An Angel RIses

"After almost 400 years of slumbering, the ancient and mysterious Angel of Retribution has once again awakened in the body of a mortal, but so has the entity it was created to destroy."

An Angel Rises is the first story in the (planned) chronicles of Selena Wayland who has always had trouble fitting in, but soon finds out that her life might be more interesting than she had originally wanted it to be.

Note: The story is written in 2010 and is suppose to take place in that time period.

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1. Burned at the Stake

 

The blackest chapter in the history of Witchcraft

lies not in the malevolence of Witches but in the

deliberate, gloating cruelty of their prosecutors.

 

~ Theda Kenyon, Witches Still Live

 

 

Chapter. 1

Burned at the Stake.

 

 

Kendra.

 

I walked with silent, but quick, steps through the dark streets of London. I was wearing a dark cloak, with the hood over my head, concealing the thick black curled hair, and cream colored, beauty that was my face. Anyone who knew what to look for would easily recognize me, even if they had never met me in person. I was the most wanted person in all of Europe after all. Amongst the peasants and average people, I was wanted for witchcraft, cursing humans, trades with the Devil, amongst others. The truth wasn’t so far from the illusion that the public had been deluded with. For I was a witch, that much was true. But, to curse another human, or make trades with the foulest of all demons, those rights were reserved for the fallen ones. Now, the Vatican truly believed that witches and wizards was demons of some sort in human form, and when the stories of magic and demons began to run from mouth to mouth like a disease on a boat, they began training a new kind of cleric, their so called paladins, to purge all unclean from Gods creation.

But the Vatican wasn’t the only ones that wanted my head. The evil beings that walked this world were the ones that were hardest to avoid. The paladins fought only with such things as stakes, torches, the mindless and angry mobs, and the courage they could muster when they were up against a real demon or magi. The real demons were the very reason that magic exists in this realm, so of course they also wielded some kind of supernatural power. The average demon or vampire only had taints of the power they had in their own realm, like unusual amount of stamina, and strength that could match that of a dozen men – and in grim cases; more. They were the real danger. The predators, which would always walk in darkness. The creatures of the unknown, stalking their prey from the shadows.

And that was why I was now striding through London’s underbelly. Because it was my duty to fight this evil. While the paladins believed me to be a demon, I was truly an angel. For one person to sacrifice her whole life, to keep mankind safe, there is no better way to describe it than with one word; angelic.

It probably wasn’t the best idea to have left my safe house in the middle of the night, especially this night. The full moon brought out all kinds of lunatics. But mere people were not as dangerous as the other things that would come out on this one day of the month. Vampires came out every night, demons too. But at full moon, the dimensional walls separating them from their home world, would weaken just enough so they would be filled with some sort of battle spirit. But this night of the month, men and women would transform into the inner demon that most of them didn’t even knew they had. They would turn into werewolves, and they would hunt, and be hunted by the people they knew, the people they loved.

I kept walking through the dark streets while I speculated about a question that always had been bugging me; why I had so much bad luck? It was not an easy question. The bad luck was not always my fault, and not always bad luck. For example; it was not my fault that Pyroxar had chosen this night for his end game, and it was not my fault that Edward and his group had been out patrolling near the western gates, and it was not my fault that they had accidentally discovered Pyroxar’s hideout and called out nearly every magi in the city. And if you looked on the bright side, they had by mere luck discovered Pyroxar’s hideout before he could activate the final stage of his plan, which was actually quite lucky, considering the consequences if we had not found it. I felt the slightest urge to vomit, when I thought of what he would do.

What was even more miraculous about this whole rotten situation was that with only a slight advantage in numbers, and with the element of surprise, Edward and the guardians had actually been able to overpower Pyroxar and his personal guards. Now it was my turn to do something. I myself had been feeling so helpless the whole time. Pyroxar had found some way to avoid my visions. Of course the order relied way too much on something that worked the way the visions did. But still, I should be able to pick up anything major, like this ancient evil once again rising from the pits of hell to walk this world once more. It had made me feel more than powerless. Knowing that the only thing I could do was waiting. Because I would only get into play if – and at the time it was if – we could catch him. And he knew who I was, and exactly what my role in this would be, that’s why the order had gone through so much trouble to protect me further. ‘Cause if we could manage to catch him, I would be the one who needed to do the ritual that would banish him. It was something that was predestined. It was something that I couldn’t run from, no matter where I went. And Pyroxar would do anything to make sure I wouldn’t fulfill my destiny.

It was a peaceful night in the city, if you didn’t know about what was really going on anyway. So it was easy for me to dwell in my own thoughts while I watched out for the sign. Of course Pyroxar had used his father’s mark as a pointer to his lair, but until tonight we didn’t know how to reveal the sign, but along with Pyroxar and all of his belongings, were the formula that would make the sign viewable to the one it was used on. So when the courier had arrived at the humble room that, at the time was my home, my guardians had immediately put the spell on my. Afterwards they had walked out with a decoy while I was left to find the lair all by myself. It was cruel really, to let a young lady walk all by herself in the streets of London at night, looking for the beast’s lair. But it was safer this way, any demon would be pulled toward the decoy, it was pure instinct telling them to go for the bigger prey.

The part of finding the place was easy, once I was imbued with the sight, my senses would pull me toward the lair, if that was where I wanted to go, so I just let my feet walk, while my head was wrapped deeply in uncomfortable thoughts: doubt, fear, horror. The panic slowly crawled into my consciousness while I considered what would happen if I couldn’t do what I was supposed to.

No!

I could not allow my thoughts to dwell on the unpleasant things Pyroxar would do to this world if he survived tonight. He would see what we did, as a treachery the whole world had been in on, and his retribution would be swift, and cruel.

I forced myself to think of happy things while I strolled through the never-ending streets of the city. I suddenly came to a stop. I looked around myself, but couldn’t find anything that would have made me stop. Was this the place? But where was the entrance?

I sighed and looked down at my feet, and then I discovered the mark I had been looking for, the mark of Lucifer lightened up in a bright crimson red color, almost burning, and I thought it was weird that no one – even those who didn’t have the sight – had been able to miss this ever burning flame on the ground. The mark was ‘burned’ into the ground just a couple of inches apart from the entrance: a sewer hatch.

