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"Education as a Lifestyle"
Chapter One: Dysfunctional Family
I was sure of it this time. Everything I’ve read, everything I’ve seen, it’s all lead to this. This was my chance to finally redeem myself! The only problem is, well…I don’t know if they’ll be willing to listen this time.
The last ten minutes of class were the longest I’ve had to sit through. I doodled in my notebook, sketching detailed pictures of the cave and my plans on how the spelunking expedition was going to ensue. The last couple of seconds ticked away on the clock, and being how impatient I was, I wrapped up my writings and stuffed them into the cramped backpack resting on against my chair.
The sound reverberated around the hallway, and abrupt chatter that filled the classroom not too long afterwards. I hoisted up the heavy bag and stumbled out of the room. Excitement filled my head, but as much as there was excitement, there was also a feeling of dread welling up inside of me. What if they didn’t give me a chance this time? What if this ends up like every other tip off I’ve gotten, untrue, unreliable? Shit, if I mess this up one more time…Well, they’ll never listen to anything I have to say ever again!
I approached the room at the end of the hallway, rude sentences etched into the door with knives and markers. I grabbed the rusted handle and pushed it open, and a wave of musty air hit me full on. Fumbling for the light switch, I let my book-bag drop to the floor with a loud thud. The lights on the ceiling flickered for a bit and finally gave way to a steady glow. Just as I suspected, the tables were dusty and ridden with cobwebs in the old shop room, even though it had only been a week since we last used it. I sighed and picked up a broom, ruthlessly beating the tables with it until the dust was all on the floor.
“Having fun?” A voice giggled. I spun around to see Robin, my middle school crush. She set down her bag next to one of the circular saws and came over to give me a hug. Robin’s hugs always catch me off guard, and being the klutz I am, I usually stumble and fall over onto the nearest object, this time being the sharpened corner of the ancient wooden table I had just swept. I cringed with agony as my side of my stomach started to bleed.
“Oh, shit!” She cried. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?”
“Yup…Just gotta…” I bent over and stuck my finger up to show her I needed a second. I grasped at the wound and limped over to grab some tissue paper from the counter. After grabbing some tape, I wrapped it around my body a couple times so that the tissue would stay in place over the bloody mess.
“I’m so sorry,” She kept whimpering. “Do you need me to get the nurse? Oh my God, I’m so…”
“It’s fine!” I laughed. “You don’t need to worry so much.” I smiled to reassure her, even though I was way past my limit of pain tolerance at the time. Even then, I still couldn’t be angry with her. After all, it’s my own clumsiness that caused me to fall into the edge in the first place. Just then, I heard a knock at the door, and a familiar round face stuck her head through the window.
“Hey, you two too busy sucking face to let me in?” She asked jokingly. Well if it isn’t Miss Typical Tomboy.
“It’s unlocked.” I replied. She gave me a look, as if I was supposed to hold the door open for her like a servant boy. “What, do you expect me to be your butler?” She smiled reluctantly and said, “You’d make a hella bad butler.” She opened the door and waltzed into the room. Following her was another short, round-faced girl who walked with a hunch into the shop and sat down at the far end of the table.
“What’s up with her?” Robin asked, with an obvious look of concern on her face.
“Oh, her? Yeah, that’s Anna.” The girl chewed her gum as she looked over to her sitting friend. She then turned back to face me. “Jesus, it smells in here.”
“Well yeah. It’s going to smell. This place is probably ridden with asbestos.” I laughed and looked back at her. “Besides, Rell, you should be used to this by now.” Rell scoffed and flipped the hair out of her face.
“Yeah, whatever.” She spit her gum out and stuck it under the shop table. “Where’s Shorty?”
“Simon? Do we really need him to start the meeting?” I asked. “Why can’t I just...You know?”
“Please, last time we had you running things around here – “
“I know, yeah, I screwed things up. I get it.” I folded my arms and looked over to Robin. She didn’t glance back, and I knew I had lost her support. “Look, I’m absolutely sure this time! Everything makes sense, all those stories Jack told me were – “
“Just stories! Jeez, don’t you think that old geezer can make up a good fairy tale every once in a while?”
