Bridged to Shadows

Chapter One: A Rough Start

I should clarify this, right here, right now: I was normal. Perfectly, painfully normal. The only things about me that were even mildly unusual were my eyes, a lighter shade than normal, and my first name, Auri. Yeah, you haven't heard of anyone with that name either. Trust me, it's not a coincidence.

But I was your typical, bland, face-in-the-crowd kind of girl for a first-year high school student. Worked hard for good grades. Headed for a nice college, hopefully. Would grow up to be an entrepreneur and an executive, that kind of deal. Didn't go out of my way for strangers, wasn't the reincarnation of anyone, didn't come from an ancient civilization, didn't have any wacky powers, talking pets/guardians, alter egos, nada. I wasn't even particularly pure-hearted

It's funny how that works, though.

I didn't fit in any category—not the class brain, not the shy, quiet girl, not the popular one, nothing, just me—and I wasn't particular outstanding in anything. I had eyes somewhere between green and gray, and plain, straight dark brown hair that fell halfway down my back. For the most part I pulled it back, though thanks to my mother's rather inept haircuts and attempts at layering my hair, enough hair fell around my face to annoy me and my bangs were perpetually in my eyes. I supplied answers when the teacher asked for them, gave help when it was requested of me, and made idle chat when someone else started it. For the most part, I kept to myself and studied or thought. It was always in the back of my mind that I was nothing and would stay nothing. While I lived no one knew my name but for my family; when I was gone no one would remember me. People clapped politely when I was awarded the same generic awards as most during graduation ceremonies, but no one pointed and said, "Oh, that's the girl my son said was an amazing…" or "I've heard of her, she's such a…" I was no one; I was nothing.

And, in the true, contrary nature of Life, Fate, and Luck, I was the no one that was going to be dropped rudely into the truth.

The day started out badly and went downhill from there. I slept in, was late for school, somehow attracted the attention of the important, popular boys and thus ended up being the subject of their ridicule at lunch, got in trouble with my favorite teacher when a girl asked me a question in class, tripped and fell in PE, and so on. I wasn't in a good mood in my last class.

A note came in the middle of that class, summoning me to the office and saying I should take my belongings. I stuffed my books into my bag, slung it over my shoulder, nodded to the teacher, and left, heels clicking against the tiles of the empty hallway.

The secretary directed me to the counselor's office, where the counselor and a strange man were waiting for me. I nodded to them both and sat in the chair the counselor, Mr. Upton, pointed to.

"Auri Haveran?" the suited man asked. I nodded. "I'm Gerald Thornton, a representative of a college in Tallahassee. We hold a science competition each year, and your teacher submitted some of your work. The top prize was a trip to Hawaii with your family, and you won."

"I what?"

"You won," he said calmly. "Normally, we would contact you at home, but there was an accident and the information on most of the participants was lost. Even then, we would have waited, actually, but the airport changed the times of the flight and set it much sooner than we'd anticipated, so we wanted to get in touch with you immediately."

I didn't understand. Science was never my best subject, and I could have sworn the teacher had returned all of our work with the grades on them. Unless I'd been the only entry, there didn't seem to be any way I could have actually won.

"Miss Haveran?" Thornton leaned forward, concerned. "Is there something wrong?"

"I was surprised myself," Mr. Upton added. "But Mr. Thornton here says your work shows much potential and ingenuity."

"I'm afraid we need to actually leave the school soon to allow time for you to pack." Thornton pushed back his chair. "And the College Board may want to meet with you. If they like what they see, you may have yourself a scholarship."

"It's quite the opportunity." Mr. Upton seemed to be speaking just to feel as if he were part of the conversation.

"Are you ready to go, Auri?" Thornton asked. "The limo's outside."

My knees were locked, my feet bolted to the ground. My mind was still in shock—I was going to Hawaii?!—and I didn't seem to be able to move.

"Auri?"

I went into autopilot and followed him out of the office, out of the hallway, out of the school, and into the limo. Once inside, I put on my buckle, mind still busily working at why I'd been the winner instead of one of those brilliant nerds I always heard about. I took no notice of the three other people in the limo, instead staring at my lap, still in shock.

It was when we drove away from my home instead of towards it that the doubts in the back of my head began ringing a harsh alarm. "Where are we going?" I asked.

"Quiet," the woman seated across from me ordered.

What is this? What do they want with me?! "Where are we going?" I demanded, voice cracking unimpressively.

"Someone shut her up," the driver growled.

A strong-smelling cloth was held over my nose, and I struggled wildly, scrabbling at my seatbelt and at anyone nearby. There was a curse as my nails dug into flesh, but then relaxed as I passed out.

~

When I woke up, I was sitting in a chair. No, I was chained to it. Even better.

I squinted bleary eyes at the blurry figures in front of me, which slowly turned into people hardly visible in the dim light.

"You sure she's one of them?"

"She has to be. She fits the description."

"Looks normal to me."

One man put a hand to his face, and I made out three red welts. "She scratches pretty well. Can anyone tell me why girls have to have long fingernails, or is it just so that in case their food processor breaks they can poke their food a couple times instead and slice it up better than the Iron Chef?"

