Dark Illustrations: Sketches in Blood

By Xandra

Chapter One: Adrian

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Adrian. What a beautiful name...so alluring, intoxicating, graceful, and yet, so dark. A fitting name for someone like him.

Not really how I wanted to start this story, but I guess things don't always turn out the way we want them to, do they? I guess it's okay, though, being that this story is all about Adrian. Well, Adrian and other people...but mostly him. My name is Mischa, and I first encountered this man named Adrian on a day that I knew from the start was going to be different. I knew it was going to be different, because I sensed that it would.

Unlike most people who live day to day, meeting people in hopes of finding the right one, and in fear of finding the wrong one, I didn't have that problem, really. You see, I saw something other people can't see, something that many people wouldn't want to see, even if they could. In a way, I saw the truth in the things around me, what they truly are, but it's not as simple as it sounds. Ever since I was young, I can remember seeing people in a way that I thought was natural, seeing something I thought was a normal sight, but I was soon to learn that it was not--that I was different. Ever since I was a child, I've looked at people...and seen them glow.

Yes, to me, people glow. It sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. When I look at people, I see a glow around their bodies, like a wavelength of light radiating from them, varying in intensity and even color at times, but, for most of my childhood, all the people around me had roughly the same glow. It radiates like heat from them, and judging by how bright or dark the glow is, I can read how people are inside...it's like I can see their souls...

The glows I've always seen used to be a natural thing to me, like noticing that the sky is blue, that the grass is green--until I noticed that other people didn't see it. One day, when I was five, a man walked into my classroom at the daycare my mother had sent me to every day, and he didn't have what looked like a glow to me, but a shadow instead. He was surrounded by a black outline that made him look terribly frightening to me. It was the first I'd seen of the 'dark glow' at that age, and I couldn't put a finger on why it was the way it was. I went to the teacher and asked her why he had a black glow, but she just stared at my like I was turning green and sprouting arms, so I left it alone. I asked a few of the other kids and they all asked what I meant. Finally, I just sat down and watched him, trying to figure it out for myself. Soon after he arrived, he left with a little boy from my class, a boy with a bright glow. Then, the next day, the boy came back with bruises and cuts all over him, and when the teacher asked what had happened, he said he fell. His glow dimmed when he said that, and I now know what had happened. That man with the dark aura had beaten the little boy because he was a bad person, and when the boy had lied to cover it, it had put him in the red too, diminishing the purity in him. When I finally learned the two main facts to my power--the fact that the glow reflects the soul of the person it surrounds and the fact that only I can see it--I started to get worried.

I tried to explain to my mother about the glow once I realized that this wasn't a normal thing and she just shook her head and acted as if I hadn't said anything. That was roughly a year before she was committed to a rest home for her instability, where she died. I couldn't tell my father, because I hadn't seen him since I was three, thanks to the myriad of restraining orders my Aunt Luanda had set against him. He wasn't mentally diseased like my mother was, but he was dangerously close to it; he was a strong believer in God and had it set in his mind as a fact that normal, pure people didn't see things that weren't real. He'd been arrested for knocking me senseless after I mentioned having an imaginary friend named Tom as a toddler. I doubt he even DREAMT at night, so I don't think he could have sympathized with me about the glows. Besides, from what I remember, his glow was distorted beyond either bright or dark, and I didn't like the thought of discovering exactly what that meant.

That was when I realized that I was on my own, and from then on, I kept my mouth shut when I saw them, which was every moment of every day, except when I was alone. I started studying anything I could about the paranormal, and soon I found the word for the glows I was seeing. It's called an aura, and while technically it's the physical atmosphere of a thing, it seems to me that it's really the light of the soul, as some speculators call it. The way several books I've read label it that way makes me think that maybe there were a few like me before that could see the 'glow,' and that was a comforting thought to a child of seven, confused and alone.

The sight of glowing people was a constant thing to me, nothing really strange, but it's odd to look around and know that people don't see the same things you do. I've gotten used to it, but that hasn't helped me get over my feeling outcast because of what I see.

This day in school, however, my powers baffled me for the first time since my childhood, and even now, thinking back, I find myself unable to come up with the reason for what I saw.

I attend a college university not too far from where I spent most of my childhood, living with my Aunt Luanda, my mother's sister. (She took me in after my mother was taken away, and, surprisingly, I think of her as most people think of their mothers. She raised me, after all, and I still visit her when I can, because she's getting old and she dealt with my weirdness as a kid. Hey, anyone that could put up with me for ten minutes at age six deserved a Purple Heart for surviving me.) It was a great school, and I enjoyed attending, being that I was a bit of a bookworm, but often times, I find myself feeling outcast because of the way that I am. It sort of alienated people when I was younger, especially when I'd tell a girl her boyfriend was evil without really having anything to show her that she could see. I haven't got many friends, though I'm not exactly the social type (people tell me I'm too shy) and I'm not really anxious for them. I get by, though.

