The Middle Of What We Knew (Book Two Of The Known Series)
As I open my eyes, I see six faces staring at me, their expressions blank. I recognize all of them. Josh, Matt, Mason, Sunny, Grace, and Chris.
“You’re finally awake.” Grace says, breaking the silence between us.
“Yes, I am.” My voice was no longer low, it was in between high and love. Like a melody. “May I get up?” Everybody moves out of my way as I sit up. I look around myself. It looks the same...But different. I just can’t quite put my finger on what it is. “Mirror, please?” I ask anyone.
“Of course.” Grace hands me a medium-sized mirror.
Before I actually see what I’ve become, I look at Chris. He was smiling. But it wasn’t a real smile like the one he made when he saw his dad. I sigh. I slowly bring the mirror up to my face. I gasp. The person I was looking at wasn’t quite me, but it was. My hair was a lighter brown, my eyes were dark, but light, and my freckles were darker than usual, showing off. “Is this really me?” I whisper aloud.
“It is.” Grace answers me.
I lower the mirror down, and I look at everybody. They were all shocked, surprised. I put on a smile, trying to make them feel less than that. I push myself off the table, and I stand before them. I ball my fists up as I start to cry.
“Why are you crying Dear?” Grace asks, which only makes me cry harder.
Chris walks towards me.
I look up at him, my vision blurry from the tears. “Oh Chris.” I fall into his arms.
He holds me tightly, holds me close. “You’re okay. You made it.”
“I did.” I say through sobs. As I let Chris go, I hug everybody else. “It’s good to be here with ya’ll.” I say.
“What now?” I ask, confused like everybody else.
“We start exploring.” Grace leaves the room.
We follow close behind.
“What do you mean by that?” Sunny finally asks.
“You all will be set out on a mission. Will be put with partners. You all will explore the outside world.”
“But we already know what the Outside is.” Matt says.
“Not that Outside. The other.”
Mason gives Matt a weird look.
“There’s another one?” Josh asks, scratching his head out of confusion.
“Yes, but different. You will meet Dr. Belle when you get there.” Grace stops at a room, filled with supplies, and weapons.
“When do we start?” Chris asks.
Grace looks us each in the eye. “Today.”
“What?!” I burst out without meaning to.
“Yes. It’s all of your’s duty to change this world to a new cycle.”
I stop. In one of my dreams, someone was telling me that my friends and I changed this world with… “Our abilities.” I say.
“What do you mean by ‘our abilities’?” Sunny raises an eyebrow, crossing her arms.
“Well. I have a learning ability that makes me learn faster. Chris.” I point at Chris. “Has the ability to make these plans ahead of time. We don’t quite know ya’ll’s.”
Sunny nods, uncrossing her arms.
“When will we know?” Matt asks.
“Your abilities will show up when the time is right. Ours started when we were young.” Chris explains.
“We should start packing.” Grace says.
We all grab a bag, shoving food, drinks, supplies, even weapons into them. As I grab a small knife, I feel myself tingle to the touch.
“Now. Rest. You will leave by midnight.” Grace leaves the room, leaving us clueless.
“I guess we’re doing this.” Josh says.
“The partner thing she talked about? I’m with Matt. Brother with brother.” Mason says, high fiving Matt.
“I’m with Chris.” I say.
“I guess that leaves us.” Josh says to Sunny.
I could see Sunny hiding a tiny smile with her hand.
We head to the beds, all trying to get comfortable.
I face Chris, who faces me. “Do I look different?” I whisper-ask.
“You do, but you’re still you.”
I smile. I give Chris my hand when he reaches for me. He rubs my hand with his thumb.
“I’m just glad you’re okay. I thought I lost you.” Chris’s voice cracks on the last sentence.
“But I’m still here. That’s what matters.”
Chris nods, sighing. “I also enjoyed our first kiss.”
We silently laugh.
“So did I.”
Chris says, leaning closer, making me lean closer. We were only inches apart, our breathing going steady. “I want to do it again.”
As our lips met, I fall asleep peacefully.
I fall to the ground, scraping the palm of my hands, trying to shield my face.
“That’s okay. Get up, and keep trying.” A woman says.
I get up, wiping my now bloody palms on my pants. “I can’t.” I say.
“Of course you can. Just try.” The woman from my old dream appears, looking familiar as all get out. She smiles at me.
“I’ll try.” I say. I focus on the target in front of me. I hold up my knife, close my eyes, and I throw.
I wake to Chris shaking my shoulders.
“It’s midnight, let’s go.”
I get out of the bed, grab my bag, and follow Chris. The others were already there when we arrive. A big, metal door stands before us, blocking for what’s behind it.
“Today is the day you’ll use your abilities to try to create a new world.”
We all nod.
“You will stay with your partner at all times. No matter what happens, you stay together.”
We nod again.
“I wish you all the luck in the world.”
“What we need is God.” Matt says, making us nod and smile.
“Find Dr. Belle, then find another.” Grace leaves the room, leaving us to the big, metal door.
We all face the door. We take another’s hand. As the door opens, we look at another.
“I guess this is it.” I say.
“It’s only the middle.” Sunny says.
“Yup. Beginning’s over.” Matt says.
“Stay alive you guys.” Mason says, making us laugh.
“Meet you on the other side.” Josh says.
“Love you guys. Seriously.” Chris says, smiling like a fool.
As we walk to the Outside, our hands separate, going to different paths. I held Chris’s hand still, fearing that we’ll never see the others. As I watch the others disappear in the trees, I look at Chris.
“It’ll be okay Crystal.”
I only nod.
As we walk, the sky starts to brighten up, giving off some light. I know we’ll make it to this Dr. Belle. As I think more about it, I think of Dr. Belle. That name sounds so familiar, I just don’t know why. I try over myself, not even paying attention to what I’m doing.
Chris catches me. “You okay?”
I nod, cursing myself for being so stupid.
As we walk on, I look behind me, trees beyond.
I watch Crystal as she zones out every few minutes. I’ve been catching her everytime she falls. Ever since she had the Operation, I thought she would be a totally different person. But here she is: The same Crystal I’ve known and love.
