The World of the Fallen
Chapter One: The Beginning
Layla Owen cuddled up in bed next to her mother as she read Layla a story from a children's book about God's angels. She was captivated by the idea that people with wings walked on the same ground as they did. Layla's own mother could be an angel, and she could not have been the wiser.
After the story she double checked her knowledge, "So angels can be anyone I know?"
Her mother nodded. "Anyone we know can be an angel in disguise. That's why we must be careful of how we behave around others."
"So even you and Daddy could be angels?" Layla asked mystified.
She chuckled at Layla's innocent question, shining her bright emerald eyes to her daughter. "Yes even Daddy and me."
Her eyes refocused on the book in her hand. Layla had suddenly spaced off thinking of a memory she had with her mother. She was reading a fantasy book, and she guessed that that was why she remembered such a small moment.
Layla closed her book shut and set it on the coffee table, standing up from the couch. Everything had changed since the time she and her mom had talked about angels, unicorns, and fairytales in general. Ever since the car accident that took both her parent's lives when she was nine, Layla lived with her Aunt Mariah and Uncle Garrett. The day the police had told her that her parents were taken by the result of a drunk driver forever changed Layla. She still remembered the dark days when she would not eat or get out of her room. Aunt Mariah was worried to death that Layla would never get out of the deep hole she was in. But slowly, week by agonizing week, she got better. Layla, the broken child that did not know pain before then, learned to cope and accept that heaven was the best place for her parents.
The photo of Layla with her mother and father across the room brought a sharp pang of pain to her chest. Even after seven years, she would never forget how they were like. Beautiful Valerie, as her old neighbors call her, was purely that. Beautiful in every way. She had long rich blonde hair that ran down the small of her back in a luscious waterfall. Valerie's heart shaped face could not have been anything other than God's best creations for it was perfect. Layla inherited her mother's bright green eyes that shined like gems. Everyone knew though that Valerie was a kind and sweet mother. She was the kind of mother who would welcome their child with chocolate chip cookies every day he or she came home from school. Valerie was the kind of mother who would have tickle fights with her child and become a best friend to share secrets with. Layla knew too that John Owen, her father was the same. He would teach her all the boyish things like throwing baseballs. Her father became another best friend too through all the times they spent together during summers playing with squirt guns and climbing trees and winters when they would slide down snowy hills, curling up against each other while drinking hot coco afterwards. The three of them were inseparable and Layla had thought it would stay that way.
During dinner, Layla sat with her aunt and uncle and shoved warm pasta down her hungry throat. She groaned every few minutes with satisfaction. She couldn't help that pasta was her favorite meal.
Garrett looked up from his plate, grinning. "It sounds like Godzilla eating the Willis Tower over there. Do you know how loud you are?" His jolly Santa- like figure shook as he laughed when Layla made another pleasing sound.
After she was done swallowing, she explained holding her fork toward him, "I love my pasta and if expressing my undying love for it gets me more, then yes, I'm going to be loud." Layla smiled at Mariah, making sure she got the hint.
"Alright," Mariah said, "you get all the pasta you want. After all, tomorrow is your first day of school." She happily dumped a good amount of pasta with marinara onto Layla's plate, enjoying that someone appreciated her food.
Layla sighed, defeated after finishing all the pasta she could eat. She slumped down on the table after pushing her plate aside. "That's it. I'm full."
Garrett did another one of his Santa 'ho-ho-ho's and put his plate in the sink. He patted her back. "Well get up to your room and make sure you are completely 100% ready for tomorrow, okay? And get to bed early too. I'll want to hear all about your teachers and classmates."
"Okay," Layla said and pushed herself up and out of her chair. "G'night."
"Goodnight, sweetheart," Mariah smiled, brushing a kiss on her cheek.
The next morning Layla could not have been feeling better. The sun shined brightly, and she had to admit that it felt like the birds were singing just for her. She wanted to see her friends again and Layla had always loved school. She liked to learn, and Psychology and History would be a blast.
Her cellphone vibrated unexpectedly on the wooden desk next to the bed. The screen read "Rachel Schaffer".
Ah, finally! I've been waiting for this call, she thought. Layla picked up the phone and answered with a sing song-y, "I can't believe you're back~ I can't believe you're back~!"
"Hell yeah, I'm back!" Rachel shouted with zealous. "I've missed you tons Layla!"
"I missed you more, Rachel," Layla protested. This girl who was Layla's best friend had been on vacation for all of summer break. She was in France touring with her family. Layla missed Rachel more than she could bear. They were so close that they considered themselves sisters. Rachel had been there for Layla ever since the incident with her parents. The tough and hilarious grinning girl that Layla knew was one of the reasons she survived. Rachel was undoubtedly sent from heaven for her.