Well, my day started in an odd way that had me thinking right from the start that maybe it was going to be strange. I awoke at five in the morning to a pounding on the door of my apartment, and stumbled out in my pajamas just to get bear hugged by one of my very few friends. As I said, I don't really go searching for them, but the only true companions I have were the ones that found ME. When I first moved into my apartment at the beginning of the semester, I found that, living nextdoor to me, were a quartet of the most beautiful youths I've ever met, inside and out, going by the names of Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Europa was the one to come and greet me, sweet-hearted but dense as he is. When I asked what time it was, he told me he didn't know but he wanted to wake me up anyway, just in case it was time for class. As usual, this was mildly amusing. I don't know how many times I've told him not to wake me at dawn, but he keeps forgetting. The difference this time was, he usually came over about six or six-thirty to wake me, right before his brothers, not at five.

I brushed it off. I was used to things like this by now, so I did what I usually do to keep him busy; I turned on the television, sat him down in front of it and showered while I waited for the inevitable doorbell. By the time six rolled around, it happened, and I answered it, only to be met with the other three members of the quartet. The usual greetings came in order.

It's hard to describe them, really, because they're beyond description, both externally and attitude wise. I can try, though, so bear with me. The four are all roughly my age, eighteen or maybe older, and all of them are a great deal taller than I am, each sporting a mane of lustrous, silver-black hair flowing down to their shoulders that they wear in different styles to help others differentiate between them. As for eye-colors, they don't share one, which is what makes them easier to tell apart. Well, that along with their attitudes. They're like the different parts of every person, split into four different bodies.

"Where is he," Io demanded, flatly. Io is the self-proclaimed oldest of them (though they're supposed to be identical quadruplets born simultaneously) and by far the bravest, having daring cerulean-blue eyes that match his personality. He's physically larger than the others, being that he's more of an athlete than his brothers, but a push-over when it came to most things. His hair was worn tied back in a tight ponytail at the nape of his neck to keep it out of his way, though a few wisps of glittering hair were always escaping the band and getting into his face.

I threw a thumb over my shoulder. "Living room," I sighed.

"Well, well, if it isn't the moron," Cal muttered as he and the other three entered, Io in front as usual. Callisto, or Cal for short, is second after Io. He has an unintentional habit of being rather callous and unfeeling, though deep inside, he's a caring guy. His eyes are a dark jade green, almost black, and when he gets angry, they get darker. It's sort of eerie, but it seemed to me that Cal's real pet peeve was Europa himself. The case with his hair was a bit different, because he had cut it up to his chin a few months ago and had it streak-bleached, so it looked like some higher being, perhaps a sun-god, had run a hand through his hair and left gentle streaks of platinum behind. The look made him all the more attractive, and it helped to separate him from his brothers, which was something he was always striving for.

Europa looked up as his brothers entered and grinned. "Oh, hi." He's the youngest, and, though I like him, I have to admit that he isn't exactly the sharpest person in the world; he's been known to walk into walls and fall asleep in mid-sentence, not to mention wake people at all hours without a real reason. His eyes are a wide like those of a child and a hazy brown, fitting of his half-witted nature, and though he's quite the lovable type, he's pretty dopey when it comes down to it. Cal's often commented on his being duller than a half-melted plastic spoon, and sometimes I have to agree. He doesn't even comb his hair unless one of us talks him into it, so it's usually sitting on his shoulders in masses of fuzzy, mussed cuteness.

Ganymede, or Gan, is the second youngest of the four, bearing calm, gray eyes that are so pale they may even qualify to be called silver. His hair was down like Europa's, but it was brushed and well-kept, left hanging over his shoulders to frame his thin face. He's the sensitive type, and the most understanding, and of course, this situation was for him to handle, being that Cal would want to hurt Europa and Io would want to lecture him. He knelt down and carefully grasped Europa's shoulders. "Look at the clock there," he said, pointing to the digital clock on my VCR.

Europa looked, then nodded. "Yeah?"

"What time is it?"

"Uh...nine...oh...six?"

Cal smacked a hand to his forehead, but Io quickly grabbed him before he could lose his composure. I stayed in the background with my coffee and watched. Unfortunately, along with being amazingly dumb, Europa sometimes becomes temporarily dyslexic when he not paying attention. It's a wonder that he made it thought high school! It's occurred to me several times that the lives of these four became hysterically strange when they come into contact with me, and most of these early-morning adventures would probably make a great sitcom. Oh, my kingdom for a camcorder! Too bad I can't even afford a car.

"Backward, try again," Gan said, patiently.

"Uh...oh, it changed..."

"Never mind," Io sighed. "Europa, you gotta stay in bed until we get you, doofus, okay?"

"But you snore," Europa complained, pouting. "And Cal kicks. And Gan wakes up too early."

I almost lost the mouthful of life-sustaining caffeine I had just ingested as three answers came back instantly.

"I do NOT snore!"

"Well, if YOU wouldn't insist on sleeping with me--"

"There's nothing wrong with being punctual."

"Yes you do, your bed's warmer, and yes there is!" Europa answered, promptly. I blinked, almost surprised, then smiled and shook my head as the brown-eyed boy flipped the channel to one showing cartoons and brushed his mussed hair back behind his ears. "OOH..."

