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The jumper rode up her arm and she quickly pulled it down before her scabs were revealed; while students rarely noticed her, suspicious wounds on her wrist would make a stir for anyone.
Evi started at the voice, and pricked her thumb with her needle. Blood beaded from the small knick, and she stared at it with annoyance. She had jinxed herself yesterday.
Beside her, Tanya gave her a guilty look while she chewed gum. “Sorry,” she said with an awkward laugh. She pushed her hair back; her elastic band did little to restrain the thick, waves that seemed to puff from all angles. “You okay?”
Evi nodded and pulled a tissue from her pencil case. She dabbed her thumb. “It’s nothing.”
Tanya accepted the dismissal, distracted, and began flipping through Evi’s finished squares in marvel. “How do you come up with this stuff?” she said “You nearly finished?”
Evi didn’t respond at first, not that Tanya was really looking for one, before slowing shaking her head. Why are you talking to me? She knew Tanya from last year—she had been class captain of her homeroom. She wasn’t exactly popular, but was well known for being an enthusiastic sportswoman; and Tanya was looking at her. She wanted a better answer.
“Not,” Evi elaborated. “Sorry, no this is only sage two; half way.”
Tanya raised an eyebrow and Evi’s cheeks warmed; yes she had stages—detailed stages in her visual diary.
Tanya grinned. “Fantastic. I was scared you were close to finishing—there’s a few girls who are. But I’m nowhere near finishing myself, so you know. Nice to know I’m not dragging behind!” She gestured over to a mannequin that was partially layered with newspaper that had been folded and tubed to create layers and depth: always a good statement art piece, but not exactly original. Evi said it was looking great anyway, which was the truth, at least at superficial glance. She wasn’t exactly sure what the meaning behind it was.
There were only three other girls in the room, and their art-teacher– not Evi’s aunt, who didn’t work Thursdays– but a petite lady with a short black bob, and good humor. The girls Tanya usually hung out with weren’t around. She must be looking for someone to sit with. She was a girl rarely left on her own. “You know, I’ve never seen you wear a jumper before,” Tanya was saying, amused. She wore one too, but it was a size too big for her– a style choice no doubt.
“I don’t get cold often,” Evi admitted. “This morning was a little chilly at my house though.”
“Cool, cool.” Tanya fell into the seat beside her and dropped her visual art diary on the table. “You don’t mind, do you? Paris and Letta aren’t here.” Evi shook her head and the girl beamed. “Thanks. We don’t talk often. We were in the same homeroom last year, right?”
“I remember. You’re a quiet one; that’s okay, I can do the talking for the both of us.”
And she did. Evi listened as she worked, offering the odd nod and comment. She didn’t mind, if anything she liked the noise. At the moment it was exactly what she needed—a distraction. At school it was easy to forget, but last night still hovered in the back of her mind, just a little nibble on the edge of her thoughts. It didn’t help that her arms itched like crazy, a constant reminder. It took all her willpower not to scratch them.
She looked up from her square to see Tanya staring at her. “Sorry,” she said.
Tanya waved it off. “It’s okay, I get it. I get like that sometimes too—lost in my work. But the bells about to ring so you better start cleaning up.” She smiled. It was nice. And she was right.
The clock displayed ten to the bell. Evi thanked the girl for the heads up, and finished the little section she was working on—the coat of a little girl huddled on the pavement—before cleaning up.
Evi sat in maths, watching the board. A list of example exercises, formulas and unanswered questions had been drawn up, and she copied them down robotically. Usually she would be more engrossed in the work. It was like a routine. Write it down, fill it out, and smile when ever the bubbly teacher made a joke at the expensive of one of the louder students.
But that afternoon she found her attention drifting to Tanya every now and then. The sullen girl sat in the corner of the room next to one of her other friends; she was awfully quiet. It was a drastic change from the girl from that morning. Apparently during lunch she had received a phone call from her mother, and the news wasn’t of good nature. Or so the whispers said.