“Not the way he told these ‘tales’ to me.” I stepped closer to her.
“Face it, kiddo. The coot is out of his mind if he thinks some magic rocks are the cause of some fire back in the nineties!” She countered and stepped towards me.
“Nineteen-o-six…” I corrected.
“Whatever. It’s just a story. Some stupid, made up fairy tale passed down from generation to generation in your weird family.”
“For God sakes, Rell, can you just shut the hell up for once in your life?!” I yelled. We were face to face at this point, our eyes shooting daggers into each other’s, when suddenly our feud was interrupted by a booming voice.
“That’s enough!” The voice bellowed.
I jumped, startled, and looked over to the doorway. A small looming figure stood at the entrance, but his shadow appeared bigger than all of us. The man’s hood cast a shadow over his face, and he began to walk towards us, each step seeming to thunder and reverberate throughout the room. The figure dropped his hoodie and took out his earbuds. Long, dark hair fell down his face, and his thick eyebrows pointed downwards like knives above his black eyes. Simon Williams. Ugh, seeing him acting all intimidating sends chills down my spine. Even though he’s only sixteen and five feet tall, there seems to be some sort of overwhelming and authoritative presence about him, like an angry mother.
He pulled out a chair and sat on it backwards, resting his chin on his folded hands. His deep dark eyes scanned the room until they rested upon Rell and I, still facing each other with aggression. The room was dead silent, only the sound of the buzzing lights was present, and a dreadful feeling of anticipation was welling up inside of my gut.
“Care to explain to me what’s going on?” He asked in a deep voice. I broke into a slight sweat. Simon hadn’t moved an inch. He seemed calm almost, like a counselor talking to their insane patient. “Well, whatever the problem is, it’s ending now, yes?” I held my breath. Rell looked away from his gaze, rubbing her arm uncomfortably. Simon smiled. “Excellent.”
He stood up and grabbed the box of chalk that was resting against the dusty board. After taking out a long piece, he wrote in bold text ‘Specter Society’ and began putting tick marks under the words.
“Alright, spit it out, what do you guys got for today?” He asked with a stern voice.
“Mutant sloths spotted along the coast of Guatemala?” Robin suggested.
“I saw something about werewolves in Michigan!” Rell spouted.
I was about to say something, but I wasn’t even given a chance. Simon’s eyes skipped over me and made contact with Anna, who was still sulking in the back.
“Hey. You got something or are you just going to sit there?” He demanded.
The girl said nothing.
“Humph. Alright then.” Simon scoffed. He walked over. “Listen, honey, if you’re going to be in our little circle of friends, you have to carry your own weight. Seeing how Rel is the only person in here who knows who you are, you need to prove to us that you’re Specter Society material.”
“She doesn’t have to prove anything, Simon.” Rel snorted. “She can be here if she wants.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Rel. I didn’t realize you forgot what we do around here.” Simon paced around the room, speaking with a rhythym to his voice, as if he had told us this many times before.
I felt a gust of wind blow past me and heard a crunchy impact. I looked over and saw Rell lying on the ground in a bloody mess. Robin screamed, and Simon approached the downed girl again. He grabbed her nearly limp body and pulled her up, only to punch her down again. This time, I saw a tooth fly out, the second one she’s lost from this kind of event. I ran up behind him and held him in a Full Nelson. Robin knelt down beside Rell, turning her over to see how badly she was hurt.
“Get the Hell off of me!” Simon screamed. We struggled and wiggled around until he managed to trip me. The back of my head hit hard against the cold stone floor. I was in a daze, as if the world around me had stopped, but when I came too, all I could hear was chaos. I struggled to lift myself off the floor as the pain in skull had made me nauseous. I heard yelling and pounding, the constant stomping of feet against the ground. Everything echoed around the poorly insulated room, and every loud noise just made my headache worse.
As I became more aware of my surroundings, I was finally able to stand up, and make sense of just what was going on. Robin was red faced and was crying while at the same time yelling at Simon. Rell was still on the floor, clutching her bloody nose. It looked deformed, as if the bones were shattered and rearranged. Hell, for all I know, that is what happened. Simon caught wind of my sudden consciousness and turned back to Robin.
