Hmm. Things are shaping up ok. A little slow, but it's only day three. I need a dead body by the end of the week. There's a phrase that can't really be acceptably said in any other profession.
As a bonus, I'm also posting the first chapter. I already know several things I'd change. I'd dump the Columbine BS. Seems way too out of date, but it might still work with some rejiggering. I originally wanted to do the introduction from a single character's POV, and still prefer that way. Not sure how it ended up being from a group's viewpoint. I'd at least rewrite that to see which one was better, but I feel this way I ended up losing the idea of a audience viewpoint character. They pop up later, but I think going the way I did was an error. Also there's my usual rough first few paragraphs, but I seem to have picked up what few skills I have a bit quicker than normal this time around.
Chapter One - The Arrival
The day that the black-coated stranger strode into their lives changed everything. No one knew it at the time, not even he. The stranger was not the cause of the change, or even the most significant player in events to come, but he was the harbinger of things to come.
All eyes turned towards him as the large metal doors slammed shut behind him. Sunlight shone through the wire-woven panes of glass at his back. Everyone was drawn by the noise, like a jail cell door closing to herald his arrival. They were drawn by that, but when their eyes adjusted to the light, they stayed riveted upon his form.
It had been over ten years since several students on the other side of the continent had committed a terrible act. They were dressed very similar to the stranger, and what they had done had drawn a stigma to such styles, even after all these years.
The hush that had fallen over the small crowd in the hall was soon broken by hushed whispers in awe at someone wearing a black trenchcoat into a high school these days. Even one in Kraftsbury, Vermont, so far from Colorado, and with so many years between those events and this day. Many of the students staring at the person in black, whispering to the person nearest them, were too young to even remember that day so long ago in any significant manner. It had become such a part of the collective subconcious of the nation.
The young man looked around at the sea of shocked faces regarding him. He removed the sunglasses he wore, staring back at them with his deep, grey eyes. Several of the girls cringed as his cold stare passed over them, and he was barely able to contain a smirk.
Whispers had worked their way through the crowd, and the news spread through the school like wildfire. The school was small, barely 300 students, and word travelled fast.
The crowd parted, and an older woman stepped through the students, like Moses crossing the Red Sea. Her black hair was long and straight, draped over her head and shoulders like the hood of a cloak. She was dressed simply in grey slacks and a dark blue blouse. She was young, but clearly too old to be a student, unless she had been kept back a number of years, but just looking at her would dispel that idea. She carried herself with authority and intelligence, something lacking in much of the crowd around her and the new arrival.
She came to a stop in front of the black-clad young man. His hard face softened at her presence. A small hand extended and offered him greeting. She was at least a half a foot shorter than the stranger, but acted unintimidated by him.
"You must be Darien Montrose," she said with a smile. Her voice was soft and welcoming, not showing a hint of fear. She treated the young man like any other student. "My name is Miss Ferris, I'm the guidance counselor here at Kraftsbury High. We were expecting...?"
A cough interrupted her question, and a ball of fiery red hair appeared from behind Darien. Grey eyes that matched Darien's looked out from behind long lashes on the young woman's face.
The other girl made a smile that brightened the hallway even more than the sunlight through the doors behind her. "You were expecting two of us?"
Miss Ferris made a visible jump of surprise when the other girl appeared. "Oh! I didn't see you back there. You're Alyson?"
The girl nodded and stepped to the side of Darien. She was even shorter than the guidance counselor, only a few inches taller than five feet.
"You'll have to excuse my big brother here, he does like to make an entrance. It's any wonder I'm ever noticed at all." She gave Darien a punch in the arm, and for the briefest moment his hard face broke and softened, and if one were to ignore the way he was dressed, he would have looked like any other student.
Miss Ferris looked confused for a moment, "Older brother? I was told you were twins?"
Alyson brushed the confusion away with a wave of her hand. "Oh, you know the deal. He beat me out by a whole ten seconds. And never lets me forget about it. You know how older siblings can be."
The counselor shook her head, disturbing her perfect straight hair. It fell back into place almost immediately, though. "Actually, I don't. I'm an only child."
"You got off easy, trust me," said Darien with a grin.
