh, 'kay, that's a relief." "It is?" Stephie shrugged. "I'm pretty sure he puts hash oil in his cigarettes, so he'd better not say anything." Her gaze drifted over Gen's shoulder then her eyes lit up. "Ooh, hot!" Gen followed the direction her friend was staring at, and sighed as she recognized the new black convertible with the roof drawn down...and worst of all, the figure driving it. "Great," she muttered. "You know him?" Stephie said immediately. "Who is that?" Someone who isn't my father. "I'll talk to you later." "Seriously, who is—" "Just, uh...art school guy. He can get supplies real cheap from this warehouse so we're going to pick some up." At least that sounded semi-believable. If he'd just kept the old four-door car, the roof would be hiding him and she wouldn't have to explain to Stephie who he was. "Can I come?" "Bye, Steph." Gen trudged toward the car, leaving Stephie—and probably a gazillion questions—in her wake. "Why, you're not my dad!" Gen said, feigning astonishment as she stopped next to the passenger side of Michael's car. "Get in," he said, barely glancing at her in acknowledgement. "I don't get in cars with strangers." "Now." Grumbling under her breath, Gen complied. She threw her bag into the back, then slammed the door shut and crossed her arms over her chest. "You know, you interrupted a really great class," she pouted as he swung the car out of the driveway and onto the road. "Really?" he said skeptically, still not looking at her. Sure, she'd bitched enough times about school when she was supposed to be putting out candles with her mind or whatever, but that certainly didn't give him permission to kidnap her from English. "Yes. I was talking to a very cute girl, and I really don't appreciate the conversation being interrupted. What am I going to do if Levi starts dating her before I can convince her she likes girls? Hmm? Did you ever think of that?" He didn't reply, so she slumped back and sulked awhile longer. "So where are we going?" "We're going to see a woman about a book." "Is she cute?" "Haven't met her." "What kind of book?" He gave her one of his, "Could you be any more stupid?" looks, and she understood. It must be a spell book.
Children of the Apocalypse "And why do I have to come?" she asked, reminding him he hadn't filled her in on that part of the plan. "She'll only sell it to a witch." "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard—why?" He shrugged. "Some don't like to sell to collectors—they'll only part with a book if they know it'll be used. The potential seller said she'd only like another witch to have it." "Wait, so she's..." Even though they were in a car driving fast enough that no one could possible hear them, Gen dropped her voice nonetheless. "A witch?" Another glance, telling her she was stupid for asking, followed in answer. "So there are other witches?" "Of course there are." "Well then, why haven't you been bugging them instead of me? Jesus Christ, there's all these other goddamn witches running around selling spell books, and you still insist I'm the special one?" "Unfortunately." "Are there love spells in the spell book? Something that'll work on the cute girl I had to leave so I could go with you to get this stupid book?" "It's doubtful." "Why do I need the book again?" "It has highly advanced spells." "Like fireballs?" "No." "That's not very advanced." Gen wasn't sure where they were driving, but at least they seemed to be staying in town. Michael drove them to a block of newer apartment buildings and condos, and as Gen gazed around, she realized she vaguely recognized the area. "Hey, doesn't Mer live around here somewhere? Sage and I walked her home one night, and I think it was to one of these buildings." "I believe so," he said as he pulled the car into the parking lot beneath one building. He seemed to know where they were going, so Gen just grabbed her bag as she got out of the convertible, and followed him. Michael led her out of the dark parking lot to the main entrance. A wall of pristine glass panels gave Gen a glimpse into the foyer. It was definitely a nice apartment building. She spent a lot of time at Stephie's building, where there was finger prints all over the glass, the buzzers didn't work, and a few of the mailboxes didn't lock properly. But this place was pure class, and either the superintendent spent his or her time constantly cleaning, or the landlord hired outside help, because there wasn't a speck of dirt anywhere. Michael buzzed one of the apartments, and a minute later a woman's voice sounded over the intercom. "Yes?" "This is Michael Parris." "Your last name is Parris?" Gen whispered. "That is what I said," he hissed back.