Needless to say, he was easily entertained.

Io rolled his eyes and brushed a stray strand of hair back behind his ear, then looked at me and sighed. "Sorry about him, Mischa, I really am. You know we can't control him."

"Could if we had a muzzle," Cal muttered.

Io pinned him with a dark look. "YOU'LL be the one in a muzzle if you don't knock that off."

I nodded, smiling. I knew very well how Europa was. He had the mental capacity of a little boy, and the emotional stability of a toddler, but he survived somehow. He wanted to be a teacher, which was sad, but his brothers helped him, and so did I. I'd only known them for a few months, but they were my first real friends, and I'd become so used to them that it was like I'd known them all my life. It was so strange to me.

The quads, which was short for quadruplets and what most of the students called them by (it wasn't like they could blend in very easily), stayed at my place with me for a while until Europa had finished his cartoons and Gan had finished unknotting Europa's hair. Io helped me out by checking the paper I'd written for my psychology class while Cal entertained himself, standing on my balcony and throwing eggs at the windows of the people across the courtyard. As I said, they were strange, but I loved them.

Soon enough, it was time for our first class, which was Theology. Oh, I left that part out. Theology, which is technically the study of religion, gods, faiths, beliefs and legends stemming from there, has always been an interesting topic for me. My father was strictly a Catholic man to an all new extreme, my mother was Mormon and my Aunt Luanda was Christian, but I was never forced to believe anything. In a nutshell, the closest I've ever come to anything even somewhat religious or ethereal has been my ability to see the auras of other people, so I took it upon myself to start learning about some of the other religions. That, and the idea of things like angels had always interested me in more than a few ways. The science of their supposed abilities to fly, the likeliness of miracles, the very thought that there were beings higher than the humans somewhere out there...

I guess that's why Adrian was such an interesting subject to me from the start...but let's not skip ahead. I'm scatter-brained enough as it is--the last thing I need to do is confuse anyone BESIDES myself.

After fighting with Europa to get his shoes on, standing through a lecture from Io that quickly morphed into an argument between he and Cal, and allowing Gan to calm everyone down, we finally managed to make a dead run for the college and made it just in time. Luck seemed to be with us this time, as usual, so we quickly went to the auditorium for class. We always sat up near the roof, because it was easier to keep Europa from being caught asleep and Cal from antagonizing other students if we were out of everyone else's sight. Besides, I really didn't like being with the others, especially when I was with the quads because they always drew attention to themselves in one way or another. As I said before, I'm naturally on the shy side and I blush easily, and having people on all sides staring at me isn't exactly fun. As usual, I sat pinned between them, with Gan on my left and Europa on my right, with Io and Cal sitting side by side next to Europa.

It took a while, but old Professor Ken eventually did show up, later than usual. It stumped the entire class at first, but when he arrived, it all became clear. We had a new student, and not just any student.

The old man took his position at the podium and gestured for the young man standing near the stage on the floor to come up next to him, which he did, silently. Every eye was fixed on him and everything fell silent as he came into sight.

"Oh whoa," Io muttered.

Cal blinked. "What a freak."

Gan was speechless, as was I, but Europa came out with something that caught all of us off-guard. My heart jumped right into my throat when he said it.

"He's beautiful."

All four of us stared at him a moment, but he just shrugged and we all let it go. We were used to him being a little odd every once in a while, but it was just so weird to hear something like that from him.

Of course, it wasn't like he was wrong. We were sitting pretty high up, but even from this altitude, I agreed full-heartedly. The young man standing there was clad all in black, wearing a dark, nonreflecting trench coat over his outfit and carrying a leather satchel on his left shoulder. He stood silently and looked out at all of us with a blank, unfeeling expression on his face and fire in his eyes...literally. Even from that distance, I could easily see that his eyes were a terrifying color of scarlet red, which contrasted with his long, pale hair that shone in the auditorium lights, glittering in an almost ethereal way. Most might say his hair was light gray or even white, but it was clearly silver as far as I could see, unlike anything I had ever come across. His glittering tresses, which reached well down to the center of his back, were suspended back in a ponytail balanced right in the center of the back of his head, unlike Io's, which was tied at the bottom of his neck. His bangs were wild and concealed the right side of his face when he stood forward, but shifted easily as he did, ungreased or sprayed. Just seeing him, even though he was the size of an action figure from where we sat, was heart-stopping. I almost felt ready to faint for no reason at all.

Professor Ken took up his microphone. "We have a new student today, transferring in from..." He paused, then leaned closer to the boy, who whispered it to him, his expression still dead. Just seeing that blank stare made my stomach knot for no reason at all. It was eerie, like he'd just witnessed the death of a friend by the hand of an enemy and was seeking revenge. Why should someone so beautiful be so full of rage? I wondered at this, and suddenly, I became curious of his aura. From where I sat, I couldn't see it. I'd have to get closer to find out anything about him, and the chances of that looked pretty slim. "Ahem, yes. I see. Class, this is our new student, Adrian Blackthorn."

