Darkness hugs me like a blanket, wrapping around my mind and suffocating me slowly. The only thing keeping me breathing are the little white holes in the sky that seem to somewhat resemble stars and the twinkling lights of a city far below that represent the starry heavens much better than what my odd lucid dream is trying to do with the white-hot circles of light hovering just inches above my head. I'm standing on what feels like glass, but I can't see any reflection or shine to suggest that I'm standing on a solid. An old man stands in front of me and I stroll casually towards him. He looks up at me from under thick gray eyebrows, but doesn't move or say anything.

"This is one of the weirdest lucid dreams I've had," I tell him. He keeps staring at me unnervingly. A long period of silence remains between us, and I consider trying to get myself to wake up. I could be doing so much more interesting things right now. Right as I think that, the old man pulls a pitch black hood over his head and pulls a sharp stick out of a pocket I hadn't seen before. "Who the fuck are you supposed to be? Voldemort?" I see a gleam from within the old man's shadowed face, probably the reflection of a 'star' in his tired grey eyes. "Merlin?" I try, my interest dipping drastically as the man just stands there. I roll my eyes and glance down at the city below us. "Whatever, old man, I'm out," I mutter, moments before jumping on whatever surface I'm standing on until it breaks. I catch a shine coming from the man's hand where he was holding the stick, but before I can see what it was, I'm falling down into the city, and the shrill ringing from when I broke whatever I was standing on is still blaring all around me.

Briiiing! Briiiing! I jerk awake, almost falling out of bed. The shrill sound comes again, and my groggy mind struggles to place it until my eyes land on the digital clock by my bed reading 8:00 in bright green letters. It's the school bell, blaring loudly from just over my backyard fence. For a millisecond, I have the faintest idea of starting to panic, but then I blink my eyes a few times and leisurely stretch my arms. It's not like being late isn't new for me. In fact, I'd say I was reliably late, and it was surely a surprise when I was on time, or God forbid, early.

I untangle myself from the mess of blankets and unplug my phone from where it lays on the floor, charging. There are a few messages from Rena Beare about some new movie coming out, and a shit ton of memes that Kied Zola had DMed me, commenting things like 'ME AF' and 'SAME'. Nothing too important. I shrug on a loose pair of dark jeans and a comfortable red hoodie, then tug on my classic red converse and slip on a pair of shaded aviators. I hop downstairs, simultaneously tying my left shoe and trying not to fall. "Mom?" No answer. She's at some random guy's house, I conclude, as I don't remember her even coming home last night. "Alexia?" I try, straining to hear my little sister's response that never comes. She probably already started walking to her middle school.

I tear open a packet of pop tarts and stuff one in my mouth as I throw around the assorted items in our hall closet, trying to find my buried backpack. When I do find the dark red bag, I sling it across my left shoulder and throw another packet of pop tarts in it for lunch. I run a hand through my tousled dirty blond hair and then bolt out of the door, nails scraping the dirty granite counter as I scoop up my keys. I could easily hop the fence to get to school, but I think by now I'd rather take my time. My ancient rusty pickup truck makes an oddly ominous beeping noise as I unlock it and hop into the driver's seat.

I manage to drive the old thing to a 7-11 near my house without any unwanted honking from impatient drivers irritated with the insane slowness of the fossil I drive. I buy a slurpee with a portion of the miniscule amount of money I made over Summer and make my way over to the front of school where I park in the Junior's lot. As I'm walking over to my first period class, my phone buzzes twice in my pocket. I turn it on and the screen lights up with two messages from Rena.

Rena: babe

In typical Rena style, she texts me in separate bubbles, wasting my data, instead of typing whatever she needed to say in one, like a rationally working human being.

Rena: r u coming to school today?

Me: Yeah, I'm here

She replies back almost instantly.