“Bloody brilliant!” I sighed again. “Do I really have to go down there?” I asked the cloaked men that in the same moment moved gracefully from the shadows, to stand at my side.

“Yes, where else would the Prince of Darkness have his lair, the sewer of course” a husky male voice – that I immediately recognized as Phineas’s – answered.

I turned my head towards him, and he was smiling, as usual. That was perhaps his best quality, but at times like this it was also his worst. Always able to find the joke in everything, like now where his amusement came from my fear of heights.

“Don’t worry Kendra. They are expecting you.” I winced at the sound of Edmund’s voice. Until now I hadn’t noticed the much larger man that had been standing behind me. If you compared the two of them, Phineas could’ve been a blind pig. That was the creepy thing about Edmund, despite his size; he could have been standing beside you for hours without you ever knowing.

I flinched once more, knowing what I probably would find at the bottom. I waved my hand at the hatch, and it flew open. I took two deep breaths to calm myself, placed one foot in front of the other, and jumped.

The second I was swallowed by the darkness I could feel the hand of fear taking form around me, and it wasn’t about to let go anytime soon if it had its will. At the same time my cloak flew up over my head, so it looked like wings, which I wished was the case. In the darkness there was only one visible thing: my runes. In the daylight – or nightlight – they just looked like fancy tattoos, with circles and signs, in the color of black. Now when there was no light, they were glowing in a subtle dark purple color. The fall took longer than expected, and I could feel the grip of fear losing its hold a little, just enough so that I was able to focus. With the help of my permanent runes I could hear the ground coming closer. My breathing sped up, and instead of fear came panic. My lips became incredibly dry and I had to swallow twice before I could even whisper. I forced myself to focus on the pattern that was carved into my skin a little below my throat.

“An… An – angelico potere!” As I finally spoke the words correctly, I could feel the pattern symbolizing the angelic powers getting warmer, almost so warm it would’ve burned through my skin, and now there were actually wings on my bag. As I got closer to the ground, I sped down to the point where I could just set my foot gracefully onto the ground and land as if I were actually an archangel descending to earth to exact retribution.

And I was definitely not an angel, but I had come to exact the judgment of the people upon the monster that had dwelled in these sewers for months. His crimes against humanity were unspeakable. I felt the urge to vomit when I thought about his victims. Pyroxar wasn’t like any other predator, he didn’t just hunt to kill and feed like any beast. He took a sadistic pleasure in the pain of the victims, and later the kill. He had actually made the father of a family choose between his wife and three children. He had promised to let the one the father picked go. When the father had chosen his firstborn, the sadistic fiend that he was, had tortured the boy to death, and then made the father choose again. He was curious about the human nature. More specifically, he was curious about the human endurance, both the physical and mental. He would push, and push, and push, just to see how much pain he could inflict, and how much we could take. And then he would push a little more. His primary goal in this world was the total oblivion of the human species. His secondary goal – which was more like a hobby of his – was to break down the spirit of a human being completely. His definition of art was probably total mental breakdown. Witch was easier said than done. We are surprisingly strong when it comes to our mind. Because no matter how much a person could hurt us, revenge was – and always will be – a very motivational feeling.

When I had planted my feet firmly on the ground, I was finally able to open my eyes – which until now I hadn’t known were closed. The feeling of security washed in over me, and then disappeared again when I remembered where I was.

In front of me there was a tunnel with torches on each side. The walls were skillfully decorated with demonic symbols, clearly cloaking runes which were designed to hide the place. The walls themselves looked like they were splendid new; witch was probably the case, because this place was clearly something that was not in the original architecture. The stones had that orange-yellow color, like sand on the beach. The tunnel was about seven feet long, and nine feet high. The tunnel continued about twenty feet, and then it made a sudden right turn.

I quickly walked down the tunnel, and when I turned to the right, a huge hall opened before my eyes. The walls were the same color as those in the tunnel, but the runes were a much more outstanding feature in here. For one thing, these designs were all blood red one second, and the next they were toxic green, and then red again. When I looked away from the symbols on the walls, I could see that Pyroxar was not only a monster and a murderer, he was also conceited. The room was decorated with many pieces of art; there was many paintings on the walls (by closer examination the Mona Lisa was one of these paintings), there was various statues, some low pillars with Chinese ceramics including small dragon figures, several vases ranging from the Han dynasty to the Ming dynasty. Oddly enough there were also purple curtains hanging around each of the paintings.

In the far end of the room there was an altar with pentagrams on the side, and on the top there was an ancient text written in one of the demonic languages. Lying on the altar was a blonde woman dressed in a white dress. There were chains from the floor to her ankles and her wrists. Her head was turned towards me, and I noticed her beautiful features, now lying completely still. Her blue, dead eyes drilled themselves into mine. It was Melissa.

The runes that were scattered over her body were still viewable through the white cloth, but the black color had already transformed into dull grey, she had been dead for at least five hours. The cause of death was easy to see. The altar was covered in blood that flowed from a wound on her neck. We really had caught him during the final hours of his endgame. If he had been allowed to let the power in her blood settle into him, we would surely have been too late.

I once again stared into the depths of Melissa’s blue eyes, and it was like a piece of me was ripped apart from me. She had been like a sister to me. I had known her since I could walk, she had been my best friend since always, she was the one person I could always count on, and now she was gone. I felt hollow when the thoughts hit me. I swallowed and looked away.

There were cloaked men scattered around the room. Some were in the process of releasing Melissa from the shackles, others were admiring – or removing – the art around the room. A few were standing in a circle around something I couldn’t see. They were holding each other’s hands, and chanting some binding spell.

One of them stepped out from the circle – the ones standing beside him immediately grabbed their hands so the binding circle wouldn’t break – and pulled down his hood. I was filled with joy when my brother’s face came into view. Alastair walked with quick steps across the room, and embraced me in a tight hug. The warmth radiated from his body, and it helped a little with the pain I felt. I realised I had been sobbing, and quickly wiped my tears on his shoulder.

“It’s horrible, I know,” he whispered into my ear. “But we got him.”

I pulled out from his arms so I could see his face. “Really? We really got him?”

My brother hadn’t been able to wash up for a while. It was definitely noticeable since his neck long hair and stubbles were not their natural red color, but a mix of blood and sweat. A fresh sanare rune was still glowing on his neck, and I could see a scar there, barely an inch away from the symbol, healing more by the second. When his lips pulled up in a smile, a few drops of blood started to appear on the scar. “Yes, we got him. And soon he will be banished from this world.”

