|Mirror Destiny, Book One: Equinox Game
Author: Robert D Hall PM
In modern society, fate brings a teenage boy named Joseph Mikail together with a girl who possesses a powerful secret. The two of them quickly find themselves being hunted by dark forces at every turn, forced to rely upon one another for their survival.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Fantasy - Chapters: 14 - Words: 39,045 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 08-03-10 - Published: 07-17-10 - id: 2829547
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By R. D. Hall
© 2008 Robert Hall. All Rights Reserved.
The loud, repeated buzzing noises coming from the alarm clock penetrated Joseph's fake sleep. The blaring ruckus was like a metal grate moving around inside his skull, rubbing in a harsh reality: no matter how much he tried to deny it, morning had come.
Finally surrendering his pointless and doomed struggle for a few last morsels of sleep, Joseph let out a loud groan and forced himself out of bed. Joseph sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes shut tight for a half-minute, even now trying to deny the fact that any chance to enjoy a well-rested day was long gone. He felt across his rug for his slippers, his feet sliding across the trash and clutter that had made a home on his bedside. At last, he felt the soft, fuzzy material of his slippers and slid them on both feet. Waddling like a drunken penguin, Joseph made his way out of his bedroom, and into the dining room.
Joseph's home wasn't very large when compared to some places, but since only two people lived here, it was hardly cramped. The living room was the largest room in the house, about fourteen steps long, six steps wide, and tall enough to stack four persons foot-to-shoulder. Most of the space in the room had been taken up with furniture like a large oak dining table and a matching quartet of chairs. Immediately to Joseph's left, a large bookcase stood against the wall, so full that stacks of books were hastily littered across the top and the sides in an attempt to hide the fact that the shelving was much too small to contain it all.
For the time being, his immediate concern was the bathroom located directly across from him. Walking through an archway on the other side of the living room, Joseph entered a short passageway with the bathroom door directly in front of himself and the kitchen to his right. Still in his quasi-sleep, Joseph reached out and grasped the knob to the bathroom door. As he turned the knob, he opened the door with a manner that was more like falling into it than pushing it.
"Well, well…He's up on time for once."
Stopping in his tracks and leaning backwards, Joseph peeked over into the kitchen from the bathroom doorway. Standing a few feet away from him, sipping a cup of coffee, was his smirking grandfather.
"Good morning, Grandpa." Joseph leaned forward again, his head disappearing from sight.
"Mornin', Joey," replied the short, thin man. His cardboard-complected skin, the same color as Joseph's, was darkened by the shadows of the unlit room. Pushing his glasses up onto his face, he took a careful sip of coffee, trying not to let the steam fog his lenses. The top of the old man's head was bald, and at the temples, tufts of hair, almost completely gray, framed his head from both sides around to the back. His male pattern baldness looked like a garland, allowing Joseph's grandfather to look a bit like a Roman emperor. Appropriately, Joseph thought he acted like one, too.
"Did we forget something last night, Joseph?" His grandfather inquired.
Joseph brushed his teeth vigorously while looking in the mirror. To answer, he spat the toothpaste/saliva mixture into the sink and wiped his mouth.
"Huh? Nooooo…I don't think so. Why?"
"Oh, no reason," Joseph's grandfather answered. "I guess it's nothin' you won't figure out for yourself."
"Um…oooookay." Joseph rose a confused eyebrow at his mirror image, pausing before the capful of mouthwash between his lips. "You started taking drugs, old man?"
Joseph showered quickly and went through his usual morning preparations. After putting on clean briefs and a pair of socks, he went back into his room and scavenged his closet for his uniform attire. Pushing back the dozens of t-shirts strewn about his closet, Joseph searched for a clean, pressed dress shirt. However, after searching through his entire rack, he came up with bupkus.
"Hey, Grandpa," Joseph called out. "You do something with all my shirts?!"
