Chapter One: The Beginning
I used to think I was normal. I was seventeen, an average student with average friends. All I ever wanted was to get through life with ordinary expectations. I can still remember the day that all changed. It was July first, summer break. One person, one dream, had flipped my life upside down forever. Of course I hadn't realised it at the time but looking back on it now it was clear as day.
In the past year I've learned a lot, like the fact that your fate doesn't dictate your life and that the greatest things come from the most unexpected places. But most of all I've come to realise that no matter what side of the world, or any world, that you are on everyone is tied together in some way. Whether it be family, partners, teammates, complete strangers, or even enemies, we all have our role to play.
Now I can see that my normal isn't normal at all. This change is what made me who I am today – all the pain, the heartbreak, the happiness, the tears, the hope, it all made me a better person. But my story doesn't start here. It starts that hot summer eve with the person who changed everything…
I opened my eyes to two brilliant full moons that bathed my surroundings in a halo of white light. A small breeze breathed through the meadow, rustling the leaves of the trees and the tall, thick green grass I lied in. I sat up to examine the small clearing. Little purple and blue flowers decorated the meadow's floor in sparkling colours as if a rain of silver glitter had fallen over them.
As I got to my feet I glanced upwards towards the navy sky. It was hard to believe that many stars existed. The entire horizon was dotted with balls of light that seemed to continue into infinity. I ran my fingers along the grass. The tall strands tickled my shins as I began walking towards the lake I spotted at the edge of the meadow. Its water glistened like the stars and flowers and even at night with the moon's reflections dancing off its surface it still appeared to be a beautiful deep blue. I stood on its shallow sandy beach with my feet in the soft white sand wondering what the water might feel like if I stepped in when a small snap caught my attention.
I turned to investigate, finding a large Golden Eagle perched on the lowest branch of the closest tree. It watched me with knowing golden eyes that seemed to look directly through me and into my soul. It didn't frighten me, and it definitely didn't seem frightened by me. Curious I began to approach it, all the while it sat there comfortably with its eyes locked on me. There was something about the bird that drew me to it and I wasn't sure what. It didn't move an inch even when I stopped in front of it.
"Hello," I said to it. The bird just continued staring at me, blinking slowly. I wasn't sure why I had chosen to speak to it, but it didn't seem to affect it at all.
The Eagle rustled its feathers and spread its wings, making me take a slight step back in precaution, but made no other move. After standing there for a moment I reached out to it, not really thinking about my actions. I gently placed my hand on it and it leaned its head to me, happily accepting my touch. I smiled and started to stroke its soft feathers. A small tingle flowed through my hand and up my arm causing me to shudder but I thought nothing much of it.
I sat down and the Eagle and I shared silent thoughts for a while. It wasn't until the air seemed to become unnaturally cold suddenly that I pulled myself back to the rest of the world around me. The Eagle made a small noise, shuffling on its feet anxiously. Uncertainty began forming in the pit of my stomach. The bird looked alarmed, but why?
I stood and looked around but nothing seemed amiss. The meadow was just as it had been before I had turned my attention to the bird. It could have just been my mind playing tricks on me. I tried to tell myself it was nothing more than that and that my paranoia was just caused by the late night horror movie marathon I had had the other night. When I turned back to the bird it made a sudden loud cry, hoped off the branch and took off into the sky. I watched as it flew away, its feathers lit by the nights light.
The temperature seemed to drop again and I hugged myself, a cold shiver running through me. I was only wearing a light white dress that brushed my knees; I wasn't suited for colder weather. What was going on? The bad feeling I had gotten earlier amplified until I could feel my hands shaking out of fear. I didn't want anything bad to happen. It would ruin this entire picture.
I started back towards the center of the meadow when I stopped myself in my tracks. I swallowed and turned slowly back around. My stomach twisted when I saw the figure standing there. I couldn't see his face; it was covered by the hood of a cloak. At his hip was a sword, the red gem on its handle glistening like the eye of a snake. The bad feeling I had been getting only became worse as I looked at him.
"Amazing creatures, Eagles, aren't they?" he said, his voice unmistakably masculine. I didn't need to see his face to know he was smiling, I could hear it in his tone. With one hand on the hilt of his weapon he began walking towards me. I stumbled back, mirroring his movements.
"Don't come near me," I said, the words slipping out before I could stop them. To my surprise he listened.
He stopped and paused for a moment before lifting his hands and pulling back his hood. The first thing that struck me was his eyes. They were a deep, ruby red, and even deadlier than the jewel on his sword. They bore into me so intensely I thought they might set me on fire.
The next thing I noticed was his tattoos. A line of black flames marked the left side of his face, travelling up from his jawline to the corner of his eye.
"Who are you?" I asked. I hated how my voice wavered but I couldn't stop it.
He curled his lips in a slight smirk, though I didn't find this situation amusing one bit. "Who I am is not important. You don't know me. But I know everything about you." He took another step towards me and I took another step back. This was just a dream. I just had to keep telling myself that. But whether it was real or not, I didn't want to play this game.