“The sun’s coming up.” Crystal says, pointing ahead.
I see the sun rising behind the trees. “Do you want to rest?” I ask Crystal, catching her as she falls.
“Yeah, that’d be nice.”
We settle down near a tree that it’s branches were low, the leaves giving us shelter.
“Do you think the others are okay?” Crystal asks, taking my hand in hers.
“Of course they are.”
“How are you so sure?”
I sigh. Sometimes Crystal can be difficult. “I...Wait.” I grab Edgar out of my pocket, turning him on to the size of my hand. “Show me a map of where we are, and the others.”
“Will do Sir.” Edgar pulls up a map.
“The blue dot: Us. And.” I point at two others, which were red. “These are the others.”
Crystal nods. I’m glad she understands now. I shut Edgar off.
“Can we walk now?”
We walk more. This time Crystal doesn’t fall. She walks ahead, dragging me by my hand. \
“What’s the hurry Crystal?” I say in between breaths.
“We have to get to Dr. Belle.” Crystal starts to run, making me run.
“I think I might know her.”
We run the rest of the way. The sun shining bright, birds chirping, the wind blowing breaking all the silence between us. Even though we’ve been running for a while, Crystal doesn’t stop.
“Crystal, we need to rest.”
Crystal ignores me.
She still doesn’t stop. I grab her shoulder, twisting her around to face me. Crystal’s face was blank. “Crystal?”
She places a hand on the side of my face. “It’s a game.” She whispers for only me to hear.
“Don’t you see? The Operation, us being victims, the experiments. It’s all a big game to twist up our minds.”
I look at her, my eyebrows raised.
“Do you not believe me?!” She whisper-yells.
I see a flash in one of the trees. I look at it. Something moved in the tree. Crystal was right. It was a camera. “Kiss me.” I say.
“Do it. Now.”
Crystal hesitates, but she does it anyways. As she kisses me, I take out my knife. As I pull her close, I kiss her deeply. I almost lose myself in her, but I focus on the camera, getting ready for the exact spot. As the camera moves to us, I make my move. I move Crystal to my side, and I throw my knife. The camera falls to the ground, shattered.
“They’re Watchers. We have to warn the others.”
I pull Edgar out. “Pull up the map from earlier.” Edgar pulls up the map.
“They’re close.” Crystal points at a red dot. “Let’s go get them.”
Crystal and I follow the map.
“Wait. How’d you know how to use that knife like that?”
I shrug. “It just came to me.”
“Matt! Mason!” Crystal shouts, hugging them close.
Crystal shuts them up as Crystal whispers-explains what’s happening to all of us. Their eyes widen once she’s done.
To my right, a flash goes off. I throw another knife at it. It shatters to the ground.
Matt and Mason stare at me, dumb-struck.
“It just comes to me.” I say, taking the knife out of the lens.
I laugh. “So. What now?”
“We rest. Then find Sunny and Josh.” Crystal orders.
We all lay down, Crystal laying close to me, her hand in mine.
“Focus Christopher.” A man says.
I lean forward, my hand steady.
I straighten up.
“Good. But only lean a little.”
I lean a little towards the target.
“Now. Show me what you can do.”
I raise my hand behind me, high. I stay in my place, and I throw my knife. My knife hits the target perfectly.
I jolt awake, Crystal wakes up, freaked out. “What? What’s wrong?”
I shake my head, wiping sweat off of my face. “Just a dream.” I whisper, getting up. I wake Matt and Mason up, putting on my bag. I pull the map up on Edgar. “Let’s go. They’re only an hour away.” I lead the way, shoulders shaking.
I was taught to do that. To hit the exact spot. But who would teach me that? I push the thought away as I follow the map.
“Ten minutes left!” I yell over my shoulder. I stop, turn around.
“Can-pant-you-pant-slow-pant-down?-pant.” Matt says. Mason groans in agreement. Crystal takes a sip of her drink, breathing hard.
“Keep going.” I say, walking on.
They groan, but follow.
As we pass camera by camera, I have the urge to shatter them all, but I don’t. “Sunny! Josh!” I yell, once we arrive.
“Chris?” Josh yells back.
“They found us!” Sunny shrieks, pulling me to Josh.
“Dude, what happened?” Josh’s leg was cut up and bruised.
“Fell down a hill. Stump caught me. Good thing we have the emergency kit, huh?”
I nod, helping him wrap it up.
Crystal and Sunny hold another, crying and laughing.
“Talk about girl love.” Mason laughs.
“Well. At least we’re all together.” Matt lays on the ground, sweating all over.
“Tell them Crystal.” I say, finishing Josh’s leg.
“Tell us what?” Josh says as I help him up.
Crystal tells them her so-called ‘explanation’, as she calls it.
“That makes sense.” Sunny says once Crystal’s done.
Josh nods in agreement.
“But where should we go now?” I ask.
“We need to find Dr. Belle. Chris.” Crystal points at Edgar.
“Edgar, show me where Dr. Belle is.”
“Cool.” Matt and Mason say, pointing at Edgar.
“Dr. Belle is twenty minutes from here.” I say, reading the map.
“Let’s go then.”
“Wait.” Sunny holds up her hand. “What about Josh? He can’t walk.”
“Oh, I know.” Matt takes out a knife, cuts down two firm branches, grabs a cloth out of his bag, and starts to make a stretcher with his bare hands. “There you go.”
We stare at him, dumbfounded.
“I think we may have found your ability.” Crystal says.
“You’re basically a builder Matt. Which is so cool!” Mason says, giving him a fist pump.
“Now we have to find Sunny’s, Mason’s, and Josh’s.”
We all nod.
“Well. Dr. Belle’s waiting.” I say.
We walk in a line, me leading, as I follow the map, as they follow me. For the first time in a long time, I’m the leader. Not Crystal. Me.
As we finally arrive, a small building stands before us.
“This is it?” Mason asks, confused like the rest.