Adrian. That name sent shivers up my spine for no reason at all, and it fit him so well. It was graceful, beautiful, but dark and almost foreboding. He was absolutely...

I paused. I didn't even have a word to describe him. It was odd, really...I looked at him, and I hadn't anything I could say that would properly define how I thought of him. So strange...

"Tell us about yourself, Adrian," Professor Ken insisted. He was a social old man, and he tried to get people to open up as much as possible, but it wasn't very effective. Adrian's expression remained dismal. "Um...what are you majoring in?"

"Theology."

I blinked. This wasn't getting any less strange! We had the same major!

"And your minor?"

Okay, the only thing that could make this more weird would be if he said psychology.

"Psychology."

That did it! I was officially creeped out, but I couldn't find it in me to be afraid of him. I was a little intimidated--I'm sure the rest of the class was too!--but I felt oddly drawn to him. I almost wanted to go down to the stage and hug him, just to see if he would blush, smile, frown or hit me! ANY human reaction would've been a relief to me! He just seemed so cold!

"I see...do you...er...have any hobbies?"

I could've sworn right there that I'd actually seen a slight hint of animation right there, and at first, I was sure it was just because of my lack of sleep, but when I looked again, I realized that he was smiling. Well, actually it was more of a smirk, and an eerie one at that, like someone had stuck a hook in his right cheek and pulled the corner of his mouth up halfway. Odd as it looked, though, I almost found it attractive. "I draw," he said, finally.

"Oh, what kind of drawing? Painting? Sketching?"

"Sketching."

"Oh, I see. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?"

He stood silently for a moment, leering out darkly at the other students before, finally, opening his mouth again. "I do not interact well with people." He said the last word 'people' as if it were a disgusting thing, hissing it, even. His eyes narrowed further beneath his silver eyebrows and a few students whispered, nervously.

"What a freak," Cal repeated with a scoff.

Gan pushed his brother, gently. "I think he just needs a friend," he said.

Europa was still watching him like a child captivated by a toy in a store window, his chin in his hand. I think it was the first time I actually saw him conscious in our first class for more than five minutes without even a sign of weary boredom. He smiled, childishly. "I think he wants a hug."

I frowned as I looked at my friend. Europa was mentally dull, and dyslexic, but unfortunately, he also had a mental problem that most of his doctors said accounted for his low IQ. He took pills for it and they helped him focus, but I had a feeling that he had forgotten to take them. Still, however, something in his face, his child-like expression, told me that he was seeing something no one else did, the way I saw things no one else did, but different. I'd never asked him before about what he saw, but at that moment, I really, really wondered.

Cal scoffed. "Oh, grow up, Europa."

"No, I mean it. Look at him. He's so sad inside, you can see it."

Io frowned. "He looks pissed, not sad."

"No," Gan said. "Maybe Europa's right. You never know, really. People hide behind fronts of anger and rage all the time, when really all they need is a little tenderness to open them up."

I shook my head and looked down at Adrian again. Adrian. I couldn't get over how beautiful a name that was, and how well it fit him. He was standing down there with the professor, still as a statue with his hands drawn into fists at his sides. Everything about him just seemed so...unexplainable, so mysterious, and I hadn't even met him yet.

Little did I know that my guesses about him were right on the mark.

The professor cleared his throat, nervously. "Um, well...why don't you take a seat, Adrian? Sit anywhere you like. We're starting a new lecture today on the Christian/Jewish faith and where it is said to have split from one belief into two, and then into many."

Adrian nodded and jumped from the stage, landing gracefully on his feet without the slightest hint of discomfort, then turned and mounted the stairs leading up through the bleachers. Every eye of every student there, all one-hundred thirteen young people there, watched as he ascended, neither pausing to look at or leer at any one of them.

We were sitting at the very top, and he was coming closer, and with every step his handsome profile became all the clearer to me, but not his aura. I still couldn't see it. Even as he reached a point where I could make out the slightest wrinkle in his coat, every strand of silvery hair that was loose from his ponytail, every dark eyelash in perfect place, I still couldn't see it. I could see the auras of every person in that auditorium, even old Professor Ken standing at the bottom, glowing like a light in the darkness, but Adrian's...

I blinked as he stopped on the stairs next to our position, then slowly turned his back to us and took a seat across the aisle, setting his leather satchel on the wooden counter in front of him and opening it. He was barely ten feet away from me.

And I couldn't see it.

Curiously, I looked at each of the quadruplets and blinked, surprised. Cal's aura was bright despite his usual bad mood crossed with the negativity he felt toward Adrian, and Io's was as well, though he wasn't happy about something, as was told to me by his expression. Europa, who was still watching our newest student, was almost as bright as a lighthouse, and Gan wasn't too far off from him, because both of them were caring and pure. Yes, I could still see the auras. There was nothing wrong with my ability.

I looked at Adrian again, then rubbed my eyes. No, still nothing. He had no aura. My heart was suddenly in my throat as I stared at him, blinking over and over again. I've studied all there is to study about auras, and there was no explanation for this. The aura was the light of the soul, varying by intensity depending on the contents of it, but if Adrian had no aura...