A fault of mine had always been that the most acidic responses came to mind at the most inopportune times. Not when they could actually be of help to me, like when I was being picked on, but times when they would only get me in trouble. Such as now. And I spoke automatically. "They come in handy when people kidnap you and drug you for no apparent reason. Like now. See what good they did me?"

Once I'd realized what I'd done, my thoughts after that mainly consisted of an impressive string of words I hadn't learned from Sesame Street. Those I didn't say out loud.

"I'm sorry," one of the people said.

"I'm not," flew out of my mouth before I could stop it. "If this is how you treat the winners of your contests, I hate to think of how many pieces the runners-up are in."

A door opened behind me, and a man walked past me. Immediately all the people straightened, eyes on him, and he gathered them into a group. They spoke in swift, hushed voices, and then the man turned to me.

"So," he said, and his voice was deep and calm, neither threatening nor soothing, neither compelling nor hesitant. "You're Auri Haveran. We've been looking for you."

"I'm assuming this has something to do with that trip to Hawaii."

He ignored that. "Do you know who you are? No, more importantly, what you are?"

"Chained to a chair, very irritated, and now aware that, since this is some government thing and that you people obviously get your kicks by kidnapping teenage girls, our tax dollars really can't be that hard at work?" I guessed.

His eyebrows rose. "Chipper, aren't you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I just get tired of being dragged off to who-knows-where by who-knows-who for who-knows-why. Third time this month, too."

He sighed and stepped back. "She isn't going to cooperate, is she?"

"No," the scratched man said flatly.

"Let her cool down," the important man decided, "but not with the others. Nearby, so they aren't all over the compound, but not with them."

"With the little girl? Company might make the little banshee stop wailing."

He shrugged. "Fine."

I was unchained, but before I could land a kick where it would hurt, my feet were shackled and I was hustled out of the room and down the hallway. There would be no mad dash out for me.

They took me down a series of halls and corridors, finally stopping at one of the doors and unlocking it. It swung open with a heavy metallic moan, and I was shoved inside the dark room. The clang as the door slammed shut rang throughout me, dragging at my heart, and I dropped to my knees, overwhelmed. What was going on? Was it some bizarre dream?

"Hiya!"

At the sound of a chirpy voice, I looked up, and I could barely make out the outline of a little girl. "Hello?"

There was a happy laugh. "Hiya!" the voice repeated.

"Who—who are you?" I forced out.

"My name's Kesryn. I'm six now."

Why would they have a six-year-old locked in a dark room?! That was so—so—inhuman.

The crack I'd made about the runners-up seemed more than likely now.

"Hi, Kesryn," I said quietly. "I'm Auri. I'm sixteen."

"Wooooowwwww, you're old. Almost as old as my brother."

I think that's a good thing. "Why are you here?" I asked instead.

I heard a shuffle of feet. "I'm turning the light on," Kesryn announced.

"Kessie—!"

I nearly flew into the air at the voice that came from at least six feet away, and my hand flew to my heart, the frantic beat reverberating down every vein and artery. "Who are you?!" A light bulb came on overhead, and I shielded my eyes, wincing, until they adjusted.

"Ooooh," Kesryn said reverently. "Auri's pretty."

"Kessie, why did you do that?" that person hissed again. I hadn't removed my hands from my eyes just yet.

"I wanted to see what Auri looks like," she said innocently. "She's preeeeettttttty."

I lifted my face, and found the cherry on the sundae that this day had been.

Sair Keller, one of the most popular boys in the school, sat in the corner, rubbing his eyes. He'd been among the boys who occasionally bothered me, the ones that caught me when my mind wasn't coming up with its biting witticisms like usual. With light brown hair and hazel eyes, he was infamous for being a heartbreaker. In fact, he was the best-looking boy in school; he knew it, and so did everyone else.

Kesryn walked over to me, and I saw the resemblance between her and Sair: they shared the same angular face, though hers was softer, and the same color hair, though hers curled around her head, cut at chin-length. Her eyes were bright blue and framed in long lashes, and she wore a simple light blue dress. "You're pretty," she repeated.

For whatever reason, the reply came instantly. "Not as pretty as your brother," I answered.

His eyes locked on me, and I met his stare evenly. We were out of school and both in the same predicament, presumably; we were on even ground now, and he was no longer safe with his friends. "Damn straight," he said reasonably instead. "What brings you here, Haveran?"

"Well, I was called to the office, told I'd won some competition and was going to Hawaii, got in a limo to go home, ended up figuring out something was wrong and got knocked out." I shrugged. "Woke up chained to a chair, I shot my mouth off to the Men In Black back there, and here I am now. Do you know why we're here?"

"No idea." Sair's glance landed on the ground.

"Thought so," I said coldly, folding my arms. He and his friends had made my life a misery when they felt like it, and just because we were in a jail cell together didn't make it all sunshine and peaches for me.

An idea came to mind; it would mean humiliating myself and it was only halfway formed, but I didn't want to risk staying here like a good little prisoner and letting them deal me as they wished. I got to my feet and pounded on the door. "Hey! Anyone out there? I want my phone call!"

"What the—what are you doing?!"

