Here's an interesting note, at least as long as you find it interesting-the story wasn't originally divided into chapters. I'm just giving it to you piece by piece in the hopes that that'll get more reviews. Well, here's the next bit for you.
We always walk to school together, the three of us. We need each other.
We've been fighting them for three years now, but if feels like an eternity. Three years since the creepy, new enchantments teacher at our high school came to Kat and told her she was the chosen one, designated by fate to receive power, fight the goblins, protect the innocent, and save the world. Three years since Lily and I, friends with Kat since elementary school, got sucked into all of the chaos with her. Three years since I haven't had a good night's sleep, since even on nights when no goblins attack, my nightmares keep waking me up. It happens to the rest of them, too, but they never complain about it. We talk about it, but it's always just stated as a fact, no whining.
I whine. I'm not strong like they are.
"I was thinking about going out for the cheerleading squad," Kat said, breaking the silence. "Thought it sounded like fun, and I need something to help me keep in shape. What do you guys think?"
"It does sound fun," Lily said. "Maybe I'll try out with you."
"I cannot see either of you as cheerleaders. Kat, maybe. Lily? Nah. I can't imagine her without a book in her hands, much less talking to someone."
Lily shot me a cold look and went quiet. Woops. We all know she can be pretty anti-social at times, but she gets sensitive about it. I wasn't too worried, though. The three of us might get annoyed with each other now and then, but we'd always be friends. We'd killed things together. We were Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.
"Well I think you'd be good at it," Kat said. "you've got the joints for it, and you would look great in that costume."
"That you most certainly would," I agreed, extending the olive branch. Lily's glare melted, and she took it.
"Thanks. But I don't think I will. It's not really my thing."
Now Kat was glaring at me. This was my fault, and I was the one who had to fix it.
"Well how do you know that when you haven't even tried it?"
"Because it would involve going way outside my comfort zone with the sheer number of people I'd have to talk to."
"Yes, but when you do come out of your shell, that's when you enjoy yourself. Isn't it?"
"Here, why don't Kat and I go with you to the tryout to support you?"
"I guess I could try."
"Great!" Kat put one arm behind Lily's back, one behind mine. "We'll have a blast, I promise."
And all was right again.
He'd screamed when Kat bit...
It. It had screamed when Kat saved the lives it would have taken if she'd let it live.
And all was right again.
We didn't see Mr. Chapman again until lunch time. We used to meet with him before class every day, but soon enough it became apparent that Lily and I couldn't sacrifice the sleep. So these days, we get our lunches from the cafeteria, then go see him in his classroom.
"So, first item of business," he said as I sunk my teeth into my hamburger. "I'm making some progress on the new spell. If I can get this new enchantment working, we'll be able to predict ahead of time when a new portal will open." He picked up a sword off of his desk, the only teacher in the whole school allowed to bring weapons onto the premise. No one quite knows why swords hold on to magical energy so well. At least I don't and that's kind of the same thing. "Unfortunately, it won't be able to tell us where the portal will be opening. But it will let us know when to be on our guard."
"That's good to hear," said Kat. She took a sip from the packet of blood she'd gotten from the cafeteria. "What about the actual fighting? Have you got any new ideas for weapons or traps?" We'd already talked about the girls getting some exercise cheerleading. Chapman had liked the idea, and even tried to get me to try out. Failed, but he tried.
"I have a few ideas, but they're still in the theoretical stages. Nothing I'd like to announce until I'm sure I know how they'd work. But what about you three? How've you been feeling lately?"
And now he was going to be the team mom again.
"I'm alright," said Kat. "I mean, you guys saw me have that breakdown yesterday—or was it this morning?—but I've got that out of my system now and I'm feeling just peachy." She smiled brightly and gave us two thumbs up.
"You know me," said Lily. "Just the same old, same old. You know, I was scared when I saw Justin in that state earlier." She gave me a meaningful look. "But it's fine now. So as long as nobody gets hurt like that again, I'll be alright."
It was my turn. We always went in this order when he asked that question. I knew my job.
"I have a burger," I said happily, as though that answered the question. I wasn't supposed to answer the question, I knew that. My job was to break the tension.
