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Persona: Philosophy of Man [IC/PG-16/No Longer Accepting]

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Beneath the Mask

Saturday

Morning

Light Rain

 

        Saturdays in New Orleans were a paradox.  This state of Louisiana's rich French and Spanish history was soaked in blood and mischief, and it carried over into the city of New Orleans today.  The French Quarter was guaranteed to be busy, and if you were a tourist you would assume that this was because New Orleans was a party town.  You would be wrong, however.  New Orleans was a city that valued its tradition above all else, and Saturdays were almost sinless.  Saturdays were reserved for mass, and more than half the population were making their way to their church of choice.  Whether you were Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, or any other denomination, a rather absurd portion of New Orleans' population would be spending their time practicing their religion on Saturdays.  This was an unavoidable fact, no matter how disturbing it may be.  And the numbers of persons practicing religion were growing every year.

 

One popular church, in particular, was "Resurrection of the Lord", now established in the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.  It drew an incredible crowd every Saturday, as people gathered to repent for their sins before they spent their next day sinning again.  

 

Each Saturday, "Resurrection of the Lord" held three services: one in the early morning, one after 10 a.m., and one after one p.m. to accommodate its crowd.  Each service drew more than three-thousand churchgoers, not including church staff and members of church committees.  That was more than nine thousand people attending one church.  And you would think this following would be attributed to the religion, but the people of this church follow their leader above all else; that man was Father Jacob Tiverly.  An older white man from right in the heart of New Orleans had been born into the Catholic faith like his father before him, and also like his father before him, he led "Ressurection of the Lord" every Saturday.

 

Father Tiverly's church and its followers were so popular that they had even seen their fair share of celebrities come and go to "Resurrection of the Lord", including the Pope.  Because of this incredible following, Father Tiverly had to recruit many more priests to assist him.  Even after church services ended, the confession booths would be flooded with those who were seeking forgiveness, creating lines that wrapped around the church pews.  There was something about Father Tiverly that drew these people, and it made for a powerful spectacle.  There were always whispers of just how Father Tiverly managed to get such a following beneath him, but he always accredited his work to the Lord.  "I am only doing the Lord's work.  They should follow Him, not me.  I'm but a shepherd," he would say.

 


 

"Lock up and I'll go start the car," Ms. Brown said to Paul.  She was wearing a neat black and white blouse with a ruffled black skirt and black heels.  She opened a large dark-green umbrella to shield herself and Ann from the morning rain.  Ann was wearing a ruffled red and black polka-dot dress with white stockings and black buckled shoes.  

 

"Don't trip mama," Paul said, closing the door behind him as their alarm beeped.  He had on black slacks, a white oxford collared shirt, and his good church shoes.  He locked the screen door behind them and opened his own smaller, black umbrella.  Ms. Brown's car started and Paul shuffled his way to the passenger's seat.

 

"Mama, can we go to McDonald's for breakfast?" Ann asked from the backseat.

 

"After church, we'll go to the Pancake House and get you some pancakes instead.  How's that?" Ms. Brown asked, backing out of the driveway.

 

Ann cheered and even Paul couldn't help but smile.  But his smile quickly faded.  For the first time in some time, he felt strange about going to church.  He had practiced the Catholic faith all his life, but today, he wondered why he was going at all.  He shook his head silently and tried to push those blasphemous thoughts from his mind.  "Resurrection of the Lord" was a great church, and he had no reason to doubt his faith or the people who led him.

 


 

The church service today had dragged on more than Paul was expecting.  It was like he was back in church for the first time, unsure of what to think or how to feel.  Yet, when Father Tiverly cracked a joke, he perked right back up.  Thankfully, by the time he realized it, the service had ended.

 


 

Afternoon

 

 

After brunch, Ms. Brown dropped Paul back at home while she and Ann decided to do some Saturday shopping.  The rain had stopped and the skies were clear for the day.  "We'll be back around 5 tonight.  I'm gonna get Ann another dress for church and stop at the grocery," she said from the window of her car.

 

"Oh, ma.  Is it cool if I go chill with Kevin tonight?" Paul asked.

 

"He still in Eastover?  And are his parents okay with you coming over?" Ms. Brown replied.

 

Paul nodded.  "Yes, ma'am.  They were cool with it and me and Kevin are probably gonna stay up all night playing this new game he got."

 

"You gonna stay over?" Ms. Brown reaffirmed.

 

Paul nodded again.  "Yeah.  I'll be back first thing in the morning if that's cool."

 

Ms. Brown nodded.  "Alright.  Just make sure you pack a bag and be a good guest.  You know I like the Garcia's.  Don't you embarrass me."

 

Paul smiled.  "Never, ma."

 

"You gonna walk?"

 

"Nah, I'll take my bike.  I'll lock it up in Kevin's backyard."

 

"Alright.  C'mere, gimme a hug," Ms. Brown insisted.  Paul leaned in the window and hugged his mother.

 

"Bye Paulie!" called Ann from the backseat.

 

"Bye sis.  See y'all tomorrow," he replied, stepping away from the vehicle.  It pulled away and Ms. Brown honked twice.  Paul waved to them as they disappeared onto Pressburg Street and turned the corner.

 

Paul stepped back into the house, turned off all the bells and whistles and loosened up.  He snatched off his church clothes quickly and threw them in his hamper.  He had bought new black jean shorts, new shoes, and a hat to match.  Those savings from the summer were going quickly, but he didn't mind.  He slipped into his shorts and then picked up his phone from his bedside table.  He powered it on and sent a message to Kevin right away.

 

"I'm good for tonight.  How you makin out over there?"

 

"Dude I'm swamped.  Even with my bro we got so much to do."

 

"I'm omw.  I'll give you a hand."

 

"Aight, bet."

 

Paul began to pack a bag with a spare shirt, the necessary hygiene equipment, his phone charger, and a few condoms, just in case he got lucky.  It was now 1:15 p.m.  He could get to Kevin's house in fifteen minutes even if he took his time.  He threw on his shirt and hat, tucked his earbuds into his ears, and grabbed his bike from the side of his house.  Then, he locked up, threw his bag on his back and began to pedal.

 


 

Kevin's parents were pretty wealthy.  His mother was a traveling saleswoman and his father was the leading electrical engineer for NASA in Michoud, about twenty minutes from their home.  But this weekend was their anniversary, so both Mr. and Mrs. Garcia took time off to spend with one another for the weekend.  They were on a trip to Chicago and wouldn't be back until Tuesday morning.  This gave plenty of time for Kevin to throw his party and clean up afterward.

 

The Garcias lived in a large house in a gated community.  Kevin was cool with the guard and paid him off to be "sick" today.  The guard was still watching the neighborhood, but truth be told, he wasn't paying much attention to anyone passing through.  He simply waved them all through.  As Paul passed by on his bike, he too was waved through and made his way to Kevin's house.

 

It was a large house, and it impressed Paul every time he saw it.  It was two stories, with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a theater, a sunken living room, a massive dining room that seated fifty, two guest bedrooms, a study, a "man cave", and an incredible backyard with a pool, a barbeque pit, and a six car garage.  

 

Paul knocked on the door and was greeted by Anthony Garcia, Kevin's younger brother.  "What's up lil' man?" Paul asked with a nod.  Anthony opened the door wide and shook Paul's hand.

 

"Hey, Paul.  Kevin's in the kitchen.  We're finishing food prep," Anthony said.  "Drop your bag anywhere.  Did you put your bike up?"

 

Paul nodded.  "Yeah, I stuck it in the garage.  It was open."

 

"Cool.  Wash your hands and help us out."

 


 

"Holy sheet dude, we finished," Kevin laughed, wiping sweat from his brow.  "And with three hours to spare."

 

"Good thing you said ten and not seven," Paul chuckled.  "Mind if I borrow your shower?"

 

Kevin shrugged.  "Yeah, pick one."

 

Paul shook his head and laughed.  "Jesus dude, you've gotta tell your guests to pick a shower.  That's money right there."

 

Kevin and Anthony laughed.  "Yeah, and I'm gonna be rollin' in it when I get this contract from Tulane."

 

Paul stopped and turned around.  "Word!?"

 

Kevin nodded.  "I knew we were getting scouted last semester bro, but I got approached after the championship.  Full ride."

 

Paul threw his disposable gloves away and shook Kevin's hands.  "My man.  Aight I'mma go clean up then ride back to my house.  I might be meeting some friends to bring this way, so I'll be back."

 

"Dude, Ant can drop you off so you're not sweaty all over again," Kevin said.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Yeah, I got you.  Go clean up."

 


 

Evening

 

Paul arrived back at home.  He had left his bike and his bag at Kevin's house.  It was now eight o'clock p.m.  There were just two hours before the party started.  He opened up his phone and started a group message with the Ded. Fiction members.

 

"Anyone heard from Haruka?  Anyone know if she's going or not?"

 

"No, not yet," said Janet.

 

"Nope.  Nada," replied Amanda.

 

"Nah, sorry," Leo added.

 

"Okay, thanks."

 

Paul shoved his phone back into his pocket.  He had added Haruka to the group in the event she changed her mind, but it looked like he would be going to this party solo after all.  

 


 

Kevin sent a mass text to the Video Game club with his address and directions on how to reach his home.  He prioritized them, then he began to send text messages to other outliers from the party.  The text eventually reached every club with the exception of the Art Club and the Drama Club.  Even so, Kevin's party had already been talked about so much that word of mouth got "public invitations" with his address to most of the student body.  The address for the party practically fell into Quinn and Piper's lap.  

 

And when Nathan, Hensley, Jake, and Christina got the invitation, they immediately relayed it to Tyler.

 

The party was about to begin.

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Tyler leaned back against the door of his car and crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for Christina to come out of the house. He wasn’t totally dressed for a party; he had put on a black hoodie, a beanie, and and one of the few unstained pairs of jeans he had.

 

Comfort over style this time. The doctor had bound his ribs up tight with gauze and told him to avoid any strenuous activity, so that he didn’t tear out his stitches or make anything any worse than it already was. He had still made sure to polish his car and detail the interior before heading over, though, because even being stabbed wouldn’t keep him from having a clean car.

 

He pulled out his phone and shot Nathan a text.

 

Tyler - 9:24 PM

Never gave me her number so tell her im here.

 

Christina had been waiting at the door, admittedly nervous.  She had elected to style out a bit since this was her first party in a new city.  She had on skinny jeans that amplified her curves.  She wore a long sleeve red and white low-cut top that covered her shoulders and tied in the back.  Her hair was drawn into a bun atop her head and she wore red and white Nike’s to match her top.  She threw a light red sweater over her shoulders and came bounding down the stairs.  Her nervousness turned into excitement.

 

“Hey,” she said with a grin.  “Ready to go?”

 

Nathan waved from the door.  “Have fun.  I’m going out.  You got your key?”

 

Christina turned around.  “Yeah dude, in my pocket,” she said dangling her keys in one hand.

 

Nathan nodded.  “You guys drive safe,” Nathan joked.  He gave them both a wave and closed the door.

 

Tyler didn’t move for a moment. “So… they weren’t really specific. Am I just taking you to this party, or am I taking you to this party?”

 

Christina tossed the sweater on her shoulders into the alley beside her home.  She hated that sweater.  Then she let down her hair and shook her head.  “I’m cuttin’ loose tonight,” she said now that Nathan wasn’t at the door.  “So if you wanna go, I’m happy to go with you.  Or you can drop me off and dip.  I’ll find a ride home.”

 

Tyler couldn’t lie, the offer was tempting. He wasn’t in a partying mood, so much as he was ready to start hibernating. “Nah, I’ll stay. I don’t trust half the people showing up to that party, and you’re my best friend’s sister. Gotta make sure you at least get home safe.”

 

Christina nodded.  “Okay, then.  Show me a good time ‘bro’,” she joked.  

 

Tyler snorted. “Get in the car then.”

 

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When they arrived, there were already eight other cars parked in the driveway of a large two-story home.  The music being played could be heard from outside, and two more cars were pulling up behind Tyler.  

 

Inside, the smell of marijuana and beef filled the air.  People were dancing in the living room and Kevin was seated high on the back of a sofa with a large blunt in his hands.  The DJ was in the back of the home but he had speakers connected upstairs and downstairs.  Kevin waved Christina and Tyler in, despite not recognizing either of them.

 

“Food’s in the kitchen, help yourself!” he screamed over the DJ.  “Drinks in the kitchen too.  Liquor in the minifridge!”

 

There was a crowd of people in the kitchen standing around a keg and a tall white boy with a tall mug in his hand.

 

“Chug it!”

 

“Chug!  Don’t puss out!”

 

Christina grinned and headed straight for the kitchen, past the stairs, through the living room, stepping past the DJ booth.

 

There was an array of food, mostly Latin.  There were nachos, chilaquiles, enchiladas, a spicy chorizo dip, and much more.  There were cheap beers and expensive beers, then there was Kevin’s personal hard liquor which was kept shelved at the top of the kitchen shelves.  From tequila and scotch to crown and goose, they had it all.

 

“Tyler!” Christina waved to him.  “Do a shot with me!” she said, pointing to the tequila.

 

Tyler was already fighting off the beginnings of a migraine. “Yeah, sure,” he said as enthusiastically as he could muster. This was going to be a looonnggg night.

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Saturday

Morning

Light Rain

Haruka never was one for religion. Youkai, gods, magic, and divine intervention, all belonged in the realm of fantasy and superstition. Haruka wasn't having any of it. Her uncle, on the other hand, he'd always been pretty open to all sorts of things, ever since Haruka met him at least. She wasn't surprised to hear he'd visit this church or that one on a given Saturday. Today was no exception.

 

<Haruka, I'm going now,> her uncle said. He was speaking plain Japanese, but for some reason, the statement irked her this weekend in particular. Maybe because he was taking off for Japan later today, but was still treating the morning like any other morning? He'd be gone for a whole week, and while Haruka welcomed the chance at some solitude, it felt like he should have been attending any last-minute business instead of meandering off to hear somebody preach about a big man in the sky who probably wasn't there in the first place and his son, the carpenter with some parlor tricks.

 

<Alright, try not to do anything stupid.>

 

<By the way... when I get to Japan, would you like me to put you on the phone with anyone?>

 

<Absolutely not,> Haruka scoffed. Those were the last people Haruka wanted to talk to. <Unless a certain somebody keels over and dies, I don't care what everyone else is doing over there.>

 

<Okay, okay, easy there, killer. I'll come back before it's time for me to head for the airport, okay?>

 

<Do what you want.>

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Evening

The time had come. The time for Haruka's uncle to take off for Japan, that is. The rain from this morning had cleared up earlier today - which Haruka was glad about - and her week of solitude was finally about to begin. Her and her uncle exchanged some brief goodbyes, before he got in the car and drove off. Time to get her week of Haruka time started, then. She turned, grabbed the doorknob for the front door, and found... it was locked.

 

I must have locked it out of habit, she thought to herself. Reaching for where she usually kept her house key, Haruka thought to herself, No big deal. It's just a tiny roadbump toward...

 

...eh?

 

That wasn't right. Her keys were supposed to be there. She checked again, in various places on her person. Keys? Where did I put them? Maybe here? No? Ummm... dammit. I'm locked out!

 

And as if that wasn't enough, her phone was ringing. Seemed Paul started a group message with all the Ded. Fiction club members, asking if anyone had heard from Haruka herself if she was going to the party.

 

Divine intervention belongs in the realm of make-believe Haruka says. That sort of stuff only ever happens in anime and manga Haruka says. Shows how much I know.

 

<This is a joke,> she grumbled to herself, typing in a response for the group message. Seemed she was going to that stupid party anyway.

 

I'll go.

 

Can't wait to start regretting this.


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Intermission

Friday, Evening

 

After the club came to the conclusion of everyone was going to Kevin's party, they broke the meeting up and let everyone get back to their respective homes to rest up for the big day tomorrow.

 

When Jason arrived home, he honestly was in a good mood and nothing his parents muttered was going to get him down. To be honest, this was the perfect excuse for him to get out and hang out with friends...er...kids his age and to keep himself away from staying home. Honestly, what was his plans for Saturday before the party? Homework, possibly gaming, and then just going to stay in bed. Not the most productive day.

