Become a Book Nerd
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When she feels it, it is too late. It is already near, so close it could only be inside the school. Her eyes flicker to the door, to Mr. Tennant writing on the whiteboard, across the mass of students before her. The tingling feeling at the back of her neck already fades, the only clue that the **** thing is near, when a number pops to the forefront of her mind: 1,000. One thousand lives in danger.
With a deep breath to steady to frantic nerves, her right leg starts bouncing up and down. Why is it here, of all places? Her eyes fix on the clock, which reads 7:43. First period starts in fifteen minutes, most students are rushing through the hallways or talking to their friends the last few minutes before school starts. It will be a bloodbath. That is, if it attacks.
Not if, she thinks, when. What other reason would one enter a high school?
If it were smart, which most are, it wouldn’t want a public show. Then again, some like the thrill of a public hunt. But, maybe it wants to stretch out its stay, make some friends who would be willing to donate. This theory makes sense, and the more she thinks about it, the more it seems possible. She’s heard of the more controlled leeches playing human for an easy feast. People can be so stupid sometimes, and they use this to their own advantage.
To keep her hands from shaking, she opens her notebook and focuses on some unimportant formulas; she quickly considers the options before her.
Her phone is tucked in one of her backpack pockets, her locker full to the brim of books but no weapons, nothing but her useless fists, which will defend no one. Mr. Tennant is in the middle of one of his rants about centripetal motion; she can easily raise her hand and ask to go to the bathroom. She can easily slip her phone in her pocket, call Derek up, get a few slayers down here before anyone has to die.
The fingers on her left hand ball into a fist and her back straightens. ********** she mutters, a pulse of anger radiates through the panic. Never underestimate the enemy has always been her dogma. She should have seen this coming, should have at least a pair of daggers in her bag at all times. If anyone gets hurt, she is partly to blame. She is supposed to protect people, yet here she is, as defenseless as the ignorant.
If it attacks, is she strong enough to fight it off? No. Not without any weapons.
“Ava,” a whisper to her right makes her flinch. With a gulp, she meets the large brown eyes of her best friend.
“What?” Ava demands.
“Stop it,” she gestures to the nervous twitch.
Ava’s leg stops shaking, and the unspent energy travels up her thigh and gathers in her stomach. She frowns and mumbles an insincere, “Sorry, Mari.” Her friend’s eyes narrow, but widen as the noise of the pre-first-period hallway traffic enters the room. Ava follows her gaze, the apprehension growing by what she expects will be in the threshold of the classroom.
Boy is she wrong.
She expected it to be breathtakingly beautiful. They all are. But this one defies the concept of beauty, its presence filling the small room with a smothering warmth. Or is that just her face, which she feels is bright red?
She expected it to be graceful, unnaturally so. She expected it to be dangerous. She expected it to be creatively deceptive, playing its human act as if its own blood pulses through its veins and not some poor, possibly days dead innocent. She expected this when she sensed its presence not minutes ago. What she did not expect is the string.
A string, she feels, tied tightly around her heart. No, not the heart, something deeper than mere organs. Something that makes her feel like she doesn’t need the air around her to be able to breathe, something that makes her unable to breathe at all. The world has stopped, it seems. Earth’s rotation has ceased to exist, the clock’s hand does not tick, every living being is frozen in time and space and everything in between.
It is looking at her, if you can call that looking. Its blue eyes stare not at her, but into her, communicating an almost triumphant explanation for the end of her world. She feels warm, stiflingly hot in her own skin, which feels like a coat rather than a part of her body. A dozen alien urges make her mind numb with indecision. She wants…she wants…what is it that she wants? She cannot think. She–
“Ava!” A small, dry, cool hand grabs her own, and it is as though she has been hooked and torn away from a lake’s surface. With an unnoticeable jerk, the world continues its rotation, the second-hand ticks, and air fills her lungs. It feels like her first breath.
Her eyes tear away from its blue ones–not before she notices the small, painfully beautiful upturn of its lips–and she stares down at Mari, her raised eyebrows curious parts of her face. She can feel her own racing heartbeat thudding in her ears, the air feeling heavy around her. Is gravity the same or is it stronger, pulling her deeper toward the center of the Earth?
“Ava?” Her high-pitched voice clears the clouds, and Ava sits down quickly. She didn’t notice she stood up in the first place.
Mari’s hand is still in hers and Ava releases it. She wipes her own sweaty hands on her thighs, her eyes avoiding the gaze she feels on her. Mari pokes her arm and gives her a quizzical look, to which she manages to shrug off.
Her ears pick up its smooth, rather deep voice as he addresses Mr. Tennant in front of the classroom. She notices the shuffling and whisperings of her classmates; the typical excitement of a new kid. Add an extremely hot new kid to the mix, and you got yourself some juicy high school gossip. Only this is not just some insanely attractive teenage boy, Ava reminds herself, this is a monster in sheep’s clothing.
The thought causes a pang of panic to rush through her body. She manages to peek at it again, its back to her, its brown hair slightly long, wavy and covering its neck. Her hand twitches from the urge to run her fingers through it, and she forces herself to look away, back to her notebook full of formulas.