"Oh yes, that." His grandfather entered the room, still holding his cup of coffee. "Correct me if I'm wrong, Joey, but wasn't it your turn to do laundry last night?"
It hit him like a smack to the face. "Oh, crap! Um, yeah…I uh…I guess I forgot that. I was so busy last night, I—"
"Excuses don't solve problems, Joseph," his grandfather asserted, using his favorite self-made proverb. This marked approximately the 6,948th time that Joseph had heard it, just this year alone. "And you knew the laundry needed to be done. You've been puttin' it off since Wednesday night."
"I know," Joseph answered. "I've just been really busy." His grandfather lowered the cup from his lips, ready to repeat his favored line once more. Joseph spoke up again to spare himself from that. "I'll…uh…I'll do it tonight, okay?"
"Don't know why you're tellin' me. I'm not the one who's going to school today." A smug grin appeared behind the coffee steam. "I'm good 'n' retired, boy."
Joseph groaned. Without a proper uniform, he'd be in detention—again.
Swiftly, Joseph tore into his pile of dirty laundry near his beside. He picked out the best of the bunch: a white, long-sleeved shirt with only moderate wrinkling. The tiny yellow mustard stain on the front wasn't very appealing, but desperate men did desperate things.
He quickened his pace to make up for the time he'd lost. Breakfast today was only going to be a couple of slices of unbuttered toast. Double-checking his backpack to make sure he didn't forget anything crucial, Joseph threw on a thick, wooly coat and hat and grabbed his breakfast of champions as it popped out of the toaster. Finally ready to face the new day, Joseph dashed out the door.
"Wait, Joseph! You forgot your—"
As the door slammed shut, Joseph's grandfather broke his short jog.
"Feh. He'll learn soon enough."
A smirk crossed the old man's face as he tossed up Joseph's set of keys once and pocketed them.
Within a few hurried steps, Joseph built the momentum he needed. He pointed his nose at the wall twenty feet ahead and rushed headlong, drawing a tank of breath. Three more steps, and his leg kicked forward, the soles of his sneakers digging into brick, transforming forward momentum upwards. He released the captured tank of air, gripping the top of the brick fence with every finger and hoisting his waist up and over.
His feet touched down in moist morning grass, bent knees absorbing the impact. A startled, elderly couple sat on a bench just on the other side of the wall. The woman started screaming as soon as she caught sight of the intruder, while the man cast Joseph a cross-eyed glare as he sheltered his hysterical wife. With a simple "Sorry", Joseph raced to the other side of the empty lawn, aiming at the opposite corner of the fence. He took an exaggerated step upon the right face, and then repeated with the left, clearing the wall and easily escaping the yard.
He'd never seen anyone sitting outside that apartment complex this early in the morning, but that close call was a wakeup call. Even though he was late, he needed to be careful about his shortcuts. Technically, he had been trespassing, and the last thing he needed was adding jail time to his list of problems in senior year.
Joseph kept racing at speedy pace, and the rest of the route went similarly. Again and again, Joseph was forced to alter his route to school. One entire block was sectioned off for construction. An alley was from blocked by an electric company van. A pair of squad cars surrounded a trio of dealers in a familiar alleyway. Each time, Joseph simply bypassed every shortcut. That just left him mostly with his original route—the one he'd spent the last three months trying to avoid in the first place.
Somehow, within four years, Joseph had managed to piss off every bully and wannabe hood in his school, and by this time, he had the distinct dishonor of being both invisible and infamous. No one ever really paid him any attention, except the ones he wished didn't. Fortunately, the trip was almost entirely without incident—a miracle in and of itself.
There was only a slight mishap when Joseph somehow managed to cross in front of a parking lot just as the hood of a car poked out. Fortunately, Joseph was able to reflexively throw a hand upon the hood and vault his entire body up and slide across. The polished, unblemished surface making this task that much easier. The driver of the car, however, didn't appreciate this so much and applauded Joseph's feat with a slew of profane words. Joseph turned and offered another "Sorry!" but he doubted the onery driver heard him above his own curses.