There was a bit of laughing around the room.
"Well, I guess you're alright then," Mr. Chapman said.
That wasn't the real answer. The real answer was so much simpler than that.
It doesn't matter.
I see the people around me as I walk to class, the teachers and my fellow students and I know it doesn't matter how I'm doing, for the same reason we don't tell them about the goblins. They shouldn't have to know. They shouldn't have to face things like this. We fight, so that they don't have to. We get hurt, so they don't have to. I'm still strong enough to fight, and that's what matters.
It was a great burger, though.
And then I felt it, in the back of my mind, the feeling that plagues my nightmares. I knew what it meant. It meant I wouldn't get to finish my sandwich. I put it down on my plate.
"Head for the rooftop," I said, and took off running.
I was the first one out of the classroom, the first one on the stairway, the first one to find what was left of one of our janitors—I can't get the image out of my mind, I can't forget it why can't I just forget it I want to forget why can't I forget I want to forget.
This was where the portal had opened. The goblin had to be nearby. Had it gone up or down? I would have met it on the stairs if it went down. I dashed upstairs to where the door to the roof had been opened. The keys had been left in the lock, it must have taken them off the janitor.
I ran out to the rooftop. Where was it? I looked around, at the featureless, black roof beneath me, dotted by the occasional vent and door. Had it gone back down one of them? Was it hiding behind one?
No, there it was, off only a few yards, running away from me. Trying to get away? Where did it think it would go?
I took chase after it. Soon I was close enough to tell how small it was, maybe just three feet. A young one. Orange. No problem, even I could handle one of the kids. It must have caught that janitor by surprise.
It spun around and saw me.
"Human!" it growled, it's voice full of hate. It jumped towards me, but I dodged out of the way and it hit the ground behind me. It got up and hissed at me. "Humans hurt Rokdar!"
Rokdar. Must be it's name.
Humans hurt Rokdar. Humans hurt Rokdar? Really? I thought back to the man who'd been reduced to a pile of blood and gore just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could feel my cheeks go red with rage.
"Well that loincloth of yours hurts my eyes. Don't you know those things haven't been in style since the eighties?"
It charged me again, but when it jumped, it stopped in mid air. I looked at the door I'd come out through. My friends were there. Lily was pointing her arm at it. She'd caught and immobilized the thing, but she was clearly straining to keep it that way.
It struggled there, floating in mid air, trying to break out of her grasp.
In a second, Kat was by it's side, and now she was the one holding it, holding both of it's wrists in one hand, it's ankle in the other. It was still struggling, but there was no way for it to get out of her grasp.
"Funny," she said, "forecast didn't say it'd be raining blood today." She looked at me. "How was that?"
"Not bad. You'll be up to dialogue worthy of a Joss Whedon show in no time."
"Now," she turned the goblin and looked in it's eyes. "You interrupted my lunch. What're you going to do to make up for that?"
I was right next to her. Even from there, I could barely hear it let out a scared whimper.
Kat stared at it, surprised, and loosened her grip. The goblin pulled one of it's arms out and slashed at her face. Three lines of cold, black blood drew themselves across her cheek, and the goblin fell to the ground and ran. It jumped on top of Lily's head and dug its claws into her scalp, just enough to draw blood. Chapman and Lily both tried to catch it, but it jumped again before they could and was running down the stairs moments later.
Lily and Chapman turned and ran after it.
"Quickly," Chapman called, "before someone sees it!"
Kat and I followed suit. As we ran past the janitor, I got another brief vision. I never like these ones; they usually happen when I look too long at one of the goblin's victims. I saw his death through his eyes. How he saw the monster appear out of thin air. How he jumped back, terrified, and accidentally whacked it with the mop he was holding. How it turned on him, hissed, and...
I try to block out those memories. But I can't sometimes. When I lie awake at night, in the dark. When I fall asleep. They come back.
When I came out of the vision, the rest of my friends were already a few yards ahead of me. I could see Lily, still running, open up her backpack, pull out a pencil case, and open it. The pencils flew out, guided by her magic, and she stabbed the goblin to death with them. Chapman vaporized the body.