A part of my mind remembered the text on the Stone of Eternal Truths. “…for he is evil like the world has never seen, and never will see. His first coming will bring forth the existence of the deadliest demon in this world. His second coming will rain terror down on man. And the…

...third coming will bring forth his salvation.” Alastair paused for a moment, then he continued; “But the heavens will send down their champion, their Angel of Retribution who, each time he appears, will defend the creation and bring down reckoning upon this cursed creature. And as his strength grows each time he visits the green earth, so shall her spirit be hardened until she is strong enough to destroy him forever” Alastair finished the quote. His brown eyes had the troubled look they had when there was a puzzle he couldn’t solve.

“That’s just it Alastair, I am not strong enough. I never was.”

“You don’t necessarily have to be. We only know that he has been in this world at least once,” he said, but that still left a gap. Either Pyroxar did know about the stone, or he had decided to reschedule his plans. “Either way, we don’t want him to stay any longer. We have been preparing the ritual” Alastair said while pulling me towards the circle of men.

The circle of men opened up in a crescent, and now I could see what they were binding. It was the vampire lord himself, lying inside a pentagram cut out in the – until now I hadn’t noticed – marble floor. He was only dressed in a pair of black silk pants, with his torso shown. He was without a doubt the most beautiful person – no: thing - I had ever seen. His snow-white skin was stretched over his bones, so the muscles were very noticeable on his arms and chest. His face had perfect and straight features, with highlighted cheekbones, which made his face even more perfect. He had neck-long hair black as coal, creating a strong contrast with his extremely pale skin. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought he was an angel. But the straight features, the muscles and the milky white skin were all by-products of the vampirism, so of course the first of them would be the most perfect one.

I stood there for a moment – or a minute, I didn’t know how long – dazed by his beauty. It was first when Alastair playfully hit me on the shoulder that I returned to reality. No, it wasn’t Alastair, it was Matthew…

 

Selena.

 

Damn it! I had fallen asleep again, and in biology, the worst subject ever.

“Selena, wake up” Matt hissed at me through his teeth. He was one of the few who actually enjoyed biology. Luckily for me, I had fallen asleep today where Mr. Lewis showed us a film. Apparently he didn’t find the anatomy of European animals very interesting, so to rush through the subject, he was showing us documentaries on the subject instead of teaching himself. Eventually there would be a test. That was one of his principals. No matter how boring the subject was, there would always be a test.

I struggled to open up my eyes and return to my world, but Kendra’s was so much more fascinating. First, she was a witch (or angel or whatever they called themselves), second, she fought vampires and demons, and third, everyone in her world was so real. She was the person I became when I was dreaming, or sleeping, one time I could have sworn I was awake when the ‘flashback’ started. The dreams had started, what, like a month ago? Or maybe it was two. Either way, I had begun to write down my dreams, it was really fascinating stuff. Maybe I should publish it someday.

I drifted in my own thoughts for the rest of the class, totally ignoring the little TV showing a butcher carving up the insides of a Danish pig. I didn’t even notice when the bell rang, and Mr. Lewis turned the lights on again, until Matt once again awaked me from my dazed state. He was one of my best friends, ever since we moved to New York three years ago. His name is Matthew Hawking, but I call him Matt, and my first impression of him was that he was one of the football boys, because he always wore jeans and some kind of t-shirt or shirt with the top button undone, and the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. But actually he had turned out to be a nerd, but not the typical kind. He didn’t have any glasses, zits or long greasy hair. He could be attractive if he wanted to be. To be fair, he already was, with his round, welcoming face, water-blue eyes, brown curls and his slim body. But because he wasn’t ever pimped out with the latest fashion of clothes, none of the girls at the school seemed to notice it. But I never looked at him that way, and he never looked at me that way either, well, not that I knew of at least.

He was actually one of the coolest persons I knew. After Karen Hansen had taken my clothes and thrown them into the shower in gym class, he had hacked her Facebook and MySpace accounts and sent out embarrassing messages. Teachers pet on the outside, bad-boy on the inside. And all that he had done without me asking. I had exacted my own kind of diabolical revenge on Karen, after that incident she smelled of a fast-food joint for an entire month.

As I walked out from biology with Matt, I felt my ‘sixth sense’ tinkling. It wasn’t an actual sense; I could just sort of feel when people were staring at me, and sometimes who the starrer was. Like in this case it was Karen.

Word on the ‘street’ was that soon she would bring her own retaliation down on my shoulders for the fast-food incident. I would have to bribe one of her ‘friends’. And by friends, I meant her mindless servants. They were the in-crowd in this school, and they were very exclusive - here exclusive means that they only hung out with the pretty and the ridge, and dumb was usually an adjective that followed the two others. My own sister was one of these brainless zombies that followed around Karen, like a bunch of bees, all fighting (verbally) for the attention of the queen bee. We had both been asked to join the ‘elite’ and Annie was the only one who had accepted. The only reason for inviting me in (in spite of my style), was the coolness of having a couple of identical twins in your clique.

The bribe itself was one of the easiest things. It wasn‘t the first time, and this probably wouldn’t be the last. And like before, I would ask Camryn. The girl was a strawberry blonde, with naturally blonde hair, tinted with a light red. She was a little over average intelligence, with little understanding of the words ‘loyalty’ and ‘moral’ and she had high thoughts about herself. So all I had to do was play impressed by her, slip her five bucks, and she would be sold. Another thing about her; she just couldn’t say no to the little piece of green paper.

Now you might say that morale was something I lacked of myself, but this was war. Metaphorically speaking of course. There were two options here. One: Bribe Camryn and somehow avoid what Karen had in mind. And two: Do nothing and just wait for Karen to get me. And the scenario following option number two was one I wasn’t very fond of. That would involve teasing, low whispers whenever I would walk past, and clever comments in the hallway. And that was something I wasn’t going to go through… again. So I would bribe Camryn, and make Karen look like the fool. I wasn’t the first to do something like this. In war, it was ‘kill or be killed’ and in fauna, the saying was ‘eat or be eaten’, but the most common saying on the subject was probably ‘survival of the fittest’.