"Who are you?" I demanded this time, attempting to put a little more force behind my words this time. He just tilted his head to me as if I were some freak experiment that had done something interesting. I felt extremely self-conscious under his gaze and looked at my feet to avoid eye contact.
"You are persistent, aren't you? Alright, fine. My name is Spiro," he introduced himself, bowing formally. I could hear the amusement in his tone.
"What do you want?"
"I'm not here to take anything from you, Leah," he replied. The emphasis he put on my name made me look back up at him. His tone had gone from playful to dark and that unnerved me more than anything else so far. Nothing about him felt good. All my instincts were telling me to run, to get out of there, everything about this guy screamed bad news but for some reason I couldn't convince myself to leave. "I'm here to show you…certain things. There is a lot you need to know and I will get to that, eventually, I'm afraid we have no time here though."
He looked up at the sky as if judging the time. "What are you talking about…?" I asked hesitantly. When his eyes came back to me I felt my entire body freeze. It felt like someone put a spell over me. I got lost in the red abyss of his eyes, locked there with no way out. I could feel the anger that coursed through him and it chilled me to the bone, but still I could not move.
"You're…special," he said. When I blinked and snapped out of the trance I found him standing directly in front of me. I didn't even noticed he had moved. What had happened? All I knew was that the closer he was the more fear tore at me. Now that he was closer I could see his face in more detail and realised he wasn't very much older than I was. "But there's no time for this right now. We are running out of time. If you have any questions try and remember them when you wake up. I'll see you tomorrow."
That's all he said before he turned his back to me and began walking away. I stood there stunned and confused for a moment as I watched him leave. Part of me was glad it was over, and the other part was still wondering if that had really just happened. But my curiosity began gnawing at me already and before I could even think about it I found myself running after him.
"Hey, wait!" I said, reaching out to stop him. My hand had only brushed his cloak before I found myself on the ground, something sharp and cold pressed to my neck. My heart was beating fast in fear and I was struck silent again by those piercing red eyes. I hadn't paid much attention to it before but now that I was only inches from him, his warm breath brushing my face, I realised how striking he was. In a scary kind of way, of course.
"I'm not a person you should sneak up behind. Not that you did a good job at it anyways." I wanted to smack him but I was terrified to move. He just glared at me for a moment before easing his knife away from my neck and sliding it back into his belt. He pulled me up as he stood and I gasped as an electric current shot up my arm. He pulled his hand away quickly but made no other sign that he had felt it as well. "Goodbye, Leah, and goodnight. It's time you wake up."
This time when he walked off I could only stand there and watch. My surroundings began to blur and things seemed to become oddly transparent. Something bothered me greatly, though. His words, his touch, the eagle, it all had felt too real to be a dream. But that was just me being ridiculous, right? I knew I was dreaming. This was all part of my imagination. Still…
It felt as if I were being pulled backwards, falling back into nothing, and soon enough I was pulled back into the darkness I had opened my eyes to the meadow from and left with nothing more than an eerie memory and questions.
I jumped awake when the sound of my alarm pierced through my slumber. Heart racing I sighed and turned off my phone entirely. If I was still tired I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep now that I almost had a heart attack.
Sitting up I ran a hand over my eyes, yawning as I stretched. The sun was casting a golden glow through my bedroom window and the birds were already happily chirping away outside. I could hear the sound of a lawnmower in the distance and cars driving up and down the road. I kicked off my covers and walked over to the window, taking in a long breath of fresh air to wake my senses.
After I washed up I threw on my favourite pair of jeans and a t-shirt and headed downstairs. My mother and father were already up. They had probably been up in the ungodly hours along with the birds. Thankfully I was greeted with the smell of fresh coffee and bacon.
"Good morning," my mom greeted me with a smile, her blonde hair pulled up in a bun and her brown eyes twinkling as always. My mother was always in a good mood. Nothing seemed to bring her down.
My father was sitting at the breakfast bar reading the morning's paper already. I kissed him on the cheek before taking my own seat. His brow was furrowed in a determined line, his dark eyes concentrated on his readings. "Morning dad," I said. He just waved a hand at me absently, distracted by some important article. I just rolled my eyes and turned back to my mother. "So when are you guys leaving?" I asked.
My mother laughed. "So eager to get rid of us I see. Soon, dear. As soon as we're done breakfast we'll pack the car and be out of your way."
My mother and father had won a two week vacation to the Caribbean. I was still a little bitter about being left behind, but it would be my first time staying home alone for that long and Natalie and I already had lots of plans. Of course my parents didn't need to know what they were. The less they knew the better. My father was a little more worried about it than anyone else really.
After breakfast my parents wasted no time getting out the door. They had a flight to catch and couldn't be late for it.