But what really drew Joseph's attention was something else in the car, sitting just behind the driver: a set of sparkling green eyes staring directly in his direction, framed by lush blond hair. That was all that Joseph could see before car pulled away, but the brief connection was more than enough to leave a spark.
Joseph's next nasty surprise came as he felt in his pockets and realized that there wasn't a jingle where there should have been. He pounded his inaccessible locker, wondering just where on his run his keys may have fallen. A quick glance at the clock reminded him that he had no time to check, so there was nothing left but to suck up and deal.
As usual at Julian Academy, the throngs of young men and women roamed freely throughout the halls like confused hens and roosters, clucking away about trivial, pointless things. Who was throwing a party that weekend, and who bringing the keg? Was there really a pop quiz in Biology class? And, most importantly, which of the boys would embarrass themselves with the next failed attempt at seducing the French teacher?
The rabble stood at their lockers, gathering their materials as the hallway clocks ticked down to homeroom class. The halls were especially crowded in the morning, with most of the kids enjoying the scant freedom which would disappear at the ring of a bell. The halls were littered with young men and women, their uniforms of black and white draining the color from the blues and gold of the painted decor. Boys were forced to come garbed in white shirts and socks, offset by black ties, pants, belts, and shoes. Girls, similarly, wore thin black bolo ties over white blouses, black skirts that ended just below the knee, and black shoes worn over white leggings that disappeared on the thigh. Both genders were given the option of wearing black vests that, as cold as the weather had turned, a good number had gladly accepted. With such extensive shades of gray, for many, entering Julian Academy was like walking straight into Pleasantville.
As one of the primer academic institutions in the Chicagoland area, Julian Bernard was attended by the children of the most influential and wealthy citizenry in Chicago. Joseph's parentage was of neither of those things, but Joseph's grandfather had fought tooth and nail to put him in the best private school that money could buy. Joseph supposed the place was well enough—he had no real complaints about the school or its staff, so if you simply had to let the education system extort you, this was as good a place as any.
Hearing such praise, one might be tempted to believe that fate had somehow performed a miracle and conjured a utopian high school straight from a broadway musical. And of course, you would be wrong. Like every other high school in the real world, the problems at Julian Academy always spawned from the one thing that no amount of money could ever fix: the sheer idiocy that was the entire student body.
Julian's attendees were an interesting social study: almost as a rule, the first thing new students searched for were people with the best reputation, and the next thing you knew, they were on them like sores on a leper. It happened so fast and so automatic that it seemed almost like primal instinct: every year, a new wave of freshman entered the school and desperately searched for their place on the social hierarchy. Of course, most of them wouldn't wind up anywhere near the top, settling on a role somewhere between "math club geek" and "perpetual high school virgin".
Joseph supposed that no matter your stage in life, there were always people who strove to step ahead, whether or not they deserved it. While the staff loved to boast about what a "melting pot" the school had become since the sixties, the reality gave it a much better comparison to a pot luck. It's cute when somebody brings a homemade meatloaf that took hours to bake, but the crowd ultimately gathers to the brownies it took thirty seconds to buy from Fannie May.
High school: Properly brainwashing future leaders of society since 1821.
Joseph meandered through the crowded hall, making a beeline for his own locker. Just as he neared it, the narrow path through the corridor was blocked by a quartet of soccer jocks crowded around a single locker, staring as its owner added a new inductee to the wallpaper shrine known as the "Locker Harem".
"Who's that?" asked one drooling idiot.
The locker's owner grinned. "Kylie Fischer." He held the torn-out magazine page onto his locker, preparing to put tape on one corner. The scantily clad, brown-haired woman in a yellow bikini and matching yellow heels smiled back invitingly. The yellow sports car next to her was hardly noticeable by comparison. "Totally hot, right? She was AutoMonthly's babe-to-watch last spring."