“Apparently.” I take a step forward, then another, then another. When I reach the door, I take in a deep breath, look back at Chris, who nods, and I knock on the door. As the door slowly clicks open, I gasp.
It was the woman that I keep seeing in my dreams.
“Dr. Belle?” I whisper-ask.
“It’s been quite a long time Crystal Lane.” Her voice wavered on my name, like she was about to cry.
Seeing this woman in my dreams was intense, but this? I just can’t describe it. Something tells me to hug her, but on the other hand: To not trust her. “We came from Grace Beliner.” I say, clearing my throat. “She has sent us,” I point to the others. “To come find you.”
Dr. Belle’s eyes widen. “Come in, all of you.” She grabs my arm, waving for the others to come also. When we’re all inside, Dr. Belle locks her door. “Which one of you went through the Operation?”
We all raised our hands but Chris.
“No, no. The Operation with Grace?”
My hand stays up, as the other’s slowly fall.
“I was afraid of that.” Dr. Belle goes to a computer on a desk, she pulls up a document.
“Why do you say that?” I ask, standing beside her.
“You have an incredible ability to learn, and to teach yourself, many things without help.”
“The only two people, well, three people know about that: My dad, Scott, and Grace.”
Dr. Belle looks away from the computer, and at me.
“How did you know about that?” I ask. I could feel everybody’s eyes on me.
A brown, furry blob, with floppy ears comes towards me. I shriek as the dog jumps on me, barking. The dog pushes me to the ground, licking my face happily. “Stop, stop!” I say through laughter. The dog stops right when I say it. I look into its deep chocolate eyes. Like chocolate cocoa. Then it hits me. “Cocoa?”
The dog barks, tail wagging. “Oh Cocoa, come here Boy!” Cocoa let me hold him close. “I’ve missed you so much Boy.” Cocoa licks my face in return.
“If this is Cocoa then…” I get up, facing Dr. Belle. “Then you’re my...Mom.”
Dr. Belle nods, putting on a sad smile.
“Wait. What?” Sunny asks, breaking the moment.
“It’s true. I remember her.” Chris says.
“So do I. She helped me everytime I failed at something.” Josh says.
That caught us all.
“What are you talking about?” Mason asks, giving Josh a dumb look.
Before Josh could explain, my mom, hard to believe, says, “When all of you were young, you were taught to defend yourselves.”
I notice Chris twitch.
“If you ever fail at that, someone will help you along the way. I was Crystal’s and Josh’s trainor.” I nod, remembering the dream.
“Who was my trainor?” Chris asks, fists balled up tight.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. You have to remember it all on your own.” Chris nods, biting his lip.
“Are you the only one here?” Sunny asks, petting Cocoa.
“Yes. Well, Cocoa too.”
“What exactly do you do here?” Matt asks, looking around.
“Research.” My mom points at her computer.
“About?” Josh asks, curious all over.
That word hung in the air as the silence takes over.
“Is it because of our so-called abilities?” Sunny grumbles.
“Yes.” My mom goes to another room, coming back with six folders. “Here.” She hands us each a flower with our names on it. “This is all of your information. All about you.”
As those words left my mom’s mouth, I couldn’t help but open the folder. A picture of the old me was on top. Looking at the old me just brings back horrible memories. Of being a Starter. I move the picture, page after page talking, well, written about me, my past, the future, and now. The very last thing in the folder was a picture of the new me. I slam the folder shut, I sigh.
“I can move things, with my mind? Like, telekinesis?” Josh asks, flipping through all the other papers.
“Yes. Very interesting. But it will come when you’re ready.” My mom says, pursing her lips.
“That’s so cool! I can see things more than the human eye!” Mason says, freaking out. Mason stares at a light. We look at him, eyebrows raised.
“It’ll come Dude. Chill.” Matt says, holding in laugher.
“Ugh.” Mason gives up, cursing at the light.
“What you got Sunny?” I ask.
Sunny just shrugs.
Then all of a sudden the lights go off. Cocoa barks at the door. My mom holds a finger to her lips, telling us to be quiet. We all crouch down low in a corner. Cocoa stops barking as my mom unlocks the door. Cocoa sits down.
“Yes?” My mom’s voice echoes through the house loudly.
“Yes. We’re here to see the six victims.”
Victims. That word goes throughout my brain. I take Chris’s hand in mine.
“I’m afraid I haven’t seen them.” My mom says.
“I’m sorry, but we’ve seen them come here. Camera footage.”
I hold my breath.
“Oh. You mean the victims.”
I close my eyes, tightening my grip on Chris’s hand. He squeezes back.
“They left a little while ago. Out the back. They said they had to get back to Grace.”
I nod, breathing silently.
“If they come back, call us.”
I hear the door shut, the lock go in place. Cocoa comes to us, tail wagging.
“You need to leave. Now.” My mom says, handing us each our bags.
“But Mom. You told them-.”
“I know what I said. But you have to find the way out of this. There’s too much danger here.” My mom takes us to a back door.
“But what about you?” I ask when everybody’s out the door.
“I’ll be fine. Cocoa will protect me.” Cocoa barks.
I hug her. “I love you Mom.” I say into her hair.
“I love you too Crystal.”
I let her go, folder in hand, and I follow the others. As I look back, the lights are back on. My mom waves, I wave back. Then she closes the door.
“Edgar, show me the map to get us out of here.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“There is no way out.”
I look at Crystal, fright in her eyes. Matt and Mason are silent. Sunny tightens her grip on Josh’s arm, while Josh shakes his head.
“I don’t understand Edgar.”
“I’m sorry Sir.”
I put Edgar up. “What now?” I ask, my shoulders sagging. For once, Crystal doesn’t have anything to say. Everybody shrugs. “Well. I guess we keep walking.” I say. “How’s your leg?” I ask Josh.
Josh looks down at his leg. The bandage I put on was covered with dirt and blood. “It’s okay. I can keep going.”
“Can we just rest?” Sunny asks.
So we do.
“You have done well Christopher.”
“Thank you Sir.” I chew on my lip.
“Are you ready?”
