Author’s Note: Sorry about the delay, hope you all enjoy!
Volume 3 – Chapter 2
My first thought when I woke up, alarm beeping softly in the periphery of my consciousness, was that my shoulders and arms had decided to rebel against the rest of my body, ready to detach at any moment. As I regained the presence of mind that came with wakefulness, of course, I realized that they were just sore, but by that point, I would have preferred the former.
The struggle to get myself out of bed was no joke, but somehow, I managed, and went through my normal morning routine in a general haze brought on both by my lack of sleep and the fact that I had just woken up. Before I knew it, I had gotten myself ready for school, and bought myself about thirty minutes before I had to head out of the door and begin the day.
Without thinking about it, I drew back my curtains and glanced at my front yard. Of course, no one was there–Cat and Miller had already let me know that they wouldn’t be able to walk to school that day, as they had work to do with their club and, while it struck me odd that the ultimate frisbee club had any activities to take care of at seven in the morning, I decided not to question it.
Without much else to do, I sat down at my desk, taking a glance at the large, ancient-looking brown book positioned on its center titled “Ghosts and Spectres: An Examination of the Typical Behaviours of the Undead.” Placing the tips of my fingers gently on its edge, I flipped to the one and only bookmarked section, a single page dedicated to “Banshees and Barrow-women,” and began to skim it for information.
In the weeks since our last brush with the undead, after hours of searching through books borrowed from my old history teacher and night after night spent hunched over the pages, that single page was the only piece of definitive information on what my friends and I had seen, and I had scanned over it at least a dozen times. Unfortunately, accurate information on banshees was scarce and, while I now knew that the screaming which brought Cat, Miller, and me to my knees was supposed to be a sign of death, I was still almost entirely in the dark.
But, even though I had next to nothing to go on and no idea how to move forward, I was determined to figure out what it was that had forced its way into the lives of me and my friends. Then, maybe, I could figure out how to stop it from happening in the future.
Hopefully, that day would come soon but, knowing that my breakthrough wasn’t going to come that morning before school, I shoved the oversized textbook into my bag and headed downstairs to eat.
As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I heard a few muted clinks and clangs travelling through the halls and, as the smell of scrambled eggs hit my nose, realized they were coming from the kitchen.
Sure enough, when I turned the corner and made my way through the wide doorway, I was hit with a thin blast of steam, and saw my dad standing in front of the stove, a pot of boiling water in front of him as he flipped a large omelet out of his frying pan and onto a blue plate set on the counter, where two others already sat, ready to be eaten. I walked to his side.
“There’s omelets, if you want some,” he said, pointing behind his shoulder and wiping some sweat off of his brow with his sleeve. Without waiting for my response, he checked to make sure the water to his left was actually boiling, before dropping a few uncracked eggs into the pot–apparently he was on an egg kick, for some reason.
“Thanks,” I said, pulling a small plate from behind the faded door of the cupboard and picking one up. “What kind?”
“Just cheese,” he said, cracking a small egg and proceeding to prepare it, this time over-easy. I knew he liked eggs but, even for him, this was getting a little out of control. “I didn’t feel like making anything fancy.”
I nodded, sprinkling some pepper onto the top of my omelet and cutting it up with the side of my fork. “Where’s mom?”
“Still asleep. She had a long night.”
“Ah.” He didn’t need to say anymore–my mom spends a lot of time grading papers and getting lessons ready, and her sleep schedule often takes a hit, because of it. I took a bite of my eggs, burning the roof of my mouth a little. “These are good.”
“Mmhm,” my dad said as he sat down across from me, sounding as sure of his creation as a master egg chef which, just maybe, he actually qualified as. He pushed some strands of his dark hair, now speckled evenly with spots of gray, to the side, and took a bite. “Wow, you’re right. These are top quality.”
We ate in silence for some time afterwards, my dad finishing off his plate and licking his fingers in half the time it took me to make my way through a single omelet. As I finished it up, he laid a glass of milk in front of me, and I gulped it down.
“Thanks,” I said, placing my dishes in the sink and rinsing them off. I checked the time on the microwave, and walked towards my bag. “I guess I’m going to head out, then.”