 

Tomorrow...tomorrow is gonna be a good day. he thought, deciding to turn in for the night.

 

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Saturday, Morning

Light Rain

 

Unfortunately, the party wasn't right away. And to be honest, Jason didn't want it to be right away first thing in the morning. After all, he had an appointment today for a bit of rehab. It was a one week check and work out with his sports injury rehabilitation for his wrist. The last couple of weeks it actually was showing some good signs. But of course, the doctor kept reminding him not to use his wrist over long periods of time. Though it was hard not to, considering this WAS his dominant hand.

 

Jason at this moment of his rehab was in the ends of Phase II (Restore joint motion and muscle flexibility) and the beginnings of Phase III (Restore muscle strength, power, and endurance). If things didn't change at this point, he'd be on the road to a full recovery and just need to visit the doctor once every three months, or something like that, he wasn't sure.

 

All he cared about was the possibility of his wrist being 100% healed.

 

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Carpool - Video Game Edition

Saturday, Evening

 

It wasn't long when Jason got the text via Kevin regarding his address and the directions to get there. Before he was able to send anything back, he got one from Lace.

 

"Yooooo! We r N route! Send me ur gps ping so we kno where u r!"

 

A ride over to the party as well? Jason thought, before chuckling as he sent a GPS ping back to Lace.

 

He slid his phone into his pocket before making sure he had his stuff all together. His in somewhat of good state, his clothes looked good, had his phone in his pocket. Other than that, he just needed to put his wrist brace on his left wrist. After that, he slowly headed downstairs, to which he could hear his foster parents having quite the...ahem..."talk". He moved out the way, away from where the yelling sounded like it was coming from and then ran into Alice.

 

"Jase, where are you going?" she asked.

 

Jason sighed and looked back towards the area where the yelling was happening. "Going out with the members of the Video Game Club. T-They said it was...ya know, team building exercises."

 

Alice crossed her arms, sighing. "Your a terrible liar. But still, be safe out there. Alright?"

 

"I will sis." Jason said, moving past Alice and then heading towards the door where he was finally greeted with the sight of a 2025 skyblue Dodge mini-van. "Min-van...wasn't what I was expecting." he said, making his way towards the van.

 

Brad circled a corner and stopped as he saw Jason in his rear-view mirror. He slid open the passenger door and waited for Jason to enter the vehicle.

 

Jason gave Brad a thumbs up as he got into the van. "Thanks for the lift guys. I honestly wasn't sure if I needed to hoof it there or just get dropped off."

 

Brad remained silent as the door automatically closed behind Jason. For the first time in Lace and Jason's presence, Brad would speak. "Seat belts, please," he said with the most dry, monotone voice.

 

"You can still talk?" Lace squeaked in surprise.

 

Brad turned to her slowly before changing gears. "Seat belts."

 

Jason almost immediately did what the man asked, before deciding to send Lace a quick text. "Is this legit the first time he's talked? o.o"

 

Lace's phone vibrated in her pocket. She quickly took her phone out to reply. "I aint heard him speak since the day he joined! o.O That was 2 years ago! waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

 

Jason blinked a bit, sliding his phone back into his pocket. A guy not talking in a club for almost two years? That's pretty impressive and scary at the same time. Still, he felt Brad start driving the car, as he guessed they'd probably head out to pick up the others.

 

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Standing there, outside the school’s entrance, it was clear to any onlooker that Avery had been waiting for someone. Wearing a t-shirt and skirt, tags freshly cut off them, the girl seemed to have an expression shifting between neutrality and nervousness, as she continually tapped her foot where she stood. Every car that passed by seemed to arrest her attention, as she didn’t actually remember which one she was supposed to be looking for.

 

A suspiciously pristine sky-blue minivan pulled into Greater Orleans’ High’s entrance, where Avery awaited.  The passenger rear door opened to reveal Jason, Brad, and Lace inside. Five empty seats remained, and Avery was about to take one of them.

 

“Hmm.  She doesn’t look convinced.  I’m gonna make sure she has some fun at this party.  Even if I have to enter a special quick-time event and mash the correct buttons to ensure the fun is rammed down her throat.  AVERY GET IN HERE!” Lace screeched excitedly.

 

“Hopefully, it won’t have to come down to that.” Jason chuckled nervously. Special Quick-Time Event? Yeah, that sounded like someone who truly took this Video Game Club seriously.

 

The girl seemed to be surprised as she heard Lace’s voice yell out to her. Her expression becoming more pleasant the girl walked over to the van in question. “Oh, um, hey there guys.” The girl’s surprise came back as she noticed how...spotless...the inside of the van was. Shaking it off, she said, “sorry about having you pick me up here.”

 

“Eh, I’m sure it’s fine.  Off to Reno Carino Babino’s pick-up site!!” Lace cheered.

 

“Erm.  Is that his name?  I’ll need to update his contact information in my phone,” Brad commented.

 

“...no.  Now drive, minion!” Lace demanded

 

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Reno waited silently in front of the cafe he told the others to pick him up at, looking to the sky as he sipped on some hot chocolate. He wasn’t sure if they even remembered to come pick them up. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise him. He was quiet, and everyone was excited. Well, he had other things he could do.

Why was he doing this instead of those things? This party was a bad idea, something he could feel in in his gut. Still, he made a promise, and it wouldn’t be very manly of him to break that. He really didn’t like this though.

 

Brad slowed his van around a corner, carefully monitoring for oncoming traffic and flicking on his turn signal. With a very precise turn, Brad positioned the minivan exactly in front of the cafe. He proceeded to honk his horn exactly one time.  A low octave beep alerted Reno of their presence, the giant taking one final sip of his hot chocolate before tossing the cup into the trash can. He then climbed in, taking a seat in the back.

“Thanks for the ride,” He stated in a neutral tone.

 

“Reno isn’t smiling.  Why isn’t he smiling?  Isn’t he happy to see us?  We’re going to a party!  Time for party hats, streamers, and horns!  HONK THAT BABY, ONE MORE TIME!” Lace insisted of Brad.

Brad slowly turned his head toward her and shook it left and right.  “That’s quite impossible, I’m afraid,” he said.  “I’m given exactly one specially designated honk per use of my mother’s vehicle.”

 

“Eh?  You’re weird,” Lace commented.  She proceeded to lean over into Brad’s lap and honk the horn four more times.  “LET’S GO RENO BURRITO!  IT’S PARTY TIME!” she screeched.

 

Brad frowned.  “Mother will be most displeased.”

 

“Woo hoo,” Reno stated so flatly a flat earth theorist would fall in love with him, after getting in.

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Piper sat at the edge of her bed with her legs crossed. Her eyes rhythmically darted back and forth between the phone on her lap, and the window to her right that gave her a view of the street below.


Waiting for the "we're outside" text was always the worst part of going out...


Sighing, she blew a stray strand of hair out of her face before jumping up and drifting over to her mirror to study her attire for the night.


“Hm,”


This was the first time that she had an excuse to get dressed up since being shipped out, so she decided to go grunge with a black oversized Nirvana T-shirt that she cut down to the top of her stomach to reveal a tiny crop top. Glancing down at her legs, she wondered if fishnets were going a bit overboard... but quickly decided it was a good call after imagining how cute they'd look with boots.


“Com’on, Quinn…” Piper groaned.

 

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“Riku, hurry uuuuuupppp Quinn whined from the passenger seat, “She’s probably waiting now!”
 

“I am going the speed limit Quinn, and besides maybe if you hadn’t taken so long to get ready we wouldn’t be late.” Riku shot back, Quinn only responded with an offended look. “Also where's the next turn, I told you I don’t know this neighborhood, so I’m going to need your help.”


“Oh yeah, uh…” Quinn glanced down at the Google Map, “Um, it looks like we’re going to take a left at that stop sign, and then I think it should be down that cul de sac to the left?”


“Ok- Siobhan you better not light that blunt in the back of my parent’s car,” Riku glared daggers at the girl in his back seat as she slowly returned the blunt to what was now an empty Altoids case.


A few minutes later the four drama club students had pulled up in front of the house they believed to be Piper’s.


beep beep JABRONI, we’re outside Quinn typed before hitting send.


“Damn this girl’s wild rich!” Wren marveled staring out the window. “You never told us you ran with the 1% girl!”


“I wasn’t aware that I did, she never mentioned anything about her home life…” Quinn also stared up at the big house.


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Keep the engine running! I'll be right down... Piper's fingers danced across her screen whilst she darted around her room to gather her things. Sliding black leather backpack over her shoulder, she gave herself one final examination in the mirror before ducking under her bed to grab the large bottle of expensive apple vodka that she had looted from the liquor cabinet in the basement.


"This turn-up is brought to you by, Uncle Tom and Diddy~" She giggled with excitement.  


With her preparations complete, Piper made her way over to her door and flicked the lights off. Clicking the lock, she tested the door to make sure it was secure before tiptoeing to the window.


This was where the fun really started. No better way to start a night out than sneaking out of a second-floor window, right?


She had planned this trick the very moment she’d been dropped off here at her Uncle’s and saw the large tree looming conveniently close to the house. It seemed easy enough on paper. Though as she lifted open her window and took her first step out onto the ledge, she began to wonder if maybe she should have told Quinn and the others to bring a ladder...


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The Drama club was treated to quite the spectacle as Piper’s tiny form leaped onto the tree and began clumsily climbing downwards whilst cradling the monster bottle of booze in her arm as if she were rescuing a child. Ending her not so graceful descent with a tumble that landed her flat on her ass, Piper quickly shot up and sprinted over to the car with a big grin on her face.


“Go Go Go!” Her voice was a hushed whisper as she reached the car and pulled the door open seconds after her home’s kitchen light flickered on.


“Uuuuhhhh…” Wren stared at Piper as she slid into the bad seat, Y’all she just jumped from the window…”


“Do your parents know you’re going out tonight?” Riku looked back at Piper from the front seat.


“Who cares she’s got some good ass vodka! Let’s get to that party Riku!” Quinn smacked Riku on the shoulder and started giggling.


“Hey!” Riku recoiled from the smack but started driving all the same.


“Yea my uncle won’t miss it, and I figured if we’re crashing this kid’s party we should at least bring some booze…” Piper smirked as she sat up in her seat and twisted the bottle’s cap off. Finally catching her breath she glanced around the car and smirked, completely ignoring Riku’s inquiry about her parents.


“I’m sure Quinn already told you guys, but I’m Pipper!”  After bringing the bottle up to her lips for a quick swig, Piper turned to the other members of the club and tilted her head to smile and offer the bottle around.


“Girl I’ll call you whatever you want if you bring sheet like this with you!” Siobhan grabbed the bottle from Piper and took a quick swig.


“Hey! We’re going to get pulled over by the cops, put that thing away!”


“Ugh, fine party pooper.”

 

x393wz.jpg


A few minutes later the group of 5 pulled up to Kevin’s house, where it seemed the party was already in full swing.


“See I told you it’s always good to be fashionably late, the party doesn’t get good until like an hour in at least.”


“Yeah, yeah, yeah alright,” Riku laughed as he and the four passengers left the car.


“Now I can really start having fun,” Siobhan cackled taking the blunt from its place in her purse lighting it. “Now that’s some good sheet!”


“Gimme that!” Riku said wrestling the blunted from the dark-skinned girl’s hands, and impressing most of the group when he took a long rip off the blunt before passing it back to an open-mouthed Siobhan. “Woo! Now that was good… what’s up guys?”


“Riku that was a blunt, like weed…”


“Yeah?”


The three drama club members stared dumbly at their club president, who to their knowledge, had never broken a rule in his life.


“What I’m not allowed to cut loose every once and a while?”


“Yeah, well try not to cut too loose aren’t you supposed to be our DD?” Wren laughed.


“Don’t worry I’ll be fine. Now are we gonna sit out here all night, or are we going to go party?” Riku asked which got the group cheering as they entered the house.

 

x393wz.jpg


Inside Quinn immediately felt himself getting claustrophobic uncharacteristically uncomfortable from all the people around him. Sliding next to Riku he grabbed his hand, which cause Riku to look down surprised.


W-what’s this all about?” Riku said hopeful Quinn couldn’t tell how red he was due to the low light in the room.


“You’re my date, remember?” Quinn replied winking coyly.


“Oh, y-yeah.”

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Saturday

Evening

Humid

 

No Limit

 
The Turn-Up
 
        Kevin was in the living room standing on his sofa when several strangers showed up.  He knew it was inevitable to get party crashers, so he blew it off.  "Aye, yo!  Somebody get these ladies some drinks," he called out excitedly.  "Yo Anthony!  Pretty girl at the door!" he said pointing to Piper as he threw back a half cup of Bourbon.  
 
The house was littered with guests, ranging up to about sixty people total.  Variously scented smokes filled the air and mixed with the smell of food and alcohol.  The stairs were packed, the living room was practically spilling over out onto the lawn, and the kitchen was covered with bodies.  People were busy exchanging laughs and digging into a plentiful kitchen of alcohol and food.  The DJ had left his set-up on auto-play to take a breather, so the music was constantly going.  The house rocked with fun Kevin couldn't have been happier.
 
Anthony looked up from the lips of a black haired female with a blunt in her hands.  She sat backward on his lap with her legs around his waist and blew smoke into the air.  "I got mines," Anthony called back.  "And get yo stupid ass off the sofa!"
 
"funk you!" Kevin replied as he jumped down and stomped over to his brother.  "Let me get that, sweetheart," he requested, taking the large blunt from the black haired girl.
 
"Kev, your mans is funked up.  Can't handle his liquor," said a laughing Paul.  
 
"He in the bathroom?" Kevin asked as he ripped one from the blunt.
 
"Yeah, he's over the toilet now with some girl holdin' his head," Paul said still laughing.
 
"Long as he doesn't puke on my floor, I don't care," Kevin laughed.  "Lemee know if he kills over," Kevin joked.
 
"Yeah, aight," Paul replied, passing back toward the kitchen.  He carefully stepped past a tall guy standing next to a redhead, taking shots.  He grazed the back of the large guys' shoes, citing "my bad", as he eased into the kitchen.
 
Christina took the tequila down from her lips and threw her head back.  She smiled as she slammed down her third shot.  "Now I'm hungry," she giggled.
 
"Don't starve, jabroni," said Hensley behind her.  "The food's good."
 
"Yeah?" Christina said over her shoulder.  "All of it?"
 
Jake grinned, taking a bite of an enchilada.  "I don't really care for Mexican, but this is good sheet."
 
Hensley took a piece of chicken from Jake's lip with the tip of her finger and put it in her mouth, tenderly sucking on her finger for an extended amount of time.  Jake gulped and swallowed his food hard.  "Yeah, it's pretty damn good," she teased.  "At least the catering is good, because the music sucks," Hensley shrugged as she stole Christina's next shot.
 
"Hey!" Christina snapped.
 
"You can't drink and not eat," Hensley said as she wiped her lips.  "And friends don't let friends drink tequila.  Go get food.  Tyler, don't stand there you big lug of rubber.  Go dance with her or something."
 
Christina shrugged and marched over to the kitchen where she slid between an Asian young man who had removed his shirt and was showing his tattoos to a British girl about his age.  She had long sleek black hair, and he was particularly fit as though he had serious physical training.  "Kendo," he told her proudly as he flexed his back muscles to reveal a crescent moon at its center.  "But that's not the only thing I work out," he said proudly.  He began to whisper in the British girl's ear.
 
"Mari, you freak," she laughed as Amaris whispered to her.  She whispered back to him to reply.
 
"Guess you could say it was destiny," he joked.
 
She groaned and shook her head.  "You might've just ruined your night," Destiny shrugged.
 
"Don't be like that," Amaris said as he took a swig from a can of beer.  He was suddenly bumped from behind and his beer splashed onto his chest.  "Watch it!" he called over his shoulder.
 
A passing by Paul excused himself once more.  "My bad bro.  Lemee get by you."
 
"Yeah, yeah,"  Amaris sighed.
 