Mr. Gragnor raised his voice over some of his students to gain their attention, before falling silent. There was a knock at the door, and like vultures, every eye snapped to the poor year nine’r shaking in the doorway. She was tall, but lanky, with her straight mousy hair pulled back into a tight pony-tail.
“Is Evelyn in this class?” she asked in a meek voice, and every eye shot to Evi, but not before they was an awkward hesitation as they tried to remember which one was her.
Evi cautiously straightened, her cheeks warming under the attention. She raised a hand but couldn’t a definite word out.
The girl awkwardly shuffled on her feet and took her response to continue. “There’s been an accident in the art department. Mrs Mavson wants you to come down immediately—if Mr Gragnor doesn’t mind.”
Mr Gragnor didn’t. Instead he made a low, amused noise. “That doesn’t sound good, Evi. You better get down there stat.”
Evi nodded and stood, suddenly feeling sick. She really didn’t have a good feeling about this. “Thank you,” she said and, grabbing her gear, went off with the student. Once they were past their classroom and walking down the stairs to the gardens, Evi asked what had happened.
“We don’t know how it happened,” the poor girl said. “We are doing impressionism, which means a lot of painting—”
“I know what Impressionism is,” Evi said gently.
“Oh, right. Well, Macy was just painting when suddenly you’re doll-thingy fell behind her right onto the table. And paint got everywhere and it’s all over your material and Mrs Mavson is really upset because apparently acrylic is really hard to get out of cloth and…” She dropped her babbling with a sigh. “Macy’s crying. She’s really upset, even though it wasn’t her fault—she thinks it was.”
“The figurines are sometimes quite unstable,” Evi agreed, which was a partial lie. The mannequins were known to falling every now then—easily knocked down—but she had made sure to put it out of the road to the side, and propped up against the wall. Someone must have moved it.
She exhaled. They reached the art rooms, and sure enough, a small group of students hovered around a crying Macy, trying to comfort the tiny girl with spiked caramel hair and dark brown eyes. At first, Evi thought the girl was just milking the situation for attention, but when Macy looked up to see her, Evi’s heart dropped. The girl seriously was upset in damaging her artwork. She sometimes forgot how the younger students looked up to the seniors. For all the girl knew, she just damaged her priceless artwork that could be the key into a scholarship or good university. The girl didn’t know she already submitted her portfolio with prior work, mostly around her personal clothes design.
Evi sighed and walked over to the girl. She awkwardly raised her hand to comfort her, before dropping it. She felt just as put on the spot as the girl with every staring at her. “It’s alright,” she said. “I can fix this easily.” Not exactly the truth, but the girl didn’t need to know that. Mrs Mavson didn’t miss the stretching of the truth from behind the students. Evi avoided her eye.
Macy looked up, wide-eyed with hope. “Really? I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I must have knocked it with my chair—I don’t know what happened. But—”
“It’s fine. Really.” Evi pulled out a packet of tissues from her pencil case and handed them to the girl. They had flowers patterned over them. “Here: no one looks good crying. You should go clean up.”
“Thank you. I’m really sorry again,” the girl said, standing.
Macy’s friends wrapped their arms around her shoulders and waist and led her to the bathroom. Evi watched after her, before taking in the mess. As she accessed the damage, Mrs Mavson clapped and ordered everyone to return to their desk and pack up as the class was nearly over. Evi sighed, it wasn’t that bad, but it would be tedious to fix. She’d have to unstitch the squares completely covered in paint, or splattered, and attempt to wash them. If she couldn’t get the colours (yellows and oranges which clashed with her current cool scheme) out, she’d have to redo the squares—at least ten and each takes at least two hours each. Her heart dropped. So much for being on top of it all and a head.
“I’m really sorry, Evi. But accidents happen.”
Evi looked to Mrs Mavson and agreed. “But this is going to take some work. Can you excuse me from my next class?”
“What do you have?”
Mrs Mavson nodded and gestured for my diary. “Done.”
As she wrote out a permission slip so Evi could be excused from the final class of the day, Evi tried her luck even further: “Would you be able to give me the spare keys? Its okay if you can’t, but I really don’t want to take this home if I can avoid to. I can give them to my Aunt tomorrow when we meet up for lunch. I’ll only stay until 5 at latest.”
