Author: Jacki Thompson PM
All it took was a few minutes. All it took was a few minutes for my life to change forever. I guess it could be worse. I could be half bat, or be sprouting spikes, or something. But my best friend, Gabby Montoya, she calls herself Raven sometimes. Other times Crow. It doesn't matter. But anyway, welcome to our newly founded city, Firehouse City, home of the freaks and monsters.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 7,457 - Updated: 02-12-13 - Published: 02-08-13 - id: 3099356
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I looked around eagerly as I sat down at the Anglé Café, a restaurant downtown where a lot of the high schoolers hang out. The café is really neat, with a bunch of old record players that play everything from Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson to the Beatles.
A bunch of the school geeks hang out in the corner with the computers, which are free for everyone to use, and are talking excitedly to one another as they battle the Drool aliens or whatever. Matthew Wong, a skinny boy with a mop of curly brown hair, waved at me.
Smiling, I waved back. Matthew and I aren't really in the same circles, but we're lab partners, and get along really well.
A squeal from behind me let me know that the girl I was waiting for was here. Turning, I squealed back and hugged the blonde haired girl behind me.
"Hey, Mari!" She squeezed me and stepped back, letting me laugh along with her at my nickname for Marianna.
"Hey, Gabby!" I smiled happily and sat down across from her. Gabrielle Montoya is the class president at our school, Kingston High. Everyone loves her! Well, most everyone. Santiago Martinez and his group, appropriately known as the Backstreet Gang, think that Martinez should have won the election, not Gabby. They pretty much sabotaged her election campaign, but Gabby is so sweet and is ready to do what needed to be done that she won anyway.
"You had something to tell me?" I asked, as Gabby sat down opposite from me and ordered an iced raspberry tea from the pretty waitress, Sofia.
"Heck, yeah!" Gabby leaned in close and whispered close to me: "Ethan Rivera asked me out!"
I stared at her for a minute. "No. Way."
Ethan Rivera is the leader of the biggest school club in town, the Comics Club. He's smart, tall, and handsome, with short, curly black hair and eyes that seem to be green and blue at the same time. Every girl's dream is to date him, and Gabby deserves someone as nice as she is.
I squealed as softly as I could, laughing and feeling as giddy as a schoolgirl, which technically I was. "That's great, girl! You've been crushing on that guy since freshman year!"
"I know!" Sofia arrived with my Coke and Gabby's tea, smiled, then walked off. We both took a few sips, and then put them down, too excited to drink, which, come to think of it, has happened pretty often.
"I was coming out of the girl's locker room after try-outs, and Ethan was leaning against the wall. He looked gorgeous, as always, and as I walked past he kind of let out a strangled cough. Then he was like, 'Hey, Gabrielle. What do you have planned for Friday night?' I, of course was all freaking out inside, but I tried to remain cool and was all like, 'I don't think I have anything planned, why?' He was looking at me so intensely I felt like I was melting. Then he said, 'The King's Men are playing at Chloe's Theater, and I wanted to know if you would – if you would like to go with me.' I tried to be all nonchalant and was like, 'Sure. I guess.' Then we traded phone numbers and he said he would pick me up. You have to help me pick out the right outfit! I think I'll die if I don't have precisely the right outfit!"
"Sure!" I called Sofia over and asked for a pint of their cheesecake ice cream (which, by the way, is seriously good!) to go. Sofia nodded and went to the fridge behind the counter.
I saw her look over as casually as possible to the cashier; if you were just picking up something you went to Jayden, the cute college boy. Sofia, with her dark brown hair (really, you could call it black) and her sparkling black eyes, was crushing hard on Jayden, a blonde haired college football star, who worked here for the extra money.
I was pretty sure Jayden liked her too, and told Gabby so. She looked over, and giggled. "Yep. It's going to be another Roman Holiday!"
We both snickered at the reference to an old movie about two people who were the least likely to fall in love and just happened to meet each other. It was love at first sight. Literally.
We stopped when Sofia came back over with the ice cream. We paid her and left, heading over to Gabby's house on Tiger Lily Parkway.
Tiger Lily Parkway had been named appropriately. In between the sidewalk and the road was crowded with the pretty flowers. The smell wasn't over-whelming, but normally you can't smell lilies, so it was more noticeable.
Gabby's house was a medium-sized wooden house. The yard out front held one scarlet maple and around the outside of the house marched a ring of rose bushes. Gabby's mother, Valentina, was a florist, and while rose bushes were the only things outside, you should see her mother's greenhouse out back.
We slipped inside quietly, since her father was probably sleeping. Sebastian Montoya was a night cop, who slept during the days, ate dinner with his family, then went to work, then came home, ate breakfast, and crashed at about eight in the morning.
Gabby's room was upstairs, and she had painted it and decorated it herself. The walls are a light, lime green, with bold grass green and bright lemon yellow circles painted on the walls randomly. Her bed, desk, and dresser are all black, with chrome handles. All accessories in her bedroom are either light green, dark green, or yellow.