Paul made his way back to the living room and nearly tripped over someone's big feet.  It was Jason Garrett's.  "Fuckin' sheet," he swore aloud.  "Jason, you bigfoot bastard!  Damn!" he said as he stood up.  He shook Jason's hand and passed by him into the living room.  He was making his way over to Amanda with a plate of finger foods and two drinks.  "Havin' fun?"
 
Amanda was dancing when she turned around to see Paul behind her.  She giggled and backed up a bit into the stairs and stole a seat.  They both plopped down beside one another and she happily accepted the food.  "Dude, I was starving.  How'd you know?"
 
"Girl, please.  I know you better than I know my own brother," Paul laughed, shoving a finger sandwich into his mouth.
 
"You're an animal, jeez," Amanda laughed, then took a similar finger sandwich and downed it in one bite.
 
"Oh, damn, you kinda good at that," Paul joked, slightly turning his head.
 
She flipped him off, laughing and trying to chew her food.  "funk you, Paul," she laughed as she finished her sandwich.  "Now I want something sweet," she said as she took a cup from Paul.
 
"How 'bout me?" Paul replied with a grin.  
 
Amanda giggled again and took a sip from her cup.  "Mm," she said as she took the cup from her lips.  "What's this?"
 
"Strawberry Ciroc Vodka with cranberry," Paul said, taking a sip from his own cup.
 
"That's actually really good," Amanda said taking another sip.  "I'm gonna run to the restroom," she said standing to her feet.  Paul nodded as she disappeared toward the restrooms, past the kitchen.  She lightly brushed into two young men holding hands and recognized one of them immediately.  She said nothing but gave Quinn a quick, approving wave as her gaze landed on Riku.
 
On her way to the restroom, Amanda accidentally bumped into a girl she missed completely.  She was rather bland and plain looking, but this girl was positively beautiful.  "Wow, you're cute," Amanda commented to Avery.  "Oh, uh, sorry!"
 
Haruka had been standing against the wall for most of the party when Paul suddenly came up to her with a glass of water and a small plate of finger sandwiches, fresh from the kitchen.  "You look nervous," he commented.
 
Haruka begrudgingly accepted the food and water.  "Do I, now?" she asked sarcastically.  "Thanks," she mumbled.
 
"I'm sorry if you got pushed into this.  I know you're new to the club and all."
 
Haruka hesitatingly took a bite of one of the sandwiches.  It was savory and salty, but just right.  She swallowed her food and shrugged.  "I was locked out.  Better than sitting out in the dark, I guess."
 
Paul nodded.  "Well, you're with friends here.  When you're ready to go, just say so and I'll ask Janet to bring you home."
 
"Okay.  Thanks," Haruka said nonchalantly.
 
"Paul!" called a voice behind him.  It was Anthony, waving him over. 
 
"Scuse me," Paul said with a shrug.  "Check this dude out," Anthony said with a grin, nodding toward the kitchen.  A tall, well built young man was putting trash away and taking bags to and from the outside garbage can without a fuss.  It was Reno.
 
"Oh yeah, I know that dude," Paul said.  "He's in my physics class."
 
"He psycho or somethin'?  He knows we're gonna clean up later, right?" Anthony asked, laughing.
 
Paul shook his head and jogged over to Reno, placing a hand on his shoulder.  "Yo, dude," Paul said.
 
Reno put the last garbage bag into the outside can and turned around to face Paul.  "Yes?"
 
"You don't have to do that.  We'll do it later.  It's nice and all, but you're a guest," Paul said.
 
"I'm aware," Reno acknowledge.  "But, it needed to be done.  Please excuse me."
 
Paul rubbed his head as Reno brushed past him and went back to the kitchen to wash his hands.  "Weird ass guy," he thought to himself.
 



 
Kevin was drunk about two hours into the party.  He was standing at the top of the staircase with his shirt tied around his waist and nothing but his shorts and socks on.  "I will now attempt an Olympic swan dive," Kevin said drunkenly as he approached the balcony on the second floor of his home.
 
People had gathered outside near the pool and behind Kevin on the balcony, cheering him on.
 
"Ke-vin!  Ke-vin!  Ke-vin!" they cheered.
 
"This is gonna be good," Amanda said from the opposite side of the pool.
 
"This is gonna be stupid if he clips his leg," Paul shrugged.
 
Sure enough, Kevin dove and belly flopped into the pool, landing hard and causing a big splash.  Cheers, oohs, and ahs filled rang out.  Christina and several other guests got soaked by the big splash, quickly sobering up as they were struck with water.
 
Haruka could only laugh at the idiots who had been drenched with water as she watched quietly from inside.  With a small plate of food, she shook her head, thinking, "dumbasses".  
 
"My hair!" Christina cried out.  "Argh!"
 
Hensley laughed as she pulled Christina back, away from the edge of the pool.  "You drunken idiot," she slurred.  "C'mon, let's--let's go clean up and get you dry and warm."  Hensley and Christina began to walk away and leave Tyler by his lonesome in the backyard.
 
Jake waited quietly by the back fence, watching the dripping wet Christina walk away.  Hensley waved him over and Jake froze in place.  "Hmm?"
 
"Come--come help me dry her off," Hensley demanded.
 
"Wha--no, I can't.  You can--you can do it," Jake replied as he threw his plate in a trashcan.
 
Christina took her top off and dropped it to the floor.  "Freezing," she commented.  Jake immediately ran behind them and picked up Christina's clothes.
 
"I changed my mind," Jake said as he followed them up the stairs.
 
Standing stoically in the backyard, Reno watched with an expression of fake interest as he took a swig of water.  He put his cup down and assisted Kevin out of the pool while others stood laughing and staring at Kevin.
 
"Whoo!  Thanks, big dude!" Kevin said, almost sober again.
 
"Think nothing of it," Reno replied.
 
Haruka, from the house, was mentally etching a lewd scene with a soaking wet Kevin and a strapping young Reno together.  She giggled to herself as she took a bite of a piece of cake.  It took her attention away from the couple for a moment because it was surprisingly good.  "Wow," she mumbled to herself.  "They might be idiots, but they can bake at least."  The corner of Haruka's peripheral vision caught a flare of lights and she turned around with a mouthful of sweet yellow cake.  "Cops," she whispered to herself at first.
 


 
She dropped her plate and immediately sprinted to the backyard.  "Cops!" Haruka screamed with a sudden urgency.  She was drowned out by the loud music before she did something completely uncharacteristic.  She stood atop a patio chair and cupped her hands and yelled out to the disorderly crowd.  "Cops!"
 
Paul looked up first.  His face was suddenly drained of color and he grabbed Amanda by the hand.  He took her inside and to the kitchen.  "You need to go.  Take Janet and Leo and Haruka, and go home."
 
"What about you?" Amanda asked in a panic.
 
"I'll be fine.  Just go," Paul urged her.  Amanda did not reply but turned around and headed for the front door.
 
Haruka had become lost in the crowd, and her height was preventing her from getting much further.  "Outta the way, you asshats!" she screamed, trying to get through the crowd.  A giant appeared before her and scooped Haruka up, placing her back on the table where she could see the crowd.  "Put me--!  Grr!  I am not a doll!" she barked at Reno.
 
"My apologies," Reno replied, taking a bow in the middle of the crowd.
 
"What are you--why are you bowing!?  Shouldn't you be leaving!?" Haruka exclaimed.
 
"I must wait for my party before I can depart," Reno explained.
 
Unfortunately, Brad was nowhere to be seen and Lace had vanished among the crowd.  Reno, however, did see a face he recognized.  Avery was standing to the side of the home trying to squeeze past the crowd and escape.  He approached her with caution and made himself visible as not to alarm her.  "Club member.  Are you lost as well?"
 
Avery frowned.  "Yes.  We should leave quickly," she replied.
 
Paul bumped past Reno and Avery and practically tackled Kevin as he got to the pool.  "Bruh, you need to open the side gate and let people out!  Right now!"
 
Kevin shrugged.  "Better hop that fence like my boys!" Kevin joked, still completely wasted.
 
"funk!" Paul exclaimed.  But then, Kevin wasn't wrong either.
 
Paul pushed past the rest of the crowd and went to the back fence.  He saw a handful of people still standing around the backyard.  "Climb the fence!  There's a back way out!" he called to anyone who could hear him.
 
Tyler had frankly had enough of this sheet.  He had wanted to get out to his car, but Christina was upstairs with Hensley and Jake.  He would have to leave her in their hands and explain it to Nathan later.  "It's always somethin' fuckin' stupid," he swore aloud.  He shoved past a few more drunken teens and reached the back fence.
 
Paul hopped over and began ushering people past him.  Most others split off, but Jason, Haruka, Tyler, Reno, Avery, Quinn, and Piper had followed him over.
 
“This way,” Paul whispered to them, ushering them through the back gate.  “Hurry up!”  There was only one police car in front of Kevin’s home, but there were bound to be more if the cops discovered underage drinking.  The main gate was blocked off by two more police cars, meaning driving away would have gotten them nowhere.  
 
Paul had to leave his bike behind, but he could recover it anytime.  Phone in his hands, Paul cut through Kevin’s backyard, climbed over the gate and made his way to the edge of the Eastover community with the others behind him.  There was an empty construction site that Paul led the others through.  Abandoned homes were being torn down and replaced by businesses, but there was no one here today.
 
Haruka begrudgingly climbed the gate, annoyed and outraged.  “I was hoping not to engage in physical activity, thanks.”
 
“A-At least you don’t have a wrist you don’t want to put pressure on!” Jason grumbled towards Haruka, trying his best to climb the gate and hop it, without putting too much pressure on his left wrist...which was a bit hard to do.
 
Haruka blinked.  “You must be that Jason person everyone keeps moaning about.  Circumstances,” she sighed.  She could only think what Jason would’ve looked like if he were bound and gagged by Tyler.  Though, now wasn’t the best time to be visualizing these things.
 
Reno shook his head and began to scale the gate, a task that was easy enough. The complaints everyone had made him roll his eyes. Here they were trying to escape arrest and they were worried about physical activity and wrists. Glad their priorities were straight. 
 
Lagging a bit behind, Avery took a deep breath before trying to hop over the gate. While she had cleared it, she fell flat on her back after she did, letting out a soft, “ow.” Seeing the others begin to take off, the girl said, “w-wait up guys,” taking off to keep up with them.
 
Paul cut through one of the old homes when he heard a jingle of a metal can.  “Hey, man,” said a young, raspy voice.  “Spare some change?”
 
“Oh God.  Homeless people,” Quinn whispered.  
 
It was a homeless teen, wearing nothing but rags.  They couldn’t see his face in the dark.  “Sorry bro, I ain’t got the money or the time to help you.”
 
“We don’t have time for this.  Lead on,” Haruka demanded.
 
Paul took another step forward but was suddenly held at knifepoint as three others stepped out of the darkness.  They were also wearing rags and tattered clothes, their skin covered in dirt and soot.  
 
“You come through my house, you pay up.  It’s that easy,” said a black male.  This shocked Paul and caused him to drop his phone.
 
Haruka stepped back and Quinn shrieked.  “This is bullshit!” Quinn cried out.
 
“Or you can be our next meal,” said a white female.
 
“Easy,” said the boy with the can.  He had stepped forward enough that his scarred chest and dirty brown hair were visible.  He had dark green eyes, and his skin was dry and cracked.  “We just want a little money to get food.  Nobody has to die tonight.”
 
“Are you trying to say you all are cannibals?” Reno asked dryly, forming the longest sentence he had said all night long. Their phrasing was horrendous, to say the least. 
 
The black male with the weapon lowered it and backed away.  “Not tonight, we’re not.”  He slinked into the darkness with the other three and vanished from sight.  
 
“You must’ve been at that party, right?” said the boy with the can.
 
Paul didn’t say anything.  He leaned over and grabbed his phone, noticing the display was brightly lit.  Apparently he had pocket dialed the resort number again.  He shoved his phone back into his pocket, thinking nothing of it.
 
“Then you must be a friend of the Garcia’s.”
 
Paul took a step back, bumping into Quinn on accident.  “Watch it, you big burly--”
 
 “How do you--” Paul began.
 
“We hear everything man.  You see four of us, but there are thousands of us.  You should be more careful,” the boy said ominously.
 
“Whatever man.  We don’t have time to deal with you,” Paul sneered.  “We’ll go around.”
 
The boy with the can nodded.  “Come see me again sometime.”
 
Haruka shook her head.  “No, thank you.”
 
“Yeah. Hell no,” Quinn reiterated. 
 
“Who knows?” Reno said simply. 
 
Jason didn’t say anything but followed the others, just wanting to be out of this situation. “J-Jeez...how can this night possibly get any worse?” he muttered silently to himself.
 
Paul elected to take the long way around the abandoned homes, costing them ten minutes.  Fortunately, they were out of range of the police by now.  “Once we reach this corner, we go right.  We can duck at my house for a few until the heat is gone.  Kevin will let me know.”
 
Paul peered around the corner carefully before he assured everyone behind him that it was clear ahead.  “Okay.  Let’s go.”
 
Paul rounded the corner and immediately had to shield his eyes.  There was a sudden bright light, and he couldn’t see a thing.  
 
“Stop where you are!” called a heavy male voice.  “Police!  Show us your hands!”
 
Tyler swore. “I knew I shouldn’t have come to this dumb funking party!” Reno just nodded in agreement to the punk’s statement.
 
“...I had to ask...” Jason muttered, before cursing under his breath. “Goddamnit...”
 
Paul began to panic.  How did he miss them!?  “Back!  Go back!”
 
They all turned around in a hurry and sprinted back toward the abandoned homes.  He, Tyler, Jason, Reno, Avery, Haruka, Quinn, and Piper all began to feel a pulsing in their heads, as though a headache had come and gone.  Paul led the way but as fast he returned to the abandoned homes, he found himself confused and bewildered.
 


 
“Wha…” Paul stuttered.
 
Quinn stopped just short of running into Paul.  “What the hell?”
 
“Is anyone else seeing this?” Paul said, looking around.  Paul found himself staring at a shoreline, water stretching as far as he could see.  
 
Quinn stepped past Paul and looked into the horizon, the moonlight dancing on the waves of the ocean.  “Did I get a crazy contact high?”
 
Paul looked at Quinn then back to the water.  “If I’m seeing it and you’re seeing it, we can’t both be that high.  Can we?”
 
“Well.  Surely I’m not a heathen like you two,” Haruka said with a gulp.  She too was staring at the deep, dark waters before them.  “But… when did New Orleans turn into a beach?”
 
Paul had turned around, examining his surroundings.  Tyler, Jason, Piper, Avery, and Reno were right behind him.  He wasn’t dreaming.  He was really on a beach.  Or, if his guess was correct, “an island.  What the hell’s going on?”
 
“...does this mean we’re dead?” Jason asked with a hard swallow. That would definitely put a damper on the rest of this school year for him.
 
“We can’t all be dead.  Can we?  If this is heaven, it’s not what I was expecting,” Paul admitted.
 
“It looks too good for Hell, which I’m pretty sure most of us would really go to,” Reno muttered.
 
With a strangely giddy expression across her face, Avery said, “or maybe we were abducted and put in a strange new world!”
 
A violent clap of thunder shook Paul and confirmed that neither he nor the people around him were hallucinating.  They were all experiencing the same thing.  Paul looked to a thick jungle, and beyond it, he could see an array of lights.  “That way!”
 
“What do you mean ‘that way’!?  We’re fugitives!  On an island!  In the middle of the night!  You just want to run into a jungle you don’t know!?” Haruka screeched.
 
“Then you can stay here in the rain,” Paul snapped back.  “I’m gonna go figure out where the hell we are.”
 
As fast as Paul said this, rain began to pour down on them.  He sprinted toward the thick greenery of the jungle and ducked under the trees.
 
The rain was unusually cold and made Paul shiver.  After several minutes, he was approaching a clearing, and the lights he spotted from the shoreline had become much brighter.  He stepped through the brush, over a fallen tree, and into the clearing.  There, before his eyes was a fully functioning hotel.
 
Paul didn’t waste any time.  He dashed to the door and yanked it open.  
 