Mrs Mavson hesitated then disappeared into her office. Evi followed after her. Mrs Mavson handed the key. “I’m entrusting a lot of responsibility on you by giving you this key.”
“I know, thank you.”
Mrs Mavson nodded. Then left her to fix up her work.
By the time it cloaked over to four-forty, Evi had fixed most of the damage. She had to redo a few squares, but was lucky she had enough spares from when she did the first two batches of dying to deal. She began packing and locking up, and by five-fifteen she was on the bus. The world was overcast and Evi lent her head against the cold window. She was actually happy she decided to wear her jumper, it did well to take away the strongest bite of the bus air-con. Now not only did it hide her scabs, but her dyed arms. Washing out the paint had managed to stain her skin. She’d have to scrub it when she got home.
A bell rang as someone hit the ‘stop’ button, and Evi looked up to see her stop coming up. She stood, pulling out her wallet from her bag, and walked down the isle. She swayed as the driver turned a corner, absently grabbing a pole to steady herself. The bus halted, it’s brake screeching, and Evi swiped her wallet containing her GoCard.
“Thank you!” she called and the driver raised a hand in farewell. She stepped off the bus, and began the walk home, but soon came to a halt as her music began faltering. She pulled out her portable device and swore as the battery displayed on the front screen. Time had been manageable for the last few hours with music, and she didn’t look forward to being stuck with her thoughts for the next twenty minutes on the way home.
Frustrated, she pulled out her ear buds and shoved them and her device into her pocket. She faced the streets ahead of her—empty and cold. There was none of the usual few cars driving about, and even the traffic behind her seemed distant. Where were all the people? The kids returning from afternoon practice, or parents after a long day at work—it was so quiet! That bad feeling from earlier returned.
It’s all in my head. Yes. Her insane mind that conjured up voices and paranoia. And dreams that harmed me in real life. Her arms began to ache and her heart quickened. She just wanted to get home, and quick. Even if home was empty, and her mum wasn’t there—home was safe.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself forwards. One step. Two. Just keep walking. Left. Right. Left. Right. There was a squawk and Evi yelped, jumping to the side. A crow swooped and landed on the fence of an apartment block. It stared at her: it’s eyes were black. Her lips quivering, Evi glared at the crow. Just a crow. You have to be kidding me. She started forward and threw out her hands. “Shoo!” It cocked her head. Stupid, cocky pest. Her arms now throbbed and she felt sick. I’m just want to go home.
Great, now the voice was back.
She ignored it and started forward and came to a cross section. She went to turn right when she stopped. Am I going the wrong direction? She had taken this path a hundred times, but at that moment she hesitated. Doubt filled her. Then she heard something that startled her. Whimpering. It was quiet. And almost against her will, she turned around and changed direction. She went down the left road to investigate. For all she knew, it could be a kid sniveling, and she’d much rather she stumbled the poor child then someone else with ill intentions.
The whimpering grew louder and she turned left at the next road to see… not a kid. A man stood in the middle of the alley way and Evi froze. Even though he couldn’t be more than mid forties, he sported long, silver hair to his shoulders which could have been remarkable—even beautiful, if his eyes weren’t red. Blood red, just like the two crows perched either side of him. She blinked, and the crows were gone and the man’s eyes were no longer red. But they were still black and scary, and Evi really should have been getting out of there.
As it was, she couldn’t breathe. Her breath was caught in the back of her throat, and she had to force herself to take a deep breath and wet her lips. Even from her distance, she could see the man shaking uncontrollably. He wasn’t well. Maybe he was wounded with the way he held his stomach. I should be running. Every instinct told her to run. It was just like a horror movie. If you didn’t run— you died. Good people more often than not became dead when they tried to help. When they got involved… but her feet didn’t move.
She spoke, trying not to think too much about the consequences of speaking: “Hello? Are you alright?”
The man flinched and jerked forward.
‘You better run.’