I couldn't move. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, jaded and numb to emotion. So why did all the fear and shock and pain of that poor man's last moments overwhelm me so much? Why couldn't I even walk over to Lily and congratulate her? How did I wind up curled up on the floor hugging my knees to my chest, and why wouldn't the tears stop flowing?
School security was there soon. I'm not sure how long it was. We'd worked out a cover story—Chapman had been giving us a little extra help so we could pass our enchantments class, and he was accompanying us to our next class when we found the body. We could have just vaporized it and been on our merry way, but...
It never felt right to vaporize the goblin's victims. The families deserved to know what had happened to them. That they weren't missing and lost somewhere, on their way home after their car broke down in Nevada or something. That they were really gone.
Besides, if someone had already seen this one, and all trace of the body disappeared, and security knew that only the school's enchantments professor had access to vaporizing stones, well...
I guess my breakdown was good for our cover. Some random high-school student comes across not just a dead body, but a body that looked like... Like something that only used to be human... You'd expect some shock, some tears.
They offered to give me a few days off school to cope with the trauma. I didn't want it. School was part of what helped me cope. Hitting the books, forgetting about my problems. It did help.
As we walked away from the "crime scene," Chapman whispered to me, in a concerned tone: "You said you were coping just fine."
I wiped the tears from my eyes.
"I said no such thing."
"You're right, come to think of it, you didn't." He gave a small, humorless laugh. "Come back to my classroom to talk."
"I've got class, and so do you." Part of me wanted him to make some remark along the lines of "thank you for the compliment," but I guess I don't make a very good straight man, because no one ever delivers the jokes I set them up for.
"Come see me after school."
I wasn't sure I was going to, when I said it. Did I really want to say anything to Chapman? Did I really want to hear whatever advice he had for me? I thought about it all throughout the rest of my classes. It would do me some good to confide in my friends, to tell them what I was really thinking, really feeling. Chapman's advice was usually pretty good stuff. It had a tendency of making sense and being useful and stuff.
But after my last class ended and I walked to Chapman's classroom...
I looked through the small window in the door and saw him, with Kat sitting on one of the desks and Lily studying something, as usual. I'd expected them to be there. It would be good for our friendship, for them to hear what was on my mind. They'd probably share something personal about themselves, and we'd all leave the experience, if not with some useful advice, then at least all feeling closer as friends. I wanted that.
But I saw them, and I stood staring for a moment. I saw Kat's teeth, those two little canines that were still much longer than they should be. I'd always found those cute. I kind of have a thing for teeth. That's pretty weird, isn't it? I'm probably either going to grow up to be a dentist, or a serial killer. I haven't decided which yet.
Lilly outlined a few arcane symbols in the air with one hand, probably following something she was reading in the book. She muttered some things I couldn't hear, then apologized profusely for nearly lighting Chapman's butt on fire.
And I turned and walked away.
I can't explain to this day why I did it. I can think of reasons that were logical, and made sense, but I know that none of them were on my mind at that moment. They just weren't.
They tried to call me, when they realized I wasn't coming. I ignored it, at first, until they got persistent. Then I turned my phone off, and took the battery out for safe measure.
I did my homework, until it started getting dark and I couldn't concentrate any more.
We'd killed a child today. But it was a goblin, and it had already killed someone and tried to kill me and would have gone on to kill more people in the future. It had to be stopped, to protect people.
But it was a child. A child who had been attacked before it attacked.
What else could we have done? We couldn't just let it escape. Lock it up in a cage and teach it to be good? It would be dangerous, getting it into the cage. Not to mention what would happen if it got out before it was successfully re-educated. Not to mention that they tried to trick you into thinking you were nice all the time, just so you'd let your guard down and they could attack. You'd never know if they were really reeducated, or if they were just bluffing.
It had to be done. And I had to enjoy it, or the stress would break me. Let that snarky persona, full of jokes and laughter and no other feelings, become the real me. I could do it.
I prayed. I'm not really sure if there is a God, but I always thought it was worth a shot. I prayed for strength. I prayed for courage. I prayed for guidance. And when I said that word, the word guidance, was when a little light bulb appeared above God's head, if there is a God, and went "ding."
Then I went to sleep. It didn't last long.