 
“Welcome!” said a gargly, bubbly voice.  A creature in a red and white vest and black slacks and shoes called to Paul from the front desk.  It had only eyes, and it was completely made of darkness.  It was a darkness that was so deep and disturbing that looking at the creature for too long made Paul uneasy.  He wanted to step back outside to be sure once more that he wasn’t dreaming, but as his hand touched the cold metal of the hotel handle doors, he was sure it was real.
 
Paul swallowed hard but turned to face the shadow, who still patiently waited for him at the front desk.
 
Paul elected not to approach the front desk but instead waited in the lobby.  Slowly, everyone else entered behind him.
 
“You all must be exhausted.  We had been expecting you!” said the shadow from the front desk.
 
Haruka had to make an active effort not to gag at the sight of the shadow, and Quinn had to hold himself up against a wall.
 
“H-Holy sheet...” Jason stared at the shadow, obviously saying what everyone else was thinking.
 
“C-Can you tell us where we are?” Paul asked, loudly.
 
“Or better yet,  what in the hell is going on?” Tyler demanded.
 
“Or why it’s going on,” Reno added.
 
“Sir, could you please approach the front desk?  We could speak more privately.  I assure you, I mean you no harm,” the shadow said calmly.
 
Paul approached cautiously, ready to double back if this thing tried to harm him.  “Y-yeah.  Can you explain to us where we are?  And how we got here?” Paul inquired.
 
The shadow nodded.  “Of course, sir.  My name is Georaldo, and I’ll be your guide.  Your arrival here has been anticipated since you scheduled your vacation, of course.”
 
Paul blinked.  “Vacation?”
 
Georaldo nodded.  “Of course.  You called us a few days ago, and we booked your rooms throughout the hotel.  Mind you, there was limited space.  We haven’t gotten visitors in ten years!” Georaldo said with a chuckle.
 
“Ten yea--wait, wait.  I don’t understand.  You just booked rooms for us?  As in, not me, but everyone?” Paul asked.
 
“Well, of course, you would be sharing a room, but there’s plenty of space, I assure you,” Georaldo clarified.
 
“I still don’t get it.  How did you just assume we would show up here?  How did we get here?  And what exactly is this place?”
 
“Well, this is Origin Island of course!  Home to the Legendary Orpheus Storm!  And of course when we got your call today, we knew you must have been ready to check in,” Georaldo explained.
 
“Origin Island?  Is that like, part of the Virgin Islands or--”
 
“Get to the point!” demanded a panting Haruka.  “There is no reasonable explanation that we would arrive on an island from New Orleans in under a minute!  How.  Did.  We.  Get.  Here!?”
 
“Well, when our guests call, we simply dial them in.  You arrived at an access point and made your way to the hotel, did you not?” Georaldo asked.
 
“Y--what?  No.  I did not call you.  Maybe this blundering idiot called you by mistake, but I did not.  And I want to leave.  How do I get home from here?” Haruka asked.
 
“You simply have to make your way back to the access point and dial out.  But, I would advise against going out in the storm.  It attracts all kinds of nasty, dangerous creatures, you see.  And Lord Orpheus would be devastated if you left without seeing him first.”  Georaldo’s ‘smile’ could be heard in his voice.  This creature was surely insane.
 
“So we just have to go back where we came from and...what?  Call the same number again?” Paul asked, ignoring Haruka’s remarks.
 
“That is correct.  Again, however, I strongly advise against--”
 
“We’ll be going now,” Paul interrupted.  “Sorry, and thanks but no thanks.”
 
Paul didn’t bother asking everyone to follow him.  He opened the door to the hotel and Georaldo called behind them.  “Safe travels!  We’ll be open for ten more days!  We hope to see you again!”
 
Paul ignored the shadow and stepped back into the freezing rain.  He began sprinting toward the jungle and climbed back over the tree he crossed to get to the hotel.  He pulled his phone from his pocket, but he had no signal.  He had to get clear of the trees.
 
He followed the crushed foliage on the ground; it was clear that this was where everyone walked.  This path led him to the edge of the forest and allowed a look at the beach.  As Paul drew nearer to the shore, he felt the rain stop above him; yet, he could see it falling in front of him.
 
Paul stopped and looked up into the trees where a much larger, more dense shadow stared down at him and caused him to stumble back onto the ground.  
 
Haruka ducked beneath trees and stepped past Paul.  “What’s your problem?  Let’s go,” she demanded.
 
But as the words left her lips, Haruka was silenced.  What could only be described as a twelve-foot tall gorilla shaped shadow crashed down in front of them.  It raised its large hands and beat its chest, blocking the path ahead.
 
Paul began to scramble backward, trying desperately to get to his feet.  “What the funk!?” he heard himself yell.
 
Quinn pulled Paul up and everyone began to run back to the hotel.  The shadow chased them down, crushing trees with ease and shaking the ground with its every footstep.  As the clearing came closer, they would feel more rumbling on the ground.
 
This time, it was very close by and not behind them.  The gorilla shadow leaped forward and landed in front of its prey, nearly crushing Tyler and Jason.  But as it prepared to smash them beneath its fists, it was tackled by a larger, more dangerous shadow which took on the shape and appearance of a rhino.
 


 
“Holy sheet,” Tyler breathed.
 
“W-What the hell ARE these things?!” Jason asked as he tried to catch his breath. They looked almost like some sort of colossi from a game he watched.
 
The gorilla shadow burst into darkness and dissipated into nothing, while the rhino turned and bared its massive head at the humans.  It was just as tall as the previous shadow, but it looked much more intimidating.  And as it bared down on them threatening their lives, Paul began to feel his chest burn.
 
He stared up at the rhino-shadow, and then back down to his chest.  There it was: the crystal orb.  The burning in his chest was extreme, to the point, it caused Paul great pain.  He screamed in agony, and this enraged the shadow.  It reared back on its hind legs and threatened to crush everyone beneath it at once.
 
Paul desperately scratched his chest until he had a tight grip on the orb and pulled it from his body.  He bled profusely, but the relief from having removed the crystal orb was enough to keep him awake.
 
There was a bright flare of light when Paul removed the orb, and it temporarily blinded and stunned the shadow.  It stumbled backward onto its rear and shook the ground.  Paul panted, staring down into the orb.
 
“You made it angry with your stupid crying!” Haruka screamed, panicking as the rhino snorted and got to its feet.  
 
Paul, however, couldn’t get a grip on reality.  As he stared down into the orb, his dreams came flooding back to him all at once.  The rhino roared at them all, but Paul somehow drowned it out.  Paul stared down at the orb and began to squeeze it with his right hand.  A crack formed immediately, and Paul could feel the fire inside of the orb teasing his fingertips.
 
He squeezed until the orb shattered in his hand, and the fire began to spread.  It instantly cauterized his wound and covered him in brilliant blue flames.
 
Paul gasped at the cold flames, now reliving his dream once more.  This was the fire he had been seeking.  He had finally acquired it.
 
In that same instance, Paul felt a little piece of him, deep within his very soul, become cold.  And then a voice called out to him.  Something, someone, was trying to get free. 
 

Awakening

 
 “I see you’ve awakened to your power,” boomed a deep voice.  “You have recognized the threat before you and seen the dangers that lie ahead.  Keeper of Oaths, there are many dangers ahead that only you can lay to rest.  Let us put the world at ease, and form a contract.  I am thou…”
 
And it wasn’t until Paul breathed the words that he could finally be free.
 
“Thou art I.  Persona.”
 
The flames were doused and steam filled the jungle.  The shadow was blinded once more, rampaging recklessly around the jungle.  As the steam cleared, a dark-skinned man wielding a hammer floated above Paul.  The man’s eyes were ghostly white, and a lightning-shaped scar was atop his forehead.
 
Paul stared up at the dark-skinned man, and the man returned Paul’s glare.  “So,” he began.
 
Paul remained silently flabbergasted.
 
“Are you going to kill that thing?  Or will you let it kill you?” the man asked.
 
Paul raised his hands, confused.  The rhino had stopped rampaging and was staring at Paul.
 
“Ready or not, here it comes,” the dark man said.
 
Paul raised his hands to shield himself from the charging shadow, hearing its footsteps suddenly stop.  Paul lowered his arms to see the dark-skinned man holding the shadow at bay with a single hand.  He whipped his hammer around thrice and struck the shadow rapidly.  It burst into three smaller shadows, each of them gorillas.  
 
“I am Shango, god of storms.  I am the piece of your soul.  I am the fire which rages within you.  Your soul, which would give itself away, is part of a greater collection of souls which protects your world.”
 
Shango held up his hammer and brought it down with a violent clap against the ground.  “Makougaon,” he whispered.  Three enormous pillars of light erupted beneath the gorillas and erased them from the night.
 
“And you, Paul,” Shango said, raising his hammer again.  “Are destined to complete this story.  With their help, perhaps you will save the lost.”
 
Paul said nothing, still completely clueless as to why Shango had appeared.  Yet, every word Shango spoke coincided with Igor’s.  “Henceforth, wherever you may go, so shall I go also.  I am forever a part of you, Paul.  I am your strength.  You must learn to trust and use me.”
 
Shango vanished in a burst of bright light, and Paul nearly collapsed against a tree.  He slumped down against it and breathed slow, deep breaths.  It was still raining out, but Paul could no longer feel the effects of the weather.
 
“What the hell was that?” Haruka began.  “There’s a logical explanation for everything, so far.  Everything!  So I demand to know who this Shango person is and how he just killed--”
 
“I don’t know!  I don’t know, okay?” Paul said quickly.  “I’m just as confused as you are.”  
 
Tyler closed the distance between them until he was standing literal inches from Paul. “Bullshit. You know somethin’ the rest of us obviously fuckin’ don’t, so talk!”
 
Paul scratched his head furiously, trying to get a grip.  He sighed, standing up again.  “Let’s get out of the rain first.”
 
“Y-Yeah… out of the rain… and the place where there are things trying to kill us!!” Jason added, shaking his head. “At this point… I’d rather take my chances with the police...”
 
They pushed back to the hotel and into the lobby, where Paul snatched off his shoes and socks and plopped down on an empty sofa.
 
“Disclaimer,” he started.  “I don’t know why this started happening.  I just know it happened.  And it all began with my dreams.  The crystal ball I broke, I saw it before.  Then, a few days ago, it appeared in my room.”
 
Paul explained to the others the dreams he had.  The Velvet Room.  Igor.  The fire consuming him.  He relayed Igor’s words about how Paul was meant to “stop the coming ruin” with the help of his friends.  He also cautiously suggested that the people with him now were meant to be the ones he counted on.
 
Tyler slammed his fist into the wall. “God damn it!” he yelled, and then rested his head against the wall, breathing heavily.
 
“Oh, I am not doing this.  Not with you, not with them.  I don’t know you!  I only met you at this stupid party because you ‘knew a back way out’.  I didn’t want to get caught up with police again,” Quinn exclaimed.  
 
“You think I want to be here right now?  I almost got stabbed by a homeless guy and then arrested.  But yeah, sure, this is my fault,” Paul said, rolling his eyes.
 
“Unbelievable,” Haruka said, shaking her head.  “So the magic man who appeared in the pretty blue room and threw you in jail.  What did he say about us being friends?”
 
“He said we were supposed to save the world, or whatever,” Paul shrugged.
 
“Save the--save the world?  Okay, there had better be cameras somewhere, because this is the worst prank ever.”  Haruka threw up her hands in disgust.
 
Jason looked over at Haruka. “W-Well, you could always think of it less as a prank...and more of just a level from a video g-...yeah that analogy is going nowhere.” he sighed. “I got nothing...”
 
“... I’m okay with this,” Reno muttered.
 
“If I may,” Georaldo spoke from the front desk.  
 
Paul looked at the shadow, then sighed and threw his face into his hands.
 
“There may be someone who can help you,” Georaldo said.
 
Paul lifted his hands from his face.  “Who?  Tell me.  Tell me right now,” Paul ordered, getting to his feet.
 
Georaldo held up his hands.  “The island has a guardian.  Someone who ensures the safe passage of travelers.  He--”
 
“Where the hell was he tonight then!?” Quinn yelled.
 
“Apologies.  He’s been sleeping for ten years.  As I said before, we don’t get guests often,” Georaldo continued.  “I believe your presence may have awoken him.  As an Anomaly Shadow, I can sense a lot of changes among the islands.  And I’m certain that he is awake.”
 
“Wait.  Islands?  As in more than one?” Paul asked.
 
Georaldo nodded.  “There are seven to be precise.  But, they are only reachable for a certain period of time.  In just ten days, this island will sink, for example.”
 
Paul’s eyes opened wide.  “Sink!?  Then we need to get off the island and stay off!  How long is that storm gonna last!?” Paul barked.
 
“Until sunrise, I’m afraid.  You would do best to rest here until then,” Georaldo said.
 
“What are these islands?” Tyler asked, holding his busted up hand close to his chest.
 
“Well, the islands themselves are a bit of a mystery.  But, from what master told me, they are held together by a very powerful, very sinister connection.  And each island has a storm over it that can be quelled ‘by the guardian’s howl’.  If the storm is quelled, the island is purified, and the master must answer to those who quelled it.  However, I’ve only met one master.  And that is Lord Orpheus.  Hence, the Orpheus Storm.  Of course, he may explain better than I,” Georaldo answered.
 
Tyler slumped back against the wall. “Great… more fairytale bullshit…”
 
Paul leaned in toward Georaldo.  “How many hours until dawn?” Paul asked.
 
Georaldo checked the large analog clock behind him, on the wall.  “Ten.”
 
“Ten!?” Paul exclaimed.
 
“Again, you may as well rest here.  You’re more likely to run into shadows again if you go out during the storm.”
 
Paul shook his head and sighed.  “If we’re stuck here, I might as well get some Zs.  Where’s our room?”
 
Georaldo pointed down a dark, black corridor with no lighting.  “If you make your way to the end of the hall there, on your right, you’ll find a large room with two purple doors and accented gold handles.  You’ll be safe there.”
 
Paul sighed.  “You uh, got a torch or something we can carry so we can see?”
 
Georaldo chuckled and flipped a switch beneath his desk.  Lights snapped on in the once dark corridor, lighting the way to the room.  “Thanks,” Paul said.
 



 
“Do you actually expect me to sleep here?” Haruka said, following Paul.  “Please tell me you’re not serious.”
 
“What choice do we have, Haruka?  You wanna go out there and get killed, or you wanna stay in this shitty hotel and live one more night?” Paul asked, not raising his head.
 
“I’ll take staying in a shitty hotel for 200...” Jason said, trying to lighten the mood.
 
Haruka rolled her eyes.  “At least someone can keep a sense of humor.”
 
In the corridor as Paul passed, there were eight portraits hanging on the eastern wall.  One of them was his, drawn in black and white.  In the background, Shango stood above Paul.  It was like a snapshot of their meeting in the forest.  Paul stopped and examined it, shaking his head.  “There’s no way.”
 
There were seven more portraits, and beneath each portrait was a name framed in gold, written in black.  Every portrait beside Paul’s was empty.
 
The second portrait was Jason’s.  Then, Haruka.  Avery came fourth.  Tyler was fifth.  In sixth was Piper.  The seventh portrait was Quinn’s.  The eight and last portrait belong to Reno.
 
“This… is highly disturbing,” Haruka said.
 
“Tell me about it,” Quinn added.
 
“Really startin’ to feel like I’m in a horror movie…” Tyler grumbled.
 
Jason nodded. “I’m not feelin’ this myself...”
 
Avery curiously poked her own portrait, not saying anything on the matter.
 
Reno stared at the portrait, a neutral expression on his face. He had been unusually calm this whole time, and here it was no different.  
 
Paul stepped back from his portrait and noticed the detail on Shango’s face and his own expression.  “How is this possible?”  Paul shook his head for the millionth time.  “Never mind.  I’ve seen enough sheet I can’t explain.”
 
Paul stepped away from the picture at last and pressed on to the room that was prepared for them.  He slowly pushed open the doors, hoping nothing was going to jump out and take his life.
 