While my room is always a mess, her room is meticulously clean, as if she spent every spare hour cleaning it. The only thing that I can see that's out is her acoustic guitar. Gabby has been playing for four years, same time I started piano. We're both really good now, and have actually been asked to play with The King's Men on a couple of occasions.
The King's Men are a group of music lover's from our school. They normally induct one new person into their band on January 1st. But they often call upon other talented musicians to be featured in their albums and performances. Gabby was featured in a love song, me as a keyboardist in one of their 80's vibe songs.
Gabby strode over to her closet and threw open the yellow doors. I flopped on her bed as she pulled out a black ruffled top. I looked at, then shook my head. "Too formal."
She put it back and then pulled out a plain white top printed with The King's Men logo: A gold crown with their name in dripping purple, as if the paint was still wet. I again shook my head after some thought.
"If you're trying to go with 'yeah, sure, whatever', then you'll have to look as if you're not really interested in The King's Men either."
Gabby nodded and searched through her shirts yet again. This time she pulled out a purple tie-died top that draped gently on her. I sat up and then leaped off the bed, going for her pants drawers. I finally found the jeans I was looking for: long, 70's styled with wide legs and ripped knees. Gabby nodded and rummaged through her tops drawer, where she kept her camisoles, tank tops, that sort of thing. She came out with a ribbed gray tank top.
I grabbed a brush from her yellow cup for hair accessories. "Houston, we have a winner!" I droned.
Gabby grinned. "And now you have to tell me what you think about these shoes, make-up, and hair!"
The shoes she chose were black flats with gathered leather on the toes, and she decided to clip a silver hair extension in, but leave her rather straight, but pretty honey-colored down. She chose black mascara and a metallic brown eye shadow.
I nodded as I looked her up and down. No one could deny that Gabby had style. "I love it!" I declared.
"You really do?" Gabby twirled in front of her full-length mirror.
I was about to reply that I really did when a loud explosion interrupted us. We were both knocked off our feet, and when we finally got back up, all the cars along the street were wailing.
We both looked at each other, then raced downstairs. Mrs. Montoya was already out there when we got out, plus almost everyone else on the street too. Certainly all the teenagers, plus most of the pre-teens. Since it was summer, every kid not in summer school was free to investigate what the explosion was.
A cloud of dust was swelling as we walked out to the middle of the street, where we saw the Lovelace kids, Riley and Carter. Riley's a sweet little girl, I think she's twelve, who Gabby and I used to babysit. Carter just graduated, and he and I used to date. We decided that since he was going to college in the fall, it was going to too hard for a relationship to remain in tact. We're still friends, just, not in a relationship.
Riley's eyes kind of lit up when she saw us. Riley's a very petite girl, with short, brunette hair that has a couple blonde streaks in it. She has delicate, gold-rimmed glasses, and an amazing voice. I'm betting that at some point or another she's either going to join or be featured by The King's Men.
Just then, Carter cried out in pain and doubled over. Riley ripped her attention off of us and to her big brother. "Carter?" Her voice was high and frightened.
Suddenly, Gabby screamed and collapsed next to me, writhing on the ground.
"Gabby, what wrong?" I asked in a panic. The adults are starting to crowd around now, clustering close to Gabby and Carter, so close that I can't even see Riley and Carter anymore.
Gabby's still was writhing on the ground in obvious pain, when I hear Riley screaming, too. I can't imagine what's causing, but it's clear that something's wrong with them.
Then, I feel it. A fire burning in my throat, searing it, making it so I'll never speak again. It's too painful to cry out, but I sink to the ground, holding my throat and gasping for air, trying to cool this raging fire. Since I'm in so much pain, I don't even realize that the adults are gasping and pulling away from us, or the screams echoing throughout Kingston.
I wake up in the hospital with my mom holding my hand. Her face relaxes a bit as my eyes open, but not much.
"Mom?" I thought I'd not be able to say anything, but my voice sounds pretty much destroyed anyway, as if I've been swallowing gravel or something.
"I'm sorry, honey, but I can't stay for much longer. We're leaving in a few hours."
I try to sit up, but that's when I find out I'm strapped down. "You were writhing so much that they had to restrain you." Mom explained.
I lay down again, but then I remember. Gabby! "Where's Gabby?" I demand. My mom bites her lip. "Sweetheart, I don't know – "
"Where is she?" I feel panic now, remembering how much pain she had been in, how much pain I had felt myself.
"Honey, calm down. Gabby is, well… she's different now." Mom began slowly releasing me from the restraints.
When I'm free, I swung my legs over my bed, take a few steps, and realize that I'm not alone. I peaked over one curtain and get a shock. The head cheerleader from school, Ava Wilson, is lying in the bed, also with restraints. She looked so sick, her lovely strawberry blonde hair lying limp on the pillow instead of in a ponytail that bounces like a spring wherever she goes.
As we walk, I saw more people that I know from school. Benjamin White, head jock, Kayla Lee, science nerd, the list went on and on. Mom led me to the Intensive Care ward and quietly opens the door.
I couldn't help it. I gasped.
Gabby was lying on her stomach, with an IV sticking out of her arm. She was still breathing, and the heart monitor in the corner was beeping steadily. She was wearing a tube top, or the hospital equivalent of it.