...Then he had no soul.

I tried to swallow, but my throat was tight and dry and I choked painfully. I stared long and hard at him as he brought a blank notepad from his bag and a black mechanical pencil from behind his left ear. Maybe it was because he was sitting in a shadow. Yes, that had to be it. He had set himself far away from the others, away from us though not too far because the bleachers were made so there were three rows per step and his was next to ours. Maybe his soul was minimally darkened, so his aura was small and hard to notice, more like an outline, and because he was in the dark I couldn't see it.

No, I knew that wasn't right. He'd stopped right next to our seats and turned, and I'd still seen nothing of an aura, not even a dark outline or a slight glow like those who were balancing between good and evil souls.

I couldn't take my eyes off him as Professor Ken started his lecture. I stared and stared, looked away, then stared again, but there was no aura. It wasn't possible! All my life, I'd seen people and animals and trees even, and they'd all had a glow that I couldn't ignore.

Every living thing had an aura, so why didn't he?

Suddenly, without warning, he looked up at me, and our eyes met, and I found myself staring into deep pools of blood surrounding small but endless black holes. His eyes were entrancing, and staring into them made my body grow cold without warning. I didn't know why, but suddenly, I was shaking uncontrollably, cold sweat developing on my arms and shoulders under my clothing. I couldn't break his gaze, and I don't think I even wanted to, even though his eyes sent waves of unexplainable terror into me. I had no idea why I was scared, but then again, I wondered why I wasn't. Strange as it sounds, I was afraid, but not of him. It was something I saw in his eyes that made me afraid, but it was not him I was afraid of, it was that something I saw that I can't describe.

It's been said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Maybe that was why I was afraid. Adrian. I could see him, but he had no aura, and his eyes made me fear without reason.

He had no soul.

But that was impossible. Everything that lived and breathed had a soul no matter what it was or how it lived.

Suddenly, Gan nudged me and I jumped, hitting my knee painfully against the underside of the counter we sat at. The action made me wince, and it broke the stalemate long enough for me to blink a few times and look past Gan at Adrian again. His expression, which I caught a glimpse of only for a split-second before it changed, was one of confusion. After that moment, though, it blanked and he gave me a very narrow, chastening look before turning back to what he had been doing. "Mischa," Ganymede whispered in my ear. "You should be taking notes. The professor has been talking for almost ten minutes!"

I blinked, then looked at my wristwatch. I had stared at him for ten minutes? It felt to me like I'd only been peering at Adrian for a few long seconds. I quickly looked around and realized that everyone else was taking notes, even Cal. Europa was even trying, though he kept pausing to make a little cartoon or doodle here and there, thanks to his short attention span. I looked at Gan's notebook, which had several papers covered with his cursive writing flipped back. I really HAD spent all that time looking at him. It was mind-boggling.

I quickly got my notebook out and turned to a clean page, then paused and checked my bag for a pencil. I sighed. Just my luck, I didn't have anything to write with. Not even a pen! I looked at Gan. "Do you have an extra pencil or pen?"

He shook his head. "Sorry, only my pen."

I turned to Europa. "Do YOU have an extra pencil?"

He blinked. "Uh-uh, I forgot my backpack. I borrowed one from Cal."

"CAL?"

"Nope, he's got my extra," he said, jerking a thumb at Europa with a shrug.

"Io, please, tell me you have something I can write with."

He shook his head. "Sorry, Meek One. Forgot it."

I ignored the cheesy nickname Io had bestowed upon me and sighed, grasping my head and brushing my pale bangs from my face with both hands, fisting handfuls of my hair. I may be shy and I may see things, but nothing bothers me more than not being able to keep up with everyone else. I hate feeling lost when I get asked a question about the lesson. "How can I take notes without something to write with?" I hissed.

Cal smirked. "Shoulda thought of that before you left the house."

Gan reached past me and pushed him again. "Stop it." He offered me a smile and threw a thumb to his left at Adrian across the aisle, who was sitting with his head down, taking notes himself. He was the only person in that row, on that bleacher. "Why not ask if he has a pencil you can borrow?" he asked, gently.

Cal smirked at me, poking me with his pen. "Yeah. God knows, you were STARING at him long enough, he probably won't mind, just so you'll keep your eyes to yourself."

I blushed and leered at him, then blinked as Europa looked up at me from his stooped position over his paper. "Yeah," he said. "You should talk to him."

"What does talking to him have to do with his getting a pencil, dork?" Cal demanded.

"I just think he needs to be talked to," Europa said, matter-of-factly.

I blinked, then looked at Adrian again, but a moment later, I found myself being pushed from behind by Europa. I looked back at him. "WHAT are you DOING?" I hissed at him, embarrassed.

Suddenly, Europa grabbed my shoulder and whispered to me. "You should TALK to him!"

I noticed right then the big grin on his face and flushed further. "Europa!"