To his extreme surprise, this room was decorated from head to toe, stock full of amenities, and it was extraordinarily spacious.  There was no way it should have fit in the hotel at all, because the room was at least two thousand square feet.  
 
There were eight king sized beds, eight separate bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, a nursing station with its own Anomaly Nurse Shadow.  It was decorated with bright red curtains and plush gold carpet.  It smelled of lavender and it was warm.  
 
“I… Well, besides almost dying, this isn’t so bad,” Paul thought to himself.  “Though, I’m starving all of a sudden.”
 
“Yeah, well don’t eat the food.  If the shadows almost killed you, who knows if the food is toxic or not,” Haruka said quickly.
 
“I just survived getting my ass handed to me by a twelve-foot rhino who was blacker than I am.  I’ll take my chances,” Paul said, making his way to the kitchen.
 
He started small and picked up an apple from a bundle of fruit.  He bit into it, crossing his fingers.  It was sweet and juicy, and every bite felt real.  Paul tossed an apple to Jason whether he was ready for it or not.
 
Jason saw the apple heading in his direction, immediately fumbling to catch the apple. Nevertheless, he made sure to hold onto it after Paul threw it. “Bit of a warning next time, Paul...” he chuckled nervously.
 
Paul took another bite before looking over to the beds.  He sprang over to the first bed in sight and flopped down on it.  The bed was fit to his exact preferences, creepily so.  It wasn’t too firm, and the sheets and comforter were soft but breathable.  Paul put his head against one of the pillows and almost instantly fell asleep.  He jolted upright and shook his head, a strange sensation of peace and calm slowly left him.
 
“What the--” he touched the pillow with his head again and felt his eyes get heavy.  He forced himself upright once more.  “Guess we should only sleep if we really wanna sleep,” he thought aloud.
 
“That is correct,” said the nurse shadow.
 
“Eep!” Quinn squealed, having neglected to notice her.
 
“These beds will put you into a natural, deep sleep.  They will restore your stamina and recover your wounds.  If you choose to awake early, you may not fully recover.  However, the effects of the restoration will last for a short period of time after you leave your room,” the nurse explained.
 
“This is some serious sheet.  Wish I had a bed like this at home.  I’d never be tired,” Paul laughed.
 
“I’m glad this is a joke to you,” Haruka snapped.  “We almost got arrested.  We almost died.  I want to go home.  So can we please just sleep and get the hell off this island?  I don’t ever wanna see this place again.”
 
Paul nodded.  Haruka was right.  The room was nice, but nearly dying for it wasn’t worth it.  They had to get home.
 
“Wait.  We need to do something first,” Paul said, sitting on the edge of his bed.  “We should exchange contact info.”
 
Haruka rolled her eyes.  “You already have mine.  And why would we do that?”
 
“Because this is going to come up again.  I just know it,” Paul said.
 
“What makes you so sure of that?” Quinn asked.
 
“We’re teenagers.  These kinds of things don’t just happen and then everybody goes their separate ways.  Those portraits, the monsters, the dude floating over my head, the fire that appeared in my dream and in my life--you’re not just gonna forget about this.  And we can’t go telling anyone about it.  They’ll throw us in an insane asylum,” Paul stood up and took out his phone.  “We need to keep each other quiet about this.  Even if it means the rest of our lives.”
 
“I barely know you now, and you think I’m going to want to have a therapy session with you for the rest of my life?  Ugh,” Haruka groaned.
 
“It’s a safety net,” Paul said.  “We keep each other in check, and if anyone has questions, we can reassure one another.  Plus, I…” Paul paused, thinking about what he was going to say.
 
“You what?” Quinn asked.
 
“I’m probably going to come back,” Paul said finally.
 
“Are you completely out of your mind?” Haruka asked.  “You want to come back?  You’re on your own.”
 
“I have to, damn it. This didn’t happen to me for no reason.  I’ve begun to question a lot of sheet, and now, I need answers.  So whether or not you come back with me is completely up to you.  But I am coming back,” Paul decided.
 
“I’m sending my number to each of you, assuming your Bluetooth is enabled.  Now let’s get some sleep.  Sunday is gonna be weird," Paul said softly.
 

 

 

 

  • Add any wanted character interactions and have fun at the party.
  • Individually reflect on your new circumstance with Origin Island.
  • Sleep

 

 

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As the group went to explore their new room, Avery stepped forward, her walking pace slow as her eyes darted around the room. Resting on the shadow, she recognized it to be of the same origin as the one downstairs. They went by the name, or title, of Anomaly Nurse Shadow. 

 

Anomaly. Unknown. 

Nurse. Helpful. 

Shadow. ??? 

 

Curiosity sparkled in the girl's eyes, though was swiftly subdued as she looked around to the others. No questions. Nothing strange. 

 

Walking slowly, the girl made her way to the table full of apples, looking to Paul, to Jason, and then to the apples. Reaching out her hand, her eyes darted down to observe it. Trembling. Her hand stiffened up as she continued to finally pick it up and take a bite of out of it. 

 

Delicious.

 

As the girl ate her apple, the rest of the group seemed to be talking about something. About how they couldn't tell anyone else about this. About how they were going to need to figure all of this out. The girls eyes went wide, pausing eating her apple, as Paul mentioned that he would be coming back. While she seemed like she was about to say something, she paused. Her eyes studied the faces of everyone else in the room. 

 

Annoyed. Concerned. Pensive.

 

The girl stopped herself, instead merely watching the scene play out with all of her classmates. As they seemed to reach some sort of a conclusion, the girl looked back to her phone, seeing the number there. Fiddling around the bit, the girl looked over to Paul saying, "u-um," her voice cracked as she started, and both her body and voice seemed to be trembling as she continued speaking. "Y-yeah, coming back here would be crazy, right?" The girl let out an awkward chuckle before saying, "but it's uh, um, better to be safe then sorry." After sending her number out, the girl awkwardly put her phone back in her pocket before saying, "but um, yeah. I'm just gonna, gonna head off to bed. Right." With an awkward wave, the girl made her way to her bed. Lying down, her face planted first into her pillow, obscuring a wide smile on her face.

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In conclusion, today had sucked entirely. This all could have been avoided if Haruka hadn't locked herself out like an idiot, but she did, and now here she was, with a bunch of people she barely knew at best, after escaping from a party where the police arrived, getting to this stupid island with its creepy bullshit as a result, and now everyone was trying to be all buddy-buddy with each other all of a sudden.

 

At least the food wasn't poisoned.

 

She would have preferred lemons instead of apples, but apples would have to suffice. One apple, for herself, then Haruka made for her bed, sitting on it but taking care not to let her head hit the pillow. Whatever weird stuff they'd done to the pillow, she wasn't having any of it. She didn't need some lousy magic charm to fall asleep or anything like that; Haruka was a perfectly mature young woman, who could sleep on her own just fine. She glanced around the room. There was Paul, from the fiction club. Did he think he was some sort of protagonist, acting like the team leader just because he'd summoned some tall guy one time? There was also the guy with the car. How did he get here?

 

Everyone else, Haruka only really recognized from the party or rumors. Jason was the guy who'd busted his wrist last year and ruined everything for the basketball team. I bet all the boys on the basketball team hate his guts for that. I wonder if I can do something with that. That would be her first project when she got home, Haruka decided. Although, now that she thought about it...

 

Haruka took the first bite from her apple, and after swallowing, asked "I don't suppose any of you know how to pick a lock?" Even if she didn't intend to, she cast brief glances at both the car guy and the freakishly tall person who'd picked her up like some toy when everyone was leaving the party earlier.


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iU8EggM.png

 

-Present-

 

Jason sat there, the apple that Paul tossed him in his hands. Staring at the apple, he just let out a quiet sigh. This...this wasn't something he was expecting to see or deal with. ...How the hell did I get into the mess...? he thought, before finally taking a bite out of the apple, just reflecting on what events brought him to this point...

 

x393wz.jpg

 

-Not Too Long Ago-

High School Party - Dancing Game Night

Saturday, Evening

 

-BGM-

 

Jason watched from the seat he was in, seeing Kevin's house in full view and he was pretty astonished at how it looked. And it was obvious that the party was starting to get into full swing. "Wow..." he muttered.

 

Of course, Brad parked the vehicle and had all the passengers exit the vehicle, as he did so as well. After everyone was out of the vehicle, he double-checked...possibly even triple-checked each door's lock and finally set the alarm. Brad also seemed to lead the charge of the Video Game Club into the house, but he stopped suddenly when a certain smell hit his nose. Now in the presence of the club, he had a huge smile on his face.

 

"Hmm...smells like Colorado Sweet Summer!" he simply said, before disappearing into a sideroom where there was smoke billowing from under the doors.

 

For Jason, the same scent hit his nose, but he had a different reaction to it. He coughed slightly, recognizing the smell from the others on the basketball team. It was marijuana. "Jeez...just throw a warning that people are passing that stuff around here..." he muttered, wafting the air in front of his face a bit, before noticing Lace definitely getting into this.

 

"Toga! Toga! Toga! I don't even know what that means but I'm excited!" Lace recited, pumping her arm into the air.

 

"Faaaaairly certain that doesn't mean what you think it means, Lace." Jason chuckled some, before noticing Kevin in passing. "Hey Kevin!"

 

Kevin was taking his tongue out of a young lady's mouth when he heard his name. "Jason, you fuckin' made it!" he said excitedly. He bumped past her and went to show Jason some love.

 

Stretching out a hand he pulled Jason into a hug, smelling of cheap cologne and expensive weed, which made Jason cough a slight bit. "Bruh, I wasn't sure you were gonna show. And don't worry about your wrist, I'll make sure one of these fine, beautiful girls makes it so you ain't gotta use it. Huh," Kevin said with a wink.

 

"Make yourself at home, hermano. Mi casa es su casa. Food's in the back and the DJ is taking requests. Just, no country. I'll kick your ass out," Kevin said with a serious look on his face.

 

"Thanks Kev. And no worries. I wouldn't DREAM of putting on country music." Jason chuckled, shaking his head. "That's the devil's music, you know that."
 
"No, no. That," Kevin said pointing to his younger brother. "Is the devil himself. Ay, yo, Ant, get my man a beverage!"
 
"I told you once and I'll tell you again, Kev! funk you!" Anthony replied.
 
"Ouch." Jason chuckled at this. "That is pretty harsh. But still, something tells me you deserved it, buddy."

 

"Yeah, funk you too, J. J. Now go have fun. If you want a room, my bed is free. Just use a condom," Kevin joked before he brushed past Jason.

 

Jason chuckled a bit, letting Kevin brush past him, as he shook his head a bit. Yeah...no offense Kevin, but I honestly don't see myself doing anything like that tonight. he thought, before heading towards the back towards the food. He was a bit famished. At the same time, he really needed to figure out what he was gonna do at this party.

 

x393wz.jpg

 

"Ay, yo, hotshot McGarrett," Kevin slurred, obviously drunk, or getting into that mood. "I'm feelin' pretty good. Wanna get your ass beat?"

 

"Get a room, you two," Anthony said from the stairs.

 

"I got a nice big court outside. How bout a lil birthday one on one, huh?" Kevin asked.

 

"No thanks Anthony!" Jason chuckled. "He isn't my type...not, ya know...a chick." he said, looking back at Kevin. "And you, you are just incredibly drunk...so I might actually have an advantage here. And plus side, no Brock here to knock me on my ass."

 

"Oh? Oh? You feelin--" Kevin hiccuped. "You feelin' confident, Mr. All Star? HEY!" Kevin said as he turned around to the party. "Yo, cut--cut the music," he said to the DJ. "Who wants--" he let out a raunchy belch. "Oh man, that tasted like cherry. WHO WANTS TO SEE ME BEAT JASON'S ASS ON THE COURT!?"

 

There were cheers from inside the house and Paul came sprinting up to Kevin. "You gonna take your drunk ass out there and play J.G.? You know I'm not rootin' for you, right?" Paul joked.

 

"funk you, Paul. C'MON LET'S DO IT!" Kevin demanded as he stepped past the DJ.

 

Jason took one last gulp of his drink, his first one of the night, actually and with just a bit of liquid courage in him right now, he accepted Kevin's little challenge. With the slight buzz he had right now, he knew he'd probably be a bit more aware of his surroundings or something like that.

 

"Up high," Anthony called from the stairs once more, holding Kevin's ball. He tossed it over the balcony thinking Kevin would catch it. Buuuuuuuut...

 

Kevin reached up for the ball and slipped between his fingers and punched him right in the forehead. It bounced and Paul caught it in Kevin's stead, as he just collapsed to the floor in quite the dizzy stupor.

 

"Ayeeeeee, man," Kevin said from the floor. "Aye, uh, Paul, Paul, and Paul," he said pointing to to Paul and the missing space beside him. "Why don't uh--yo you should ball for me, I'mma sit this one out."
 
Paul raised an eyebrow, then turned to Jason. Behind Jason, he could see Amanda watching from the kitchen. "Okay, yeah. You down, J.G.?" Paul asked as he took his shirt off.
 
"Yeah. I guess so." Jason shrugged.

 

Paul bumped Kevin's drunken fist as the party host fell onto his back, singing lullabies. "Alright, let's make a deal then," Paul said, making his way past Jason and toward the backyard. "If you win, I'll make sure nobody talks sheet about you ever again," he said with a chuckle. "You don't deserve that sheet no way." Paul then palmed the basketball. "But if I win, you gotta help me out with something. Doesn't matter what it is. When I hit you up, Imma need your help. Deal?" Paul asked.

 

"Heh...well, doubtful the basketball team will just stop with the sheet talkin'..." Jason chuckled before nodding firmly. "Either way, your on, Paul!"

 

There was a moment of distinct silence between Paul and Jason. It was as if time stopped. The wind blew and words of power whispered between them, to where Jason could distinctly hear every word...
 
I am thou, thou art I.
Thou hast acquired a new vow.
It shall become the wings of rebellion that breaketh thy chains of captivity.
With the birth of the CHARIOT Arcana, I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall lead to freedom and new power...
 
Paul and Jason made a deal.
 
"Alright, then. It's time to ball with Paul," Paul joked. "Hey that rhymed. I'm good off the court too." He tossed the ball to Jason as they made their way outside. "First to ten?"
 
"Sounds like a plan to me!" Jason nodded once more...not exactly thinking much of what he had just heard. It was probably just the alcohol.
 
"Alright, check," Paul said as he jogged over to the court.
 
It was the size of a college regulated basketball court, but on cement in Kevin's backyard. The crowd slowly started to gather around the court and let Jason pass through.
 
Jason felt a bit at home on this court, as he checked the ball. "Hope you know what your gettin' into..." he joked.

 

iU8EggM.png

 

This game was a close one, neither side really giving an inch. Surprisingly, Paul was able to keep up with Jason, to which this was a huge surprise to the former member of the basketball team. Paul was actually pretty good, and it wasn't just because he was black, which the guy did actually joke about.

 

The first shot of the game was taken by Jason, followed by the next two shots being taken by Paul. This first to ten game was one that was quite a heated race. Both sides, they really wanted to win. After about a few more shots, they were nearing the game winning point. They were tied and the crowd at this point, was silenced as they held their breath. Just who was going to win?

 

Jason had the ball and right now, he went for it. He lunged with the ball, dribbling it as he made his way towards the basket, still using only his right hand. However, at the last minute, in a shock to Paul and the others, he moved the ball over into his left hand and made the shot. Again, it was like he was on auto-pilot and just didn't remember that his left wrist was still in it's condition. Nevertheless, the ball flew straight and true...and it made the 'swish' sound through the basket, and then a sudden roar of excitement erupted.

 

Jason had won, and the crowd was definitely cheering for him.

 

Jason made his way towards Paul, giving him a high-five. "Good game man." he smiled, before moving his right hand to hold his left wrist. "So, about that deal..."

 

Paul put his hands on his knees, panting as he hunched over the court. He finally stood up straight and patted Jason on the back. "I lost man. I gotta uphold my end of the deal," Paul said with a laugh. "Me and Kevin will deal with your old teammates."

 

"Good luck on trying to get through their hard heads..." Jason chuckled, before smiling. "So...what were you gonna ask me to help you with, Paul?"