But the thing that was impossible to miss was the fact that, sticking out from in between her shoulder blades, were two. Enormous. Black wings.
I walked over to Gabby and gently touched the raven black wings. "How long has she been like this?" I whispered.
"About three days now." Mom was standing next to me, her hand on my shoulder. "Well, that's not quite true. She was screaming in pain for the entire time, but the – things – only started growing near the end of the first day. She just stopped yelling and writhing a few hours ago."
I don't know how long we stood there, just looking at her, when I heard singing. A voice that I knew well. Standing up, I left Mom with Gabby and started down the hall, looking for the right door.
I ended up standing in front of Room 118. The door was ajar, and I pushed it open gently. The singing stopped almost immediately. "Riley?" I asked quietly.
"Mari? Is that you?" Riley was definitely there, but when I saw her, I almost screamed, but I couldn't stop the intake of breath when I saw her.
It was Riley's voice, but this wasn't Riley. The – creature – in front of me was leathery, and was bald, and the whites of her eyes (I think they're called sclera), weren't white at all. Instead they were a pinkish reddish color, and the irises were a glowing gold color. No wonder her parents weren't here, this was a horrifying thing to happen to your own daughter.
Then I noticed the bat wings. They were a flap of skin that was attached to her bare arms and ran all the way down to her upper thighs. I wondered how the nurses had managed to make a dressing gown fit around that. Maybe they had their own seamstress.
Even though I was repulsed by Riley's appearance, she looked so distressed that I swallowed my revulsion and sat down next to her.
"What's going on, Mari?" Her voice was quavering, and she was turning her head from side to side, as if she was trying to find me. "Why can't I see?"
"Riley, you can't see anything?"
"No. It's weird, though. When I sing, I can sense where stuff is, but I can't see it. What's wrong with me? Where are Mommy and Daddy?"
I didn't know where her parents were, probably with Carter, but I started thinking through Riley's hideous transformation. Obviously she looked bat-like, and since she couldn't see, or at least hardly at all, she most likely had echolocation. That's why she could 'sense where stuff was while singing'.
A small cough from behind me let me know that my mom was waiting in the doorway, probably not even realizing this was the sweet girl I used to babysit.
I walked out into the hallway to see an older woman standing next to Mom, in an official-looking uniform. She was tall, with her graying hair pulled back in a tight bun. "Mrs. Gray, you've got one hour to gather up your belongings and be outside the perimeter."
My mom, Mrs. Gray, was looking even more weary than normal. "Yes, Doctor Cox. I'll be ready by then."
Doctor Cox gave a sharp nod and started walking down the hallway, stopping in certain rooms, merely glancing in others.
I lost sight of her when Mom pulled me into a crushing hug. "Mom, I don't need any broken ribs!" I protested in a strangled voice.
When Mom released me, I was disturbed and frightened to see her eyes wet and tears spilling over and down her cheeks.
My mom, who hadn't cried since I was twelve, was sobbing as if her heart would break.
Feeling scared and confused, I took her hands and held them firmly. "Mom, what's wrong? What's going on? Tell me?"
She wiped her eyes and, through her tears, managed to say, "All of you… all of the kids…ages eleven through nineteen… are sick. It didn't affect anyone else. But to… to keep everyone else safe… they're going to quarantine Kingston. The infected… are going to be kept in here until they can… can find a cure. But… everyone else has… has to… to…"
"To leave." I whispered. Mom nodded helplessly. The feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming, and for the rest of the time that we had together, we just sat to together, crying.
When Doctor Cox announced over the speakers that all visitors must go and gather up their gear and exit town in the next half an hour, I walked home to Orchid Court with Mom, since she had left the car there. Quickly, we packed up everything she was taking with her and got in the car.
The car ride was silent, and both my cheeks and hers were wet and we were still wiping our eyes when we got to the barrier that the group of people that Doctor Cox was no doubt in charge of had set up.
Mom slowed the car and parked it next to the gas station that had the luck of being the place where everyone had parked his or her vehicles. We both got out and went to the back of the car and I grabbed her suitcase, she grabbed her picnic basket.
As we walked towards the barrier, two gray officers stepped towards me and grabbed my arms. I tried to struggle free, but they were too strong. Mom didn't even notice that I wasn't right next to her until after she had crossed the barrier.
I was so shocked, so upset that I started screaming her name, then she turned around and started towards me only to be stopped by another pair of guards. Doctor Cox stood by, looked around, and nodded. The man standing next to her, also dressed in gray, threw a switch.
A dome started to materialize, and the men holding my arm let go. The guards holding Mom let go, too, and we met at the dome, about the same thickness as glass. She put up a hand, and I tried to touch her hand through the dome, too. I saw her whisper my name, and then she disappeared. In her place was a dark, gray cement wall, with barbed wire around the top. I couldn't even see the trees I knew were on the other side.
The men who had held me back just kept on walking, right into the fence. By the time I noticed they were able to walk right through it, it was too late. They were through, and now I'd never see my mother again.