What. Is. Going. On. This does not happen. She has “met” many beautiful leeches, many whose looks could knock the breath out of any breathing human. She is not one to melt at the sight of a chiseled jaw or a muscled back. She knows the beauty is artificial, used only for the hunt, a poisonous snake hidden behind the rose bush. So, why does it have this effect on her? Why does she look at him and wait for the hate to sink in, only for something else altogether wiping it all away. Look at it, she thinks, confusion setting in, not him.
It must be a spell. It must be in contact with a witch who bewitched her. But why her? Ava looks around. All the girls are pink faced, exchanging looks with each other, wide-eyed with hints of smiles on their faces. No one else seems to be in a trance like Ava.
When it turns around, it looks straight at her and only her. She is transfixed by his intense gaze. This time, it smiles widely, showing its straight white teeth and a dimple on its left cheek. Her heart hammers in response, and its eyes flicker to her chest quickly. It smirks quickly, its eyes glazing with desire for a moment. It reaches its assigned place, its seat two rows and two seats in front of her.
What is it doing here? What does it want with her?
Well, the answer to that question is quite obvious, but why specifically her? Does it know about what she is? Did she slay someone it knew? Is this a vengeance hunt, or is it just coincidence? Too many questions, too few answers; its mere presence is distracting. She can barely think. .
“So,” Mr. Tennant says, after sorting through some paperwork. Ava focuses on his voice, his big personality and compassion for physics a welcome distraction. “Yes, yes, new kid. I will give you until 7:46 to get all of your excitement out. I’m talking to you, Rory,” he points to a red-faced kid in the front row, and everyone laughs; Ava can see the “new kid’s” shoulders move up and down from laughter. “Alright, kids, in the meantime, take out last night’s homework.” The class erupts in a wave of noise as her peers ruffle through their bags and books.
Ava flips her notebook to the problems, a rogue sigh slipping from her lips. The leech turns to look at her. She stares at it, unable to tear her gaze from that face. Her eyes widen slightly when it smiles in a friendly way and waves at her. She quickly looks down at her book and shifts in her seat. The knowledge of it hearing every breath she takes, every beat of her heart making her beyond uncomfortable.
“Psst,” Mari demands Ava’s attention. She wags her eyebrows up and down and points at the leech with a smile. Ava only rolls her eyes and shakes her head, trying to hide the frown of concern. Her friends are in this school. Her friends are in danger, and she is under some sort of super powerful spell that makes her want….she doesn’t know. Not kill it, and that is an issue.
“Ava Martinez!” A loud voice near her desk makes her jump. She quickly looks to the source of the voice to find Tennant standing in her row a few feet away from her.
“Yeah?” She asks, feeling its gaze on her, as well as everyone else’s.
“Please put number 28 on the board and explain your work for the class.” Normally, she would be glad to do just that, but today is not a normal day. Tennant can see her hesitation, so he smiles widely. “The valedictorian is shy?” He asks the class, and they smile.
“I’m not the valedictorian,” she says, defensive and embarrassed. Tennant always teases; she shouldn’t be offended like this.
“Mmhm,” Tennant says, raising his overactive eyebrow. “Ava, if you didn’t do the work, you can just tell me.”
Somehow his teasing is humiliating, the leech’s presence making it so. Bothered by this reaction, she stands up, book in hand. “I did it.”
The journey past the seats and desk to the board feels like an eternity, the pressure of its gaze on her back hot like a laser. She forces herself to relax her shoulders, but how can she when the enemy is in the room, a room full of breakable people who can die at any moment?
The dry erase marker in her hand feels like a ten pound weight. She holds it the board and looks at her work, a meaningless list of numbers and letters. When she is finished, she turns to the class, her eyes meeting the leech’s predatory eyes as if drawn by a magnet. Her face burns and she swallows the fear and desire that bubbles up her throat. She wants to scream.
“Excellent,” says Tennant, drawing her attention. “Please tell the class how you arrived at your answer.”
Ava clears her throat and looks at the blue writing on the board. It is her own penmanship, her own work; she remembers the problems from last night, but it looks like an alien language. “Well,” she says, stalling.
“There is a textbook on my desk if you need to see the problem,” Tennant offers, leaning against an empty desk. She nods and flips to the page, her hands almost shaking.
Ah, yes. A simple projectile problem, review from Physics I. She knows this like the back of her hand. Squaring her shoulders, she reminds herself not to look to the left and direct her gaze to the teacher only. The explanation is brief, and she points at specific parts of her work as she speaks. When she is done, she feels nearly breathless, and is thankful when Tennant dismisses her to her seat.
When she sits down, she forces herself to look at it again, to look closely at its hair and body. She allows herself to feel whatever lusts and emotions run through her, all the while her resolve strengthening.
This isn’t real, she thinks. These feelings are artificial, orchestrated. A spell. See past it.
A feeling that could only be described as pain strikes at her heart. It is trying to trick you. It is trying to get through your head and make you weak. It will not work.
Something changes, she believes. Something only noticeable to her. A slight shift in his glimmer, in his makeup. He is trying to weaken her; looking at it like this does not help to quench the spell’s power, but rather strengthen the slayer beneath.
She will end him. She will find the source of this spell, destroy it, and slice his pretty head right off that dangerous body. She has a duty, not only to herself, but to every individual in this room, building, and town whose lives are in peril because of this monster before her.
The bell shakes her out of her reverie, and she hardly hears Tennant’s voice assigning more review work. She continues to stare at the leech, and when he looks at her, this time she doesn’t look away. Rather, she gives him a small smile. A promise.
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