I could start this story from the present time as I stand here utterly exhausted and barefoot on the damp grass. However, so you will understand a little bit better, I'll commence this story from the beginning of it all.
A deep chill races down my spine. There is no escaping this cold air no matter how hot Annabelle turns up the heater. The sound of Chris's old Chevy truck's engine fills my ears as we drive through these dark back woods.
"Karleigh, turn the radio up. I love this song!" Annabelle instructs me from the back seat. As she sings along to the words—matching each note beautifully, I might add—I twist the volume knob three notches and my eardrums begin to buzz.
"Don't you guys love how I quieted the exhaust?" Chris asks, looking over to me.
"Oh yeah, I can hardly hear it!" Annabelle shouts.
I simply nod, because no matter how much he silences it, I can still hear the loud rumble like it was right beside my head.
You see, I'm different from normal people. While Chris has to yell over the music for Annabelle to hear, I can understand every word he says if he only whispers. All of my senses are heightened. I can see every speck of dust, hear the traffic a mile away, feel touch and temperature more intensely, and taste things much stronger than usual. But I've had seventeen long years to get used to it. My parents realized I was different about seven months after I was born.
Every time they would try to sneak into my room without waking me, my green eyes would instantly flutter open at the sound of their footsteps. As they tried to feed me medicine mixed in with my food, I would always spit it out because I could taste the bitterness. But what really showed them I was different was the fact that every single picture they tried to take of me, my figure would have a slight blur and my eyes were lit up with a bright golden light. Go figure.
They are the only people who know about my gift. Not even my best friends—the two people in the vehicle—are aware of my abilities.
It's not that I'm afraid to tell them, I just don't think it really matters. They would never really understand, or even look at me in the same way.
"Didn't you guys have so much fun tonight at the concert?" Annabelle asks us as the song ends.
Chris turns the music down so he can explain how he felt. This is what he does, tells people exactly how he feels in specific detail.
I've known this guy for almost four years now. Two desks behind me in eighth grade literature sat this scrawny, dark-blond haired boy. In the last month of school, the semester's final project was to be done in pairs. Guess who was assigned as my partner. Christopher Adam Darden.
He turned out to be a smart, sweet kid. We kept limited contact—a text or call here and there— during the summer. And when school started again, he had grown to be the mature best friend that I know and love today.
I sit in the passenger seat and listen as he speculates and analyzes the band members, the songs, the stage design, and even the instruments. He doesn't miss much. Sometimes I think he has super-vision or enhanced-hearing, kind of like me.
They look in my direction waiting for my response.
Taking a deep breath, I say "I guess I liked it all… except I didn't know so many people could fit in the café, or why the whole town would want to go to a local rock band's concert. Plus, the songs were good, but I felt like they kept repeating the same words over and over."
Annabelle sits back.
She is the type of person who always looks for the good and tries to ignore the bad. In the nine years that we've been friends, I've seen her truly angry only once. That was the day we became best friends. Heroically, little third grader Annabelle saved my crayons from being stolen. With her long black hair pulled back in two pigtails and brown eyes raging, she snatched my new Crayola box from the bully's desk and placed it back in front of me. From then on, we were destined to be the best of friends.
Chris rotates in his seat to look at me again. "Well that's not fair Miss-Award-Winning-Song-Writer. Not everybody is as talented as you."
I sigh, staring out the window. "It was one award," I mumble.
The corners of my lips lift as I remember back to fourth grade when our school was having a talent show. Back then my senses were still developing and on maximum. I could describe absolutely everything I felt and saw, so I wrote something down, producing a song.
Writing has always come easily to me so I figured I'd give it a try and see how it goes. Come to find out, I'm not a very talented singer, but an extremely gifted writer. I gave the song to Annabelle to sing in the show. She ended up winning first place; hence the award.
After that, Annabelle asked me to write all of the songs for her band. Thing is, they've never tried to get a gig, but they sound great in my garage.
Five minutes later we pull into my driveway. I look up at my one-story, brick house that I've lived in my whole life.
"See you tomorrow, Blondie!" Annabelle calls to me and then climbs to the front seat as I step out. I close the door on Chris's complaint about her crawling around in his truck.
My front door is unlocked so I walk in to a dark, quiet house. Soft snores float out of my parents' bedroom. I reach up to quietly lock the deadbolt. But quiet, it was not. The click thunders throughout the entire house. Well, at least to my ears it does.