Gan got up and moved so I could stand up, stepping behind the bleacher, and Europa shoved me right off my seat with Cal right behind him. I was lucky to catch myself and avoid landing on the stairs. Gan smiled. "Just go ask for a pencil," he whispered, smiling.

I growled and leered darkly at Cal and Europa, then grabbed my notebook and carefully stepped across the aisle into the one Adrian sat at. This is stupid, I should just sit back down and copy Gan's notes later. I knew that logic made sense, but for some reason, I didn't listen to myself. Stupid, stupid me. Damn me for being born blonde!

Then again, had I listened to myself, I would've never met him, and there wouldn't be a story to tell without him, so I guess I was smart to not listen to myself.

Slowly, I sat down on the edge of the bleacher, then looked over at him. He was sitting further over, but I could reach him if I tried. Steeling my nerves, a soft "Hi," managed to get past my lips. I looked over at him and noticed that he was staring at me through the corner of his eye, not looking at me directly. Even from here, he had no aura. Lifting his hand from the paper, Adrian tucked his bangs back behind his right ear, his blood-red eye still peering at me warily. He was looking at me with such an odd shadow in his stare...such a darkness...

Moron, go back to your seat! He didn't want to talk to me or anyone else and I knew it, but I wasn't listening to myself the way I probably should've.

I tried again, looking over at his notepad. I blinked. There wasn't one word on that pad, but the pencil had been moving back and forth violently like he was taking notes. It took me a moment to realize he'd been drawing, but before I could get a glance at the picture, he moved his arm over it. "What are you doing?" I asked, stupidly. Oh yeah, THAT was smart. I could see what he was doing, but I felt so awkward that I HAD to say something, anything.

He uttered a flat "Hn," before turning his head and pinning me with a dark stare. I could almost feel his annoyance, and if that wasn't enough, he looked at me like I was slime. Apparently I wasn't the only one that knew I was being an idiot.

Suddenly forgetting why I'd come over here at all, I blushed and let out an unsure laugh that sounded sort of like 'eh heh' before noting that he had several notebooks sitting in a stack nearby. I looked at them, then mentally blinked as I found myself smiling. All awkwardness disappeared as an almost confused look crossed his face. "Could..." I swallowed, the dryness of my throat becoming uncomfortable. "...Could I see some of your drawings?" I asked.

He looked at me for a moment, his eyes narrow and calculating, like he was trying to read my mind. I kept my eyes on his bangs to keep from getting caught in those eyes again, examining the long, pale strands that glittered so stunningly like pure threads of silver, woven by some god. Finally, he reached over and grabbed one of the notebooks, then dropped it in front of me and went back to drawing, turning somewhat away from me and taking his work with him.

What was I doing here bothering him like this? I couldn't even remember why I'd come over here at all, because, for some reason, a fog had settled over my mind and I was so dumb that I think Europa could have stumped me at that moment. So, I carefully pulled back the cover of what I found to be a sketch pad instead of a notepad and looked at his work.

For a moment it felt like my eyes were going to burst from their sockets. I slowly turned the page and inspected the sketch there, then the one behind it, and the one after that, marveling at the amazing expression of talent on the paper. He was amazing! His drawings were of things like blackbirds perched on the branches of dead trees, of moonlit graveyards and dark figures bathed in shadow. It was all done in pencil, but I could see the expression of utter darkness in each one. It was like I was possessed, because with every turn of a page revealing a new scene, I just had to know what was on the next one after it.

As I progressed through the pictures, they became all the more dark. Old hollow churches sitting on hills in the darkness, crying children starving in the shadows of huge buildings while careless people passed them by, men standing tall while they bled to death...

I froze as I came across this one. It was no ordinary man, but a being so much holier, standing tall with his feet surrounded by bloody but naturally white feathers. An angel. A murdered angel. I stared, amazed. "You draw so wonderfully..." I whispered.

He looked at me for a moment, then went back to his drawing, whatever it was.

I suddenly held a deep interest in him like nothing I'd ever felt. He had such artistic vision, and he managed to capture such darkness and pain in each frame, whether or not it held a human being in it. How could a single college student have such insight into the human psyche? Into such pain and torment? "A...Adrian..." I whispered.

His eyes met mine again for only a moment, but I broke the gaze quickly, focusing on his glittering hair again. I didn't want to get entranced again.

"How...do you draw like this?" I asked him. "How do you manage to put so much feeling in your art?"

His eyes widened slightly and his expression of darkness dropped away, leaving one of confusion in its place for a split second before his front went up again.

It was right then that I realized it. He was hiding. I'd been studying psychology long enough to recognize it when I saw it. When a person was afraid to let others see themselves, they hid behind a front, and his front was this darkness. I could tell by his drawings that he really felt this way, but the question was, what could possibly make him so harsh? I could almost sense something in him that I'd never felt in anyone else, and I had a feeling that what I was sensing was somehow connected to my sudden obsession with him.

I didn't know then, at that time, that I was obsessed with him, but there's no better word to describe my feelings.

As he continued to stare back at me, my eyes strayed from his face and slowly fell to the picture he was shielding from my sight. I couldn't get a good look, but it seemed to be a sketch of a being surrounded in light...it was so hard to make out...