“Look, he’s fine!” He shouted. “He’s never been better! Just a new pair of shoes, a shiny little whistle he is!”
“I don’t care! He’s hurt! You hurt him!” Robin continued shouting.
“He’s the one who put me in a headlock!” He retorted. “It’s his fault he’s hurt; he’s an idiot!”
Everyone turned to me. I hadn’t meant to yell, but I’m tired of dealing with my friends when they start fighting. I took a breath and decided to keep going.
“I’m fine.” I gave Robin a look of reassurance. “Everything’s fine, alright? We didn’t make this group just to argue about who hurt who because nobody should be hurting anyone, alright?”
All eyes were on me.
This was my chance.
“So, let me tell you what I’ve found.”
The room erupted with groaning, and everybody sat down, still disgruntled from the situation. Of course.
“Okay, look, you guys obviously aren’t in the mood, so I’ll keep this short.”
“You better.” said Simon. “The last time you said something, you led us on a wild goose chase.”
“Oh for God’s sake, I get it already! I screwed you over like fifteen times, alright? But can’t you just give me one more shot at finding them?” I was getting hot-headed already.
“Yeah, right, that’s what you said last time.” Rell said with a snobbish voice.
“But I know I’m right this time! You guys have got to trust me!” I replied stubbornly. God, what if I am wrong again? Should I just stop while I’m ahead? Maybe try when I’m absolutely sure? No, no, I am absolutely sure. There’s nothing that would make sense besides this place.
“C’mon guys, just give him a shot. He’s bound to be right one day or another.” Robin said with a bit of enthusiasm in her voice, but even I could tell she wasn’t that into what was about to come of this situation.
Simon cackled. “When he’s right, I’ll give you a hundred bucks.” He looked me straight in the eyes for a few moments, as if he was reading my mind. He then stopped, turned around and said, “Alright. Let’s see what he’s got.”
I smiled, vomited, and passed out.
Chapter Two: Spelunky
Having a concussion has never felt better. After a day in the hospital, I’d been released to go back home. There was only one problem; I was forbidden from doing anything physical for a week by my father and by order of the doctor. Even worse, I missed my chance to even tell my friends about the expedition I had planned for them, nor was I able to even go on it if I did tell them.
Oh, but Simon, the clever bastard. He somehow figured out a way to get in contact with me while he was at school, and my dad was at work. The school has a strict ‘No Cell-Phone’ policy that they enforced years ago. Even the sight of one of those things would allow teachers to take them and keep them in their desks until the parents went out of their way to get it back, but I digress.
I was lying down in bed when the phone rang downstairs. I limped down to the bottom of the stairwell and picked it up off the rock hard couch in the living room.
“Hello?” I waited for an answer.
“Seven days.” Said a ghoulish voice.
“What the fu-“
“Nah, man, just screwing with you.” I recognized the indentations from the distorted voice. It was Simon, of course.
“Dude, don’t do that!” I squealed. “You know my heads screwed up right now!”
“Relax man, I’m just checking up on you.” He laughed. “New voice changer app on my phone. Pretty cool, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Anyways, just wanted to say sorry about what happened. I was a little out of sorts that day.”
“It’s fine. I mean, no school for me for a while, so that’s a plus.”
“Yeah, but you’re gonna miss a lot of stuff.”
“I know.” I paused, wondering why he was calling me in the first place. He already knew how I was doing. “Why are you calling me?”
“Oh, just wanted to know where this cave of yours is.” He answered.
“Hold on, what?” I laughed. “You’re actually interested?”
“Well, yeah. I kind of asked you about it before you decided to cut me off with your violent blasting guts.” He paused for a moment. “So, tell me where this place is.”
“Uh…let me check.” I flipped through my notebook, checking over each page carefully, until I found the rough sketch I drew. “Got it. You know that clearing out by Loui’s?”
“Loui’s Diner? Yeah.”
“Okay, so there’s this pathway, right? It’s a little hard to see, but it’s just at the end of the yard.”