Rena: i got a surprise, meet me during passing period

With my eyes glued to my phone, I almost trip over the curb, instead awkwardly stumbling over the edge, somehow stepping on my own foot in the process. I hear someone snort shamelessly in front of me and look up to see Kied grinning at me. "Graceful," he says, then gestures at the door that stands between us and to the right. "You face the music first," he says, grimacing. Mrs. Jubilee, our first period teacher, isn't exactly known for being the kindest towards her students. She's like the legendary boss fight at the end of a particularly difficult game. Hella intimidating, and you lose more fights than you win with her.

I suck the rest of my slurpee dry, toss it carelessly into the nearest trash bin, and saunter into the dim classroom. Thankfully, I'm surprised with a fairly young, innocent-looking substitute. She glances at me from the desk in the corner and motions for me to come to her. I glance back at Kied who's gingerly stepping into the room, eyes glued to the projection screen portraying a gruesome scene from the Civil War. He notices the sub and gives me a sly smile, but I roll my eyes and obediently walk over to her desk, putting on my most innocent smile. She eyes me suspiciously as I approach her. "Which one of you is Eridanus Robinson?" she asks, her gaze drifting over the two of us.

"That'd be me," I say, digging a hand into my pocket.

She adjusts her thin glasses and taps a wrinkled piece of paper with one taloned finger. "Mrs. Jubilee warned me to keep an eye on you. Any excuse for your tardy?" she asks, looking back up at me pointedly.

"Hmm," I say, squinting at the ceiling like I'm thinking. "Nope, I got nothing." Kied snorts again and slides an elegantly forged doctor's note across the sub's desk. She smiles at him and then fixes me with an impatient glare.

"Get in your seats and pay attention. There'll be a quiz later," the sub says, gesturing at the screen.

Kied nudges me as we go to sit down next to each other. "Out of ideas already?" he asks in his thick Aussie accent. He and his twin sister, Zoe, moved to Cali when they were only 10. Old enough to have an awesome accent, but young enough to start a life here. I shrug, pulling out my phone to reply to Rena. "Man, we're not even halfway through the school year. You gotta work on your creativity."

Me: Same place?

"Who ya texting?" Kied asks, dumping his bag beside his desk and sliding into his seat.

"Just Rena," I mutter, mimicking his actions.

"What's she have this time?" he asks, resting his chin on his palms and watching the screen.

"I dunno. Guess you're gonna have to come to find out," I say, wiggling my eyebrows at him. He looks at me from the corner of his eye and grins just as my phone buzzes.

Rena: yeet

...

Halfway through an old british man's dry documentation of the actions of the Civil War, the bell rings, shocking a few unfortunate students out of a comfortable slumber. I scoop up my backpack and follow Kied out of the classroom and towards the multigender bathrooms. "Zoe'll be jealous," Kied mutters, dropping back so he's walking next to me.

"You know Rena. She'll have a whole 'nother batch of whatever shit she made this time for her," I reassure him. He shrugs and pushes open the multigender bathroom door. The word 'faggot' is spray-painted across the mirrors in a dull faded red. It's old and covered in layers of dust and dead spiders.

"Hey Re," Kied says, sauntering over to her. A cigarette hangs precariously out of her mouth as she gives him a casual nod. She carefully draws her pale hands out of her Fall Out Boy hoodie pocket and pulls out a plastic container of what looks like brownies.

"Brownies?" I say, unsuccessfully trying to hide my surprise. "Usually you go with something moreā€¦ complicated?"

She smirks at me, peeling the plastic lid off with black chipped nails. "I decided to go with a classic today," she says, dropping her cigarette and squishing it with her shoe.

Kied leans down to take a whiff of the treats and makes a sound I assume is supposed to portray contentedness. "This is exactly what I needed. Thank you."

"No problem, babe," Rena replies. She squints her large dark eyes at me and wrinkles her nose. "Eri, eat my fuckin' brownies."

I shuffle towards her and get a face full of the unmistakable scent of pot. "Nah, I got a test next period," I say, making an I'm-sorry-I-turned-down-your-drugs kind of face.