 

"Well," Paul said as he looked over his shoulder at the scattering onlookers. Amanda was sitting by the pool, staring into the water. "I was gonna ask you to be my wingman," Paul said with a chuckle as he turned back to Jason. "But, I can't do that now."

 

"Okay." Jason said with the most deadpan response. "All ya needed to do was ask."

 

Paul chuckled again in disbelief. "You're an easy guy to get along with," Paul commented. He pulled his shirt off of a nearby patio chair and pulled it back over his head. "See the pretty red head by the water? Think you can make me look better than you did on the court?"

 

Jason looked over at the red head, and nodded. "I mean, I can do what I can." he shrugged with a chuckle. "I'm only human."

 

Paul approached Amanda and sat down with a huff.

"Tired from getting your ass kicked, huh?" she said with a laugh.

 

"You wanna play one of the greats, then?" Paul asked with a retorting chuckle. "Jason, Amanda. Amanda, Jason."

 

"I know who he is," Amanda said as she stretched out a hand to Jason. "Nice to meet you Jason."

 

"Likewise." Jason said with a smile, chuckling a bit, shaking Amanda's hand.

 

"So uh, what's all this, Paulie?" Amanda asked. "He supposed to be your wingman?"

 

Busted.

 

Paul sighed. "Damn. No matter how hard I try, I can't get next to you. Don't worry about it J," he said with a grin. "I'll take it from here." Paul and Amanda got up and walked back inside. He called back over his shoulder as they stepped in the house. "Someday I'm gonna want a rematch, Jason!"

 

Yikes...this girl was actually really smart. Jason let out a sigh about the same time Paul did. "Sorry bout that. Should've prefaced with I've never been a wingman before." he chuckled nervously, before nodding at Paul. "You got it!"

 

...and it wasn't too long after that...the whole party went down south.

 

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-Present-

 

Jason's reflections finally ended, thinking it wasn't best to just recall the events of the last minutes, so he took another bite from the apple and then sighed again.

 

Right now, he thought about what Paul said. That he was going to go and come back to this place quite a few times. And after what happened, he guessed it made sense. He kept in silence, before clearing his throat and held his phone for Paul to see.

 

"You got my number man." Jason said, sending his number immediately to him. "Honestly...I want in for two reasons. First, you and I still have that rematch...so yeah. You can't just go off and die or get seriously injured before then." he chuckled, before sighing. "And second, well...if it gets me out of the house and away from my parents, I'm all for it."

 

"Upside though..." Jason said, putting his phone away. "I already have Avery and Reno's numbers. Perks of being in the Video Game Club, I suppose."

 

It was all he could do right now...and right now, to be honest, he was dead dog tired. Finally moving over to a bed, Jason laid his head back and once it hit the pillow...he was immediately snoring. Sweet dreams and a great night sleep ahoy!!

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"Yeah... uh... f*** no." Quinn immediately went into his phone and deleted Paul's number. "Don't send me your number I don't want to be your friend. I'm waiting the ten hours and then I'm f***ing leaving. You can play fantasy fun time if you want, but I don't want anything to do with whatever the hell is going on here."

 

Quinn turned on his heel with a huff turning towards the picture on the wall that had his name under it. While at the moment the canvas was blank it bothered him that whatever was in control of this place just expected him to play along. Quinn tore the picture from the wall and tossed the thing violently across the room.

 

"Hey! Tell your Lord Orpheus," Quinn directed his fury at the Anomaly Nurse Shadow now walking over to where his picture had landed, "that he can take his greetings or whatever and stuff it." Quinn began stomping on the portrait before finally grinding his heel into it and spitting on it. "Oh yeah, and give him this too." Quinn flipped the shadow the bird.

 

"Now you all seem like wonderful people," Quinn turned back to everyone in the room, heavy sarcasm laced into his voice, "but I quite frankly don't want to spend a single night with you, so I'll just take this," Quinn tore the comforter and pillow from the bed, "and be on my way." On that sour note Quinn walked towards one of the eight bathrooms, and then once inside slammed the door. On the outside, the others would hear the sound click of the door locking. 

 

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Inside the bathroom, Quinn breathed a heavy sigh. This was crazy. It had to be some really bad trip, right? There was no other logical explanation. That meant, however, that someone had slipped something into his drink, and that thought drove Quinn even crazier.

 

When did it happen? He was watching his drink all night. He'd been with Riku all night. Riku would've said something if someone had done something funny with his drink right? What if Riku had done something to his drink. Riku wouldn't do that, would he? Of course not he was a nice guy... wasn't he? Then again, Grant was a nice guy too, and Quinn remembered vividly how that had turned out. No, he ran all the way her from Kevin's house, he would've felt something. Unless that was part of the trip, too... f***! f***! f***!

 

Quinn screamed in frustration and grabbed onto the closest thing he could find, which happened to be a small soap dispenser on the sink counter and tossed it across the room shattering it against the wall. 

 

"None of this makes any sense..." Quinn whimpered sinking down to his knees his hands reaching up and tearing at his hair. "God, what the hell am I getting into?"

 

Exhausted both physically and mentally Quinn grabbed the comforter and pillow from where he'd dropped them on the floor and crawled into the bathroom's rather spacious bathtub, and despite the fact that it was rather uncomfortable fell asleep almost instantly.

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With the others turning in, Piper's gaze quickly zoomed back into focus.

 

 

Quinn...

She had been spacing out towards the bathroom door that her friend had vanished behind. Her mind constantly replayed everything that had happened over and over again, as she tried her best to make sense of it all. Could this really be happening? A bunch of teenagers sucked into some super natural s*** like this was some sort of tv show...

 

Piper's eyes danced around the group. First landing on the girl who inquired about lock picking skills. She definitely had a big mouth on her for such a small girl, and Piper definitely had the feeling that she had seen the girl around school.

 

Glancing across the faces of those who were sleeping, Piper lingered on Jason for a brief moment before she sighed.

 

The girl with with the glasses definitely seemed off. Something about they way she moved and spoke seemed eerily fake, and it even seemed like she was having fun here. Piper wondered if anyone else had picked up on that as well...

 

"I think I'm down to come back." Piper uttered what she realized was the first word she had spoken since they had left the party.

 

As she begun to move towards the kitchen she studied the faces of the two large gentlemen at her right. Piper recognized one from her Gym class. He was just the run of the mill tough guy from what she could tell, but she didn't like to judge a book by the cover.

 

The other guy was a complete mystery though. He hadn't really said much since they met, but she imagined his backstory had something to to with the union of a human woman and giant.

 

"It would be a waste for us to just fall down the rabbit-hole like this, and not even bother to check out the sights in 'f***ed up wonderland island resort!'" Piper smirked slightly, trying to brighten up room's energy a little. "This kind of stuff doesn't just happened everyday. It's not like we stepped in s*** or something... we can't just wipe it off and move on like none of this crazy s*** ever happened."

 

She was deliriously tired, and her make up felt gross on her face after having ran from the cops and trekked through the rainy jungle. If she were being honest with herself, there was a part of her mind that was still desperately clinging on to the fact that this might all be a dream. But she'd be damned if she didn't do her best to take it all in stride. If this was truly new adventure, then she wouldn't let such a thing slip away because she was scared.

 

"I'll send out my number in the morning..." As she plucked up an apple, Piper's gaze finally landed on Paul. He was one of the cuter guys in her math class, but that was just about the only thing she knew about him. As she studied his features, the girl memory flashed to the scene of him saving them from the shadow, causing her eyes to narrow slightly.

 

"Cute guy who sits behind me in math class by day," As she passed the boy on the way her chosen bed, Piper flashed him coy smile whilst bringing her apple up to her lips. "Vanquisher of monsters, and summoner of my Uncle Jerry in a Thor costume by night, huh?" She giggled slightly though she clearly lacked energy.

 

"Thanks for the save out there by the way, tiger. " Piper tone was slightly dreary as she bit into the apple.

 

Even if he didn't know how he did it, Paul at saved them with that power. The glowing orb she had been painting was also there too wasn't it? It was hard to make out in the chaos but Piper was almost certain she glimpsed it before Paul summoned the big guy with the hammer...

 

The more she thought about it the more questions she had. Questions she hadn't even the vaguest idea of how to start answering. "I think I'll follow their lead and see if these beds are half as good as advertised..." Plopping down backwards into her bed, Piper raised a hand a threw up a peace sign just before her eyes began to drift shut. "Night guys."

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Reno watched quietly from the corner of the room, observing how everyone was reacting to the recent developments. Honestly, tonight was just such an swirl of confusion, he was almost certain he was dreaming. Why couldn't he have cooler dreams though?  This was just... weird. Then again, he was pretty sure dreams didn't hand out phone numbers, so he would just have to keep an open mind for now. 

Other than one guy that locked himself in the bathroom, screaming and breaking things, everyone seemed to be strangely okay with their situation. Were their lives really that boring that this would be considered okay?

 

"I don't suppose any of you know how to pick a lock?" The tiny one he picked up eariler (Haruka, if he remembered correctly) asked. 

 

"If you consider breaking down a door lockpicking," Reno said dryly. He was quiet for the rest of the time as people began to drop off to sleep one by one. His stomach then growled, alerting the giant that was indeed hungry. And he wanted

He walked over to the kitchen area, going to the refrigerator people were ignoring, reaching in and finding cheese and ham. Quickly finding some bread, he made a sandwich, and took a bite of it. It was probably the best sandwich he had in awhile.
 

He then headed over to his bed, sitting down to chew on his food more. He didn't have much to say, but it felt kinda... awkward to go to sleep before the others. He'd wait until they were all asleep.

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Tyler remembered the first time he had broken a bone. He had been racing go-karts and taken a turn too sharp, wrecked, and landed on his arm wrong. Broken in spot, fractured in two more, and he had been in a cast for nearly a year. He hadn’t even noticed anything was wrong until someone else had pointed it out, body pumped so full of adrenaline that the pain hadn’t set in yet.

 

He was pretty sure something similar was going on now. So much had happened in the last three hours he didn’t know what he was supposed to be feeling. Anger? He had known coming to some stupid high school was dumb, but he no, he wasn’t mad. Scared? He had felt a flash of terror facing down the gigantic beasts, but no, he wasn’t scared. Amazed? Nothing made any sense, but he wouldn’t say that he was amazed by it.

 

No, Tyler was just numb. Everything was so overwhelming that he didn’t have it in him to believe it was real. “Where do you live? I can pick the lock.” His voice sounded far away to him. Why had he volunteered to pick the lock for some girl he had met once? ESpecially one dumb enough to lock herself out.

 

His mind was clouded by the remnants of liquor and drugs, and he muttered something about sleep before he threw himself on the bed and magically fell asleep. He needed to sleep this off.

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"If you consider breaking down a door lockpicking."

 

"I kind of live there. No thanks." As much as Haruka wanted to be back in the comfort of her own home - especially while her uncle was away in Japan - breaking down the door wasn't the way to go about it. How was she supposed to explain that when her uncle got home, exactly? He'd probably say something like "If you were locked out, why didn't you call me and stay with a friend while I was away?"

 

What friends, exactly? The fiction club? Thanks, but no thanks; I wouldn't exactly call any of them my friend.

 

“Where do you live? I can pick the lock.”

 

"I'll bring you there when we get back to town," Haruka answered. This was the thug who liked his car. Maybe he was one of those guys that looked really tough and intimidating, but was actually a really nice guy? Her limited actions with the boy seemed to imply that. Those kinds of people only existed in manga, Haruka always thought. The kind of character that everyone expected him to be a power top at first, but then as he got more screentime everyone started thinking otherwise. Something about this boy being a bottom doesn't feel quite right though.

 

She shrugged off the idea for now. There was still the matter of phone numbers. As much as she didn't want to just give her number to a bunch of strangers, it seemed everyone was in agreement that this wasn't over. She wanted it to be over. Haruka had never asked for this, and if she hadn't gone to that stupid party, she wouldn't have gotten it.

 

The girl sent out her number without a word, then put her head down on the pillow of a bed of her choosing. With any luck, this was just some weird dream. Not that Haruka believed luck liked working in her favor.


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8/26

Sunday

Morning

Humid

 

Hangover

 

        Paul was the first to wake. Sunlight poured into the room gently through slightly drawn, dusty crimson curtains.  Paul felt strange, as though he hadn't been sleeping, but rather, he felt as though had just awoken from a coma.  While he was physically refreshed, he felt uneasy.  When his eyes landed upon the Shadow Nurse on the opposite side of the room, he lurched backward and gripped his sheets.  

 

"Jesus," he swore under his breath.  He had forgotten where he was.  "So it wasn't a dream," Paul said to himself.

 

He yanked the blanket away from himself and slowly stood up.  He stretched and cracked his knuckles and his shirt raised slightly up his stomach as he did so.  This made Paul look down, curious as to the condition of his body.  He walked to a single bathroom and stood in front of the mirror where he raised his shirt entirely.  His chest appeared to be fine.  If Paul remembered correctly, he had recently torn a foreign object from his body.  However, there were no signs of scarring or damage.  But Paul couldn't forget the pain he felt from the burning that the orb had given him.  He couldn't forget ripping it from his chest and bleeding onto the ground.  He couldn't forget the large, magical African man who appeared before him as he destroyed the orb in his hands.  It was all real.  Paul lowered his shirt and examined his empty hands.  What was the word again?

 

He had said something when referring to the god that appeared from the broken orb.  There was a word that identified this god.  "Per... sona?" Paul questioned aloud.

 

At his words, the mysterious orb of fire reappeared in Paul's right hand.  His heart rate increased right away and he could feel his breathing become shallow.  Paul closed his hand over the orb and then closed his eyes.  He began to concentrate with all his might.  When he opened his eyes and hand again, the orb had vanished.  An interesting experiment.  When the orb vanished, Paul could feel his anatomy return to normal, as if a piece of him had been put back together.

 

He sighed heavily and leaned forward over the bathroom sink.  Paul splashed cold water onto his face and massaged his temples.  His world had changed drastically, and it only took a birthday party.

 

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What was he going to say?  Paul looked at his cell phone to discover that he had no signal in this other world.  Then again, he shouldn't have been surprised.  Who's to say this world had satellites and cell phone towers anyway?  Paul was sure he would have a ton of missed calls when he returned to the other side.  For now, he just wanted to get back home.  He wanted a hot shower and a meal he was familiar with.  He had never gotten so homesick so quickly.  His mother was probably furious, especially if--

 

Kevin.

 

"sheet," Paul mumbled.  What had happened to Kevin after he left the party?  Was he passed out drunk?  Did anyone else get caught?  Kevin was no snitch, but what if the cops went to Paul's home?  "sheet, sheet, sheet," Paul stomped.  

 

He didn't bother waiting for anyone else to wake up.  Paul checked his pockets to make sure he had all of his belongings, then he addressed the nurse.

 

"Do I need to wait for them before I can 'check-out'?" Paul asked.

 

The Shadow Nurse shook her head.  "You may check-out when you're ready, Mr. Paul."

 

Paul nodded.  "Thanks."  He swiftly made his way to the door, but paused and waited there briefly.  He thought it would be rude of him to just get up and go, but he had to get back right away.  Paul sighed and backed up.  He approached the nurse a second time, carefully.  "Can I leave a message for these guys, for when they wake up?" he asked.

 

The Shadow Nurse nodded.  "If you'd like me to record a message, you can leave it with me and I will deliver it to your companions when they awake."

 

Paul rubbed his chin.  "Okay.  I'd like to record a message."

 

The Shadow Nurse drew forth a voice recorder from thin air and held it toward Paul.  "Please speak clearly into the recorder."

 

Paul cleared his throat.  "I'm going home.  I have to check in.  Good luck getting home.  I'll be coming back here in four days.  Remember to dial out from the south side of the island where we first landed."

 

The Nurse stopped the recording.  

 

"Thank you," Paul said to her.

 

The Shadow Nurse nodded.  "Your companions will receive this message when they awaken."

 

Paul strolled over to the door to the hotel hallway and creaked it open.  He sighed before sneaking out and walking back toward the reception desk.