His arm shifted and his eyes suddenly narrowed so severely that they almost looked demonic. "What do you want." It was more of a slow demand than a question, said without any curiosity.

I suddenly felt afraid again, my eyes having locked with his, and I leaned back so fast I almost fell right onto the floor. The only thing that stopped me was him. His hands snapped out and caught my wrists with lightning speed, holding me firm and drawing me in until my nose was only an inch from his. I hadn't realized until he caught my bare arm that he was wearing black leather gloves over his hands, and when he hauled me back up to leer at me again, I was shocked by his strength. He was so thin that such power seemed almost ungodly from him. Then again, it sort of figured. I swallowed hard and looked back at him, meekly. "I...I was going to ask to borrow a pencil..." I choked, weakly.

Suddenly, his harsh expression softened and he released my wrists. Without a word, he reached into his bag and produced a black mechanical pencil like the one in his hand and set it down in front of me. He looked dully embarrassed, even with that blank look on his face.

I reached out to take it and realized that I was shaking so badly I might've looked like I was having a seizure. Get a hold of yourself, Mischa, he's just some strange guy with a lot of talent and bad people skills. Get over it, you're fine. I kept trying to remind myself that I was okay, but as I looked at him, I remembered his absence of an aura. He had pulled me so close that I could feel his breath on my face, smell the slightly intoxicating scent that radiated from him, some kind of cologne, I assumed, and still, there had been no hint of a glow or a shadow. Maybe that was why I was shaking.

I took the pencil in my hand and quickly started trying to take notes. I was afraid to try and go back to my seat, because I didn't feel like falling down the stairs thanks to my shaking legs. I couldn't concentrate, though, because of my thoughts of Adrian--the fact that he was an artistic genius with a secret, the fact that he had no aura...the was so close I could touch him...

Whoa, wait, where did that one come from?!

A voice a few rows ahead of me grabbed my wavering attention. "What kind of freak would actually show his face with a name like ADRIAN?"

I glanced over at him as he turned the page of his sketch pad and started on something else, privately wondering how he managed to stay so calm. It was apparent by the way that guy was talking that this conversation about him had been going on for a while. Now that I was paying attention, I realized that all the people around him were snickering and whispering about Adrian too, but that guy was practically shouting those cruel things about him.

"Bet he spray-paints that hair of his," he was saying, "It's probably just gray with glitter in it. And did you see those RED eyes? Either they were contacts or he's some kind of mutant!"

I frowned as they all burst out laughing. That was terrible of them! They were supposed to be college student, not third graders! I glanced at Adrian again to see if he'd reacted, but he was still drawing. How could he stay so calm?

I continued to try and take notes for the rest of the class, but now that I'd heard it, that guy and his friends were really bugging me and I couldn't ignore their voices. Adrian didn't react in the slightest.

Finally, the bell ending the class rang and I sighed with relief, then grabbed my notebook and scooted out of my seat into the aisle. Then, I paused as Adrian stood, piling his sketch books full of dark pictures into his satchel and latching it closed. He was still expressionless, even though the creep a few rows up was still teasing him, now louder than ever.

The quads had piled out of our row and all were standing behind me on the higher landing before I knew it. Io clapped a hand on my shoulder, startling me. "So, how'd it go?" he asked, snidely.

I frowned and pushed his hand off. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh, come on," Cal said, smirking as he tossed his books into his backpack. "You know what we mean."

I went to retort, then paused as Adrian passed me to go down the stairs, his features set in a dark and emotionless way. He didn't pause to look at me, or to say anything, he just descended, several feet behind the snide man with the big mouth that was still going on about him. His intoxicating scent seemed to flood my senses as he passed, but it was a momentary thing, and I watched his ponytail sway slowly, back and forth, as he walked down toward the floor.

Suddenly, Europa grabbed his coat from the back of his seat and ran down the stairs after Adrian, looking worried. He didn't say anything as he took off, taking the steps two and three at a time.

Gan blinked, then followed. "Europa! What are you doing?!"

"HEY!" Io shouted. He grabbed Cal and hurried after them. Surprised, I followed too.

Gan caught Europa by his arm and held him back as we all reached the bottom. He spun him around and grasped his shoulders, so upset that his face was flushed. "Europa, what on Earth are you doing running down stairs like that? You could've fallen and KILLED yourself!"

Io sternly added to the chastisement, "How could you be so careless, and what were you thinking, doing something so--"

"Something bad," Europa interrupted, his eyes wide. He wasn't looking at Gan, but past him, into space, like he was seeing something else. "Bad. Something bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Something's bad."

I blinked and exchanged glances with the others, all of whom looked confused. What was he talking about? He sounded like a nut case, but then again, this was Europa we were dealing with, so it wasn't too surprising. Still, I was worried about the blankness in his eyes that said he wasn't where we were anymore.

"We'd better get his pills first shot we get," Io sighed. "He's getting worse."