“Look at her clothes!” Karen’s shrill voice whispered. “She’s like the poster child for yuck!” She was commenting on my choice of clothing. Typical. It was one of her ‘favorite’ things about me, or it was one of her favorite things about me that she liked to complain about. Okay, if her ‘Britney-Spears-wannabe’ clothes were what was considered normal to wear (and it probably was), my style was something to stare at (at least in this school). Today, I had chosen to wear a black tank-top with the words: A Touch of darkness written in red across the chest, and a (very) dark pair of jeans to match. As always, that was followed by two rings - today: a skull-thumb ring, and a rose for my index finger (both in silver) - a necklace - today’s choice was a chain with a silver-ring dangling in it - and something that followed me no matter what I was wearing: My father’s dog tag. I had gotten it in the early 2004 when he returned. He had been a ranger from the later part of the ‘90 and in the start of the new millennium. He was sent to Iraq March 24th 2003, and some time from November to December, his squad had been ambushed. A piece of scrap metal had torn up his stomach, and for half an hour, while being carried to the field hospital by one of the other rangers, he had held his guts inside with his bare hands. When they reached the hospital, he was immediately taken into care, and during the operation, unexpected problems had occurred, and he breathed out his last gust of air at exactly 9.57 p.m. I knew more than the rest of my family, all that they knew was that my father was KIA at evening time, and that he died for his country. The reason I knew this was because I had stayed behind they others when they left the church. When all my father’s family, friends and rangers from his squad had left the room, I had been sitting on my chair, and after a few minutes I had walked up to the open casket. My feet had felt like solid concrete during the twenty feet walk, and when I had reached the casket, and looked upon his face one last time, the tears just came. At the time I didn’t know how to feel, what were the rational feelings to feel in a situation like that? I had asked that question to a psychiatrist, and her answer had been that whatever I felt was natural, and not wrong. But I didn’t feel any feeling I knew a word for, I guess that the word that describes it best, is hollow. I had been feeling hollow from the day I had heard, and up until that moment. Just looking at his dark brown straight hair, the thin lips and round cheeks that was my father’s face, made the hollowness stop instantly. The shell that for weeks had been my lifeless body was suddenly alive again. And I was very aware of every organ in it, and it felt like each and every one of them, and the rest of my body was aching. A numbing pain had shoot up in every vain in my body, and the tears just came along with it.

I could hear footsteps behind me, and as soon as the person, I thought was my mother, came up to stand beside me, I threw myself inside their arms. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t my mother, the figure was all wrong, and the hand patting my back was more masculine than my mothers. I looked up at Sergeant Hicks’s face, and embarrassed, I retracted myself from his embrace. He gave me his handkerchief, and as I wiped my tears away, I studied his face closer. I had known the man before the war, he was one of dad’s friends, they had known each other since ranger-school, and now here he was. Iraq hadn’t been nice on him either. A nasty scar in the process of healing, covered his right cheek, and he had a bruise covering his right eye, and therefore he had the same eye half closed.

An uncomfortable silence followed that, and I clenched the handkerchief in my hands.

With a fake laugh, and a glued on smile, he said “You can keep that, if you…” and the smile cracked, and revealed his true emotions. He and my father were practically best friends, and losing him had been hard. Tears were threatening to break through the last piece of willpower he had left, and his brown eyes revealed his true pain, “I am sorry.”

I felt the tears coming again. I opened my mouth, and whatever I had thought of saying, just withered and died on my tongue. He padded my shoulder with his one good hand - I saw his other was in a cask - and then another sentence popped into my head. It was a question I had wanted to ask ever since Christmas, and I would ask anyone who knew the answer in my hope of an answer: “What really happened?”

I regretted it the moment after I had spoken the words, and wanted to take them back if I could. The pain stood out in his face in obvious ways, and he was probably about to refuse to answer, but something in my expression apparently changed his mind, because he sighed, and then begun the tale.

After Hicks had stopped talking, I once again threw myself into his arms, it was not on accident, but not exactly something I had planned either. The tears were there again, and I imagined the pain my dad had felt, and that just brought more tears.

He pulled out another handkerchief, and after I had wiped away another wave of tears, Hicks pulled something else out of his pocket; it was a dog tag with both tags intact. He put it into my hands, and on it was written my dad’s name. “He said… He said he wanted you to have it.”

After just looking at it for another minute, I slowly put it on, and a little smile made its appearance on my lips. I remembered back to when I was seven or eight. I had asked him why there were two plates in the metal chain. He had with a big smile explained that it was if someone was killed in combat, then another soldier would come and break one of the plates off, and when he came back to the base, they would know that a person was lying dead out on the battlefield. I had asked him if he was going to die and he had skillfully maneuvered his way around the question by asking if I wanted a sandwich. Now I felt sad thinking about it.

Another smile appeared on Hicks’s face; “You are Selena, right?” we both laughed a little and went outside.

It was right after that I had begun to wear black clothes, at first because I was in grief, but then I discovered that I actually liked it. Five months after that, we moved, and I kept wearing black. Not only black clothes. I also dyed my hair black at one point. Over the years I had developed a style that was mixed out of Goth and punk, but in the ‘sweet’ way - only using the word sweet because of a lack of a better word - meaning: no tattoos, piercings, etc.

And it was my style that Karen was now trash-talking.

“Where can you even get clothes like that?” one of Karen’s servants said.

But there was something wrong… They were walking at least twenty feet behind me, and whispering. So… How could I hear what they were saying? Maybe they just talked louder than I’d thought. I shrugged it off, and started to look at the doodling I’d been doing on my arm before I’d fallen asleep. It was angelic symbols, I knew that. I’d remembered a bit from my dreams, and I was bored, so I had just started to draw them on my left arm. Though I knew what they were, I couldn’t identify the meaning of the symbol. It kind of looked like a scythe, but with a blade in both ends, and a little circle on each side of the scythe.

A crazy thought came down into my head; maybe the rune was the reason I could hear what Karen and her friends were saying.

I laughed to myself. As a little girl I had been obsessed with fantasy novels and films, and I had dreamt about one day to live in one of those stories. But as I had grown up, those dreams had faded away. There was no point living in a dream world.

I sighed.