Whereas Darien was covered in black almost from head to toe, save for a plain dark red t-shirt that peaked out through the unbuttoned coat, his sister could not look any more different.
Alyson's clothes were a flurry of colours. It looked like a box of crayons had exploded in her closet, or maybe she was colourblind and grabbed whatever looked comfortable that day. She wore a knee-length purple skirt that practically glowed it was so bright, a large orange sweater that was at least a size or two too large for her small frame and looked like it was about ready to devour her. Her legs were covered by thick brown tights that fed into heavy black boots. The only part of her ensemble that matched was her purple bag slung over one shoulder. Alyson's look was either the height of fashion, or the depths of closet schizophrenia. It was a wonder that she wore that and still went unnoticed in the presence of her brother.
The guidance counselor looked back and forth from one new student to the other, and gave a nod. "Well, we should get the two of you settled in, give you your class assignments, and some lockers, before the day gets any later. It would be a shame to miss any classes on your first day as juniors."
If it was at all possible, Alyson found some way to smile even brighter. "I can't wait to get to class. Let the learning commence!"
Darien stared down at his sister with a blend of confusion and disgust. "Weirdo," was all he needed to say.
Miss Ferris smiled at the siblings and gestured for them to follow her. "My office is right this way. We'll get you settled in, and hurry you off to class."
Most of the crowd around them had grown uninterested with the trio as they chatted, and returned to whatever they were doing while waiting for the school day to start. The thrill of the new arrivals had quickly worn off for many of them once Darien had spoken, once he had smiled, once he seemed to be less dangerous than they first thought. Now he was just another person trying to get a rise out of them.
Their attention was drawn when Miss Ferris addressed the few still staring and standing around. "All right everyone, show's over. I know some of you have early classes you should be at. Learning is more important."
A voice from the other end of the hall called out to disagree with Ferris' statement, causes everyone to laugh, including the counselor. She turned and led the twins a few doors down the hall, and disappeared into her office.
While many of the students resumed their daily rituals as Miss Ferris had suggested, one of them watched as the new students entered the door, and kept watching as she leaned against the light blue lockers that lined the walls.
"Damn, he is hot," she said, to no one in particular. She hugged her books closer to her chest as she stared at the guidance office door.
Standing next to her was another student wearing a varsity jacket, in the school's trademark maroon with white sleeves. He closed his locker and looked at the distracted blonde girl next to him.
"You've got a boyfriend, Rach," he scolded her, and leaned back against the lockers as well, mimicking the girl's posture.
She didn't even turn, just brushed at the air like there was a fly buzzing around. "Pff, I'm sure he won't mind. I'm just admiring the new merchandise."
The guy knocked his head back against his locker with a sigh, but smiled nonetheless. "For the record, I do mind. But I trust you."
He leaned over and kissed the top of the girl's blonde hair, which finally got her to break her staring contest with the door. "Ack, Brendan! Hair!! We've had this discussion! I worked all morning to get it just right!"
"And promptly had it messed up by the wind when you stepped outside, you know."
"Don't you dare say such awful things!"
Brendan smiled, "Don't ever change, Rachel. I've got to go meet with the coach before my first class. Don't get too attached to your new toy, ok?"
"I'm just window shopping!"
"Yeah, and you have the tendency to buy the whole window, babe." As he walked off he called back in a sing-song voice as a reminder, "You have a boyfriend!"
Rachel blew some hair out of her face and scoffed as she resumed looking at the door, "Whatever."
She didn't stand there long, as the door opened back up almost as soon as she turned back to it.
"...And that's about all I can tell you. You've got about ten minutes until classes start, so if you'd like a look around, I can give you the nickel tour."
Rachel rushed over, her heels making a hurried clicking on the tiled floor. She wore a black, pleated skirt that was not as long as Alyson's, with matching black tights. An olive green sweater vest over a white cotton blouse completed her ensemble. She had a number of rings on her fingers, and an expensive looking watch around her right wrist. Flashes of dangling gold from her ears snuck out from beneath her blonde hair that reached down to her bid back in a mixture of waves and curls.
"If you're too busy to show them around Miss Ferris, I've got an open period first, so if I'm late it doesn't matter."