I close my eyes. Am I? I open my eyes. “I am Sir.” I follow the man to a room. I stand in my place. A table beside me with small knives lay on it. Ten targets were side by side in a line, waiting for me.
“You may start.” A voice through a speaker says.
I crack my knuckles and neck. I grab a knife, twisting it around my fingers. I glare at the first target. I stand up straight, but I lean a little. I raise my hand high, and I throw. One knife after another.
“Very good Christopher.”
I look at each target. All the knives were in the middle. The exact spot.
“You have been trained very well.”
“Thank you.” I look ahead of me. Glass. But there are people behind it, watching me.
“Now that you have done that, we’re going to need a plan for the Operation. Can you do that?”
“Uh, yes Sir.”
I’m yanked up by a strong arm.
“You thought you could get away from us Victims?” A strong voice says in my ear.
I see the others being dragged by other men.
“What are you going to do to us?” Sunny asks, her eyes widening. “You can’t kill us! You can’t!” Sunny screams, clawing at the man.
“Watch out for this one! She’s the mind reader!” The man points at Sunny.
Sunny’s ability: She’s a mind reader!
“Let us go!” Crystal punches the man dragging her, making him fall to the ground, nose bleeding.
Crystal, Sunny, Matt, and Mason run, their men on the ground, somehow bleeding. Painfully.
“Chris!” I hear Crystal scream.
I have the urge to stab the man in the leg, where he won’t be able to walk or run. But I don’t. I’m not no murderer. “Go! Leave without me!” The man drags me away from them, making it hard to concentrate on walking.
“He refused to go with the others. Brave one he is!” The man yells to other men. We arrive to a truck. A big, no, huge truck.
“Which one is he?” Another man asks.
“I’m an attacker, and I’m a planner.” I say.
The men’s eyes widen.
“It’s him. He’s the one he’s looking for.”
“Who?” I ask.
They look at me, dumbfounded.
“You don’t remember who he is?”
I raise my eyebrow. “I’m confused right now.” And I am.
“Where are you from?” A man asks.
“A town. Near the Outside.” I reply.
“He really doesn’t remember.” The men exchange looks.
“What’s this about killing us?” I ask, remembering what Sunny screamed.
The men laugh. “That was only a test to find the mind reader.”
I nod, not quite understanding. “What does this person want from me?” I ask as the men put me in the truck.
The door shuts in my face. My plans? I haven’t done any of my plans since...I don’t know.
As the truck roars to life, we all ride down the road. I look outside through the window. Trees passing by so quickly, that they’re only a blur.
“We’re here.” A man says after a while. We arrive to a building that was away from the trees. Better yet, away from the Outside.
The truck stops, and I’m dragged out by the arm. “He’s waiting for you.” The man grabbing my arm says, shoving me towards the door of the building. All of the men stare me down, waiting to see if I’ll actually go inside to this person that wants me.
I face the door, taking in a deep breath. I push the door open, darkness engulfing me, blocking the light from outside. I walk ahead, careful to not trip or fall over anything I can’t see. I see a flash to my left. I throw my knife. A shattering sound goes off as the camera hits the floor. Suddenly, the lights turn on. I look around myself.
A training room.
“Welcome back Christopher.”
That voice. I know it. But how?
“You’ve been trained so well.”
I turn around. I freeze. A man. But not just any man. This man was from my dream. This man was my...Trainor. “Did you teach me?” I ask, touching the same table from my dream.
I nod, picking up a knife. The edge so sharp, it can cut through flesh and bone. I look at the targets in front of me. Each had a puncture from a knife in the middle. Like my dream. “This is my training room, isn’t it.” I say, instead of asking.
“It is. You’ve trained yourself so well through the years, that you’ve forgotten.”
The way he said forgotten brought chills. “I haven’t quite forgotten. It just comes and goes, is all.” The man nods. I put the knife down, and I face this man. “What’s your name?” I ask.
“Marcus. But you’ve always called me Marc, unlike the others.”
I nod, remembering. “I did.” Our voices echo throughout my training room. “I had a dream.” I say. “About you, this place.”
Marc nods. “Is that why you stayed behind?” He asks. “To leave your friends, to come here?” Marc’s voice was calm, but firm.
I nod, not able to answer. I knew what was going on once those men came. I already knew.
“You should rest. Tomorrow we shall regain your training.” Marc leaves me alone.
“Where are you Crystal?” I shout through darkness.
“I’m over here!” Crystal’s voice echoes all around.
I run, my hands outstretched in front of me. “Crystal!” I scream over and over.
Crystal’s voice fades away as I fall down. My breath gets knocked out of me. I regain my strength, I stand up.
Crystal was in front of me. Light seeping through the darkness. Her caramel eyes shining from the light. “You have to save me Chris. They’re coming.”
“We have to go get him back.” Sunny says, pacing back and forth, chewing on her lip.
“But how are we going to do that?” Matt asks.
“We just need to get him. That man said he was going to kill us!”
We give her a weird look.
“Oh, yeah. My ability is...Reading minds…”
“Cool.” Josh says, grinning.
Sunny blushes, hiding her smile.
“But we can’t get him back.” I finally say.
“Why can’t we?” Sunny’s eyes were on fire.
“Because he doesn’t want us to.” The silence takes over, making me feel awkward. “Didn’t you see the way he told us to run and go? He knew those people somehow. He wants answers.” I explain, shuddering when I’m done.
“That does make sense to me.” Josh says.
Matt and Mason nod. Sunny balls her fists up, glaring at me.
“Listen: I know what I’m saying. I saw it in his eyes. If he didn’t want to go, he would’ve fought back. But he didn’t. Just deal with how it is. If he wants us, he’ll find us.” As the last sentence left my mouth, I felt a tear crawl down my face. I sigh, turning away from the others as I cry.
I feel arms wrap around me. Sunny’s warmth pulls me into her as I cry on her shoulder. Nothing but my cries filled the silence. “It’s okay Crystal. It’s okay.”