She pouts, and Kied makes an irritated noise through his mouthful. "You'd fail anyway, dude," he says after swallowing. I shrug and flip Rena's snapback around so the bill is at the back of her head. She cracks a smile from a solid 8 inches below me and then waves me away.

"See you after school?" she asks. I nod, digging my hands back into my pockets and slipping out of the room.

The loud outside world greets me head-on, a sudden change from the quiet of the multigender bathrooms. There aren't really any transgender students who actually use the bathroom anymore. Most of them left the school because of the constant bullying and now their bathrooms are used mostly for blowjobs and drug deals and the sort. I make my way towards my second period class, Algebra II with Mr. Polious, dragging my feet along the way, delaying the inevitable 'F' that I'm about to receive.

Third period photography is always my favorite. The teacher is Ms. Kelly who's a divorced 50 year old woman who seems to be constantly having a midlife crisis. She always works some mention of her six intimidating rottweilers in every lecture, speech, or rant that she gives us. She never throws homework on us or make us do any sort of tests, and somehow she manages to weasel her way out of being fired every year. Our classroom is actually an old science lab, but after a few parents started complaining about the lack of electives, photography suddenly became a new option, replacing another bio class. Kelpie Stone and Enzo Andres, the power couple of the entire school that have somehow remained friends and only friends are in the class, as well as Katie Stone, who is part of an actual power couple, the other half being Matt Cook. Zoe Zola, Kied's twin sister, sometimes makes an appearance, but she isn't gone nearly as much as Julian Montgomery who's gone half the year and only shows up high or drunk.

Ahead of me, I see Katie Stone and her red-headed friend whose name I forget heading towards me. Katie's honey brown eyes flit up to stare at my own teal ones, her eyes squinting in perfect synch with her brilliant smile. I don't realize up until now that I've been holding the door open, hesitating to step inside, and now I'd just look awkward if I shuffled inside after waiting so long, so I casually step to the side and pull the door wider so that it looks like I was planning on holding the door for the two girls the whole time.

"Thanks, Eri," Katie's friend says, reaching up to adjust her grey beanie. I give her a genuine smile and then duck into the incredibly air-conditioned room after them and take my designated seat next to Kelpie Smith who obviously has Enzo Andres perched on the edge of the stool next to her, hands gripping the sides as if he's ready to bolt whenever.

"You going to the party tonight?" Kelpie asks me without looking up from the expensive camera she's tinkering with. She flips her wavy brown hair over one shoulder and then turns and fixes me with her mousey brown eyes.

"Depends on whose party it is," I say, already deciding not to go.

"Matt Cook's," she responds, without missing a beat. I immediately glance at Katie, who's working on editing an aesthetic picture of a paper plane. Her friend peeks over her shoulder and says something, which apparently irritates Katie because her thick brown eyebrows lower and her nose wrinkles in either disgust or frustration or both. I turn back to Kelpie and shrug, my mind already rethinking my decision. "You can lie to yourself all you want, but I'm a future teller and I can tell you're coming."

She gives me a playful wink and Enzo leans back so he can make eye contact with me. "If you don't go willingly, she'll kidnap you," he warns me, a joking smile playing out across his face. Kelpie unsuccessfully tries to stifle a sly smirk, and her eyes brighten in amusement as I eye her in fake-suspicion.

"Fineee," I say, drawing out the word as though it takes extra effort to admit I'll go. Kelpie squeals excitedly and turns back to her camera with half a smile still carving out her tanned cheeks.

A/N: this one's kind of a messy chapter, sorry about that lol
i kinda forgot to update sorry guys :/ promise i'll try to be on time now. also, i'll have to write more cause i think there's one more complete chapter after this and then like half a chapter. spring break is coming up so i'll probably just spend my whole week typing away lol

don't forget to review! let me know you're reading! what do you think of it so far? who do you like more eri or asteria? thanks for reading :)