Skyla Dawn Cameron It was strange to realize she'd known the guy for over a month and yet never knew his full name before. At least it seemed Sage was wrong, and he wasn't related to Merri, though. "I'm here to see Krysta about a book," he continued, shooting Genevieve a "keep your mouth shut" look, and Gen found it equally strange that a guy who showed nothing but displeasure with every task she'd ever seen him have to perform, he managed to have very distinct, readable expressions. The security door unlocked and Michael tugged it open. Inside the foyer, across from the mailboxes, was an elevator, and beyond that a stairwell. From outside, Gen counted at least a dozen floors, so she was relieved when Michael went straight to the elevator. He didn't say a word to her on the way up. Gen was grateful for that, though; when he did speak to her, she rarely liked what he had to say. The elevator halted at the seventh floor and the doors powered open. Michael seemed to know where he was going—he didn't pause to check the numbers on the doors or cease his step for a moment. Instead, he walked confidently down the hallway to the number 7-F, the final door at the end of the corridor. Gen held behind him a little as he knocked, having no idea what to expect. Creepy old lady who cackled? Ditzy twenty-something claiming to be a "white witch?" A crazy person with fifteen cats and pentagrams all over the walls? The door opened...and none of the above waited for them. A stunningly beautiful woman slid her hand up the doorframe lazily and gazed at them with eyes like liquid chocolate. A magenta silk kimono casually hugged her body, complimenting both her medium brown skin and shapely figure. At least this Krysta woman is cute, Gen thought, though there was something predatory in the woman's eyes. Beautiful, but unsettling... Okay, I wanna go back and see Peyton now. Krysta's stare bore into Michael for a moment then slid to Genevieve, and she cocked a dark brow. "Is this a joke?" she asked Michael, a half smile turning the corners of her full lips upward. "We're here for the book," he said. "And I told you I would only sell to a witch." Michael gestured behind him to Genevieve. "That's her." Krysta looked at Gen with clear skepticism. "Look, Michael, I don't care about how much you want the book—bringing your little jailbait girlfriend here to get it isn't going to work." "Eww, I'm not—" Gen was silenced by a glare from Michael. "I told you on the phone she was young. But she's got potential, and I want the book." I've got potential? That was definitely the nicest thing he'd ever said about her, though she hadn't ruled out the possibility he was just lying so he could buy the spell book he wanted. Krysta regarded them in silence for a moment, then stepped back from the doorway and let the door swing open. "Come in and sit down."
Children of the Apocalypse Gen followed closely behind Michael as they stepped into the apartment. Sure, he almost let her die a couple of weeks ago, but Krysta still creeped her out even more. Immediately inside the door was the living room. The fluffy floral-patterned couch and love seat seemed more reminiscent of Gen's mother's taste than that of an attractive thirty-something women who sold spell books and lounged around in what looked like an expensive robe. Genevieve took a seat on the couch next to Michael. Krysta sat across from them, draping one long leg over the other, and while it wasn't quite Sharon-Stone-in-Basic-Instinct revealing or anything, Gen made a point to avert her gaze from the expanse of leggy flesh exposed as the robe slipped a little. "So what can your girl do?" Krysta asked coolly. "She's just learning," Michael said. Krysta shook her head. "I told you the other night, Michael, I will only sell this to a witch. Not I, nor the owner before me, nor the one before him, wish this to belong to anyone who isn't one of us. That was the deal." "She—" "That was the deal," she repeated. A strange feeling of pride twisted through Gen. She may not welcome the responsibility Michael thrust upon her, but at this point she could at least be sure she had some sort of power. Power to put out a candle, maybe, but power nonetheless. Krysta's gaze flickered Gen's way and Gen felt her face heat up with embarrassment. Nope, don't look at me—just take this up with Michael... "You have something to say?" Krysta asked. "Well, I...uh..." Gen didn't bother chancing a look at Michael, instead straightening her back and attempting to put on a brave front. "I'm