Miss Ferris was clearly shaken by the offer. This was not the Rachel she knew, volunteering to help anyone if it didn't serve her own purposes. She suspected why Rachel might be doing this, and her eyes darted to Darien for just a moment.
"I guess that would be all right. I do have some things I could take care of, and you could probably answer some questions better than I can. Just don't let Alyson be late to her first class."
With that, she turned and left the three students behind to attend to her own work.
"So, why don't I have to worry about you being late...Darien, was it?"
"Darien it was," he said. "I've got a free period to start as well. Miss Wilcox?"
Rachel grinned, "That's the same study hall as me, cool! So, I heard you two are twins? You look so much older than your sister, Darien."
"Clean living," was Alyson's response. "But fratneral twins often look different, being seperate eggs from the start, instead of a single egg that formed monozygotic twins."
The blonde girl stared blankly at the redhead. "Um, ok? Whatever. Anyways, I'm Rachel Matthews, and this is Kraftsbury High, located in the ass end of nowhere. The floor below us is for the junior high students, so you won't be going down there unless you're in the band, or a photography geek."
Alyson scrunched up her face. "I have photography fourth period."
"Oh, that's too bad," Rachel sighed. "Anyways, I'm on the cheerleading squad..."
The crimson haired young girl smirked, "I never would have guessed...ow!" Darien's hand connected in a playful, brotherly fwap to the back of Alyson's head.
"Be nice," he admonished.
She rubbed the spot where she had been hit and stuck her tongue out at her brother.
Rachel continued onward after a brief pause as if the exchange between the siblings had not happened. "Since you're juniors, your lockers are probably on this floor, seniors are on the floor above. Everyone else has to deal with these small lockers in the classrooms. I am so glad I got out of that this year."
She led the twins down the hall to their lockers, talking all the while. "All the classrooms are pretty clearly numbered, starting with the floor number. It's hard to get lost as long as you've got the room number. Home ec, shop, chorus, and other extracuricular stuff is all over in the other building across the parking lot, attached to the elementary school, gym, and cafeteria."
"This really is a small school, isn't it?" asked Darien.
Rachel nodded and came to a stop next to their lockers, and waited for them to figure out the combinations. Darien got his open first and slid a black backpack that had remained hidden amidst all the other black he wore. He opened it up and took out a paper bag that looked like any other sack lunch, and a bottle of fruit punch soda.
Alyson did much the same with her locker, but also put a few notebooks in with her lunch. Students continued to mill about the halls, slowly making their way to their first classes.
Once they were done, Darien turned and looked at a picture on the wall opposite their lockers. "What's this?"
The picture was of a trio of students, all looking quite happy at the time it was taken.
"Oh." For the first time since they had met her, Rachel seemed at a loss for words. "Those were some students that went here years ago."
She gestured to each one, from left to right, as she recalled their names, without having to read the plaque beneath the photo. "Peter Saint, Scott King, and Adam Earshaw." The first one was tall, taller than the others, and from the look of things, taller than Darien. The other two seemed to be of about average height. Peter had to duck down to get his head into the photo.
"They were seniors back in 1995, and after a pretty bad snowstorm, the three of them were involved in a car accident, pretty bad from what I hear. But the truck they hit was carrying some dangerous chemicals, and if they hadn't stopped it, they figure it would have gone off the road a little ways up, and killed a lot more people. So they kinda ended up being heroes, especially here. There's a scholarship in Scott's name and everything."
Darien nodded, his hands in his pockets as he listened solemnly. "I remember hearing about that in history classes. It could've been pretty bad. Didn't realise it was this school, or those guys."
"Yeah, some say the school is cursed because of it, since every few years, someone dies here."
Alyson could barely contain the scorn in her voice. "Well, that's a silly thought. Statistically speaking, someone's likely to die."
A few students had gathered around, listening to the story, and were shooting daggers from their glances at Alyson. "Sorry! Not to diminish their loss, but it's true, and not a curse. Um, I'll shut up now."
Under her breath she muttered, "Great, first day of school, and already I make myself a pariah. Not even to my first class yet."
Almost as if on cue, the school bells buzzed, and the students who were milling about almost zombielike up to that point, picked up speed and scampered off to class. Alyson looked at the folded up piece of paper clutched in her hand.
"You said chorus is over in the other building?"