“We just keep walking from behind the building. There should be a little opening in the trees.”
“Alright, got it.”
“Got it? You mean you’ll actually go?”
“It’s worth a shot. Besides, why would I ask you about it if I wasn’t going to go?”
“Maybe to check the validity of the story, seeing if it sounds like bullshit, I don’t know.”
“Listen, man, when I ask about it, I’m going to get involved with it in some way or another.”
“Alright, alright. I got you.” I grinned to myself and pumped my fist in the air. Simon was always the wiser one of the group; though sometimes, he may have seemed brutish. He was always willing to listen, even if what the person was saying was utter nonsense. He just acts a lot older than people his age usually act, and that’s what I’ve always respected about him. It’s also probably the only reason he’s our leader, besides that fact that he’s one scary son of a bitch sometimes.
“Anyways, thanks for calling, man.” I continued.
“No problem. Always my pleasure to check up on a downed bro.”
I laughed. “Alright, see you around man.”
“Yup. I’ll see you at six.”
“I’ll see you…at six.” I heard a click, and then a blaring dial tone emitted from the speaker. What did he mean by that? Like, he’s not really going to take me on a little field trip on a Thursday night, is he?
He really did take me on a field trip on Thursday night. At six o’ clock, I heard a car horn a few stories down from my apartment. I looked through the window, and saw Simon’s bright red truck purring in the rain, his black eyes staring back at me. I laughed and shook my head, grabbing my coat and running downstairs through the smoky building. Once I got outside, the familiar salty smell of pouring rain filled my nostrils. I took a big whiff in, and scurried over to the truck, each step I took splashing up into the air around me.
“Alright, my dad’s going to be home at around ten tonight. You think we’ll be back by then?” I asked while opening the thick door.
“Yeah, probably.” He responded. “It all depends on how quickly we can cover ground in there, and how much ground there is to cover.”
“Also depends on whether or not this jackass is right.” Whined a familiar voice. I turned around to see three more people in the back of the truck.
“Rell? Robin? What are you guys doing here?”
` “Don’t forget about me…” said Anna. Looks like she had somehow managed to convince Simon that she should come. Her demeanor was a bit of a mixed bag, looking kind of excited, but at the same time, she looked rather pale, like she was dreading the fact that she was around all these strangers. Definitely a shy type, she kept twiddling her thumbs whenever I looked back.
“So, uh…What brings you here?” I asked a little cautiously. I wasn’t sure if she was the type that would make idle conversation if she was subjected to it.
“I’m here because she’s here.” She gestured towards Rell, and put her head back down. So much for that. The ride in the old pickup wasn’t a very long one, as the town we lived in was relatively small. I felt the rust-bucket coming to a halt, and the purr of the engine stopped with the click of a key. The doors on the truck creaked open as we all stepped out onto the muddy ground. Just as soon as we got out, the doors slammed shut again, and we began walking to the nineteen-fifties style diner across the street.
A little bell rung above my head as I opened the door to the cozy building. A warmth surrounded us, and it smelled like freshly made hamburgers and crispy French fries. A small crowd of elders and parents sat along the booth covered walls, chattering about their children and chuckling about the memories of their childhoods. An old and jolly man stood behind the tiled counter, washing out a cup by hand. He wore an outfit along the lines of an ice-cream man, the basic attire of anybody who owned a place like this. It couldn’t be anymore old fashioned.
“Hey gang!” The face of the man lit up with a warm and welcome expression, dimples forming around his bushy mustache.
“Hey Loui!” I replied. “How’s business going?”
“Oh, steady as usual.” He placed the glass cup down into the marble sink and set his hands down on the counter, leaning over it and looking at us with anticipation. “So, what’s the occasion? Birthday?” He examined us for a few moments and stood up again. “Oh, no, ‘course not. Gang’s not having a birthday ‘til the twenty-fifth…” He stroked his chin, pondering what else we could be there for.
“Oh, relax, Loui. We’re just here for a bite before we head out on a trek.” Simon told him. “Uh, how about a couple of shakes, huh?”