not like just any witch. I'm like the Witch. With a capital W and everything." "What the hell is she talking about?" Krysta directed to Michael. "What have you been filling the kid's head with?" "She doesn't mean anything." Michael gave Gen a swift glare, and she slumped back on the couch, crossing her arms in annoyance. "I don't think this book is for you," Krysta said. "There might be something in my collection that interests you—" "I want that one." "Well, you're not going to get it." "Just give him the freakin' book, lady!" Gen said suddenly. "I'll be getting more use of it than you!" Michael turned to her sharply. "Keep your goddamn mouth shut, unless spoken to," he growled. "But she—" "I mean it." "You think I haven't seen this a dozen times before, Michael?" Krysta said. "A collector shows up, ditzy little plaything in tow, thinking I lied about the conditions
Skyla Dawn Cameron put forth, and I'm merely looking for an excuse to sell the book? That isn't how it works." "Where's your washroom?" Michael said abruptly. Krysta gestured over her shoulder. "First door on the right, down the hall." Michael glanced at Gen. "Go." "But I don't—" "Yes you do. Go." Grumbling under her breath, Gen stood and stomped in the direction Krysta indicated. Presumably, Michael wanted to have a private conversation with the stupid witch...unless "go to the bathroom" was code for "go look for the book so we can steal it." That could be possible...though it would have been nice for him to let her in on the plan before they got to the apartment. In the narrow hallway, Gen saw the first right door open, beyond which was a spacious bathroom of gleaming white tile and a Jacuzzi tub. Past it was a second, more narrow door—possibly a linen closet. At the end of the hall was a closed door that Gen guessed led to the bedroom. I wonder... Could she sneak in there without anyone noticing? Possibly. It depended on whether or not Michael was keeping Krysta's attention away from her. Before Gen went for the door, she decided to glance over her shoulder and check if they were watching her. They were. Two pairs of eyes stared at her; Michael's were annoyed, and Krysta's looked curious. "It's right there beside you," she said. Gen's face got red. "Oh, yeah. Right. Okay..." She slipped into the bathroom, switched on the light, and closed the door before she could make more of a fool of herself. She leaned heavily against the door and sighed. Wow, this sucked. She missed English class. Not having to actually use the facilities, Gen used the time to look around. No sign of any spell book. No sign of much, truth be told. Everything was very clean, very white, and very...cold. Nothing cluttered the sink, everything was in its place...the woman was definitely weird. Make that fucking creepy, she thought as she cracked open the cabinet under the sink. Still no spell book, but there was a small, lit votive candle—black—and various dried plants arranged around it in a ring. A few stones were scattered about, polished and gleaming in the dim light, and off to the side was a wax human-shaped figure, about the length of her hand, with no discernable details or features. The whole thing was like a Satanic-ritual scene straight out of a lame horror movie, minus a few dead creatures and a victim strapped to an alter. With a little shudder, she closed the cabinet doors and hoped Michael would finish arguing soon so they could get the hell out of there. Gen sat on the edge of the bathtub, unsure of how long she was supposed to stay there, or even how long she'd already been in exile since she hadn't worn her watch. When sufficient time had passed—and her butt was sore from the tub—she stood and cracked open the door. Michael and Krysta still sat in the living room, and the witch let out a laugh.
Children of the Apocalypse At least they're getting along... Gen crept back into the hallway towards the couches. Both Michael and Krysta noticed her approach, the latter rising and smoothing out her robe. "I'll get that wrapped up for you," she said brightly, and stepped past Genevieve in the direction of the bedroom. Gen turned to Michael in shock. "What the—" "Shut up," he advised. "But is she really getting the book?" Gen hissed. "Just sit and wait." Minutes later, Krysta returned with a book-shaped package in brown wrapping paper. Michael stood and accepted it, then handed her an envelope in return. Gen had no idea what he might be paying her, but it was clearly cash, and probably a lot of it. Relief washed over her