I nod as I let her go. “Well. I guess we should just move on.” I grab my bag, face the others with a small smile, and I walk on. As the others follow behind.
“Who are you?” A voice startles me. I look up.
A guy with messy blue hair, snake bites, gages, and tattoos stare at me. His pale gray eyes stare me down.
“I’m Crystal. These are…” I trail off, looking at the others.
“Matt and Mason.”
I look back at the guy.
“Call me Blue.”
Blue gives her a hard stare. “Something funny Sunny?”
Sunny goes quiet. “Follow me Crystal. The rest: Stay.”
I walk towards Blue, not knowing what I’m actually doing. I think it’s his gray eyes.
“But what about us?” Josh asks, eyes cold.
“Explore.” Blue smiles at me.
And what a smile he gave me.
Blue gives me his hand. I take it in mine. What am I doing? Blue leads me to a small building. How many buildings have we passed without seeing?
“What is this place?” I hear myself ask, my voice bubbly.
“A place where the Explorers go.”
I stop, making Blue stop. “Are you one?”
I start to get excited, but I go straight to calm. Weird. Blue takes me inside the building. So many other people with colored hair, piercings, and tattoos fill the building.
“Everybody! Meet Crystal Lane!” Blue yells.
Everybody I pass by smile at me or shake my hand.
“How do they know me?” I ask once we’re alone.
“You’re the last Explorer that’s here.”
“But isn’t there more?” I was confused.
“Before you, yeah.”
I bite my lip, figuring this all out. But I couldn’t with Blue right here. “Blue I…” I trail off.
Blue places his hand on the side of my face, pushing my hair out of my face. “You’re so beautiful Crystal.”
I smile, not sure what else to do. “Thank you. You’re not too bad yourself.” Which was true. The way his blue hair was parted to one side, his gray eyes melting me with such heat, and the way his snake bites bring out his smile.
“Why thank you.”
We smile at another. I look away from his eyes, to his tattoos on his arms. “I like that one.” I point at a tattoo that shows two different hands reaching for another.
“Thanks. I got it for someone who isn’t here any longer.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. It was a mistake.”
I nod, clearing my throat.
“You want to get one?” Blue asks.
“Sure.” I say.
Blue and I run down a hall towards a tattoo parlor. We laugh as we reach the door.
“You’re quite fun Crystal.”
I blush. I open the door. People with enough tattoos all over their bodies were working on other people’s tattoos.
“Let’s go see what they have.” Blue takes me to an office-like room with tattoos on the wall around.
“I like that one.” I say, pointing.
Blue comes to my side, our shoulders touching. “That is a good one.” Blue says.
I nod. I let my hand fall, bumping Blue’s. I freeze. Blue moves his fingers, sliding them into mine. Our hands fit perfectly. I stare at our hands. Blue leans to me, placing his other hand on my waist, pulling me close. I barely even know this guy, what am I even doing? I look up at him. His gray eyes burned into mine.
“Blue…” I trail off.
“I…I barely even know you.” I whisper to his lips. I didn’t even know we were that close until now.
“You’re about to.” Blue places his lips on mine. Soft. Gentle. Wanting.
I put my fingers through his hair as he pulls me closer, kissing me deeply. I thought of Chris, but I couldn’t leave Blue’s lips.
As we part to breathe, I place my head on Blue’s shoulder as he holds me close.
“I think maybe I should get that tattoo Blue.” I whisper to his neck. Just saying, his name brought butterflies.
“Okay.” He says.
But we don’t let another go. We just stand there, our arms wrapped around another.
He lets me go, but he still holds my hand. Tightly.
I grab the tattoo picture I want. We go to a woman with half her hair shaved.
“Just lie still Sweetie.”
And so I did.
“This is Day. She will be your new trainor and partner.” Marc says.
A girl my age walks in. She had curly, blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, freckles along her nose, and a bright smile. “Hello Christopher.”
The way she said my full name brought a smile on my face as we shook hands.
“Hello Day.” Even my voice sounded happy. Marc leaves the room, leaving me alone with this beautiful girl.
“So. We should start.” Day picks up a knife, flips it in the air, and catches it by the handle perfectly. Which was quite sexy.
“I can sense pleasure. You already enjoying this? Ha! We haven’t even started yet.” Day throws a knife at one of the targets without looking at it. She was looking at me.
My mouth dropped open.
“Now I can sense surprise, shock.” Day smiles, making my heart melt. “Now I sense happiness.”
Okay: How does she know how I feel?
“Confusion. Hmm. I can sense emotions around me.”
Ah. “Okay, cool.”
Day comes closer, making my heart pound against my chest. Day’s inches away from me. Her blue eyes go straight to me, to my heart. “You seem on edge. Is it because of me?” Day pouts her bottom lip out, making her look cuter. “Can I do something?”
Before I could answer, Day kisses me. A smile on her lips.
I push Day off of me, scared.
“Thought I’d get to you. You don’t think I’m attractive.”
“It’s not that. There’s just...Someone else.”
“Oh.” Day crosses her arms.
“Is that what you want me to do?” I spat. “To touch you? To distract me? No way.”
Day was taken aback. “Wow. You haven’t changed much.”
I raise my eyebrow.
Day sighs. “You still just think about her. Never me. I knew you first.”
I thought about what Day said. How I haven’t changed much. How I still love her. The her must be Crystal. But how did I know Day first, when I knew Crystal my whole life? I shake my head.
I lay down on my old bed, creaking beneath me. The sound was so familiar. Maybe I do belong here. But the others...Crystal...They need me. Do they?
I close my eyes, trying to get rid of all these questions in my head. I stare up at the ceiling, failing to sleep.
I finally feel my eyes close.
“You can’t just leave me Christopher! I need you here!” Day screams at me.
I whirl around. “I can’t live this life anymore Day!”
“Christopher, please.” Day holds me close, crying.
“I made those plans. I have to get rid of this life.”
“But you’ll forget me.”
I lift her face to mine. “Never.”
“It’s so beautiful Blue.” I look at my first tattoo in a mirror.
“Just like you. Makes you more beautiful. Shows off your beauty.”