 

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Paul passed his painting on the way back, in the hallway.  It was as he remembered it: a painting of himself and Shango.  He still couldn't believe it.

 

Paul approached the receptionist desk, and Georaldo greeted him.  "Good morning, Master Paul.  Will you be checking out?"

 

Paul nodded.  "I'm getting out of here.  I'll be back in a few days."

 

Georaldo extended his hand toward Paul.  Paul nervously extended his own hand and Georaldo shook it.  Georaldo was wearing white gloves, so it was hard to tell what a Shadow's hand felt like.  Georaldo had a firm but polite grip.  "Thank you for staying with us, Master Paul.  We look forward to seeing you again."

 

Paul nodded.  "Er, thanks.  Georaldo, right?"

 

The Shadow nodded.

 

"See you in a few days then," Paul said as he turned for the entrance.

 

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There he stood, having traversed the jungle successfully.  Paul had returned to the south side of the island and was looking at an endless ocean ahead of him.  He approached the edge of the water until he heard a crackle above his head.  Paul stopped and took a step back.  The crackling ceased as he backed away.  When Paul approached again, the crackling resumed.  The closer Paul got to the edge of the water, the louder the crackling became.  When Paul reached the shoreline, there was a clap of thunder over his head.  He then felt his phone buzzing in his pocket, and promptly withdrew it.  He had a signal now, and Paul could now "dial out" to leave the islands.  He only had to dial the resort number once more.

 

"Here goes," he said, taking a deep breath.

 

Paul called up the resort number from his cell phone, and he felt the hair on his skin stand on edge.  There was a swirling of wind and bright lights which forced Paul to shield his eyes.  He began to slowly float upward into the air, as though he were being pulled into a tractor beam.  Then, there came a polite, feminine voice that addressed him.

 

"Thank you for using the Origin Island resort.  We hope to see you again!" it said.

 

Paul was then rocketed upward where he nearly vomited from the sheer force that was being applied to him.

 

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When he came to, Paul gasped for air.  He was right where he had left before: the abandoned homes near Kevin's place.  There were no police in sight, and the day just appeared to be normal.  Surprisingly, when his phone gathered a signal, he had no missed calls or voice mail.  Perhaps Ms. Brown wasn't suspicious of him after all.  If that was true, then it may have been safe for him to retrieve his bike from Kevin's home.

 

Paul began to make a beeline straight for Kevin's front door.

 

iU8EggM.png

 

 


  • Leave Origin Island.
  • Free Day.

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8/26

Another Day

Sunday Morning

Humid

 

Jason woke up with a bit of a yawn, rubbing his eye some with a groan. That was the best sleep he had in a long time...he really needed this bed at home. Shockingly, it was obvious that he wasn't dreaming...namely because of the Shadow Nurse just standing on the opposite side of the room.

 

Yeah...a face only a mother could love... Jason thought, getting up from the bed and made his way to the bathroom to start his day.

 

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"Soooooo...you been watching us the entire time while we've been sleeping?" Jason asked the Shadow Nurse, heading her direction after exiting the bathroom.

 

The Shadow Nurse queried Jason's question in her mind. "Yes. I monitor your breathing patterns, heart rate, energy consumption, brain wave patterns, and more."
 
"Yeeeeeaaaaaah...that's not creepy." Jason shook his head, before glancing back at the others and noticing that Paul's bed was completely empty. "Hm? Where's Paul?"

"Master Paul has left the premises prematurely. His last known location is south of this hotel. He has asked that I inform you all of a brief message. Would you like to hear it, Master Jason?" asked the Shadow Nurse.

 

"Uh...sure?" he shrugged.
 
The Shadow Nurse pulled a voice recorder from her uniform breast pocket and held it so that the speaker was facing Jason. She pressed the tiny play button, and Paul's voice began to feed back to Jason directly.
 
"I'm going home. I have to check in. Good luck getting home. I'll be coming back here in four days. Remember to dial out from the south side of the island where we first landed."
 
Then, the recording ended immediately. It seemed like he was definitely in a hurry to leave if that was the case.
 

"Alright. Guess Paul's got the right idea then." Jason nodded. "Looks like that's my cue to leave as well."

 

"Please be sure to check out at the front desk," the Shadow Nurse replied.

 

Jason gave a quick nod before leaving the room and making his way down to the front desk as instructed.

 

As Jason left the room, the portrait which belonged to him shimmered as he passed it in the outside hallway. Unfortunately, he didn't pay too much mind to it as he headed to the lobby. At the end, upon reaching the lobby, Jason would be greeted by Georaldo. "Did you enjoy your rest, Master Jason?" the Shadow asked.

 

"Honestly...aside from waking up to that nurse just staring at me..." Jason started with a sheepish chuckle. "It wasn't bad."

 

Georaldo nodded happily. "Good, good! I'm pleased that you were able to recover your strength. Will you be checking out with us this morning?"

 

"Yeah. I gotta get back..." Jason said, before muttering under his breath. "...against my better judgment. Hope they are just not there when I get back."

 

Georaldo discretely signed off on an unknown, unseen document behind the front desk. "Well thank you for staying with us, Master Jason. We do hope to see you again. Please do have a pleasant trip home."

 

"Thanks." Jason said, beginning to turn around. "See ya around...Gerald?"

 

"Geo-ral-do, sir. We hope to see you again soon," the Shadow waved.

 

"Right, Georaldo...my bad." Jason said, waving as he headed out of the hotel and back towards the area he arrived into this place in.

 

iU8EggM.png

 

The beach and it's view. It actually looked a lot nicer than it did the night prior...especially without a huge storm overhead and being a real ass to him and the group he was in. But hey, nature is always like that...maybe...possibly.

 

"Okay...Paul's message said to..." Jason started, pulling out his cellphone. "To dial out, so I guess I just call this number and then it's bye-bye whatever this place is." He made his way to the edge of the shoreline and was about to dial the number in, he heard a booming clap of thunder overhead. Now...better do it now! he thought, immediately dialing the resort number.

 

"Thank you for using the Origin Island resort.  We hope to see you again!"

 

Jason heard the tone on the other end of the phone and before he knew it, it was like he was a being yanked up into the air, which caused him to yell in shock and fear.

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Avery woke up, a clear smile on her face, as though she were having a pleasant dream. Rubbing her face, trying to make her vision more clear, the girl then looked around with an almost shocked expression forming across her face. This wasn't her bed. This wasn't her house. These people were not her family. Which meant everything that had happened yesterday was real. The run. The island. The monsters. The storm. The hotel. All of it. An smile started to form across her face, but as her eyes moved to see the others still asleep, the smile returned to a more neutral expression. Getting herself out of bed, the girl messed with her hair a bit, before her eyes moved over to see that the woman creature that had been in here yesterday was still there. 

 

The girl's expression was one less of shock and more of curiosity as she looked over to them. Looking around, she then walked over to the Nurse, merely giving a short, "good morning." 

 

The Shadow Nurse cordially nodded and replied, "Good morning, Madam Avery.  How was your rest?"

 

"Um..Good..." The girl's eyes widened a bit as she realized something about what the shadow had said, and with some confusion and curiosity asked, "um, how do you know my name?"

 

"It is hotel policy that we know all of our guests' names, that we might address them with the respect they deserve, Madam Avery," the Nurse replied.

 

"A-ah...I see..." She didn't seem to be all that surprised by the answer, but was only made more curious. However, with something more pressing on her mind, after a short pause the girl asked, "well um, you said you were an 'Anomaly Shadow' right? What, um, what is that?"

 

"An anomaly shadow is a shadow which holds one of several traits or a combination of them.  They are either intelligent, non-hostile, or divine.  I hold two of those traits.  I am both intelligent and non-hostile," the Nurse replied.

 

Avery's face visibly brightened at this. A look of excitement seemed to creep across her, and there seemed to be many more questions on her mind. Yet, as she looked around, her eyes moved to each of the still sleeping students on the bed, and with strained effort the girl's expression returned to that of a more neutral one. The girl's face brightens up a bit, seemingly excited by this, but she tries to calm herself a bit before looking around a bit. "That's certainly...different...and amazing...um, where did the others go?" Gesturing towards the empty beds.

 

The Nurse Shadow gestured with an open hand to the door at the front entrance of the hotel room.  "Masters Paul and Jason have already departed.  Master Paul left a message for you.  I can replay it at your request."

 

Avery nodded. 

 

The Nurse Shadow pulled a plastic recorder from the breast pocket on her uniform and flicked the tiny play button on its front.  From the recorder, Paul's voice played. "I'm going home.  I have to check in.  Good luck getting home.  I'll be coming back here in four days.  Remember to dial out from the south side of the island where we first landed." The recording ended immediately after Paul had finished.
 
The girl looked a bit pensive for a bit, before saying, "thank you, Ms. Nurse Shadow." As she seems ready to leave, she looks back and say, "if I um, if I wanted to get back here how would I, uh, go about it?"
 
Intrigued, the Nurse Shadow felt compelled to answer.  "In order to return to the island resort, you would first need to find an access point in your world: The Mirrored Plain.  In your world you will find rare instances of tears in space where only a select few -- such as yourselves -- may dial into the island.  You then need only to stand in the access point and, using your mobile device, dial the resort phone number.  You will then be warped to the island's access point." The Shadow Nurse said this all in one breath.  "Do be careful in your world not to bring outsiders with you through the access point.  If they do not share your connection, they could very well be killed during the Traverse Process."
 
The girl seems to be listening eagerly, and then becomes a bit shocked at that last note, before saying, "oh, that sounds messy. I'll try not to do that." Realizing how she sounded, the girl clears her throat before saying, "thanks again."
 
The Shadow Nurse nodded.  "Happy to be of service, Madam Avery.  Please be sure to check out with Georaldo before you make your way to the access point.  Have a pleasant trip home."
 
With that, the girl made her way out of the bed room, walking down to the front desk. After checking out with Geraldo, the girl had decided to go and check what it was that Paul had been talking about.Getting to the southern part of the island, the girl pulled out her phone. If it was the resort number that was supposed to bring them back, she figured that it was also the one that would take them out. So, dialing the number into her phone, a small automated voice replied, "Thank you for using the Origin Island resort.  We hope to see you again!"
 
As the voice ended, the girl suddenly felt a lot lighter on her feet. This gentle lifting feeling was suddenly replaced by a violent force, yanking her upwards and ejecting her from the island's ground.

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Haruka awoke uneventfully, feeling rested, but still not pleased with her situation. Seeing the room around her confirmed something important to Haruka: There were in fact not weird drugs in the drinks at last night's party, and everything that had happened yesterday was very much real. And I was having such a nice dream while I was asleep too. Go figure; no happiness allowed for Haruka while she's awake. The girl got herself out of the bed and grabbed her glasses, looking at the others who were still here. Seemed Paul, Jason, and Avery had already ditched everyone else. "Great teamwork, you three," she muttered under her breath. "Just abandon everyone in an unknown island."

 

She'd met online gamers with better senses of teamwork than her fellow students. And those people... Haruka couldn't help but remember an incident where her online guild had split up despite her being the only healer, with the PvE group not even bothering to bring a tank. If I ever meet one of those idiots in real life, I swear they'll get more than their fair earful about how grouping works. I did myself a favor by ditching them. Come to think of it though, was it really her that ditched them? The guild leader disappeared and everything just slowly fell apart from there, right?

 

Whatever, the point is they were idiots and I hate them.

 

Tossing the thought aside, Haruka cast a particular glance at Tyler. Still asleep. Lazy bastard. She could have sworn the nurse was saying something, but Haruka didn't pay attention to what. She looked at the nurse. Back to Tyler. He was her ticket back into her own house. She glanced back and forth between the two for a moment longer, before making her way toward the nurse and pointing at the boy. "When he wakes up, there's a Starbucks near the alley where I first met him. Let him know I'm waiting for him there." Without waiting to hear any confirmation that the nurse would get the message along - weird extra-dimensional creatures were generally super-obedient when they weren't busy stuffing every hole in a person's body with tentacles, if manga had anything to say about it - Haruka made her way out at a brisk pace.

 

Georaldo also said something about having a nice day on her way out. Yeah, well I'm doing a pretty bang-up job of that so far.

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As much as Haruka hated rain, some would probably argue that humidity without any precipitation to go with it was even worse. Haruka was of the mind that they were both awful. She backtracked her steps, passing by Kevin Garcia's house and briefly wondering what fate may have befallen everyone else who was at the party. If they got caught despite Haruka giving the entire party perfectly clear warning, that was their fault, not hers. She backtracked along the route that had been driven to get her to the party in the first place, back to her house. Still locked, because Haruka - much like the partygoers from last night - was an idiot herself. Then she followed the route she'd been taking to school, shady alleys and all.

 

The last one she passed through - the one where she'd had her first encounter with the man who loved his car so much - was more and more familiar. That's not a good thing. Add a bit of greed and malice, and I'll be no better than your average thug at this rate. Disgusting. However, there was the Starbucks, on the other side of the road. She crossed, and entered the coffee shop. She wasn't going to order anything just yet though. If she could get by with just a short wait without spending any money, that would be ideal.

 

So naturally, Haruka imagined she'd be in for quite the wait, if not being forgotten entirely.


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Surprise Visit

 

There were still one or two unidentified cars sitting in front of Kevin's house.  A more expensive looking Mercedes, and one or two others Paul didn't recognize.

 

Paul knocked callously on Kevin's front door.  It was early, and Kevin and Anthony were likely still sleeping, but he didn't care.  He heard feet shuffling behind the door, a loud groan, a fart, and a few swears.  Then the large door slowly creaked open.  "Yeah, what is it?" asked a still half sleeping, Kevin.  "Oh, Paulie.  Man, you ditched quick last night, bro," he said with a grin.  "Come on in."

 

Paul nodded.  "Thanks," as he stepped into Kevin's home once more. 

 

"You're back early.  Forget somethin'?" Kevin asked.

 

"My bike is still in the back.  But, I actually came to find out what went down last night.  I'm assumin' everything is cool since you're still here.  Where's Ant?" Paul answered.

 

"Upstairs passed out.  He's probably still pissed cuz he couldn't get laid last night.  But some lucky bastard is still asleep in our guest room with two broads," Kevin said with a chuckle.  "But, yeah bro, everything's fine.  The cholo who showed up last night worked with my pops.  He let me off and promised not to tell my folks if I volunteered at J.B. Park through Halloween."

 

"jabroni that's a long ass time," Paul laughed.  "Imma get my bike and dip.  When are your people coming home?" Paul asked.

 

Kevin shrugged.  "Supposed to be later this week but knowin' mama, it might be longer."

 

"Aight bro.  I'll get at you at school tomorrow," Paul said as he stepped through the kitchen and made his way to the backyard.  Kevin only waved silently before trodding back up the stairs with a quiet yawn.

 

iU8EggM.png

 

"Chris, you're a lightweight," Hensley said, rolling over to the right side of a very large, comfortable bed.

 

"And you're a freak, so we're even," Christina said, hiding her face beneath the sheets.

 

Meanwhile, Jake lay silently in the middle between them both, red in the face.  Hensley crawled across Jake and flopped across him in order to reach Christina.  She pulled the sheet away from Christina and forced her to turn over.  "Hey!" Christina said, embarrassed and trying to hide.

 

"Wait a minute.  You're ashamed, are you Chris?" Hensley teased.

 

"N-no!  I don't get embarrassed!  I'm just--you caught me off guard!  That's all!" Christina said as she snatched the sheet away and covered herself again.

 

Hensley relented and shrugged, then climbed off the bed.  "Well, now that I know what you're like when you're drunk, you and I might have to hang out more often."

 

Christina tried her best not to laugh.  "You're a terrible influence on me.  I mean, I was gonna drink regardless, but I didn't think I was gonna have an expedition party last night.  If this damages my career, I'm gonna kick your ass."

 

Hensley slipped her clothes back on slowly.  "The only one who can damage it is you.  This is the city of sin, sweetheart.  Embrace it."

 

Jake shamefully slid out of bed and walked over to put on his boxers.  Hensley spanked his bare butt as he passed, causing Jake to yelp.  