"When I get to school today, I'm going to give you the biggest hug ever! I'm going to seriously crush your ribs."
"Fine, I'll be waiting for it," Layla said. "Tell me about the trip too okay? I have to go now. You know, to get ready for school?"
"Party-pooper! You just don't want to talk to me!"
"Of course, I do," she responded exasperated. "Bye Rachel. I missed you."
"Bye Layla!" And they hung up. She really did have to get ready. When it came to school, Layla always felt like one missing object in her backpack could be the end of the world. But she was trying to change that anxiety. She chose a striped t-shirt and dark denim shorts to wear, ate breakfast, festered with her school supplies, and headed out the door to catch the bus.
"So how were your classes so far?" asked Rachel. "I just found out Ryan Whitman was in mine."
Layla held onto her notebook tighter as they started merging with a large group of students trying to get through the hall. It was more of a traffic jam than usually, mostly because some people were not sure of where their classes were and add in the new freshmen, of course the halls were jammed. "Oh that guy," she said. "My classes were a bit better than I expected. I have friends in each class at least."
"And we're in Physics together," Rachel added.
The crowd started to thin out and she found room E312, her Psychology class. Rachel headed to her classroom after they waved good-bye. Layla reached for the doorknob to turn the handle, but another hand claimed it first.
Layla looked up startled. Her eyes met with azure blue ones. He had shaggy chestnut hair that reached to the nape of his neck. He was a head taller than her and his tall frame stood aside as he opened the door.
"Ladies first," he mumbled. There was something about his polite manner that pleased Layla.
"Chivalry isn't dead after all," she said, entering through the door into a seemingly plain white room with groups of four desks to fill the empty space. She sat in a desk near the front of the room, eager for the lesson to start. The chestnut haired boy placed his backpack near the windows in the back.
Mr. Lazenby sprang from his seat as soon as the bell rang and started with a syllabus to what they would learn. It was all interesting to Layla, but she especially paid attention to the part when everyone introduced their names. She didn't know anyone in the class, and the person Layla did want to get to know was the boy in the back with clear blue eyes who opened the door for her.
"My name is Evan Nobles," he said with a gentle smile, "and I wanted to do psychology because I think people are a mystery of their own. I want to understand the human mind better." Evan did a nervous laugh and sat back down. Layla noticed that he actually was attractive. His face was clear of blemishes and pale, but not chalky. He had a jaw that looked sculpted and similar to those of a model. His eyebrows were defined. His pink lips were full and heart wrenching. Evan was lean, and it just made him possess a feminine grace. Most noticeable were his piercing eyes. Layla knew before how his eyes drew her attention, but getting a longer look at him now, those blue eyes were beautiful. And he looked so angelic. Yes, he definitely is attractive, she thought to herself.
Mr. Lazenby spoke about the fun projects that would be involved during the semester they were in his class. He empathized how much they would learn. During his speech, Layla's head started to throb. It was a dull pain, but then it escalated to a sharp unbearable jab. It was truly as if knifes were stabbing her head. She whimpered, curling into herself. This was too much. She needed to go to the nurse's.
"Are you alright, Layla?" asked Mr. Lazenby, pausing his lecture.
"I don't think so," she said hoarsely. "May I go to the nurse's office, please?" Layla let out a pained grunt and rushed out of the room before she could be excused. There must be something wrong. Headaches never hurt this much. She fast walked down a hall, gripping her head, when a strong burst of pain exploded in her head. Layla crumbled down. Something was wrong, so wrong.
She could barely keep her eyes open as the pain was so much. But then, Layla felt a rush of coldness, and the pain disappeared. Her fists unclenched, but now she was shivering. Something was definitely wrong. From her peripheral vision, while she was sitting on the ground, a dark shadow manifested itself next to her. It looked like a puddle of black oil. This shadow rose up slowly. It grew larger and larger, forming into a large wolf shaped figure.
Layla gasped and scampered away from the growing shadowy mist. She pressed her back against a wall, terrified. The cold was still enveloping her and it left visible puffs of air when she breathed. She could barely comprehend what was happening as the shadow grew solid and a massive black furred dog appeared in front of her. Its eyes were fiery red, and its teeth were bared toward her, dripping of saliva. It growled monstrously and took a step to her.
There was no escape as the black dog, the size of a bear, got closer and closer. Layla was frozen in her every being and her screams came out silent. Everything seemed too surreal. There was no way she would die by the claws of a creature that did not even exist while in a school. It inched even closer, taking each gigantic paw in front of the next and making a scraping sound as its sharp 5 inch claws met the tiled floor. The monster was getting so close that she could feel its hot breath, and her eyes were hurting from the glare of the endless red pits. The gleaming long fangs threatened to end her life right there, but a shout came from the other end of the hallway drawing the dog's attention away.