“Thanks Blue. So sweet.”
The tattoo on my arm was a rose. An open rose showing off the beauty inside it. But the best part was that hands were holding the rose in the palm of their hands. Blue was right. This tattoo does show off my beauty. Inside and out.
“Here.” Blue places a white cloth with straps over the tattoo. “It’ll help it heal faster.”
“Thank you so much Blue. I would’ve never done this without you.”
“Anytime Crystal, anytime.”
We smile at another. “By the way, did you get your hair dyed here?”
My eyes widen.
“Come on then.” We run to the hairstylists. I choose my favorite color: Purple. Light.
“Do you want a haircut with it?” The woman asks me as I sit in the chair.
I look at my hair in the mirror. It was straight down. Just plain straight. “Yes, I do. That haircut.” I point at a picture on the wall.
The woman starts on my hair. My hair falls to the floor. Snip-by-snip. I look over at Blue, who was smiling at me. I smile back.
“You’re done Honey.” The woman says after an hour or so. The woman turns the chair around.
My hair was cut to my shoulders, no longer at my waist. I have bangs going to one side of my face. The best part? It was purple. Light purple. “It’s beautiful. Thank you so much.” I hug the woman, who hugs me back. I take Blue’s hand, and I say, “Next?”
Blue laughs. “Piercings?”
I look at Blue’s gages and snake bites. “Yes.” I answer.
Instead of running, we walk. The place was right across from the hairstylists.
“What you gettin’?” A man in his mid-twenties asks me.
“Um. Snake bites? And...Just regular piercings.”
“Okay. Come here.” The man leads me to a glass case filled with many different piercings.
“Those for my snake bites. And…” I look around. “These for my ears.”
The man starts on my piercings right away. I would bite my lip when he did my ears, and I pinch myself when he did my snake bites.
“You’re done. And you look awesome with those on.” The man says once he’s done.
I look in the mirror. “Wow.” Was the only word I could come up with to show how amazed I am. My snake bites were bright blue, with purple swirling around it. And I have black hoop earrings. “Thank you.” Instead of hugging this guy, I shake his hand.
He took it kindly, making me more excited about this place.
Blue takes me to a room. Well, more of a bedroom, really.
“Home sweet home.” Blue says, sitting on the edge of his bed.
“This is your room?” I ask, looking around.
“Yes. We each have one here. But we’ll get you one soon, don’t worry.”
Soon. That word is just...Too far away.
“For now: You can sleep here.” Blue pats his bed, which I gladly take.
His bed was hard, but soft. And the covers were fluffy, like the pillows.
“Goodnight Crystal.” Blue puts his back to mine.
“Goodnight Blue.” Blue falls asleep before I do. His gentle, soft snores filling the silence.
I miss the others. I miss Chris.
I shake the thought away.
I go look for Day. Not in my training room. Not in the other training rooms. Not outside. I search and search, but she’s nowhere. I sit on a bench in one of the hallways. I put my face in my hands.
How could I not remember being with her? Did they wipe my memory that far?
“I sense confusion, depression, and your anxious.”
I look up. Day. I stand up, our faces only inches apart, like the first day we met. Day’s much taller than Crystal, about my height. “I remember now.” I whisper to her ear. “By first: You meant by love.”
Day nods, holding my close to her. The heat coming off of her is so intense. “I knew you’d forget me once you went through that. And you did.” Day says against my face. “I’ve waited for years for you to come back. And you did. But...To find out...You still love her.”
I let her words sink into me. “If it’s okay with you: I’d like a second chance.” Before I let those words leave my mouth, I knew it was true.
“Is gone. Crystal’s gone. You’re here with me now. There’s no turning back.”
“Okay.” Day says, nodding her head.
“I…” I trail off.
“It’s okay Chris. You don’t have to say it. This is a new start for you. For us.”
This time I nod.
“I think we should start your training.”
And we do. Day teaches me how to throw a knife at the target without looking at it. I failed a couple times, but I got the hang of it. “You’re doing pretty good for your first training lesson since…” Day trails off, not wanting to say what she had to say.
I only nod, knowing what she means.
“It’s just so hard, you know?” Day’s eyes begin to tear up.
I put my knives down on the table. “I know Day.”
“No, you don’t. Just seeing you here is a miracle. But...Being with you will be so much harder.” Day drops her knife on the floor. Clang! It lands beside her foot.
“No. Just no.”
I stay where I am. I’m only a few feet away, but I stay where I am.
“I have to think about this Christopher.” Day leaves the room, leaving me.
I pace back and forth. This. Is. All. My. Fault! As I think those words, I throw knife after knife. My frustration brings out the best in me.
Why? Because I hit the spot.
As I open my eyes, I see Blue changing. I close my eyes, breathing softly. I crack my eyes open a little. Blue opens his door, looks at me, smiles, and closes the door. I sit up. I yawn, I stretch.
At the end of the bed are a pair of pants, a shirt, shoes. And a note. I pick up the note.
Get dressed, meet me at the entrance. -Blue
I get up, and I dress. I make sure to not rub the cloth over my tattoo. Once I’m done, I look at myself. A gray tank-top, white skinny jeans, and ankle-boots with heels. I’ll have to thank Blue later, because I look hot. I brush my hair with Blue’s comb, taking my hair out of the comb once I’m done.
I walk to the entrance. Everybody claps and cheers for me when I open the door. I laugh and smile. Blue was waiting for me, holding a microphone. I take it.
“Thank you all so much. I’m so glad to be here with all of you. We’re Explorers, right?”
“Then let’s explore!”
Everybody heads outside, Blue and I follow.
As everybody searches for something, I see a flash to my left.
Then the camera shatters. Few people scream that were near it. But that camera had a knife in the middle. The exact spot too.
“Chris.” I whisper, running towards the camera. I look ahead of me. Nothing. “Chris!” I shout.
A figure comes towards me. Just not Chris.
“Forget about him Crystal. He doesn’t want you anymore.” A girl with blonde hair and blue eyes tells me.