as she saw Michael head towards the door, and Gen was quick to follow. The sight of the open door and hallway beyond it—an exit from the unsettling Apartment of Doom—was almost too much, and she rushed through the threshold immediately, pushing past Michael. Only a few steps down the corridor, however, and she realized he hadn't followed. Glancing behind her, Gen saw Michael had paused just outside the doorway where Krysta faced him, still with that wicked smile to her lips. "I may come across some other pieces you might be interested in," she said, putting her hand on his upper arm casually and running her fingers down to his wrist. What a slut! God, the very sight had Gen shuddering. "You have my number," he replied. "That I do." Seriously grossed out, Gen turned and stalked toward the elevator, hoping to get away from them before they started going at it right out there in the hallway. She mashed the button to call the elevator a few times before he joined her, and they both got in without saying a word. "She was like such a friggin' skank!" Genevieve erupted as soon as the elevator doors closed. She snatched the book from his grasp suddenly, and turned it over in her hands. "Jeez, what the hell did you have to agree to do just to get this?" He jerked the book away from her as the elevator came to a halt, and they stepped out into the foyer. "Seriously, did you have to like whore yourself out to get that book or something? Because I'm willing to bet you'll catch a lot of diseases." "Would you just shut the hell up already?" he said as he yanked open the car door and threw the book on the backseat. "I had to part with an obscenely large amount of money to get that book, as well as lie through my teeth about the extent of your abilities. Now get in the damn car." She did as he asked, not saying anything else until the car was on the road once again.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "You know, she really wigged me out," Gen said, casting a wary gaze in Michael's direction, waiting to see if he'd yell at her again. When he kept his eyes on the street and didn't say a word, she tried again. "Didn't she wig you out?" "No." "Then I guess you must not have been paying attention. She also had this creepy thing in her bathroom cabinet. I'm pretty sure she's evil." "I'm pretty sure you're paranoid," he muttered. "Yeah, well, some healthy paranoia never hurt anyone. There was this wax figure that looked like a person in there. I bet she's got pins and stabs it or whatever they do in voodoo." "Forget the spell book—I'm buying you a damn encyclopedia of religions so you can actually start knowing what the hell you're talking about." "Okay, fine, it's not voodoo. It's Satanism. She's a Satanist—if I hadn't been there as a witness, you could have been seduced into being some bondage sex slave for her cult." "Pity that," he muttered. Genevieve scrunched up her face. "Ew! Fine, next time we run into a slutty Satanist, I'll just leave you to become a sacrifice to their dark lord or whatever." "She isn't a Satanist." "You don't know that." He rolled his eyes. "I think there'd have to be a Satan for her to worship as a Satanist." "There isn't?" "No." "Oh. Are there demons or monsters or something? 'Cause she might be one of those." "She isn't." "Well that just makes her scarier 'cause we don't know what she is." Gen checked the dashboard clock. "I've basically missed English but at least I can make lunch. Maybe they got Peyton to eat with us...you'd better hope so, or I'm turning you into a toad for ruining my day." Ahead, Gen saw the dark brown brick of her high school come into view, then disappear as they passed it. "Hey!" She twisted in her seat to see the school grow smaller and smaller, then swung back around to confront Michael. "What the hell?" "I'm getting you lunch." "Uh, I can eat lunch back at school. It's very modern—they have a cafeteria and everything, so if you insist on spending more money on me today, you can just give me the cash to do it myself." He wasn't slowing the car down however, and drove them into the downtown core where various fast food places dotted the main road. He swung the car into a Wendy's drive-thru and proceeded to order without so much ask asking her what she wanted. He seemed to be buying at least enough for half a dozen people, however, so she figured she'd have some options. "Can you just let me take it with me?" she asked once they were on the road again, bags of food sitting on her lap. "I'm gonna miss my next class."