Down the hall, I hear a scuffling noise come from my room. Slowly, I walk to my white wooden door and push it open. I glance around before going inside. Since I don't need the light to see, I keep it off—in case there is an intruder. Again, I hear the noise in the direction of my closet. I yank open the door and see a slight movement from between my sneakers. Quickly, I grasp for it.
Both hands clutch the small furry creature. Squeals pierce my eardrums as well as its fluttering heartbeat. The warmth of the mouse's blood heats my finger tips. Its black eyes stare into mine.
When the squealing finally fades out, I stand up in search of a box to hold the animal. Beside my desk is a small bin, filled with papers. I dump it out and gently place the brown mouse inside. Tomorrow I will find it an actual cage.
Now, I get ready for bed while listening to the continuous movement of little paws. Even as I drift off to a light sleep the mouse continues to squeak, scratch, and run around.
It is actually quite comforting… until it stopped.
Two seconds after its silence, I hear a loud thud. I don't think it was actually loud enough to wake my parents but it definitely woke me up. Sitting straight up in bed, I listen for any other noise and look out my open window through the woods. My bare feet hit the carpet as I race for the door and pull on my jacket.
Out in the hall, I tiptoe into the kitchen. Just as I step onto the tile, the motion sensory light switches on over the back porch.
Appearing in the spotlight is a bald man at least six feet tall. His massive hand slides open the accidently unlocked glass door and steps inside, completely uninvited.
I have a tendency to not move or think straight when something shocks me. So as I stand there, my hands tremble with fear in my jacket pockets.
He stands several feet away from me and yet I can still see the hunter-look in his dull gray eyes. I hear the clock ticking in the living room as the seconds pass by. A car pulls onto my road so I have about thirty seconds before it passes my house.
"Don't move." The man's voice suddenly breaks the silence. Well, the silence other than my parents' snoring, the clock, the hum of the air conditioner, and other random noises.
I take a step back and he takes one forward out of the light. "What do you want?" I ask in as much confidence as I can muster up.
Twenty seconds until the car passes. If it stops, I can get them to call 9-1-1 and hopefully this intruder won't know my parents are home.
He only looks at me. I notice the ring on his left middle finger. It's gold with a green stone. In the center of the stone is a symbol with the words 'acquirenti di angeli' under it.
I lift my eyes back to his shadowed face and see scars running down both sides of the man's neck. "What is 'acquirenti di angeli'?"
Lifting his ring to his face, he examines it with a smile. "Well little lady, the fact that you can read this from so far away just confirms my reasons for being here."
Yikes. Sometimes I slip up and accidently drop the act of being normal. But hey, give me a break, it's after midnight.
Again he reflects my steps. I have to think quickly. So to distract him, I repeat my first question, "What do you want?"
The man tilts his head and scans my entire body from head to toe. I squirm under his uncomfortable gaze.
His answer is not one that I would have ever dreamed of hearing. I imagined so many other reasons for him trespassing—some totally unrealistic—but never what he actually says. The two simple words were: "Your power".
How does he even know about my heightened senses? I try to mask the horror on my face but fail miserably. My obvious fright only makes his smirk deepen.
Three seconds and the car will pass. Maybe if I get outside fast enough I could get the car to stop. Then I could get as far away from this lunatic as possible.
Quickly, I turn and race for the front door, knowing he will follow and leave my parents alone. After I swing it open, I see the car pull into my driveway.
Both confusion and relief flood through me. Confusion, because I have no idea who it is or why they are here at one o'clock in the morning. Relief, because now I don't have to chase them to get them to stop and help.
My feet pound against the porch steps. Behind me I hear the man walking my way much too slowly to actually want to catch me. Another wave of confusion strikes through me as my mind races, trying to understand why he's not running.
I didn't realize I had stopped until a monstrous hand grabs my shoulder. Instinctively, I turn around and punch the man in the jaw with all of my strength. Having the chance to run again while he holds his face, I take it.
The driver's side door opens and a man steps out. I use the term 'man' loosely because he looks to be only eighteen or nineteen years old. He wears a navy blue jacket and jeans with straight brown hair falling in his face. In his bright blue eyes is that same hunter-look I saw in the other man's when I first spotted him.
I stop. This guy is definitely not here to help me. I see the motion in his eyes before his hands move to snatch me. Kicking and screaming is pointless since he has a hand clamped over my mouth and if I move I would just end up falling onto the soggy grass. He picks me up and throws me over his shoulder like a sack of flour.