"When the door opens, start running," I hissed in response, then went back to shouting. "I know the constitution! I have the right to legal representation and a phone call!" I shook the door, hoping this would work. "Do you hear me out there?! You have to notify my parents, I'm a minor! I want my lawyer and my phone call!"

Sair muttered something, and I could hear him talking to Kesryn, but I ignored them and kept on yelling and kicking at the door. Finally, I heard footsteps.

"Shut the hell up, you annoying brat!"

"I want my lawyer and my phone call!"

"Too bad!"

I let a beat pass so they'd think I'd given up, then solidly booted the door. It shook, making the hinges clatter in emphasis. "I know my rights! I want my lawyer!"

"Shut up! You'll get nothing but a sore throat if you keep this up!"

"I've got good lungs, you wanna bet?" When the only response was a muffled curse, I burst into 'America the Beautiful,' screeching the high notes, belting out the low ones, and overall wailing like dying cow. Oh, and I was off-key, too.

"God dammit, shut your mouth!"

"AMERICA, AMERICA, GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE—"

The guard growled something, and I knew I'd won. There was a clank of sliding locks, and I backed up and switched out the light, waiting for the door to open. Sair and Kesryn were to the left of the door, ready to make a run for it; I was beyond where the light would fall, waiting.

The door swung open, and the man walked in, a fierce scowl on his face. He couldn't see me yet, and I moved closer to the door as he went further into the cell. "Where are you, kid?"

Sair, Kesryn, and I all ducked out, and I caught the door and yanked it closed behind me, then threw the bolt into place. There was a furious racket as the man realized he'd been tricked and rattled the door, but I shouted to cover it up like I was still in there. "Come on, let me out! I don't know what your problem is!" It would buy us enough time, hopefully.

Sair and Kesryn had taken off, and I followed, doing my best to catch up and wishing I'd tried harder when we'd done running in P.E. We hurled down the hallways with no sense direction, driven only by instinct. When Kesryn stumbled, Sair picked her up and carried her, slowing down only a fraction. Footsteps ratcheted behind us, and Kesryn looked over her brother's shoulder, then hid her head in his shirt.

We rounded a corner and burst through a set of doors, the only outlet to that hallway, only to find we'd come to a complete dead end: they'd opened into a lab of some sort, with no way out, no windows, no doors, nothing. Sair and I ran down between the counters to the other end of the room, searching for any escape route, but there was none.

The doors crashed open again behind us, and more of the guards and people like the ones that had brought me here filled in the room, guns drawn and trained on us.

We're going to die, I thought numbly. They're going to shoot us, even Kesryn, and I don't even know why.

Something inside me snapped. I slapped a countertop, and somehow all the equipment on it flew off, whizzing either into the walls or at our hunters, but not towards us. There was the crash of breaking glass and confused, panicked shouting, but none were confused as I. How had I made that happen? How had I done that?

Bullets screamed through the air, thudding into the wall, and Kesryn shrieked in response. Sair was staring at me like I'd grown another head, and I couldn't blame him; it wasn't like I was Neo from The Matrix; things like that weren't real, superhuman powers didn't exist!

"What did you do?" Sair whispered. "What are you?"

"Once I find out, I'll tell you," I replied, distracted. Some compulsion moved me, and I yanked him to the side. A rain of bullets dug into the wall where he'd been standing.

The smoke from chemical reactions and gunfire started clearing, and I saw the Important Man in the midst, watching us with interest. I was, for one of the few times in my life, very, very afraid.

People started walking down towards us, guns ready, and I didn't know what I could do. Why was this happening to me? What had I done to deserve this? What was wrong with me?

My hands were pressed flat against the ground, and slowly, a puddle of dull shadow grew between them, then stretched out like long, two-foot wide, gray ribbon lazily unfurling. The end lifted, arching into thin air even as it grew, like a road to nowhere, a path of nothing. Then it stopped, and where the shadow ended, the air blurred so that I could not see past it.

"She's made a Bridge, sir!" a man yelled. "Request permission to shoot to kill!"

"Come on." Some otherworldly part of me was in control, and it made me stand up and touch Sair's shoulder. "We need to go now."

He stood as well, Kesryn still clinging to him, both with their eyes huge and focused on me. I walked onto the Bridge, ignoring the bullets that nearly hit me, and to the end, then waited for Sair to catch up. He ducked and ran up behind me, and the blank calm and serenity that had had me in its grip faded, taking the courage it had provided with it. I didn't know what I'd done or what this thing was or what it would do, and we were standing on it.

Still, my mind pointed out, they called it a Bridge, and every bridge goes from one place to another.

"Move already, Haveran!" Sair snapped. Suddenly, he stumbled forward and into me, and I fell forward, into the blur, off of the shadow, out of the room, into the nothingness.

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Yeah, well, I don't know where this is going or how soon I'll continue it, but I just thought it'd be nice to actually have something on my account here. I like these characters, and that's the nice thing about writing an original: people accuse me of OOC-ness a lot, and now they can't be OOC because they're my own characters and I get to define them! HaHA! Total freedom! …Well, kinda. I'm going to get back to work on my fanfiction story now.