“Alright,” he responded. “Have a good day. Are you planning on doing anything tonight?”
“Maybe.” I shrugged as I reached the door. “I’ll call and tell mom if I’m going to get home late.”
“Okay, see you later.”
With that, I walked outside, letting the door swing shut behind me. The sky was almost entirely overcast, with only one or two streaks of pale blue poking out from above the thick, light gray clouds that dominated it. An early morning breeze blew across my yard, rustling the sleeves of my shirt and raising goosebumps on my arms, and I began to walk, trying to recapture some of the warmth the air had robbed from me.
Without anyone else to walk with, I made my way to the school quickly, weaving through the streets if my neighborhood with ease and arriving nearly ten minutes before homeroom was scheduled to start. Walking through the sparsely-populated halls, I entered my classroom to find that, for once, none of my friends were there.
There wasn’t much for me to do, other than read, but, for the time being, I was a little overloaded with that particular pastime. Instead, I just sat down, and waited for the day to begin.
Cat, Miller, and Ayame entered the class at the same time, a few minutes later, and I noticed them almost immediately, probably because I had rested my head in the palm of my hand and trained my eyes on the clock, directly above the door. Crossing the front of the classroom, they took their seats and greeted me.
“Hey,” I said, rearranging myself in my seat to face them. “Where were you guys?”
“Our meeting ran late,” Miller explained, setting his bag down. “Cat and I ran into Ayame on the way up here.”
I nodded, and our group fell silent for a few moments. Then, as expected, Cat broke it, slamming her fist down on the table.
“Oh, I almost forgot! Asher, I have something amazing to tell you.”
“What’s that?” I asked, silently doubting the actual amazingness of whatever story she was about to tell me.
She nodded quickly, and twirled in her seat, pointing her knees at me.
“Okay, you’re not going to believe this, but last night I was sitting in bed, about to go to sleep, when I started thinking about the zombie thing,” she said, nearly running out of breath in the process. I nodded along–thinking about our experience with the undead warriors had become a common occurrence in our group, and I’d pretty much come to expect it. Cat continued. “Then, I remembered the swords, and decided to try to make it appear again. I swear, Asher, my hand started tingling!”
Her story made me pause for a moment–ever since she and I had somehow summoned swords to fight the undead, we’d attempted many times, unsuccessfully, to get them back. If she had gotten close to doing so, then I definitely wanted to hear about it.
“You’re sure it wasn’t just your hand falling asleep?” I asked, which got a little laugh out of Ayame and Miller. Cat shook her head immediately.
“Of course not,” she said, and held up her hand, pointing at the center of her palm. “Right there, it started tingling, and the more I focused on the sword the farther it spread out. Then, just before it reached my fingertips, it stopped.”
“Huh.” It did sound a little odd and, even though she’s known to exaggerate, I couldn’t imagine Cat would make up anything when it came to the swords. Who knows, maybe she had come close to bringing it back? “Well, maybe–”
I tried to tell her that she could try again after class, but never got to, as our teacher began taking roll at that moment, forcing the class into silence. Cat looked at me, expecting me to continue, but I simply shrugged.
“I’ll tell you after class,” I said, and we started the day.
As it turned out, the school day was one of the busiest we’d had in awhile, and I hardly got a chance to look at my friends amidst the tests and notes, let alone talk to them. Before I knew it, the day was already over, the shrill sound of the bell reverberating through the halls, bouncing over our heads.
Although I planned to get back into our earlier conversation, I was never given the chance–as soon as the bell began to ring, Cat and Miller packed their stuff up and stood, stepping out from behind their desks.
“Alright, guys, we’ll see you later,” she said, motioning to Miller to follow her. “We’ve got a super important match coming up, and the captain will kill us if we don’t make it to practice on time.”
And, with a quick wave, the two of them disappeared through the door.
Well, the talk about the swords could wait, I guess.
With Cat and Miller gone, I figured there was pretty much no use in waiting around, and stood to go myself, taking my book out of my bag. Even though I had planned on taking a break from all of the ghost stuff and obscure 19th century novels on the subject, it was easier said than done, as my thoughts continually drifted back to our encounters with them.