"Blake, take her to the Main Building. Wilkinson wants to go ahead with the plan sooner than expected," the bigger man commands the other who has just shut the passenger door to hold me in. While he is walking to the driver's side, I try to unlock the car. But there is one problem: I don't see a lock.
Which means, I don't see a way out of this mess.
The driver's side door opens and the guy I presume to be Blake slides in, not so much as a glimpse in my direction.
A light flips on in my parents' room. Maybe they'll see that I'm gone. When I see my mother step out onto the front porch, there is no 'maybe' about it. Before Blake hits the gas, I perceive a look on her face. It's not what I expected at all. Horror should be disguising the tired in her eyes, but it also doesn't mask the relief in her expression.
My stomach drops at the realization that these men are not indiscriminate. They were requested by my mother, or even my father—probably both—to take me away.
After Blake has backed out of my driveway I ask, "What do you want from me?" I could hardly choke the words out because of the tears that threaten to spill over. I don't usually cry, but when I caught sight of my mother basically looking pleased that I am being hauled away by two strange men, I can't help but feel emotional.
Silence is my only answer for a few minutes until he finally looks at me. I notice that he twists the ring on his middle finger that looks exactly like the other guy's. "Didn't Andrew tell you?" he finally replies. I look at him confusedly, so he points to the car behind us. Andrew must be his partner-in-crime.
"Well Andrew said he wants my power," I say, watching his expression, the slight aggravation materializing around his features. I probably was not supposed to know this.
Blake simply watches the road in front of us. That's when I detect that his headlights are not on. When I ask how he can see, he replies, "We need to stay hidden. Plus, I have good enough eye sight."
Even if they need to stay hidden why would the lights be off? Maybe to not draw any attention? Oh yeah, because two black cars driving past midnight without any lights on won't attract attention. These guys don't seem too smart.
More silence lingers in the thick air between us. I start to turn the radio on but my hand stops short when I don't see a radio. There are only a few controls and air vents on the dashboard. Looking around the small car, I see that there isn't really anything in here except black leather seats, highly tinted windows, a steering wheel, and us.
"What's up with your car? There aren't any buttons," I ask while still glancing around. Who even makes a car without some kind of stereo system anymore?
He looks at me with a slightly amused expression, "Less for you to control."
To control? What is he talking about? This is all getting to be too much for my tenuous mind. Blake catches my shocked expression. "What do you think I am?" I ask, bracing myself for whatever he says.
"What do you think you are?" His question catches me off guard. What does that even mean? I know what I am: a slightly less than normal human being. Then it occurs to me. What if they think I am something more, or they grabbed the wrong girl!?
"Blake, you have to pull over. You took the wrong person, I don't have power to control anything."
Gorgeous cerulean eyes stare into my jade ones. After a moment of thought, he shakes his head, "No, it's not possible. Wilkinson never gets it wrong. Also I know you are the right girl."
"How?!" I start banging on the door hoping it will break open somehow. He grabs my arm and pulls me away from my only escape.
"Stop! There is no way out. Now don't make this difficult!" Blake shouts, jerking on the wheel as he almost runs into a ditch. "Listen, please just let me get you to Wilkinson without any trouble."
I am truly flabbergasted. "Why would I do anything you want?" I demand as I yank my elbow out of his harsh grip. "Let me out now!"
He answers my rhetorical question, "Because we can help you."
I surrender my weak escape efforts and sit back in my seat. They can help me? Help me by kidnapping me, locking me in a car with an irritating guy, and apparently going to take away my power. Whatever power they believe I possess. Yes, thank you so much.
I have to get out of here. These people are crazy. But there is no door lock and yet I can't open it.
Maybe I can open it. Blake said something about control. Mind control? And he also "knows" I am the right person. Maybe they know more about me than, well, me.
Pushing every thought out of my mind, I focus on the door. I imagine it swinging open—no, flying off of the hinges. Then I imagine feeling the wind as it will come rushing through the gaping hole.
All of a sudden, I open my eyes to nothing but pure amusement on Blake's smug face. "You don't know how to use any of your power do you?"
Rolling my eyes, I relax even further into the leather. How am I supposed to know how to use something I don't have? "Oh and you do?"
Not looking at me, he says, "I've figured it out."… What is that supposed to mean?
A vibrating noise comes from Blake's coat pocket. Taking out a very complicated looking phone, he answers, "Hey Andrew. Is everything okay?"