Children of the Apocalypse "You're not going to your next class." Though it was true she was in a moving vehicle, pushing open the door and jumping out still seemed more enjoyable than staying with him any longer. She recognized the road that led to his house, and she felt the desire to leap to her possible doom rise even more. "This is officially kidnapping." Michael pulled the car to a halt in his driveway, but made no move to get out. Instead, he turned to face her, and Gen shifted her gaze away, not liking the serious look to his expression. "You haven't been practicing any of exercises I've told you to," he said, less of an accusation, and more a statement of fact. "Of course I have—" "No, you haven't." Sure, she hadn't even attempted any of the minor spells and meditations he'd told her to...but then she didn't do her algebra homework either. Nothing new there, and certainly not worthy of a lecture. Though she expected him to go on about that for awhile, he caught her off guard with a sudden change of subject. "When was the last time you ate?" he asked. "Uh, breakfast." "You're lying." She rolled her eyes. "God, why do you bother asking me something if you've already decided the answer?" "When was the last time you ate?" he repeated, more forcefully this time. Genevieve had to pause and think on it. She just hadn't felt very hungry lately— she hardly saw why he cared so much. "I don't know...yesterday?" "You've noticeably lost weight—you've barely eaten in weeks." "Your concern is really touching, Michael," she snapped as she turned to look at him. "And you're having nightmares." She swallowed hard, but didn't say anything. "This needs to stop." Her gaze dropped downward and she fidgeted with the strap of her bag. Why couldn't he just leave her alone? So what if she didn't eat? Couldn't sleep? Felt physically sick at the thought of trying anything else from a damn spell book? He was ready to watch her die—in fact, she wouldn't put it past him to try killing her himself—so why bother her with this? "You don't understand," she said quietly rather than yell at him, chewing nervously at her bottom lip. "You don't know what it's like...the magic, when I do stuff...it's like I'm not completely me. Like there's someone else there. And I hurt those people, and..." Tears filled her eyes, but she pushed them back, forced them away—vowed she wouldn't ever cry in front of him again. "And my friend is dead, and he wouldn't be if all this hadn't happened. So no, I don't much feel like eating or practicing your stupid spells, and yeah, I have a lot of nightmares."
Skyla Dawn Cameron "And this needs to stop. We don't have time for this." He suddenly snatched up the bags of food, snatched the book from the back, and got out of the car. What a fucking prick. She grabbed her bag and got out of the car as well, slamming the door behind her, and stalked toward him just as he was heading inside. Dammit, he could fucking go to hell! A couple of moments of almost humanity had nearly tricked her, but then she saw his true face again, and she was ready to kill him. "I don't see why it's any of your goddamn business—you don't care anyway..." Her voice trailed off as she got inside and saw Sage at the back of the room by the punching bag, boxing gloves on, hitting and kicking with sweat dripping off her forehead. Gen almost did a double take—gone were her shoulder-length black braids, and instead her hair was straight and cut short. But otherwise she looked the same... Except for a scarily determined look to her eyes. Even when Genevieve offered a hello, Sage didn't glance in her direction. Instead, she kept her gaze fixed on her targets. "Sage, lunch," Michael called, emptying the bags of take-out onto the table, and Sage dropped what she was doing to walk over in silence. Michael thrust a bowl of salad and a baked potato to an empty spot and gestured for Genevieve to sit down. She dropped her bag at the door and took the seat across from Sage, narrowly missing being hit by the pack of plastic utensils Michael threw at her. "Haven't seen you at school," Genevieve ventured, attempting a casual tone as she poured a packet of dressing on the salad. "Haven't been there," Sage returned, eyes on her food. "Taking the semester off?" Sage shook her head. "Just dropped a couple of classes I didn't need. Mom hired a tutor for a few weeks for the others." "Don't you need a certain number of hours in the class to get credit for it?" She shrugged. "They said as long as I pass the exam this semester, they don't care." Genevieve had what seemed like a million questions for her. How was she doing? Would she ever come back to school? How long had she been coming to Michael's without telling anyone? But Sage had never seemed to want to talk to her before, and she didn't imagine she'd be doing so now. Gen gazed back down at her salad and stabbed the lettuce a few times with her fork. She wasn't hungry, but god knew what else he'd throw at her if she didn't eat, so she forced down a mouthful. "How's Levi?" Sage asked, and Gen glanced at her to see she still hadn't looked up. "He's okay," Gen said at last, trying to hide her surprise. She'd never heard Sage even breathe his name before, let alone ask after him... She's probably guilty...God knows I am... "He goes to a lot of counselling, but he's doing okay." Sage nodded absently, and Gen wasn't sure if she was really listening or not. But she didn't say anything further. They ate in silence for a few moments then the front door opened.