The voice again, and she agreed with it, yet she was transfixed by this person before her. He said something, a low growl.
“I can’t hear you,” she said. “I’m sorry.” But she didn’t move forward.
The man raised his voice, just a fraction. “Hungry.” He eyes settled on her again, and a chill ran down her spine. She released the breath she had been holding, the air trembling
“Oh,” she managed. “Do you need money for food?”
He didn’t respond, and a part of her knew she was barking up the wrong tree. This man didn’t want anything she was willing to give. He stumbled forward a few steps, then a few more. His movements were jerky, and his body seemed at odds with itself. His hair was growing and rising, and his arms seemed to be extending, his arms growing. The closer he came, the more his face seemed to turn into patches of dark leather.
‘Evi, you better start bloody running. Now!’ The voice was louder then any other time, angry even. And he didn’t say bloody—but something far more obscene that shocked her. It really wasn’t her voice in her head, but the shock was what she needed to start moving. She spun around and started to run. She didn’t know where, but she just had this feeling she was going in the right direction. There was an inhuman screech behind her, and a noise escaped her lips. The sound tore through her, causing her hold body to shudder, but she didn’t stop running. Her heavy bag thumped against her back, and her shoes were loud in the quiet, and couldn’t someone hear it? Surely someone would come. Surely.
There was growls and sputters behind her, but she didn’t turn back to look. She just focused forward and ran, even as her legs ached and her heart threatened to lurch out of her chest. She just ran. Left. Right. Left. Right. It helped to focus on her breathing too. In. Out. In. Out. It helped to focus on anything—anything except that she was about to die by something she did not understand in a situation that shouldn’t be happening.
For all she knew, she was back on the bus, asleep, back in the alternative world. But the sky wasn’t red. It didn’t matter. Going by her last few dreams, if she died there, chances were she wouldn’t be waking up anyway!
Oh god. Now she was panicking. Her face screwed up as her eyes stung. She was losing speed. She couldn’t keep this up. Her exhaustion slammed into her like a brick wall as she spun around the road back to the original cross-junction. She didn’t even attempt to go off road. She wasn’t built for jumping fences and she had to assume whatever was behind was bigger, stronger, faster—Oh God. Oh God. There was another screech behind her and Evi sobbed. I’m not going to make it.
Bang! A gunshot echoed through the street and she cried out. Something dark appeared in front of her, but she was going to fast to stop. She made out a figure, but by then she was already crashing into it. There was a grunt and strong arms wrapped around her to steady her. A male voice asked: “You okay?” She froze at the question and stepped back. The young man released her. He had to be around her age with thick black hair swooped to the side and dark eyebrows framing kind eyes. He gave her an equally friendly smile. “You looked hella spooked. Don’t worry, we got ya.”
She jumped and turned around to see another young man. His right arm was extended as he held a glowing short, black automatic shotgun. Easily two years her senior, he looked severely ****** off. He shot a third time and a loud bang echoed through the street. But what stole Evi’s attention was the fact that runes etched into the gun flared with the shot before fading. Magic? She followed the shot to see black blood splatter the road. A roar came from the monster now more creature than man before it galloped away at full speed with an impressive limp. A numbness filled Evi as she watched after it. The man had all but shredded his clothes revealing dark leathery skin, with a large silver mane protruding from his head and down his spine. His arms had grown until they reached his calves that were bowed, and his claws were the size of her forearm. She couldn’t see it’s face any more, but she did notice another set of claws protruding from under his armpits and ribs. Each leap, he soared forward easily a few metres. Guess she was lucky to be alive; had been fully transformed when she was running, it may have been a different story.
“What is it?” she asked. The words escaped for before she caught them. Did she really want to know?
“A Wendigo,” the young man her age eagerly answered beside her. “Demons who possess cannibals—kind of. It’s a little more complicated than that but—”
The leader, she assumed, dropped his aim and turned to his friend. “That’s enough, Matthew.”
Matthew shut up quickly and Evi finally found herself swallowed by gold eyes, and she knew. Just like she knew her own name, and that she had seen something she shouldn’t have. She knew it was Him.