Rachel made the politest of smiles to Alyson, but her attention still remained focused on the redhead's sibling. "Yeah, just head out the door you guys came in, cross the parking lot, then turn right. Walk between the two buildings, and the chorus room is all the way down at the far end, last door."
The new student looked at the door she and her brother had come in through, then looked in the opposite direction, at a matching door almost equally distant from where she stood. Putting her bag back over her shoulder, Alyson went for the other door from the one she had first entered the school from, and exited that way, following many of the students on their own way to classes.
The two remaining people watched as she left, and Rachel gave a shrug. "Or yeah, that way works too, probably shorter too. Your sister learns quick."
When she turned back to Darien, he had changed. His demeanor was different, and anyone could see it, even those who had just met him like Rachel had. His jaw had firmed up, and if it was possible for his grey eyes to seem even colder, they found a way.
His voice even sounded different, as if the emotion in it had departed with his sister, the brightness she wore being the only thing that lightened his dark moods.
"Yes," the voice was almost hollow, and echoed through the emptying hall. "She was always the smarter twin. We should go."
Something about the changed Darien frightened Rachel. She found herself wishing for a coat, as the area around him seemed to grow cold. She didn't even consider asking for his jacket, and would not have accepted it if he had offered. His presence had become off-putting.
She remained silent for only a moment, and if Darien noticed the change in attitude she was showing, it didn't register on his face. Nothing did.
"Um, yeah. We should. Ms. Wilcox is cool though, I'm late all the time. It's just a study period, so she doesn't care too much."
Darien gave a curt nod, and followed Rachel up the stairs to the next floor. They entered the first door on their right, and walked into a brightly lit room.
The wall opposite the doorway was covered by a trio of large windows, each one as wide across as two or three people standing shoulder to shoulder. They were covered in layer after layer of paint, many of which were flaking off, showing the age of the school more clearly than anything else. To their left were a number of lockers set into the wall, all small and cubelike, stacked atop each other four high. Another column stood next to the first, then an empty space for coats to be hung, and then another set of two columns of lockers, and again and again. The lockers were painted in garish shades of yellow, orange, and green, clashing with anything that came near.
Opposite the windows, and next to the duo as they walked through the threshold, were four computers that looked hopelessly out of date, and already were being used by a couple of students.
In between all of that were the expected desks attached to chairs, each chair's colour not unlike the locker doors in their odd shades of blue and red. The desks were thin slabs of who knew what, each one a pale white, not unlike dead skin. As is the norm, some had already been drawn on and marked up by students in the first week of classes that had already passed, if not in the years before.
At the far end of the room stood a woman in front of a long white board which already had some writings upon it in black marker. Darien could tell from a quick glance at them that what wasn't obvious homework assignments were sentence structures and breakdowns; he had entered an English classroom, at least when it wasn't a study hall.
A hush fell over the room as everyone turned to see who was late to class, and moreso when they saw who was accompanying Rachel. The teacher at the front of the class saw them, and once her own initial surprise was gone, she brushed strands of hair that was light brown, almost blonde, from her face, and looked at some papers on her desk, buried in clutter so early in the school year.
She put the papers down and called out, hesitantly. "Darien, I presume?" She was nervous in his presence, and everyone could sense it. She could not have been much older than many of her students. At a quick glance, someone might have even mistaken her for one of them. Darien knew better. He only gave a nod to her question.
"Well, I'm Terry Wilcox. I let most of the students call me Terry. Most, except Rachel here."
Rachel turned her nose up with a haughty sniff. "Daddy always taught me to respect my elders."
"I'm not that much older than you, Miss Matthews. I was babysitting you to earn money not that long ago."
Rachel's face turned red and she turned away from as much of the class as she could, as they all started to chortle under the breath. Even Darien's solid face twitched, and a corner of his mouth turned up at the jab.
"Well, Darien, welcome to my class, such as it is. I see I also have you for a creative writing class next period. If you'd like to get a head start on catching up, I can give you the current assignment to look at. You don't have to start it now, but I definitely wouldn't stop you from taking initiative."
"Thank you," was all he said, in a soft, empty voice.
"Pick a desk, settle in, and if you have any questions, I'll be glad to help you, or any of the students."