Then the voice screamed something coherent, "Get me instead you freaking wolf!"
A stapler flew and hit the black dog solidly on its forehead, making it flinch. Layla snapped out of her petrified trance and ran as fast as she could away. The monster was quick to recover and ignored the boy who threw the stapler, and it chased after Layla. Its speed was unbelievable. It jumped on Layla, putting hundreds of pounds of pressure on her and pinned her to the ground. Its paws crushed her arms and legs down. She was on her stomach and gasping in shock and pain.
The dog bent its head down to Layla's ear and spoke a name. "Artoh." It then released Layla from its weight and disappeared. The cold vanished with it. She lay there panting and running feet crashed down next to her. Hands shook Layla and pushed her up into a sitting position. Through her long bangs, she stared at Evan Nobles in disbelief.
"Are you okay? Your wrists are bleeding," he exclaimed. Evan applied pressure to the scratches. It was from the claws of the monster brushing her skin.
Layla whispered, clearly shaken, "What just happened?"
"I-I don't know," he stammered. "That huge dog thing….what was that? It leaped on top of you, and it let you go." Evan supported Layla up. "We have to go to the nurse right away."
"O-okay," she said. Her whole body kept shaking. She felt bruises where the monster pinned her down. Could all this be a nightmare? It couldn't be real.
The nurse, Mrs. Flanagan, was baffled at Layla's wounds. She stitched them up right away, but demanded the two for the cause of the cuts. It was suspicious, and neither Layla nor Evan knew how to answer Mrs. Flanagan.
"It just happened," he said, talking in a fast pace. "You wouldn't believe me if I tried to explain it. Not that I knew what happened myself. There was some monster. It's hard to explain how it looked like, but it attacked Layla. Then it just disappeared."
"What are you talking about?" she said. "A monster? There's no such thing."
Layla who was quiet the whole time suddenly put a hand on Evan's forearm. "He's just making stuff up, Mrs. Flanagan. What really happened was that I scraped my arms hard against some thorns when I was outside. Heck, I practically fell on them, and then I landed on the ground pretty hard."
Evan raised his eyebrow, questioning her, but the nurse did not seem to notice. "Oh, well I'll have to call your guardians so they are aware it happened. Be careful next time." She let them go back to their class without any more questions.
Evan walked side by side with Layla hiding his contained thoughts. She limped slightly from the bruises on her legs and remained silent. Both of them were going over what had just happened. Layla knew that a dog like monster had attacked her. There was no question. She knew she wasn't crazy. She lied to the nurse because unless she was there to witness what happened, the nurse wouldn't believe them. The mystery was what the monster was, why it attacked her and did things from myths actually exist.
"How did you find me?" Layla asked.
Evan scratched the back of his head. "It's sort of weird. I sensed you were in danger, and I sensed the monster thing too." He looked at Layla, hoping she believed him. "So I excused myself and followed you."
"So you just knew?"
"Kinda. Look," said Evan. "That was too crazy. I've never seen something like that in my life before. We're not insane right?"
"No we're not," Layla said confidently. "Definitely not. I felt that thing, I smelled it, I heard it, and I saw it with my own eyes. Whatever that thing was, it was real."
He nodded, surprised. "You're not scared? You seemed pretty messed up. Now you're calmer than me."
"I don't know. In a psychotic way, this is cool," She admitted. "As we grew up, we learned that monsters were fake. They were just stories. But now we know that there are other creatures out there that exist."
"Yeah, but this one almost killed you. It could come after us again, and there's something more," he stated. "I think I knew all along monsters like this existed before today. My dad, I think he knows about this stuff. I've heard him before talking on the phone about crazy mythology type of creatures. I'm going to ask him about it tonight."
"What?" Layla said in shock. "You think he would actually know what this?"
"I don't know, but what else are we going to do? No one will believe us. He might be our only hope to figure out whether we're insane or there's a whole other freaking world we don't know about."
"Okay." She smiled up at him, settling her eyes to his. He smiled back, showing white teeth. The reassuring look Evan gave her made her feel safe. Despite the situation she was just in, Layla could not resist the butterflies in her stomach and the way her heart contracted. He was so breathtaking.
They stopped in front of the classroom door. Layla stood uncertain. It seemed so odd. Once they opened this door, they would have to pretend nothing happened. They would have to pretend a giant speaking dog didn't just jump on Layla.
"Let's open the door together," Evan said. She nodded, and they stepped into a classroom now with mind bending knowledge they did not know before.
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