“What do you mean by that?” I aks.
“He’s moved on. He’s with me now.” The girl gives me a cold stare. “And it looks like you’ve changed the new you. Christopher would not like that.” The girl gives me a grin.
“Whatever. Tell Chris that I’ve moved on.” I go to Blue. “That I belong here.”
After we all go inside, I go straight to Blue’s room. I push my fingers through my hair, tears welling up in my eyes. I lay on Blue’s bed. Tears crawl down my cheeks, soaking the pillow. I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I jump.
Blue takes me in his arms, and he cradles me.
“He’s already given up on me Blue.” I say to his chest as I cry.
“You two are different now. No longer the same. You have to realize that.”
I nod, my eyes burning. I sniffle as I wipe my eyes. “I want to see my friends Blue. The ones I came with without saying goodbye.”
Blue sighs. “They’re here, actually.”
I look up at him, my eyes wide.
“They wouldn’t leave without you, so we took them in. Explorers or not, they care for you.”
I nod. “Where are they Blue?”
“In the basement we called ‘The Unwanted’.” Blue takes my hand, and leads me there.
“You have been trained for many years Christopher.” Marc says.
“You have also been planning for many years as well.”
I nod again.
“Which is why I need your help.” Marc clasps his hands together.
“Making a plan to destroy the Explorers.”
Explorers. Crystal. “But why them?” I hear myself ask.
“The Explorers have extreme powers, more than we could ever imagine. I need a plan to stop them from being who they really are.” Marc gives me a moment to think about this. Then he says, “You’ve got two days.” Marc leaves the room.
Destroy. The. Explorers. It’s more like: Destroy Crystal. I shake my head. I can’t just do that. Crystal’s still out there. I can’t. Then the door opens.
Day walks in, her hair a mess, her arms cut and bloody. Her expression: Scared.
“The Explorers! They attacked me!”
I take her arm. Three bloody cuts. But they were perfectly straight. “No. You did that.”
Day gives me a look.
“You’re just trying to change my mind, to destroy them like Marc wants me to.”
Day sighs. I caught her.
“Okay, fine.” Day wipes the blood away, but it comes back.
“Come here.” I place a wet cloth on it. Day grits her teeth. I wrap it up carefully.
“I saw Crystal today.”
I stop. “What?”
“I went out today. I saw these people walking around, like they were searching for something.”
“And she’s changed. A lot. She’s also with someone Christopher.”
That got to me. Crystal’s already moved on?
“She told me to tell you that she belongs there. As one of them.”
I nod. Day hugs me. I just sit there, speechless. After all the things we’ve been through, she does this to me? Day lets me go, but I pull her back. I kiss her. Day kisses me back. “Forget her, I got you.”
Day smiles as we kiss. “Maybe you should get back to what Marcus wants you to do.” Day says against my mouth.
“Later’ll be okay.” I pull Day onto my lap, and I kiss her deeply. I kiss her like I would Crystal. But a different kind of want. A need. I need a new start. A whole new me.
“Christopher.” Day stops me from unbuttoning her shirt. “Get back to work.” Day kisses me, and she leaves me.
Why does everybody keep doing that? I feel my hands start to shake. I grab the pencil and paper. I stare at the blank paper. What should the plan be like? Not too hard, not too easy. Somewhere in the middle. I start to draw, then write.
As my plan comes out on a single piece of paper, I feel good. No, better.
I go find Marc. Holding the plan in one hand. I open the door to his office. “Marc?”
“Yes Christopher?” Marc comes out of his closet, carrying a box.
“Here.” I hand him my plan.
“‘The Destroyer’. I like the plan already.”
I put on a smile.
Marc looks it over. “Very nice, very nice!” Marc gives me a big smile. “What could I do without you Christopher?”
“You’d probably kill yourself from all this madness going on.” I say, making us both laugh.
“Well. This here is for you.” Marc hands me the box.
Not too heavy to carry. “What is it?” I look at it.
“Open it, and you’ll find out.”
I nod, walking away from Marc’s office. I go to my room. I set the box on the bed. I take my knife, and I cut the tape around the box. I set the knife on my bed. I open the box, the flaps opening so easily. I stare at what’s inside.
Papers. A whole stack of them. But not just any papers. They were all the plans I made. Each and every one of them. The very first one was...the Operation plan. I look away.
I did this.
I made the Operation to change these people. Why would I ever had done this? I go through them all. Plan after plan after plan.
Then...The very last plan. My first plan I made when I was a young one. It was called ‘The Helper’.
And it was Edgar.
I turn Edgar on. I make him go full size. “Show me where Crystal is.”
A map pops up. Blue dot: Me. Red dot: Her. Crystal was only two hours away. I have to warn her for what’s going to happen to her, and the others.
I have to leave...Now.
But how? They’ll know where I’m going.
I know: A plan.
“Sunny, it’s me. Crystal.”
Sunny gives me a funny look. “The Crystal I know would never do this.” She points at my hair, my piercings, and my tattoo.
“I know Sunny, I know. But it’s really me.”
Sunny only nods.
Blue takes me to Josh’s cell.
Josh hugs me. “I’ve missed you.” Josh says.
“You look different. Don’t tell me. It’s your eyes.” We laugh.
“Matt, Mason?” I look behind Josh, finding them two snoring their butts off on cots.
“I suppose they’re dead.” Josh says.
“Looks like it.”
“It’s time to go Crystal.” Blue’s voice brought me back to reality.
“Okay. Tell them I was here, and I said hi.”
Josh nods as I walk away. “Thank you Blue. That meant a lot to me.”
As we walk to the Pizza Palace, I ask, “Do you take care of them?”
“Of course. They may not be our kind, but they are close enough. We never treat others, or our kind, with disrespect. Unless they really need it.”
I nod, understanding.
I pick three different pizzas, and I eat them with satisfaction. “I just love pizza.” I say when I’m done.
Blue was still on his first one.
“Wow. Oops. I didn’t meant to eat that fast.”
Blue laughs. “Do you want more?”