“Of course, of course!” He smiled again, his dark eyes seemingly sparkling with delight. He went into the back room, and we heard the stirring of ancient blenders emitting from behind the walls. Robin and I sat at a booth together, and the rest of the group crammed in with us. We sat and talked, drank our milkshakes, and walked on out back into the chilly rain, but not before we gave our tips and goodbyes to the big guy.
I strolled out, the gang following close behind. The rain was coming to a light sprinkle now, and I could see worms squirming about on the pavement. The first step I took into the grass around the building resulted in a squish of muddy ground around my foot, and sooner than I could react, my left foot was soaking wet. I sighed as my friends laughed at my misfortune; after all, it’s always funny when it happens to someone else.
“So where’s this place at? We better be close.” Rell complained.
“Just across the clearing, he said.” Simon answered.
“Great, I gotta get this shit all over my new jeans?” She droned.
“Rell, I know for a fact you’ve been wearing those jeans for more than a few years now.” I countered, laughing.
“Whatever, let’s just go to the stupid cave.” Rell puffed in reluctance, walking slowly behind us. We sloshed across the wet grass, lifting up the bottoms of our jeans, and proceeded towards the entrance to the forest where the cave resided.
After a couple minutes of wading through the thick muddy ground, we made it to the edge of the trees where the ground was a lot less muddy due to the overhead protection of thick clusters of leaves. I navigated the narrowly made pathway, my friends following close behind, until we came across a few boulders and broken twigs. I looked passed the stones and saw a familiar worn down rocky structure. My heartrate rose.
“Guys! Look!” I pointed towards the cave. “That’s it! That’s it! C’mon!”
I darted towards the grotto, everyone struggling to keep up. Just as I suspected, a large gaping hole served as the entrance to the cavern. I giggled with joy, and stumbled into the mouth of the cave.
“Woah! Careful there, pony-boy!” I heard Simon shout. “Don’t want another accident like Monday, do we?”
“Relax, dude! I know what I’m doing!” I shouted back.
“How do you know what you’re doing?! You’ve never even been here before!” Robin cried.
“Trust me, this isn’t the first time I’ve done spelunking!” I responded, right before I slipped and fell on my arm. Oof.
“Jesus, are you okay?!” Robin screamed, tumbling into the cave.
“I’m fine!” I chuckled. “Think I’m gonna be sore for a while, though.”
Robin gave a sigh of relief and came to give me a hug. She then looked around, and realized just how dark it was around us. She reached into her back pocket.
“Man, we need some light down here!” She said, pulling out her phone.
“Seriously? It’s like you depend on that stupid thing for all your little problems.” I said with a bit of disgust. “What happens when it runs out of the little battery power it has?”
“Then you and I get the play around in the dark.” She replied, with a flirtatious voice. I blushed pretty hard, and she giggled because even in the dark she could tell how red I was. She gave me a little peck on the cheek, and looked up, waiting for the others to show up. Wet sneakers plopped against the cave floor, echoing around the hollow space.
“So what now?” Rell questioned. I noticed a lack of people as soon as she said this.
“Rell, where’s Anna?” I asked back.
“She’s scared of the dark. Told me she was gonna stay at the entrance until we came back out.”
Ouch. That’s kind of pathetic.
“Well…I guess we just kind of explore. Let’s try and stick together, though. We don’t know what ghoulish monstrosities reside in the cave…” I laughed maniacally, but this shortly turned into the usual chuckle. “Alright, seriously though, let’s go.”
Instead of my phone, I took out my trusty wind-up flashlight. I cranked the handle until it had enough energy to run for a few minutes. I descended into the cave, searching for anything that could lead me to them, anything that could lead me to the Shards. I had to find them. I’ve practically dedicated my life to finishing my grandfather’s legacy! I had to make his dream come true. I had to help him discover these things no matter what! Yet…I’m still wondering whether or not it’s just a fairy tale. Yeah, our little group of friends have always delved into the supernatural, but we usually did it for fun, we never really took anything that seriously. God, what if I am wrong again, or even worse, wrong about the fact that some magic rocks even exist?