"Steven, let's go!" My mother was trying to usher my father out the door quicker, but he kept stopping to make sure I remembered all the house rules I was to follow while they were gone. It's not that he didn't have any trust in me it's that I was, and always will be, his little girl no matter how old I was. That and he worries too much.
"No parties, you understand me? And make sure you keep the house clean. And don't get into any trouble. Oh, and absolutely no boys," he said sternly.
I rolled my eyes at him. He was too protective sometimes. "Yes, dad, I know the rules. Now you guys are going to be late."
We said our goodbyes and I stood on the front porch and waved to them as they left. As soon as the car was out of sight I skipped back into the house and bee-lined for the stereo. It wasn't often that I got to play my music as loud as I wanted. My parents worked a lot so they couldn't really use the distraction. My mother was a teacher and my father worked between the bank and the local record studio.
I danced back into the kitchen and grabbed some coffee, taking up my regular seat at the bar and flipping half-heartedly through the newspaper. I found the more I went through it the less I really took in. My music seemed to become nothing more than background noise.
I was trying hard to forget my dream but it seemed that the more I did that the more I remembered. Now that I was home alone in the house I really had nothing better to do than think. I couldn't shake off that feeling I had gotten around Spiro, and it was odd to me thinking about someone my imagination had conjured up, but for some reason I didn't completely believe that.
Taking a sip of coffee I let the warm liquid ease my nerves. I was getting all worked up for nothing. It was summer; there was a lot more to do other than sit around contemplating reality. Since my friends all had jobs or had gone on vacation I was pretty much alone for the next couple of months. The only thing that kept me from going into withdrawal was the thought that Natalie would be back in a few days.
I wondered if I should call my grandmother. She was extremely wise, in a sort of stereotypical kind of way, and I wouldn't be surprised if she had some explanation as to why I felt so off. I don't think there was one thing she didn't know the answer to. And for an old lady she was pretty cool. She was sort of a kid at heart still and didn't let anything hold her back.
My grandfather had died when I was a baby so I had never known him, but his death didn't stop her for very long. She owned a winery outside of town and worked hard to keep it up and running. When I was younger we used to visit all the time. For some reason we stopped going as often and I couldn't remember why. I knew her and my parents were fine, and I knew she was healthy, I guess we just got too busy.
After mulling it over for a couple of minutes I decided not to call her. I had plans to go see her anyways and could talk to her about it then. I'm sure I was just over reacting.
With a sigh I walked back around to the living room and turned off my music. I decided I was going to go for a jog to clear my head. It was nice out and I enjoyed being outdoors when the weather was decent.
I changed and grabbed my Ipod, locking the door before I stepped out and turned up my jogging playlist. Some of my neighbours were out doing yard work already, grooming their lawns or conversing on their porches. I lived in a nice neighbourhood. Things were quiet here, not much happened, but it was nice. Medium sized houses with large lawns. A lot of families lived here because it was good priced and not too far from anything. Not too far down the road was the local park. It was my favourite place in town, but it wasn't my destination today.
The closest Tim Horton's was just up the road and I was badly craving a muffin, so I decided to stop in.
When I got there I pulled out my ear buds and stepped into the coffee shop. The feeling of unease crashed over me like a tidal wave, causing me to falter. I paused and glanced around but nothing was out of the ordinary. I got a strange sense of deja-vu but shook it off and walked up to the counter to order. As I waited I couldn't stop fidgeting. This weird prickle was running up and down my spine and I couldn't make it go away. Every so often I would glance around but everything seemed normal. No one stood out, no one was watching me. When I finally got my muffin and turned around I gasped as I almost ran right into someone.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" I exclaimed, frantically checking if my muffin was alright.
"No problem, it was my fault," the stranger said. I looked up at him and apologized, fumbling over my own words when I saw him. It wasn't Spiro, no, but something about this guy felt strangely familiar. He flashed me a quick smile before stepping around me. I had gotten that same shiver through me I had felt with both Spiro and the Eagle the night before. And his eyes…I had never seen someone with blue eyes that dark. It wasn't natural, I don't think. They must have been contacts. They made me think back to Spiro's deep red eyes. I shuddered.
Shrugging it off and attempting to keep my composure even though I knew people were now staring at me I stepped back outside. I didn't bother jogging home. I took my time, nibbling on my blueberry treat the entire way. When I got home I kicked off my shoes and started towards the kitchen again, not exactly sure what to do with all my spare time. Halfway there I froze, my stomach sinking. I pulled out my earphones and backtracked to the front door again.
I could feel my heart racing faster, my breathing accelerating. Panic gripped me and I could do nothing but stand there.
There he stood, a casual smile on his face, leaning against the doorway to my living room as if it were completely natural. Only this time he didn't have a cloak and sword, he was dressed in jeans and a simple black t-shirt.
"Hi there," he said smoothly.
"You – you're not – how can…Oh god…" I felt extremely light headed all of the sudden and felt like someone had taken all of the oxygen out of the room. One moment I was on my feet and the next I found the floor coming up to meet me, but before I hit it everything went black.