Smoke rose in the air, graying the surrounding atmosphere. Police cars and fire trucks arrived at the scene—pushing back the growing crowd but also adding to the hysteria. Firemen rushed inside the smoking building. Others brought out the hose and began drowning the collapsing building with water. However, the fire persisted. The smell of burning flesh joined the chaotic scene as some civilians trapped inside cried for help. Their helpless pleads was overwhelmed by the cackling fire and the eerie creeks of the wooden beams. A part of the building collapsed and someone screamed.
One fireman wiped a hand over his sweaty brow, muttering about how he's never seen something like this before. No matter how many water hoses they used, it never seemed to be enough. The fire grew larger and spread to the next building. It was as if it had a mind of its own.
Rachel's mother observed the terrifying scene and a look of determination crossed her face. She hugged her daughter and began to draw away. Rachel screamed, begging her mother not to leave her but her grip slipped. Her uncle soothed her, telling her it's alright even as he watched with anxious eyes. Her mother ducked under the police tapes and ran unnoticed by others into the building. A couple of minutes passed.
Another beam collapsed and an explosion on the second floor shattered three windows. Rachel screamed, yelling for her mother. Soon after, the fire began to die down until it was only a dull flame. Black smoke erupted from the entrance as some firemen came out with unconscious civilians in their backs.
Cheers erupted from the crowds, but Rachel didn't join in the celebration. She peered anxiously at the door for her mother.
Minutes ticked away and her mother still hadn't come out yet. Her shrieks grew increasingly hysterical as she chanted, 'Where's mama where's mama where's mama…'
Rachel stepped down from the bus; her eyes heavy with sleep due to last night's nightmare. A great big orange banner hung on the school's entrance. 'Welcome back, students!', it said in obnoxious letterings. Rachel rolled her eyes and began walking across the school parking lot. With only a total population of a thousand students, pretty much everyone here knew each other somewhat.
Sophie came forward and hugged Rachel, meanwhile gushing about how much she missed her and how fun her winter break was. Rachel chuckled at her friend's behavior and the two fell into easy steps with one another as they trekked their way to first period English.
Sophie began to fill her in about her family vacation to California. Her hand gestured animatedly as she spoke about the prank she had pulled on her brother. Rachel nodded and laughed at all the right places, but the grim contents of her dream still plagued her thoughts.
Suddenly, a small girl passing by whispered in a delicate voice,
"Be careful of the ice near the next corner. You wouldn't want to slip on that."
Rachel stumbled slightly, shaken out of her stupor. What did she meant by that? But the girl was already ahead of her now. Her short black hair fluttered in the breeze as she turned and was out of Rachel's sight. Sophie gave Rachel a questioning glance, having not heard the girl's warning but had felt Rachel stumbled. She waved her off.
Rounding the corner, Rachel trained her eyes to the ground and noticed a thin layer of black ice. She called its attention to her friend, whom immediately teased her for her hawk-like eyes.
"I would have never seen that if you hadn't pointed it out." Sophie tossed her red hair backwards and now moved on to the topic of her latest shopping trip. But Rachel blocked her out as her mind raced. She wouldn't have noticed the ice either if that girl hadn't forewarned her. She narrowed her eyes. Was she one of them?
The pair made it to English without incident and sat in their regular seats. The morning flew by quickly as the excitement of the holiday wore off and everyone got back to the grind of school life. When lunch rolled around, Rachel was glad for the break to ponder more about the mysterious girl's words.
She zoned out for much of the hour until she caught a few words in Valerie's gossip. A fair girl with long blonde hair, Valerie prided herself in knowing the ins and outs of the town's gossip. Usually, Rachel ignored her mindless rambles but today she found herself curious as well. Besides herself, there was also a small group of people surround Valerie, most of whom were also curious about the new kids. She basked in the attention as she continued.
"…And then there's the small one. She's kind of freaky and weird. In Math today, the teacher called her name four times before she responded. She just sat there with glassy eyes and it was disturbing." Looking over her shoulder, she glanced at their table before smirking. "Well, it's not like the other two are any better."
Following her gaze, Rachel saw the small petite girl from this morning sitting with the other two new students. She looked young, possibly fourteen or fifteen. Her black hair was shoulder length, curling towards the tip. Her skin was fair with tiny freckles dotting her nose. Small delicate hands fluttered around as she spoke animatedly to the others.
Rachel's eyes widened when she saw the other girl.
While the first girl was lovely, the second girl oozed raw sex. She flicked her golden hair back as she responded to the small girl, then brought the soda can to her red lips for a drink. Rachel observed the collective stare of males everywhere as they watched her licked her lips. She smiled contently, revealing two rows of prefect white teeth. She showed off her amazing curves and long legs when she got up to throw away her can. Her movements were fluid and graceful and a collective lovesick sigh murmured among the general male population.