A burly, brown-haired thing that resembled more boar than boy laughed and chimed in. "No kidding. But, uh . . . 'watching' doesn't exactly spring to mind when I check her out, know what I'm sayin'?"
"Yeah, unless it's with some other chick, though. That's something I think I could get into . . ."
This wasn't getting anywhere. Joseph knew that if he wanted to get to class on time, he needed to speak up now.
"Hey, somebody wanna make a little room?" Joseph kept his words as mellow and polite as he possibly could. "Just trying to get by here."
As the boys looked up, wondering who dared disturb their chest-thumping ritual, they caught sight of tall, thin, man with pale skin, thick glasses, and graying hair that'd been combed over in a failed attempt to hide the bald spot up top. The wrinkles from his frowning, sagging jaw gave the illusion that his mouth was pulling down the rest of his face, not unlike the expression of a bulldog.
As he approached the small clique, the boys quickly acted as if they were innocently going about their business, gathering their materials. This, of course, wasn't enough to save them from a lecture.
"The locker hall is not your home away from home, gentlemen."
"Sorry, Mr. Grinchsky", the boys answered in unison.
"It exists," Grinchsky continued, "because you would all whine and fuss if you had to carry everything you own to each class throughout the day. Much like Mr. Mikail here…who seems to have forgotten his keys today."
Joseph had been standing a significant distance away from Mr. Grinchsky, hoping that no one had noticed them walking together. Of course, "The Grinch" wasn't going to let that slip by. Joseph didn't dare look up; he'd rather nurture the delusion that the entire hallway thought he was invisible.
But Grinchsky wouldn't grant him that fleeting solace, either. "This makes what, the fifth time this year, Mr. Mikail? Maybe you won't be needing a locker at all this semester. Since you enjoy carrying everything with you, maybe we should give your locker to someone who really needs it. Any takers?"
Lots of hands shot up. "Pick me!" "Right here!" "I need one!"
Joseph was almost certain that Grinchsky was bluffing, but he was annoyed by the way the other students played along anyway. Finally done with his taunting, the stone-faced Mr. Grinchsky used his master key to unlock Joseph's locker. He then pocketed his key ring and turned to leave.
"Hurry up, people! Classes start in three minutes!"
After Grinchsky was gone, the students began socializing amongst themselves again, only more hurriedly to make up for their lost time. As Joseph took the books and binders he didn't take home with him out of his locker, the "locker Sultan" and his followers walked up to him.
"Smooth, there, Mc Fail," he said mockingly, "I didn't know you and The Grinch were so tight."
"Don't worry, Wagner. I'll put in a good word for you. Maybe even see if I can get his phone number for you," Joseph retorted. He shut his locker and snapped the lock back into place. "I hear he likes candlelight dinners, and I'm sure you can show him other ways to use the wax."
Several of the students in the area snickered to themselves, cutting the dead silence that Joseph had failed to notice until just that moment. Having succeeded in gaining support at least through laughter, he felt a bit of relief. Wagner, unfortunately, didn't seem as agitated by that rip as Joseph had wanted.
"No, I wouldn't dare try to steal him from you, Mustard Stain." With a devilish grin, he poked at the yellow blotch on Joseph's white shirt. "Maybe next time he can help you put on clothes, instead of taking them off."
"Owned!" One of Wagner's friends yelled, as they start to chortle amongst themselves, doing their best to make Joseph's joke seem smaller.
Joseph started to make a reply, but a quick glance at a wall clock in the hallway informed him that he had less than a minute to get to class. Biting his tongue bitterly, Joseph scooped up his things quickly and rushed off, trying to balance his large stack of schoolbooks while Wagner's group continues supplying pointless laughter.
As he hustled along, Joseph saw spotted a familiar set of green eyes. Seeing him glance her way, the blonde hurried off, disappearing without a single word.