Muffled words would be the only thing that a normal person could hear but I can even hear the air coming from Andrew's heater. Basically, what he is explaining to Blake is that we will need to travel farther than planned so he needs to make a pit stop.
Five minutes later we are on a road with other cars and some stores and gas stations. Andrew pulls into the nearest fast food restaurant. After Blake parks the little car behind the building and cuts the engine off, I unbuckle my seatbelt.
"Where do you think you are going?" he asks catching the buckle in his hand, starting to latch it back.
"I have to use the little girl's room," I answer angrily.
He shakes his head while saying, "No, you can't leave this car."
"And why not?" I reply turning to face him.
"Because you're going to escape— and that can't happen."
Putting on my most innocent voice I ask, "What if I promise I won't run?"
"You are not leaving, Karleigh." That was the first time I heard him say my name. How does he know my name? This Wilkinson guy must have told him. I wonder how much he knows about me….
I huff and let him click in my seatbelt. Crossing my arms over my stomach I look straight out the windshield. "Don't be upset. Like I said, we're doing this to help you."
"How is any of this supposed to be helping me?" I slam my fist on my lap. None of what he has said has made any sense.
Silence fills the car except from the voices of people talking inside and cars passing by and other little casual noises, until Blake finally answers when I look at him. "Without your powers you can be a normal person."
"What if I don't want to be normal?"
A knock on the driver's side window interrupts Blake's answer. He rolls down the window with a button on his side and Andrew gives him a bag of food. Placing the bag in his lap, Blake starts the car up. Andrew pulls out of the parking lot and we follow. I watch as the buildings and cars fade away and trees are the only things that surround us.
I know what you're thinking. I should be frightened by all of this. And to tell you the truth, I am scared out of my mind. Every second that goes by, the fear slowly grows into something more like shock. And to know that my parents probably had a part in this kidnapping, well that almost pushes me off the deep end.
My parents never accepted me—I know that, but still. The only thing they wanted was for me to be normal. Well, my dad was rarely ever around to even notice. He was always at work—he's a low-level researcher for the government. But none of that matters now. I'll probably never see them again.
"You want something?" Blake asks handing me the bag.
And that's another thing. Why is the guy who tossed me into his car like I was nothing being so… nice?
Shaking my head I turn more towards the window. How did I end up in this situation? Why am I the only one who has freaky senses that end up getting her killed?
"How come you aren't so forceful with me?" I suddenly ask.
Blake finishes his French Fry then says, "Do I need to be?" A smile plays at his lips.
I finally look over at him, "Acquirenti di angeli. Why are you apart of them?"
The grin that threatened to appear is gone without a trace. "I'm not." Simple answer, but it has a lot of skepticism that comes along with it.
I tilt my head in confusion, "Then why are you helping them?"
He sighs deeply before responding, "It's complicated. Besides, it doesnt matter what I do or why I do it. We only have about an hour left until we're at Wilkinson's holding and other-sort-of-things house."
"What is he going to do to me?" This question has been on my mind since I first heard Wilkinson's name. I have to ask now. But the answer isn't one that I'm dying to know.
Blake doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to for me to know that I truly wouldn't want to hear the truth. One hour. That's when I will make my escape.
"Can I have a fry?" I ask staring at his large portion of food.
Twenty minutes and two empty french fry containers later, Blake pulls a remote out of his jacket pocket. Pushing a few buttons, music blares from invisible speakers. If you could call this noise music.
A slower song fills the dark car and I lean my head against the window. Seconds later I drift into a light sleep with the lyrics in my head. Just another world full of fate, another role to play in this script of hate...
Suddenly I jolt awake. Something woke me. I look over to Blake and see that he is watching the road with concentration. So what roused me from my sleep? Then I hear a noise in the woods. Kind of a rustling up ahead.
I can hear it coming closer towards the road at a fast pace. "Blake, I think we should stop. There's something coming at the—"
Too late. A deer—larger than normal— crashes into us. We start spinning, like in one of those teacups at Disney. Then we start rolling and finally land upside down. I look over to see the deer running through the trees, completely unharmed. Everything goes numb, silent. Like all of my senses have turned off except for sight. Blake looks at me with eyes so bright you would think they had a lightbulb in them. That light grows brighter and brighter, devouring all darkness. The numbing becomes a blanket, wrapping itself around every inch of my body. It's like I am nothing but a soul with eyes.
And then, the world is plunged in black.