“Are we going to practice tonight?” It was Matt. He was referring to our band. Before I came here, Matt had started a band; he was playing the base, Victor played guitar and lead vocalist, Thomas played the drums and Oliver was on the keyboard. So a couple of weeks before I’d come, they were looking for another guitar-player. Luckily for them - and me - it was one of my hobbies. And when they had heard me sing, they agreed upon that it was depending on the song who would be singing. Sometimes we would have courage enough to play our own stuff, but mostly we played someone else’s material, and we covered a great amount of artists. Sometimes while browsing through old music we could find something we liked, and rehearse it, or sometimes I would come up with an old blues or jazz song. So, in theory, we could play anything we thought sounded good. Right now, our band name was Global Blackout, and then the question was how long it would be before we changed it again.

“I can’t, got a chem test to study for” again something I hated. If you weren’t going to be one of those rocket scientists, what would you need it for in the real world? I had the brain to become one, or a doctor, or a lawyer. At least that’s what my mother told me. I sighed. If I wanted to be something like that, I could. Fact. But I didn’t. In truth I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I had too many options. Most people would see that as a good thing, but your options also needs to be connected to your interests. And most of mine wasn’t. Some things I actually enjoyed. When I played video-games with Matt, I liked to think about designing games, like development of storyline, characters, weapons/items etc. That was also something I could use my artistic side for. I wondered if there was an education for something like that, or maybe people were hired for something like that based on creativity. I made a mental note, reminding myself to check up on that.

“Sucks for you” Matt said with smugness in his voice. “I told you to study for that last weekend, didn’t I tell you?”

“You did. I didn’t” and now I could see that I probably should have. The chem teacher had told us to read the entire chapter on electricity. It was what we had been studying the last month, and now there would be the test. If I read up on the chapter for a good afternoon, I would probably get through it with a B+ or A- or something, which always managed to piss off my sister.

“And look at her accessories, I mean, just look!” There it was; Karen’s voice again. And this time I was sure she was whispering. Maybe she had come closer than she was a minute ago?

“And what is it with the dog tag?” one of her friends asked.

“I don’t know. Annie refuses to tell me” Karen continued. At least Annie knew that the dog tag was too personal to share with people like Karen. So she had a little loyalty for her own sister.

If we hadn’t entered the cafeteria at that exact moment, she probably would’ve gone on to hold a seminar on why my style of clothing should be banned. The minute she stepped through the door, she went to her usual table, were her ‘gang’ hung out. Among those was Annie; my clone, except for hair, but if I didn’t dye mine black, I too would have that blonde colour. But other than that, we were like two drops of water; same body, same height, same face. Besides from my hair, the eyes were the only difference. Hers were a light blue, and mine were black as coal. That was something we had wondered about a lot. Normally identical twins shared the same physical traits.

Most twins can’t function right without each other, and we spend a lot of time together when we were home, but in places like school, we started to befriend different kind of people after my father’s death.

Matt and I stood in line for lunch - today’s meal was pasta with meatballs - and meanwhile, I was trying to categorize my line of clothing, and ended up with this: Gothic, but in the mellow, relaxed way.

On the way to an empty table, Matt broke the silence, “Tell me your theory on why the world is as it is, again.”

“Why? You’ve heard it, and agreed upon it.”

He shrugged. ”Yeah, but it’s actually solid stuff.”

“And you don’t like silence.”

So when we sat down, I started to yet again explain why the teenagers of the 21st century were the prime age for drinking alcohol, experimenting with drugs and get infected with STDs: “When an author, or a screenwriter is writing a book or a film, that book or film is always going to depict their version of the world, however twisted it might be. So when a group of teenagers go to see a movie together, what film would they rather see? The one about a guy who does everything by the book, stays clear of drugs, studies etc.? Or the one about the people who does all the wrong things and end up in jail?”

Matt swallowed a meatball, nodded and answered with sarcasm “A?”

I smiled and shook my head. “So when the group of teenagers leave the cinema, they are left with the impression that everyone is behaving like that, and they should too. Then along comes the teenagers who does like in the movies, and they becomes pop-stars, and that just doesn’t help,” I took a pause to swallow some pasta. “So the teenagers now think that everyone behaves like that, and even the celebrities does, so in comes our old friend: Peer pressure. Soon everyone dresses and behaved like Paris Hilton, and then more jumps on the train, and that’s how we ended up with today. The illusion of what reality was like started inside the screenwriter’s head, and then soon became the real reality.”

Matt looked at me with curious eyes, and asked, as he had before, “But how do you know that that’s how it happened?”

“I don’t. It’s just a theory” and now I could really start on my lunch.

There wasn’t so much to look at in the cafeteria, except for couples making out here and there, the occasional fight, but today the eyes of most boys and girls were fixed upon one specific spot in the corner. He was sitting just outside of the beaming light, coming down from the roof. He was wearing a pair of black boots along with a pair of dark-blue jeans, and a black short-sleeved shirt with the top button undone. But it wasn’t his clothing that stood out, it was his face; Straight beautiful face with a pair of balanced lips, a cute nose, two big emerald green eyes, in-cased by short black hair. He was muscular, not body-builder muscular, but still very nice-looking. All in all, he was gorgeous.

There was a small hum in the cafeteria, something I had failed to notice until now, it was most of the students gossiping about him. Listening carefully, the expected questions were what I could hear: Who is he? Where’s he from? Is he single? Why is he sitting there alone?

“Hey Matt, who’s that guy over there?”

Matt looked up from his pasta and shot a glare at the new kid, and answered “Sebastian Constantine, he just transferred from Iowa. He got kicked out of his school, and moved here.”

Another question arose: How did Matt always know this stuff?

Either way, that answered the two first questions and perhaps the third one too. But why sit alone? With such a face, nothing else would matter. No club would be too exclusive, no girl to classy. Everyone could fall for such a face. It could also scare every girl enough so much they wouldn’t even consider talking to him. Karen wasn’t one of these girls, because right now she was walking towards Constantine’s table in the shadows.

“I don’t think Devon will be too happy about the little scene we will be witnesses to” Matt said.

Devon was Karen’s “boyfriend”, they had been on and off for a couple of years. And he probably wouldn’t be too happy about Karen flirting with Constantine.

Devon would take it out on him, and as one of the jogs, he would probably gang up on him with a couple of his football buddies. But something told me that Constantine was able to take really good care of himself.

“Is this seat taken?” It was Karen, her voice overflowing with sugar.