On the flipside, what else could have caused that fire back then? Arson like that, and not a trace of evidence could be found? There could be some greater significance to this story if I read into it enough…But at the same time, I’m doubtful, conflicted about why I should even care. Surely, it wasn’t something so significant in Grampa’s life that he needed to find them before he died, so why the hell do I even care?
Hours have passed, and absolutely nothing has happened. The only sound I can hear is the occasional pebble dropping or me cussing to myself. I can hear people approaching. Shit.
“Okay, Stephen, where are you?” Rell called. “C’mon, the ass-whooping won’t be as terrible if you show your face right now.”
I ducked into a corner, quietly whimpering to myself. I can’t take this anymore! This had to be it, there was nothing else in the whole God-damned city! Why can’t I just find these stupid rocks?!
“Get your ass out here!” I heard Rell cry out. Muttering ensued from around her. Everyone was there, all getting ready to confront me and prove me wrong one more time. I’ve had it. I began to cry out loud, pounding my fist against the cold stone floor.
“There you are!” Rell sprinted over and picked me up, pinning me against the dank wall. “You wanna explain to me why I had to waste my day in some shitty cave?”
“Rell, drop him.” Simon said in a low voice.
“Hell no! You guys all agree that this asshole deserves a beating!” She screamed.
While she was turned away, I grabbed her shoulders and head-butted her right on the bridge of her bandaged nose. I broke loose from her grasp, and began to run. I had no idea where I was going, but I heard the tremble of footsteps behind me, and the sounds of pissed friends filled my ears. I felt as if the cave was shaking from the stomping and swearing, but it was all in my head. I just wanted to escape. Escape this miserable lie I’ve been pursuing for years. I was blinded by tears, and I didn’t see the loose stone before I stubbed my toe and fell to the ground. My pants tore on a stalagmite, my knee bled profusely, puss pouring from the wound. I heard them approach me, their running coming to a slow stop. I rolled over in pain, sobbing from the physical and emotional trauma I’ve just suffered. This was it, the end of the line…
“What the hell did you think you were doing?!” Screamed Simon. “Answer me!”
I was hyperventilating badly. I couldn’t form a single word without suddenly gasping.
“Do you have any idea what you just did?! Jesus…” I heard Simon’s voice shake, and I realized he was breaking into tears too. He breathed in, and a sudden calmness swept over him.
“Get up. We need to take you and Rell to a doctor.”
“What? What happened to Rell?!” I asked, quivering.
“She’s unconscious, you idiot. I think you broke her nose even more than it already was.”
“Shit…Okay, okay, we need to get going then.”
Robin came over and helped me up onto my legs, but I could barely walk with the massive wound. I heard the dribbling of blood, oozing from my pant-leg and onto the ground. Robin allowed me to lean onto her, supporting me and my bum leg as we traversed the uneven innards of the cave. We sluggishly limped along, following far behind Simon, until we came upon the unconscious Rell, slumped over in a pile of herself.
“C’mon, let’s get her up.” Simon said with haste. Robin sat me down on a large stone until she helped lift the poor sob up onto Simon’s shoulders.
“Alright,” he continued. “You help up Stephen. I’ll carry out Rell.” Simon trudged along the ground, and Robin and I followed closely behind him. We stepped up the steep slope of slippery stones, only for me to lose my balance (Goody goody gumdrops) and fall back down into the cave, taking Robin with me. God, I’m already clumsy enough without the concussion.
The floor shook with a resonating thud. I heard the crackling of pebbles and footsteps barreling towards us.
“Shit, dude! Are you guys okay?!” Simon squealed.
“For once…I’m not.” I wheezed.
“Okay, hold still. I gotta find a place to put Rell.” Simon started towards the cave wall, in order to rest the unconscious body against it. After gently placing Rell down, he came back towards us with a look of concern on his usually stern face.
“Is Robin awake?” He asked sincerely.
“I think so.” I shook her. “Robin…Robin are you okay?”
“Robin, c’mon, you gotta-“ The cave vibrated violently. The walls were splitting, spiked rocks falling from the ceiling.