Somehow I had a feeling that this had nothing to do with his medical condition. Europa had jerked away, turned while we all paused, and was now staring at Adrian, who had just finished speaking to the professor as he paused near the doors to the auditorium and brought out a notebook, taking his pencil from behind his ear. That guy with the big mouth was hanging out with one of his several girlfriends near there, just about to leave. "Europa, what's bad?" I whispered to him, stepping away from the others.

He pointed to Adrian. "Something...bad...something's bad."

"About him?"

He shook his head, suddenly, his eyes coming back into focus. A frown tugged the corners of his mouth down. "Go watch, I think you'll see."

Curious, I left Europa and approached the new student, who was standing with his back to me. Before I could say anything to get his attention, however, I came within range to look past his right bicep and at his pad. He, like everyone else I knew, was much taller than I was, so this was easy. He was adding something to a picture of...

...the guy that was teasing him! He was drawing him getting hit by the opening door! So maybe THAT was how he stayed calm. He drew negative pictures of people that made him angry. That made sense, but what did it have to do with something bad?

The guy paused in his seemingly endless talking and looked at Adrian. I looked up at him and noted that he was looking back, a passive but narrowly dark look on his face. The guy smirked. "Nice hair," he said, snidely. His friend giggled into her hands. They headed for the doors.

I peered up at him. "How can you stand people like that?" I asked without thinking.

He looked at me a moment, his eyes wavering slightly, then frowned and paced forward a few steps as if to escape me before pausing again. And then, out of no where, a dark shadow began to radiate off of him, like an aura, only black. It was almost overpowering in its wickedness, like an evil cloud. It had been so long since I had seen one, but I recognized it instantly. It was a dark glow...a black aura...and it was massive.

Suddenly, as the guy with the big mouth came to the steel doors, one of them flew open with a swoosh and hit him right in the face with a loud cracking sound that made MY face hurt. The girl gasped as he tumbled back, an impossible amount of blood running from his nose and spilling down his shirt. He swore as she dabbed away at it, and the freshly entering student stood at the door, holding it open and looking worried.

"Oh man, I am SO sorry," the young man kept saying, "I didn't know you were there!"

"Ah, fuck!" the guy shouted. "I think my nose is broken!"

The black aura faded, and I stared at Adrian long and hard as he continued toward the doors, ripping the page with the sketch on it from his book, crunching it up and throwing it at the trash can nearby. It missed. He paused and looked at the big-mouthed guy on the floor. "You really should watch what you do more carefully." With that said, he turned and stepped outside, but before he stepped out into the courtyard, he paused and the smallest hint of a smirk claimed his lips. The sunlight from outside danced across his glittering hair as he disappeared, his ponytail flashing miraculously behind him.

I stood perfectly still as I stared at the crumpled up piece of discarded paper that sat near the wastebasket. Had I imagined that picture, or had he really drawn it and had it happen? My mind was spinning and I felt sick with confusion and slight fear.

The quads came up to me, the oldest three quicker than Europa, who seemed to be trailing calmly. Io grasped my shoulders from behind. "Did you see that, Mischa?" he asked. "That dude just acted like it was nothing when he got his face busted!"

"That was weird," Cal said. "Funny how he pissed the freak off and ended up getting his nose smashed in."

"What happened, Mischa?" Gan asked me, setting a hand on my arm. "Did he say anything to you?"

Silently wrapped up in my own thoughts, I broke away from them and went right to the fallen drawing, uncrumpling it in hopes of proving myself wrong. What I saw scared me stiff.

The paper was blank. It was blank. I had seen Adrian drawing on this sheet of paper, I'd watched him rip it off and crumple it up, and I'd watched it miss the can, but now it was blank, like the picture had just...disappeared.

Europa knelt down next to me and touched the paper, then looked at me. "I told you."

"This is what you meant? The paper?" I asked.

Slowly, he shook his head. "Not bad anymore..." his eyes drifted from the paper, slowly up my arm and chest until they were level with mine, "but it was."

"Was?"

"Now it's used."

I blinked, then looked at the guy lying on the floor, surrounded by the few remaining students besides the dark-haired quadruplets and I. His nose was still gushing and the professor was busy calling the campus nurse on the telephone. I looked back at the blank sheet of paper. He'd drawn it and it had happened, then disappeared. I was speechless.

Then, Europa pointed at the top of the paper, and my eyes followed his finger right to a signature in the top right-hand corner. The presence of that name, written in pencil right there, reassured me that there had been a picture here. A picture drawn by one macabre person that I really wanted to know about. No one put a signature like that on a paper they hadn't used. The sudden appearance of a dark aura around him--the absence of an aura altogether--the disappearance of his picture, the dark front he held to hide something...all of it made me wonder...

I paused as I realized I still had his pencil in my hand, and I looked at it, noting with some curiosity that he had carved his name into it in pointed but stylish letters that matched his interesting signature. I looked at the paper again, then compared the two variants of the name with interest.

That signature--that NAME--would remain with me for the rest of my life.

~ Adrian ~

****

To Be Continued

Copyright © 2003-2004 to Xandra (Allyxandra Douglas). All Rights Reserved.