“Yes!” Blue puts his other two pizzas on my place. I eat them, full as all get out when I’m done. Blue smiles at me.
“You sure do love pizza.”
I grin. “Can’t help it. My tummy loves it.” I say, tapping my tummy
“Okay. Wanna go see some of my friends? Blue asks.
As I packed whatever I had, I help my plan in one hand, knife in the other. I go out the back door of the building. I look around, making sure nobody’s around. I set out, holding Edgar in my hand with the plan. I follow the map.
As I walk on, I start to hear laughter ahead of me. I look at Edgar. I’m only forty-five minutes away from Crystal. But who are these people? As I edge closer, I see that their hair is colored, they have piercings, and they have tattoos along their bodies. I take a step forward, but I stumble.
The people stop their conversation, and look at me.
“Is he an Explorer?” One of them asks.
“I don’t know.”
One guy comes up to me. He gives me his hand. I take it and he helps me up. “Hi there. I’m Parker.”
They take me to a building, much smaller than Marc’s. “We live here.”
Edgar beeps. I’m where Crystal’s at. Right now. This place. “You people are Explorers?” I ask.
“Uh, yeah.” I shake my head. Why would Marc want to destroy these people? Just because they have different styles than normal people do, doesn’t quite mean anything.
“What are you?” A girl asks.
The people exchange looks. “Why’re you here?”
“To warn you. And to see a friend.”
They nod, bringing me inside the building. So many people like the ones I’m with, were inside this building.
“Who’re you looking for?”
“A girl named Crystal.”
They stop. They stare. “By any chance is your name Chris?”
They exchange looks again. “Because she wants you.”
As Blue and I hang out with his friends, someone taps me on my shoulder. Everybody goes quiet as I turn around.
My face goes pale, my hands start to feel sweaty. It was Chris.
“What are you doing here?” I hear myself ask.
“I came to warn you...And see you.”
Blue comes to my side, making me feel a whole lot better about this. “What did you want to warn me about? That you found somebody better? Thanks, but no thanks.” I cross my arms.
Chris’s face turns red. “I didn’t come here for that. I came to warn you, all of you, that you’re about to be destroyed, well, killed.”
I let Chris’s words sink in. We’re going to be killed? Why? I look at Blue, and the others. “Why aren’t you guys freaking out?!” I freak out.
“Because we already knew this day would come.” Blue says.
“What?” Blue goes over to a wall, presses a red button. An alarm starts to go off. I follow Blue, Chris right behind me.
“They want to kill us because of our special abilities. Am I right?” Blue ask Chris, who nods. “Then we’re ready.”
Blue starts to hand out weapons to Explorers.
“Chris!” Sunny runs to me, Josh, Matt, and Mason right behind her.
“Here.” Blue hands me a gun.
“I’ve got a knife.”
I do. Blue hands Sunny and them weapons also.
“Cool.” Mason points his gun. “Pow!”
I give him a stupid look.
I shake my head.
“Why’re we doing this?”
I explain it to them.
“Follow me!” Blue’s voice was much louder than before. Crystal was beside him. She looks so different now. Her hair, the piercings, the tattoo. Why did I ever leave her to do this? Our eyes meet, but she looks away. I sigh as I follow the Explorers to a huge room.
“Today we will prepare ourselves for this battle. Life and death together!” Blue says.
“We will fight for what’s right!” Crystal says.
Suddenly the sound of helicopters silences us.
“We have waited for so long. Now’s the chance to show what we’re made of!”
The Explorers all run outside. They all hide in different spots, but some stay in groups.
I follow Sunny, who follows Josh, who follows Matt and Mason.
“Someone’s right there.” Mason whispers, pointing at a tree.
“That’s just a -”
Mason shoots a man wearing a suit. The man falls to the ground.
“Looks like your ability kicked in.”
I follow Blue towards one of the helicopters. Men wearing protecting suits jump out of them. Blue raises his gun.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Blue shoots them all. They fall to the ground. Not moving. We move closer.
“We need all of the Explorers rounded up. We have to put the serum in them before they kill many of us. Fifty men are already down.”
“You go that way.” Blue whispers, pointing to the right.
I silently walk that way, while Blue goes to the left. We raise our guns to the men surrounding the building.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
As I watch the men fall from my bullets, I hold in my vomit as I see them bleed. Blue and I run to the others.
So many Explorers. So many.
“Chris!” I put my arm around him, helping him walk.
Chris screams in pain.
“Come on! We have to get out of here!”
Chris tries to run, but the bullet in his leg is just too much for him.
Blue sees us. He helps me carry Chris away from all the shooting.
“Ah!” Chris falls, screaming more than ever.
My leg’s burning. The pain so deep, it’s making my vision blurry.
Crystal. She’s calling me.
So many gunshots, making it hard to focus. I have the strength to get up, screaming from this pain…
“Crystal!” I jump up, blocking the man’s strike on her.
But the strike hits me...Hard...Deeply.
I fall down...My world getting fuzzy.
I hear an angel calling my name. But not the one who wants me to go. The one who wants me to stay.
“Chris, please! Stay with me!”
I open my eyes. “Crystal…”
“Oh, Chris. I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t be…” The pain in my chest was so deep, it was getting hard to breathe. “Crystal…” Blood was starting to come out of my mouth as I spoke.
“Oh God, Chris! Please! Don’t leave me!”
I place my hand weakly on her crying face. “Don’t...Forget me Crystal…”
“Oh, I won’t Chris!” Crystal takes my hand in hers, and she kisses me.
Blood or not, I knew this was going to be our last one.
“I love you so much Chris.”
Her voice was starting to fade. Blackness was clouding my vision.
“I...I...Love you too…” I start to breathe slowly. “Blue…”
“Take care of her for me…”
The last thing I heard was Crystal’s cries.
“Someone I loved and cared about died today.” I say. “And he will always be in my heart.” I wipe a tear away. “You may not have known him, but his name was Chris.” My voice cracked on his beautiful name. “I’ll never forget you Chris.” I look out to the beyond, ready for a fight. A fight for freedom.