“Shit! Earthquake!” Simon got me up on my feet, and placed Robin in my arms. My leg screamed with pain, but I didn’t care. We had to get out of here!
I ran as fast as I could with my split leg, and Robin in my arms. Simon caught up, carrying Rell over his shoulders. We sprinted up the still moist slope and nearly got to the clearing before…
The next second felt like an eternity. I looked around; everything seemed to move in slow motion. I looked back and saw the ground had come out from beneath us, and we were about to fall over twenty feet down into a dark, bottomless looking pit. I wanted to scream, but nothing came out. The only thing that happened was that time seemed to speed up again, and we fell into the abyss. My stomach gave out, I felt like I was going to puke. However, the sensation didn’t last very long until we hit the bottom…
I woke up seemingly hours later. My body was numb, but I could tell I was badly injured. I had to get up, but my body wouldn’t let me. I crawled forward through the dusty air. It was pitch black where I was, not a thing could be seen, not even my own hands were visible to me, but suddenly, I heard something. Oh my God, it’s voices! I’m saved!
But…the voices sounded panicked, and sooner than later, I recognized them. Simon and Robin! Oh thank God, they’re okay! I crawled forward, trying to get closer to the sounds. It sounded like they were trying to call my name. I had to let them know I was okay, or at least let them know that I was there.
“Simon! Robin! Heeeeeelp!”
“Stephen, is that you?!” I heard Robin call.
“Of course it’s him! C’mon, help me lift these stones!” Simon yelled out.
I heard shifting to my left, and a beam of artificial light hit me.
“Told you this phone was useful for something!” Robin scolded. I couldn’t be happier to hear her say that. Stone after stone was lifted off of the wall until they finally broke through the barrier to help me up.
“Come on, I called the police. They’re looking for us as we speak.” said Simon.
Simon and Robin helped me up when I suddenly realized something.
“Guys…Where’s Rell?” I asked.
Simon paused. “I…honestly have no idea…”
“What?!” A sudden surge of strength overwhelmed me. I broke free of their grasps, throwing myself onto the floor.
“Gah! What the hell are you doing?!” Simon wailed.
“We have to find her!”
“It’s too late for that, you idiot! That’s the police’s job anyways!”
“I don’t care! I’m looking for my friend, whether you guys help me or not!” I took the flashlight out of Simon’s hands and began walking towards the other direction, when I saw something glinting from under the dust-covered floor.
Simon grabbed my shoulder violently, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was what was lying on the floor ahead of me. Eventually, their gazes met what I had been staring at for the past couple seconds.
It was a Shard.
I was filled with some exuberant glee, running towards the glint until I tripped over on top of it. I slapped the dust away, frantically digging. More glints of light popped up, more and more Shards coming into view. Blue ones, yellow ones, black ones, white ones. Everything was there. I had to get them, I had to get all of them. I picked up the first two gems I saw, one red, one black. I reached around to my pockets and dropped them in, then reached around to grab some more. The only problem was, I couldn’t grab any more. I realized as soon as I attempted to pick up a yellow one that I had something stuck to my hands. Looking down I saw…Well…They hadn’t come off. They were completely fixed on to me. Instinctually, I grabbed the black gem on my left hand and tried pulling it off. That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.
Immediately after tugging on the Shard, my hand lit up with a stabbing pain. I looked to my palms, screaming in agony. Fragments from the gem were tearing open my skin and entering my veins. I saw my blood darken, poisoned from the deposits entering my bloodstream. At the same time, the ruby had begun ripping open my right hand, and filling me with a searing pain much worse than the other. I kicked, I punched, I cried out for help, but I realized that everyone else was getting attacked by the other stones. I tried getting up to help them, but the pain was way too much. I punched the ground, and an eruption of fire destroyed it, shaking the cave violently until a stalactite fell from the ceiling…and impaled me through the back of the skull.
What happens next? Your questions will be answered soon enough
What will happen when a new friend grows mad with power? Or when a specter from another dimension threatens the existence of all life? Stay tuned for the ride of your life, in the upcoming thriller Specter Society!
(Shameless self-promotion is shameless)