Darien gave a nod to the teacher, and picked a seat at the front of the classroom that was empty, taking off his coat for the first time since arriving, and draping it over the chair.
His blonde escort took the empty seat next to him, near another young woman who had been staring at him since he had stepped into the class. Darien didn't think she had even blinked once, and her eyes were so wide, they threatened to engulf the rest of her face.
Rachel seemed oblivious to this, and introduced the two. "Darien, this is my bestest friend in the world, Kelly Scott. She's on the cheer squad with me. Kelly, this is Darien Montrose, he's new."
Neither of them said anything, and Darien only turned to give a nod to the brunette sitting behind him. When his eyes met her sparkling blue ones, it was like she had been shocked.
Rachel smacked her friend's shoulder with the back of her hand. "Say something, silly!"
Kelly seemed to regain a measure of composure, and shrugged off whatever was bothering her. She hid her nervousness well, but Darien could still see it. He saw it in the beads of sweat along her brow, and in her quick, shallow breaths.
Even so, the girl forced out a wide smile that would not have been out of place on a mannequin, but on a human it looked very forced. "Hi! I'm Kelly! But you knew that. Um, so you're new here? What brings you to the backwoods of Vermont?"
Darien sat up in his chair and turned, resting an arm over the back of it. "Yes, we're new. My sister and I. We came here to get away from where we lived. Too many bad memories, and we needed a fresh start."
"Oh?" Kelly voiced genuine concern, and whatever bothered her seemed to truly fade away for the time being. "What happened?"
Darien shook his head. His voice was still cold, but he was struggling to put emotion back into it. Whatever had happened to him had affected him deeply, but he knew he had to try and act like a normal person eventually. "Bad things. I don't really like to talk about them, if that's ok."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry."
Rachel was getting bored, and hopped up off the window sill she had perched herself upon while her two friends got aquainted. "I'm going to let you two continue to chit chat, I see a free computer and I'm gonna grab it while I can."
It was as if Darien was forgotten, as Kelly turned to Rachel. "Ooo, is it time to e-mail your secret admirer?"
Rachel's eyes rolled back so far at that, it almost seemed like they were about come back around. "No! I am going to check on a homework assignment, that's all!"
"You never check homework assignments. You rarely do homework!" The pair continued their back and forth all the way over to the computers, with Rachel trying to shake off her friend the entire way.
Terry came over to Darien's desk and set down a handful of pages, some stapled together and some not. He watched the two cheerleaders go about their day, as things returned to normal for them.
He took the pages in his hand, not turning away from where he was watching the two. "Is it like that every day with them?"
"Mmmhmm," said the teacher, her arms crossing as she too looked after Kelly and Rachel. "The thrilling life of a cheerleader."
"You sound like you speak from experience."
"You're right. I dabbled back in the day, although the cheerleading team was quite a bit smaller back then. I lasted a few months, and decided I had better things to do. How did you know?"
"It's a knack I have. My sister may be the brains of the operation, but I'm good at reading people."
"Oh, really?" Ms. Wilcox clearly disbelieved his claim, even if he did guess that she had once been a cheerleader herself.
"Yes." He turned back to focus on the girls at the computers. "For example, I'm pretty sure Kelly doesn't like me."
"I don't like him!" said Kelly, in a whispered tone, hunched over the back of the chair that Rachel had sat in. She made sure her back was to Darien.
"Oh come on, Kell." Rachel typed away at the keys as she dug through her school email account. "He's just got that whole dangerous bad boy act going for him, and it's totally hot."
"I don't think it's an act, Rach." She fidgeted, and just knew that Darien was watching them. I was looking at his aura while we were sitting there..."
Rachel interupted her, turning to look at her friend. "I keep telling you, you can't see auras. There's no such thing. Stop being silly."
"I can see them, I know I can! And when I look at his, all I see is..." She trailed off.
"What? What do you see?" Rachel may not have believed her best friend had any supernatural gifts, but Kelly believed, and Rachel could see her friend was troubled.
Kelly looked back over her shoulder, inadvertently getting her ponytail in Rachel's face. She turned just in time to see Darien turn away and look down at the papers that had been handed to him.
"I see a void, an emptiness. I see black. I see death."