Children of the Apocalypse "Ooh, good, lunch," Merri said brightly as she strolled into the room, plopped down on the seat next to Gen, and took a bowl of salad. "Did you know he was going to kidnap me?" Gen asked Merri, noting that the other girl didn't seem the least bit surprised to see her there. "I knew he wanted to get that book, and when Lev told me you left, I figured you came here." Merri’s gaze drifted to Sage for a moment, and Gen did detect surprise there; at least she had been truthful when she said she hadn’t seen Sage lately. "Hi Sage," Merri said. Sage gave a weak, half smile and nodded her hello. Meredith turned her eyes to Michael. "Did you get it?" "Of course." "The chick he bought it from was a Satanist skank who was hitting on him," Gen informed her. Merri burst out laughing and even Sage cracked a grin. "She wasn't a Satanist," he corrected her once again, leaning back on the counter and taking a bite from his burger. "Fine, but she was definitely a skank," Gen countered. "Oh, Gen, I got you something," Merri said, reaching into her pocket suddenly. She pulled out a folded piece of paper and tossed the scrap onto the table. Gen snatched it up and found a phone number in scrawly letters. "What's this?" Merri had a mischievous glint to her eyes. "Peyton's number." "You got her number?" "And she has yours. Of course, she also has Levi's, but she asked for yours first. She's going to call us to plan a study date." "Awesome." It seemed despite Michael's attempts to ruin her life, the powers that be had cut her a break after all. Gen started as there was a sudden knock at the door, and a quick glance to Sage and Merri told her they didn't know who it would be either. Michael's expression hadn't changed, however, and he left the kitchen to answer the door. "Did he make a friend?" Gen whispered, but Merri shrugged, seeming just as confused as she was. Gen strained to make out words when she heard Michael's voice, but all she caught was another male voice answering his. A few moments later Michael returned with another guy following. A bit shorter than their host, a few years younger, and with gentle dark eyes that travelled over each of the girls in turn, Gen was certain she'd never seen him before, and despite the fact he didn't seem remotely threatening, his presence sent a chill through her. At Michael's, she was in a strange little world outside the real one...but with someone new present, everything felt different. "It's everything I could gather," the guy said, and Gen realized his gaze had locked onto a large, legal-sized folder in Michael's hands, which she didn't remember him having before he went to the door. As Michael opened the folder and rifled through the papers within, the new guy returned his attention to Genevieve and the others.
Skyla Dawn Cameron "You're them?" he asked. "Uh…" Gen looked to Merri for help, but she didn't seem to be any clearer on what to say. "Yes," Michael answered for them without looking up. "Cool. I'm Thad, by the way." Gen nodded slowly, unsure if maybe that name was supposed to mean something to her or not. Merri took the initiative and introduced the three of them, and had just finished when Michael suddenly slammed the folder shut and tossed it on the table. "There's no address," he said, anger lacing his words. Thad shrugged. "That's everything he could possibly tell you, anyway. He just doesn't want to get in the middle of this, Michael." "I don't care what he wants—we need to see him." "But that's everything he knows. He hasn't seen her in years—it's not like he can magically get in touch with her." "Um, can someone maybe tell us what you're talking about?" Gen cut in, eyes going from Michael to Thad, then back to Michael again. "It's this guy," Thad said. "Shaw. Apparently he used to know the other one of you." Silence met his words as Gen shot a quick look to Michael, then Sage and Merri, who seemed equally confused. "One of us?" Merri ventured when no one else would. "You didn't tell them?" Thad said to Michael, brow knitted as he raked his fingers back through his dark hair. "Oh, great." What the hell?
About the Author
kyla Dawn Cameron is a full time author living in Southern Ontario with her fiancé and many pets. Her debut novel, River, was released to critical and reader praise alike, and one of these days she PROMISES she'll get the damn sequel done. Until then, people will have to content themselves with her new vampire thriller Bloodlines due out from Mundania Press. Skyla moonlights as "The Marketing Whore" and is the author of several chapbooks that aim to encourage writers to shamelessly self-promote their work. Feel free to drop her an email any time at email@example.com—in fact, do it right now 'cause ten bucks says she's checking her inbox as you're reading this. Her home on the web is located at www.skyladawncameron.com where readers will find all sorts of goodies including newsletters, community forum, contests, book previews, free fiction, and more. Dude, check it out. Like, NOW! ;-)
Mundania Press – www.mundania.com River Bloodlines Indigo Chick Press – www.lulu.com/indigochickpress Catharsis The Marketing Whore's Guide to Shameless Self-Promotion Other Nothing But Red (nothingbutred.wordpress.com)
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