"Her boobs must be fake." Valerie muttered.
Finally, Rachel looked at the third kid. The first thing she noticed was the mop of disarrayed black hair adorning his head. He spun lazy circles with his finger around his lemonade cap while scowling at no one in particular. Every once in a while, he glanced back at the other two and say something before looking away to scowl again.
Rachel had to laugh at the confliction of fear and desire on everyone's face. On one hand, the beauty of the blonde girl and the mysteriousness of the three new students compelled people to stare. However, the hostility radiating from this guy intimidated people to turn away in fright. Rachel sat back relieved. Although she didn't pick up any malicious energy from them, they were an odd bunch.
"What's their deal?" Rachel asked, for once grateful that Valerie's in on all the rumors.
"No idea." She shook her head. "I mean they're not siblings or anything but it seemed like they know each other from somewhere. And both the blondie and the guy are always around the small one. Like whatever class she has, one of them is always beside her."
Suddenly, the guy Valerie just spoke of met Rachel's eye. He had the greenest eyes she had ever seen, and she gasped in surprise from the intensity in its depth. However she didn't lower her eyes. Rachel knew that he intended to scare her and the stubbornness in her refused to let him win. He narrowed his eyes when she failed to react as expected and if possible, his gaze grew darker. Rachel's breathing became a little harsher as if an invisible pressure weighted down on her. A small voice inside Rachel's head told her to back down and a shiver ran through her body when she refused.
A smirk tugged on his lips as if he noticed her internal struggle. Rachel clamped her hands on the bench. Her knuckles turned white from the pressure of her hold. She shook her mind, reminding herself that it's all in her head. He's not a monster, she reminded herself. This was simply an intimidation act from a new student and not a monster's power. Her head began to clear up a bit.
And that's when she noticed that his gaze was no longer as intense. Rather he looked at Rachel appraisingly before a mask of indifference slipped on his face and his attention turned elsewhere.
Rachel cheered silently for her small victory and looked up to meet the gaze of seven pairs of shocked eyes. Sophie opened her mouth and closed it several times before finally choking out,
"What the hell was that?! I thought I was going to pee myself from his stare and it's not even directed towards me. How did you ever manage that?"
Rachel bit the inside of her lips and shrugged.
Truth to be told, Rachel was a little shaken up by the event in the lunchroom. Monster or not, that creepy new kid still scared the crap out of her and she promised herself that in the future, she will never instigate another stare down again. Her heart can't take it a second one.
"This seat taken?"
Rachel looked up to see the same boy whom just occupied her thoughts moments ago. He took her silence as a no and sat down. She jolted when she felt a hum of energy suddenly and looked around the room to find its source. But there's no one suspicious in the room. The new kid grinned mischievously at her and offered his hand.
"My name is Alec." His voice was deep and husky and had it been anyone else, she would have said it sounded quite attractive. But she would rather die than to admit that to this cocky boy. Rachel glanced at his extended hand.
"Rachel." She said. He stared at her expectantly for a moment and when it was clear to him that she wasn't going to shake his hand, he retreated it. Rachel stared at her chemistry book and began to doodle on the margin. If he was offended by her blatant dismissal, he didn't show it. Instead he began drumming his fingers as he glanced around the room. Satisfied at whatever he found, he looked out the window.
For the remainder of the lesson, Rachel kept her visions fixated on Mr. Garner and on her notes. But she did notice from her peripheral vision that Alec hadn't bothered to take out a single material out of his bag besides his lemonade cap from lunch. He absently spun it in circles. The metal clinking juxtaposed the otherwise silent classroom and Rachel notice that her teacher deliberately ignored the sound. Either that, or he's really scared of the new guy. For the millionth time the cap hit the metal table and finally, the annoying clink grated on Rachel's last nerve.
"Will you stop that please?" She whispered to him. As soon as she said the words, fear crept in her throat that this will result in another stare down. Surprisingly, that didn't happen. Alec looked down at the cap as if just noticing its presence. He scoped the offending material of the desk and dropped it inside his book bag.
"Thank you." Rachel meant it, relieved that he didn't resolve to turn his intense stare at her. He made no acknowledgment of hearing her and the second the bell rung, he sprung out of his seat. Grabbing his black bag, he was out before anyone in the class even finished packing.
From her view at the door, Rachel saw him sped down the hallway as if fire burned at his heels. And like a ghost, he was gone no quicker after Rachel made her first few steps into the hallway.