“No.” His voice was - like his face - not bad at all.

“Well, can I sit?”

“If you want to,” Constantine stated in a monotone voice, clearly not impressed by Karen. Unlike most other boys he wasn’t drooling over her. His voice wasn’t angry, or cold, just emotionless. Like he didn’t even care that Karen was making advances.

She obviously noticed it as well; she made a tiny face at Constantine’s reply.

I looked down at my pasta, and ate in silence for a while. But I couldn’t keep myself from peeking at the two people in the shadow. Karen kept trying to impress Constantine and he kept ignoring her, this had to be a demoralizer for Karen. She was used to getting what she wanted.

But the weirdest thing was that even though Karen was blocking my view to him, I had this constant feeling that his piercing green eyes were at me all the time.

Other than that, it was a pretty ordinary lunch.

About ten minutes before the bell rang, everyone started to walk to the classrooms.

Me and Matt were some of the last to leave and when we walked down the southern corridor, on our way to English we heard the words “Hey Constantine!” being yelled from somewhere behind us. When we turned around, Devon was storming through the hallway, right towards the tall cold figure that was Sebastian Constantine.

The population in the hallway was at a minimum, only about seven or eight people, besides Devon and his soon-to-be victim. That would be better for him; his reputation as the ‘pretty boy that got beaten up on his first day’ would perhaps not even exist if everyone here shut up about it. And that was what was about to happen; even though my gut told me that Constantine had a trick up his sleeve and Devon was about to make a grave mistake messing with him, my brain told me that I should put my money on the bully; besides from football, he boxed for a hobby, and when he was younger, he took some kind of martial arts.

Constantine slowly turned around, and dropped his backpack to the ground, and said with an intrigued voice: “You must be Devon. I was actually thinking you would strike earlier, with more witnesses.”

Devon made a scorn look, “Well, no one’s perfect.”

Then something must’ve caught his eye, because he suddenly reached out to Constantine’s neck, and grabbed something silver and shiny in a ball-chain which broke. He was as dumb as a magpie; reaching out for anything remotely shiny. I wondered how he would react to tinfoil.

When Devon called out “Hey Wayland, you know this guy?” I noticed that he was holding a dog tag, just like the one I was wearing.

“Get lost Devon” I answered.

And his attention was only on me for a second, before it fixated back on Constantine. “Who is 1st Sergeant Rabbit, Sebastian?” Devon asked with a grin on his face. This ignited a fire in the pit of my stomach. You don’t joke around with the men and women who fight to protect this country, especially the ones of them who died from it. Maybe Sebastian and I had more in common than I had originally thought.

“He is none of your business.”

“Well I just made it my business,” Devon snared back. “And you better stay away from my girl” and then the first punch fell. But missed…

Devon missed Constantine!

I didn’t know how, but when Devon had launched his fist towards this new boy, he had simply - and with extraordinary grace - bend his torso to the side, causing Devon to miss.

This didn’t make him happy, so he took another swing with his other hand, but Sebastian used the same technique as before, and bend his upper body to the opposite side of where Devon’s fist was one fourth of a second later. Amazing!

“Dodging me isn’t gonna help!”

“I know” Sebastian said with a calm voice while Devon took another swing, but instead of dodging the attack, he grabbed Devon’s hard-hitting fist into his palm, making it look like the easiest thing in the world. “That’s why it’s my turn now.” Sebastian clenched his fingers a very tiny bit around Devon’s hand, and if it hadn’t been for Devon’s cry of pain to prove the opposite, I would’ve thought that Sebastian didn’t have the strength to crush Devon’s hand. He definitely had the strength to not only break the hand, but to crush it entirely. He was holding back.

The next thing happened so fast that I almost didn’t see it, but Sebastian moved his right leg around Devon’s from the back, and made him fall to the ground.

Sebastian walked around his opponent, bent down over him, took the dog tag and said “I think this is mine.” Then he just picked up his backpack, and went to class while Devon was still lying on the ground with a half twisted half pained expression on his face.

He was known to everyone as the toughest guy around campus, as the one who had bullied everyone who was against him from first to eighth grade.

“It’s kind of pathetic seeing him lie there like that” I said to Matt, so loud that I knew that Devon could hear it. I wasn’t afraid of him, he never bothered me, or Matt, or any of the people I hung out with. The people from his scene thought we - me specifically - were creepy, so most of them they stayed away.

Devon shot us a look of pure fury, and then we walked away. Of course both me and Matt was amazed at the scene we had just seen, but it was so much more fun to let Devon believe that he had been beaten by a normal boy, and not by some guy with extraordinary powers… Was that what he was? Was he some sort of warlock or something? Was he an angel like the ones in my dreams? Did they even exist?

I could hear Martin’s (my older sister’s fiancé) voice telling me that I was letting my imagination take charge. He said that often, so often that others had started to say the same thing when I mentioned my thoughts out loud.

“I can see the headlines right now” I told Matt as we walked to class, “Bully beaten up by pretty boy; gains 700 pounds.”

“Why would he gain 700 pounds? Not mentioning that it’s impossible” Matt asked me, probably already knowing what my answer was going to be.

“Well he wouldn’t, but it’s a story I’d read.”

“Where are you going?” Matt asked when I turned down a different hall than him.

“I am on my way to the Circle of the Damned!” I theatrically said out loud.

“Group therapy?”

“You bet.”

 

Sebastian.

 

Shit.

I wasn’t supposed to get involved in the daily routine of the targets natural habitat; I was just supposed to watch it. The term target probably didn’t apply here. The high school wasn’t a battlefield, and the subject - that wasn’t going to work either - wasn’t the leader of a terrorist cell, an upcoming dictator, or a demon lord.

After so many years, having been used to thinking in strategic and calculated ways, it had become a habit.

Still, beating up the bully of the school was pretty awesome. I might be older than I looked, but I couldn’t deny the excitement such a simple thing gave me.

Despite my age, I still got excited by some of the things a normal teenager did, no matter how mundane they were, or how intellectual inadequate, especially in this day and age. Now the opportunities were practically endless when you were young. Back when I was even remotely human, you did what your parents said, or you were in for a world to hurt.

And if I fucked up on this op, the company would send me to Fort Yuriel for what was a year in this world. Man I hated that place. No real action, only patrolling, random training exercises. If I was lucky, I would get to instruct a team of aspirants. They were enthusiasts, they thought they knew what they were in for, they believed in themselves, and most importantly, they believed that they were invincible.