Ayame was still sitting down, and I took a step towards her desk, setting the edge of my book on the flat surface.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked, assuming, since Miller and Cat were gone, that she and I would head out together. “You don’t have anything to do here today, right?”
“Yeah, I don’t have any meetings today. Just give me one second,” she said, and began arranging her notes, sticking them into various, color-coded sections of her binder. Once she had finished, she stuck it in her bag, and stood up. “Okay, I’m good.”
Together, we headed out of the classroom, making our way through the halls slowly, mostly to avoid the steady onslaught of students fleeing the premises.
“There sure were a lot of notes today,” Ayame commented as we stood in front of her locker, where she was storing her textbooks. “My hand feels like it’s about to fall off.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what their deal was today,” I responded. “I planned on talking to Cat more about the swords, but they didn’t even give us the chance.”
Ayame paused for a moment, thinking, before bending down to place another textbook at the bottom of her locker. When she spoke, her voice rang slightly like a sheet of metal.
“Do you think she was actually close to doing it?”
“I don’t know,” I said, leaning against the cold metal of the adjacent locker. “I mean, right now we don’t even know if we can actually do it again, or if those swords were just a one time deal. I guess there’s a chance she was getting close, but I can’t really say.”
“Mm,” Ayame mumbled, and slammed her locker shut. “Well, if anyone can do it, it’s you two. I’m sure you’ll figure this all out, eventually, but until then don’t stress out about it too much.”
Although it was quick, almost unnoticeable, I caught her eyes shift to the book in my hands, before returning to my face. Rearranging my grip on the worn leather cover, I turned, and we continued to make our way out of the building.
After a while, I felt a dull tap through the book, travelling quickly up my arm, and glanced over to find Ayame rapping her fingers on the side. She arched her eyebrows.
“Figure anything else out about the ghosts?”
“Nope, not since I found the page on Banshees,” I responded with a shake of my head. “This book is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not very easy to find information on a ghost when the only real description you have is ‘It tried to kill me and my friends.’ If I’m going to have any luck, I think I need to look at some more specific sources.”
“That’s too bad,” she said, looking at her feet. For a few moments, she said nothing, simply following the series of colored tiles that made up the floor with her eyes, before she seemed to collect her thoughts enough to speak again. “So, you still need to research some more?”
“Yeah, I’ve still got a lot to learn and figure out, if I want to get anywhere close to understanding what’s going on with all of these things.”
‘Well,” Ayame said, “I could help you out. I’ve been kind of interested in learning more about all of this stuff, too.”
She looked at me, questioning, as if wondering what I would say next. Of course, my answer was obvious.
“That would be great,” I said. “I didn’t know you were interested in this stuff.”
“Kind of hard not to be, when there’s a chance you’ll be attacked by ghosts at any given moment,” she replied, which made me laugh. I guess it makes sense that someone who has experienced the supernatural firsthand would want to learn more about it.
“Alright, then, when do you want to start?” I asked. Then, remembering the book I held in my hands, I held the cover up for Ayame to see. “I could let you borrow this during the school day, if you want.”
Ayame looked up, as if she were considering the question, before shaking her head.
“Actually, I have a better idea. How about we go to the library and see what we can find there?”
For a second, I thought about it, although it didn’t take much for me to make my decision–it had been some time since I’d last been to a library outside of the one at the school, and it would definitely be helpful in learning more about all of the stuff that’d been happening to us. With that in mind, my answer was obvious.
“Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good idea,” I said. “Maybe we can find more information there. Are they open today?”
‘I think so, yeah,” she responded, glancing upwards. “You’re fine with going today?”
“I don’t have anything else going on,” I shrugged. “And besides, I want to get more information on this as soon as possible.”
She smiled, and rearranged her bag on her shoulder. “Alright, then. Should I meet you at your house tonight?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. It seemed to me that some of the people in the hall were glancing at us, for some reason, but I ignored them. “We can leave at around six. That should give us enough time to find all that we need.”
Ayame nodded, and we didn’t say anything more as we exited the school building, walking slowly through the gates and down the empty sidewalk. After saying goodbye to her and walking on my normal route home, I smiled, hoping that, finally, we would get some answers.