Fort Yuriel was an even worse punishment than this was. I got send to New York in the first place because the negotiations with the Kheenashi demon clan had failed. It hadn’t even been my fault; I was just assigned to the mission for security reasons. If things got a little hostile, the corporation would like someone who could get their ambassador out in a hurry. And that was what had happened. The ambassador had accidentally wiped his feet on the doormat. In Kheenashi culture, the use of a doormat was only acceptable if you had hoofs; feet were unclean. The nine foot tall guards had taken the entire team of suit dressed brainiacs, prisoners immediately. I hid fast; I couldn’t overpower an entire legion of demons, at least not this kind. So I’d broken the suits out of the dungeons, and gotten them out almost without a fuss.

But someone had to take the fall for it, and not being human, the blame obviously fell on to my shoulders.

Now that I was in New York, might as well enjoy it. At the end of the month, another operative would have to take my post for a secondary evaluation of the target. The operative would undergo cosmetic magic and he would take my place for a month or two, after that the original operative would reassume his assignment. But most surveillance missions didn’t last long enough for another operative to start – let alone finish – his assignment.

But if this mission would take so long, I’d visit the Statue of Liberty again; maybe see some old friends there.

I looked up from the sink in the boy’s bathroom, and stared into the empty mirror. Some vampire myths were actually true; I didn’t have a reflection, I’d burn up if I or any piece of clothing I was wearing was in sunlight (had to hide behind something other than clothing I was wearing, funny enough, I could just hold up a piece of linen and I’d be fine), my corner teeth would sharpen into fangs, not much, but enough for it to be noticeable, once turned into a vampire, your mental skills would be slightly improved, your features would straighten out (not full-out Twilight vampire beautiful though), I would be burned if I touched a cross and holy water worked like acid on me. I could however not turn into a bat or any other animal without the help of some other kind of magic, I could not control people’s minds, I could control my thirst for blood, I could not move faster than light, but it still exceeded that of any humans, and the same went for my strength, stamina, hearing, eyesight and sense of smell and last, my skin would not be as hard as marble, it would be more like an oak tree, but hard skin would be useless if your opponent had just dipped his or her weapon in holy water.

There it was; the basic pros and cons about being a vampire.

All the more reason for why this was a punishment; public high school in the sunny months, which would make it more difficult for me to get around without bursting into flames. This was nothing short of a sentence. They might as well have sent a Templar to guard me instead of this charade.

The moment I had thought of the Templar Order, I was glad that they hadn’t done that. They gave me chills; walking around in high-tech armor, based on actual armor worn by the original order, and then all the tubes; some of them just went from one piece of armor to another, but some went into their bloodstream, pumping Brightlight (a chemical compound derived from plants that no longer grew in this world) directly into their system. These were men and women fully devoted to the order; sure Brightlight might enhance their physical abilities to that over a vampire, but it was extremely addictive. They would have to be on the drug for as long they served as a Knights Templar, and if they didn’t burn out because of Brightlight, there was a 75 % chance that they wouldn’t survive once their service had ended. And last, they hated vampires. I might have been a member of the original order, but that didn’t matter to them.

Of course this fear was nothing I’d show to others (especially not them). When you’ve been a soldier for the better part of a century, you learn to mask what your really thinking and feeling.

I heard someone nearing the toilet, so I quickly walked away from the mirror. I backed into the far corner, waiting for them to leave again since there was a beam of sunlight in the door, and they would notice if I started to smoke even for the split second I would be in the sunlight; I stuck to the shadows.

From the sound, there were three of them, and I could recognize the scent of one of them; Devon had come back for a second round. Stupid, but definitely not unanticipated. At least this time it would be closer to a fair fight when it was three against me. From the sound of their footsteps, I would guess that his two buddies were almost as big as Devon.

When they came barging through the door, I got a good look at the three; Devon was clearly the leader, seeing how the two others were walking behind him, looking for guidance. Poor fools, they looked for a leader because they didn’t know how to take charge, and instead of a faithful guide, they found a dominating tyrant.

“Constantine! You ready for a rematch?!” Devon almost shouted while his goons had a stupid grin on their faces, each looking stupider than the other one.

I sighed, “If we must.”

Thinking that he would get the jump on me, Devon charged for the corner I was in, but I dodged and he hit the wall with the hand I nearly broke earlier. He gritted his teeth in pain, refusing to scream. While the two imps ran to their wounded master, I jumped out of their way and ran to the front of the toilets.

“Get him you idiots!” Devon told his buddies. One of them immediately ran for me with a raised fist. I grabbed his fist in my palm, twisted his arm onto his back, forced his head down into the toilet with my other hand, and smacked him once on the head with the toilet seat, knocking him out.

The other goon walked towards me in a defensive posture, and swung his right fist at my face. I quickly dodged and glided to the left, gave him an elbow in his face, after that I punched him in the side and last I put him out of play with a fist in the stomach to punch the air out of him.

Devon had finally gotten on his feet. His face had a mixture of anger and disgust. “You want to give up?” I said as I leaned up against the toilet booths to the side.

Devon ran towards me without even hesitating, and when he came within range, I abruptly opened the door to the booth right into his face. He moaned in pain as blood dripped from his nose; it was broken.

I walked over to the sink again, grabbed my bag, and left the room. When the door had closed behind me, I heard Devon whisper “He’s not human...”

 

Selena.

 

What would it be like to fly? Not on an airplane, but really fly, like the birds outside the window. They looked so happy, like they didn’t have a care in the world.

I could faintly hear what the others were talking about, but the steady stream of words became a blur, just noise which mixed itself with the bird’s jaunty tone. I tried to focus on the birds and their nest in the tree, the mother tending to her babies. But the sad words of reality slowly won the battle of my concentration, and I drifted back to the group therapy session.

“Selena?” Sam asked. I looked at her relaxed pose in her expensive suit and stylish hair. Dr. Samantha Thompson was the school psychologist, or therapist, and had been so for nearly three months.

“Earth to Selena, are you there?” Jack taunted me while some of the other kids there whispered and laughed quietly. They all suspected it, but none of them knew for sure. Peter who sat straight across from me mouthed the word ‘stoner’.

I directed my attention towards Thompson. “Yes?”

“Don’t you think that’s interesting?” she said and leaned her head to one side.

“What’s interesting?” I said, trying not to sound too stupid.

“Peter is worried that his parents might be fighting too much over custody, and that he should have more say in how the arrangement ought to be.”

I looked away from Thompson, towards the window again, trying to escape this torment. “Just tell them Pete,” I hoped that Peter would take control of the debate and leave me out of it.

Unfortunately, I had drawn the attention of Dr. Thompson, “What do you think is interesting Selena?”

I would have to get a distraction, or else she could ramble on and on about my anti-social behavior, my estranged relationship with my mother and sister for the rest of the session, and I just wanted to be left in peace.

I quickly scanned the room for something that could distract her, perhaps something that would embarrass her, or make her uncomfortable. Bingo: the framed diplomas on the wall.

“What I think is interesting,” I said, directing the full attention of my black eyes towards Thompson, “Is that you have a diploma from Harvard on your wall, yet you’re a state-employed psychiatrist, working at a public high school, sorting out the problems of snobby and spoiled rich kids.”

She seemed surprised, but the others in the group didn’t. Their looks said everything: Please don’t make another shrink quit!

“Wha-what’s your point?” Thompson asked with a nervous look on her face. She liked to be in control of these sessions, and I was about to take away that control.

“My point is: What happened? I mean, it was clearly daddy’s money that got you through college, and they are still helping. Nice suit by the way,” I stopped for a second for dramatic effect, “So it’s clearly not an independency issue, which means that you took this job because you actually want to help us.”

A bewildered look came over her face for a second, and then it was gone again. “Yea, I do want to help you, all of you” she said, while looking at the others in the circle of chairs, hoping to regain control

“Yes, but why? I mean you could have started a private practice and made a lot more money.”

“It’s not always about the money” Thompson said with a comforting smile directed at me.

“That is right, but you must have some sort of motivation for doing this.” The thing I was going to say next was cruel, but purely guess-work; “Did you have a friend or someone close to you? Someone who probably needed the kind of therapy that you are giving us?” I held a break, looking at her body language, and the few emotional expressions that I was able to pick up; her face was trying to hide sadness, but not disgust or anger, and her shoulders were hunched together. “What happened when your friend didn’t get the help she needed?” She had a slight flinch at the corner of her eye.

After what I’d said, there was silence, awkward silence. I looked at Sasha to my left. Her brother had been in a car accident, his leg was broken, and was recovering. “How is your brother, Sasha?”

Thompson took the bait and changed the subject, and I spaced out once again, and was left alone till the end of the session.

When we were released, I grabbed my bag and dashed out the door as quickly as possible, I’d give anything not to spend another second with a shrink. I was all for messing with brain chemistry, not so fond of it when someone did it to me though.

Everything was still in a very bright color when I nearly ran down the halls. After an entire day at school, I was finally free of the jail, free to do what I wanted, and I didn’t want to study for a chem test; I wanted to hang out with Matt, maybe play some video games, and practice with the band later on. His neighborhood was so cozy compared to mine. I lived in a penthouse with my family, while Matt lived in an apartment in a friendly neighborhood in Brooklyn. It seemed nicer than the big cold building I lived in; Matt’s apartment had ‘character’.

The school was in the southern part of Manhattan, I lived a little north of it and Matt lived on the edge between Brooklyn and the island.

I turned a corner towards the main entrance and ran into the stream of students, like me; waiting to escape. As I pushed my way through, I finally reached the doors, and I burst out of them, out into the sunlight. It was nice and warm. I opened my eyes, and closed them again immediately; if I didn’t give my eyes time to adjust before I opened them, it could be uncomfortable.

As my eyes slowly got used to the new intensity of the light, I looked around for a sign of the green t-shirt that Matt was wearing, and there he was: sitting at the bottom of the stairs, fondling with his phone.

I started to push through the crowd when someone put their hand on my shoulder. I instantly turned around, and saw my own face.

“Wow, who put a mirror here?” I said with a grin to Annie.

“Funny. Are you going to be home for dinner tonight?” She usually got tired of my jokes and comments after I’d let them out into the world.

“Yes” I blurted out without thinking.

“Really?”

“No, not really.” I grinned again.

For a couple of seconds, Annie squinted and stared at me.

“Are you trying to see if you have a zit, sis?” I asked.

“Your stoned” she said in disbelief. I stared at her for some time, but then she got frustrated, and frowned, making a tiny ridge between her eyes (I wondered if I did that when I frowned...), and she said “Aren’t you even going to deny it?”

I looked as if I thought about it, then I shook my head. Annie was trying to make me feel bad by staring into my eyes. “You should see yourself right now” I laughed at her.

“I can see myself right now.”

“Ooh, I’m not the only one who gets to make jokes, huh?”

“I’m reflected in your eyes dummy” she sneered.

I pondered over that for a while, “Really, Annie? Are you reflected in my eyes?”

“No” she sneered again and walked past me.

I turned around to see the back of her head, “Bye!”

Right after Annie disappeared; I found Matt and pushed my way through the mass of students.

“So, you wanna take the bus or walk?”

Matt looked up from his phone. “I knew you couldn’t resist” he smiled.

“Who are you texting?” I asked and grabbed his phone before he could react. The display showed a half written text message: ‘If ur not busy 2morrow, wanna get 2gether? I know...’ I looked up and asked: “And whoever is this mystery woman you’re courting young Matthew?” He tried to get it back, but I backed out of his way. I went into his inbox and looked at the last person he’d texted; Merissa.

“Can I have that back?” he said in a calm voice; trying to appeal to the adult in me.

“Merissa Charlton? Well, you are ambitious, but I understand you; that ass huh?” I nodded at him.

“Ooh right, because she lives one window away from you,” he nodded, “Besides; it’s not ambitious if it’s possible” he said and attempted again to get his phone back; but I slapped his hand away. “I am the lead singer of a rock band after all; completely covers up my nerdy side” Matt said with confidence.

“Ooh really?” I nodded at his t-shirt; the inscription said Choose your weapon with six different dices above.

“Okay, maybe not today” he said in an attempt to defend his argument.

I looked at Matt for a couple of seconds, then I moved slowly closer; “You know, there is nothing that gets a person going like wanting what they can’t have...”

 

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