 

"Hurry and get dressed.  I have to get you two home so I can get back to my place," Hensely demanded.

 

Christina sighed.  "But this bed is so comfortable."

 

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Paul was peddling away.  He had already rounded Pressburg Street and he was approximately five blocks from home.  As he turned down Papania Drive, he passed a large park and basketball court.  Despite how early it was, the court was already busy with a pick-up game.  Today, Paul decided to cut through the park.  A big mistake.

 

As the wheels of his bike hopped the curve into the grass of the park, he saw three young men approach him from behind the basketball court.  "Boy, wazzam, boy," one of them called to him.  This was Calvin Steers, a.k.a. Cavo.  He and Paul had attended middle school together.  He was a dark-skinned, slightly older young man in his early twenties now.  He had been in and out of jail for moving cocaine and was always looking to recruit into his boss's organization. They weren't exactly friends, but he and Paul weren't quite enemies either.

 

Paul sighed silently as he pulled his bike to a stop.  "What up, Cavo.  Kinda early cuz," Paul said, nodding at Cavo.

 

"sheet, ain't never to early to hustle, g," Cavo replied as the words escaped his burnt lips.  "So what's good wit it?"

 

"Look, Cavo, I told you, bro, I'm not my brother.  I'm not out here like that," Paul answered.

 

"I'm sayin' tho, we always need a runner bruh.  You been dodgin' me.  That's rude as funk, son," Cavo said as he looked Paul up and down.  Cavo and his allies stepped forward a bit, and Paul began to step back on his bike.

 

"Cavo, I can't.  Alright?  I'm tryna get out the hood, and you tryna keep me here.  Please, bro.  Let me through.  I just wanna get--"

 

"How ya lil sis n' em?  Ann doin' aight?" Cavo asked, with emphasis on Ann's name,

 

Paul clenched his fist.  "Don't bring her into this.  sheet ain't right."

 

"Ain't right for you to be disrespectin' me either, jabroni," Cavo responded.  Cavo stepped closer and raised his shirt just slightly to reveal a pistol in his pants beneath his boxers.  "I got enough cuz, for all yo people.  Either you gon get this work, or your people gon get this work."

 

Paul shuddered.  He wanted to snatch the pistol from Cavo and kill him right there!  But that would surely end in Paul's death and the murder of his family too.  

 

"Where, bruh?" Paul finally asked.

 

Before Cavo could answer, he was snatched backward and thrown to the ground by a large Latino man.  He began to wail on Cavo as Cavo's two friends drew their own guns.  They froze in place when two older black males approached with rifles drawn.  They scrambled away and left Cavo to suffer a beating.

 

Paul began to step back, trying to get on his bike.  One of the older black men with a rifle lowered his weapon and put a hand on Paul's bike.  "Wait."

 

When the Latin man stopped beating Cavo, he pulled the young man to his feet.  The right side of Cavo's face had swelled and his right eye was shut.  He had a mouth full of blood and he was missing two teeth now.  "You ever threaten the Brown's again," the Latin man spoke.  "And you gon be missin' a whole lotta people.  You.  Yours.  Everybody you know.  From here to B.R. and the boonies.  Understand, young blood?"

 

Cavo nodded with compliance.  

 

"Go home.  Leave Paul alone.  And don't let us see you out here again," the Latin man demanded.

 

The basketball players had taken off at the sight of the violence, and now Cavo was sprinting away for his life with his tail between his legs.  

 

"Tito?" Paul said slowly.

 

The Latin man turned around.  "What's goin' on lil brother?"

 

Paul sighed with relief as he shook Tito's hand and hugged him.  "Man I haven't seen you since my bro left."

 

Tito nodded.  "Had to get business straight."

 

Paul nodded and looked around.  Then he saw a car he recognized.  It was a 1985 all black Chevrolet Impala.  The tint on the windows was well beyond the street limitations, and the car was running.  

 

"How long has he been in town?" Paul asked.

 

"Few days.  Back in business.  So you know we gotchu, right?  Whatever you need.  Money.  A ride.  Protection.  Red give us a word, you know it's whatever," Tito said proudly.

 

Paul shook his head.  "I'm good man.  But, thank you for this.  How did y'all find me?"

 

Tito laughed.  "You know he see everything.  Iunno why you even ask me that," Tito said, slapping Paul's chest.  "He told me to tell you he'll see you soon."

 

Paul nodded.  This was bad.  "Okay.  Sounds good.  Like later today, or... ?"

 

Tito shrugged.  "When Red moves, he moves.  You know how he is."

 

"Yeah, I do," Paul thought.  "Aight, Tito.  Oh, uh, what's the word?  Did he get everything?"

 

Tito nodded.  "Everything, bro.  Ain't nothin' Red didn't take.  The whole city is ours."

 

It was worse than Paul thought.  "sheet, okay.  I guess y'all doin' big things then."  Paul and Tito shook hands before Tito began to retreat to the black Impala.

 

"I'll see you around lil' bro!" Tito called.

 

Paul remained silent, his thoughts running all over.  "sheet.  sheet, sheet, sheet."

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Tyler stifled a yawn as he made his way over to his car. The gravel crunched under his sneakers, and he weaved through a minefield of broken beer bottles and cigarette butts. He offhandedly wondered how in the hell the Garcia guy was planning on getting the house fixed up before his folks found out, but quickly, he decided he didn’t care.

 

Served him right. This was all his fault for hosting the party anyways.

 

“M*therf*cker” Tyler growled when he got to his car. Someone had keyed the driver’s side, scratching it from just below the mirror all the way back to above the rear tire. They had left him a nice little message, too, chiseled into his door: F*CK you Beckett.

 

He had bigger concerns at the moment, but as soon as he got the chance, Tyler was going to find out who had keyed his baby and he was going to pour sugar in their gas tank. He took a quick picture of it with his phone and then sat down in the car, starting it up and taking a minute to shoot Nathan a message.

 

Lost track of Chris at the party. Cops showed up, couldn’t get arrested again. Sorry. Someone keyed the hell out my car tho so maybe that’s karma? HMU if you hear anything about who did it, and tell Chris im sorry i flaked.

 

He attached a picture of the scratch and the message, then sent the text. He dwelled on his contacts after that. He had a few from the night before, when people had passed them out. Honestly… it all seemed like a bad trip in hindsight.

 

Whatever. He shoved it into the back of his mind and put it in drive, trying to remember how to get over to Starbucks from where he was at. He didn’t know this neighborhood well enough.

 

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Haruka stepped out of the car, looking at her locked house. She made a point not to comment on the driver-side door that somebody had scratched a message into. It would be like reminding a guy that his husband just died, at least in her mind. The house, however, was in perfectly good shape, including the door. It wasn’t the pinnacle of civilian housing, but calling it a dump would be a blatant lie. “This is the place,” she said. “We have an alarm, but I shut that off yesterday because I didn’t expect to lock myself out. It shouldn’t go off.”

 

Tyler made a noncommittal noise. “Don’t ‘spose you tried the windows?”

 

“I, uh…” Yep. I’m irrevocably stupid. “Locked those too,” she lied. “I didn’t want humid air getting in, and if I’m not opening them, what’s the point of leaving them unlocked?”

 

“...Right. You said the alarm was off?”

 

“Yes.” That one was true, at least.

 

“Checked to see if your old man hid a key anywhere?” he asked.

 

“He used to have a hidden key, but did away with that before I moved in,” Haruka explained. “Somebody found it and broke in or something.”

 

Tyler sighed. “A’ight, gimme a minute. You got a paperclip?”

 

“Let me check.” Haruka reached for an empty space of air at her side, only to stop her in tracks. “My purse is inside. Dammit. Would the inside of a pen work?”

 

“Nah. Window it is.” Tyler plodded across the lawn without saying much of anything else, mud squelching under his shoes from the rain the night before. He stopped just in front of the first window on the front of the house, looking over his shoulder. “You coming?”

 

“Obviously.” Haruka followed Tyler toward the window, looking inside. At least the TV was off. She would have hated if she’d left that running this whole time.

 

“You should close your curtains. Wanderin’ eyes’ll see somethin’ they like,” Tyler said offhandedly, pulling a pocket knife out from somewhere.

 

“S-Something they like!?” A bitter expression filled Haruka’s face. “If someone breaks in just to try and come onto me, they aren’t worth the trouble. And should probably be arrested. Don’t get any funny ideas, got it?”

 

Tyler quirked an eyebrow. “I meant your stuff. You’re just asking someone to bust into your house when you’re advertising that pretty lil’ flatscreen TV in there everyday.”

 

“...that. Yes. Of course.”

 

“Sorry to burst your bubble, pipsqueak, but you’re not my type. Anyways…” He slid the knife under the beading of the window, prying it up. “There’s easier ways to do this, but if all else fails, it’s not really hard to jimmy a window. Just pry this little guarding up, enough to get your fingers under it, and…” Tyler forced the window up enough to get a grip underneath it, and then shoved it upwards. “Ta-da.”

 

“I see.” Well she was just fine not being some delinquent’s type. He wasn’t her type either anyway! Haruka climbed into the window, removing her shoes from her feet once she was inside. “Meet me at the door. You got me back into my own house so I think I’m supposed to give you food or something if you plan to stick around for a bit. But leave your shoes at the door once you’re inside.” With that, she made for her door, peacefully unlocking it without needing to pick it at all.

 

Tyler was waiting outside the door, hands shoved into his pockets, knife nowhere to be found. He wouldn’t have normally stuck around, but he hadn’t had anything to eat in… he wasn’t sure how long. He was more than starving. “Your old man doesn’t have any cameras hidden in here or anything, does he? I don’t need a crazy ass old guy thinking I’m up to something.”

 

Okay. Maybe it was an odd thing to say, but it wouldn’t have been the first time it happened to him.

 

“No cameras,” Haruka answered, opening the door and setting her shoes on the floor just beside it. “Even if we had them, knowing my uncle, if he saw a boy entering the house with me, he’d think I have a boyfriend and then he’d want to meet you for a friendly chat and a meal. Then I’d have to explain he’s got the wrong idea and you’re not my type so on and so forth. Talk about a hassle.”

 

Tyler smirked. “That’d be a nice change of pace, at least.” He stepped inside, toeing off his own shoes. They were noticeably more dirty than Haruka’s, muddy and beat-up looking. “So… Whatcha got to eat?”

 

“Standard stuff you’d find in any house, and sushi that Uncle Ayumu made. I recommend the sushi if you like seafood; he runs his own small restaurant and everything, and usually does the cooking over there too. He knows what he’s doing.”

 

“Sushi, huh?” Tyler looked around at the inside of the house. It was a harsh contrast from the cluttered, grease-stained house he and his old man lived in. Everything was so… pristine? Yeah, that was it. It reminded him of those homes you saw in a hallmark card, so clean it looked like no one lived there. “Never had it. Not really somethin’ you see much of where I’m from. I’m down to try it, though, if you say it’s good.”

 

“It is,” Haruka insisted, making her way a short distance toward the refrigerator. “I’m not too crazy about the chef, but the food is a different story.” She opened it up, looking at various containers inside, commenting - mostly to herself - about the contents of each. <Who the hell refrigerates takoyaki anyway?> she muttered in her native Japanese. <That one’s half-eaten, so not that. This nigiri looks pretty fresh. That should do.> The girl pulled out a container with food in it, setting it down on the counter behind her. “That’s nigiri. The fish on top is salmon. I don’t remember that being there, so it was probably made recently.” Though it would probably taste better if it was made just now. I’m no good at cooking though.

 

Tyler stared at the… food? It didn’t really look edible yet. “...Right. Should I heat it up or anything?”

 

“It’s sushi; you eat it raw. I guess you could heat it up if you really don’t like raw fish.”

 

Tyler took a moment to roll up his sleeves and wash his hands, then took a small portion of the sushi. It was cold and smelled poisonous. He steeled his nerves and took a bite. It was… surprisingly alright. Not insanely good, but good nonetheless. “Not bad,” he said after swallowing his food. He sat down at the small table in the kitchen. “You not gonna eat?”

 

“I have a small appetite. Besides, I--” Haruka was cut off by a beeping sound coming from her body. Her phone. “Hold on.” She looked at the caller ID, and a look of mild annoyance could be seen on her face. Uncle Ayumu. She answered. <What?>

 

<Just calling to check up on you.>

 

<I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Go back to being all buddy-buddy with those good-for-nothings.> Then she hung up. “My uncle,” she briefly explained.

 

Tyler tossed another piece of sushi into his mouth. “...Guessin’ you two don’t get along?” That much was fairly obvious. He wasn’t overly interested in hearing another sad story about someone’s family, but when he thought about it, he decided he shouldn’t be a prick for once. She had given him something to eat.

 

“It’s not that we don’t get along; he’s too cheery for my liking, but not a terrible person. It’s the rest of the family I don’t like. And he’s in Japan visiting them. I told him not to call me unless it’s an emergency and everything.”

 

“So you don’t get along with the rest of your family?” Tyler wasn’t really sure why he was asking, but when was he ever sure about what he was doing (the answer was never). “Guessin’ you got a good reason?”

 

“It’s kind of a long story,” she answered. Haruka picked out a nigiri from the container for herself, and seated herself across the table from Tyler, taking her first bite. That’s pretty good. Then again, it’s just nigiri. Pretty hard to botch that up.

 

“A’ight.” Tyler sat back in his chair, popping another piece of sushi into his mouth. They sat in silence for at least a minute. “...well, if you wanna tell it, I’m sorta trying to avoid goin’ home right now,” He rubbed his jaw, which was still slightly swollen from the fight two days before. “Not seen my old man in two days and he’s probably going to kick my ass when I do.”

 

Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone even knows my family situation here. Uncle Ayumu’s always saying it’s good to let things off my chest. Let’s try it while we’re here I guess, though I can’t imagine it going well. “Just a moment.” Haruka got down from her seat, making for the TV and grabbing a picture frame resting by its side. She then returned to the table, and set down a framed picture of a girl, seemingly about Haruka’s age, though the picture itself seemed older than Haruka herself. “It’s an old picture, but that’s my mother. She was smart and nice, and talented, though I have to question her taste in men.”

 

Tyler moved the picture frame to face him, studying it. “... I can see the resemblance,” he said. “You look a lot alike.”

 

“It’s a shame the resemblance stops at looks. I wound up taking more after my father. He’s critical, he’s not the type to act polite just because, and sometimes I wonder if he even knows how to smile. But he was a super-hard worker, so he was able to provide for all of us, letting mom stay at home and take care of me. It was nice. Then one day, she said she was going out to get groceries, and next thing I know…” Haruka paused for a bit, with a more somber expression than one would expect from a five-foot-three ball of seething hate. Not for dramatic effect or anything, so much as having trouble figuring out just how to recall the next part of her family story.

 

“Next thing I know, she’s on the news. ‘50 Dead in Traffic Wreck.’ So then her mother moves in with us at my father’s urging, because I’m only twelve at the time. I can take care of myself mind you, but he insisted.” Haruka’s expression visibly grew bitter at the thought of the older woman.

 

“That didn’t go so hot?” Tyler bit down on the inside of his cheek, grabbing another piece of sushi just so he had something to do with his hands. He was never good at this sort of thing.

 

“She didn’t think the wreck was an accident. Grandma was of the mind that mom started the wreck on purpose. And here’s the part that explains just how audacious this hag is. She thought we had something to do with it! Like we somehow pushed her over some sort of edge. I can admit I’m not very good with people, but it wasn’t like that before. It was a tense environment. I kept trying to correct that dumb witch that it was an accident, she kept insisting it was because of me and dad for some reason. Eventually we got into a big fight, and dad realized this wasn’t working out. So he sent me here instead, to live with his brother. He’s nice and all, but he’s definitely not my mother, but even this is leagues better than staying in Japan. I haven’t even heard from anyone over there. Like they just handed me off like some sort of problem. But that’s fine. I don’t like them anyway. Grandma in particular can burn in hell for all I care.”

 

Tyler thought she might have been trying to convince herself more than she was him. “That’s… f***ed up,” he managed to come up with after a moment. “Maybe you’re better off here, if that’s the case. Family ain’t always blood, and blood ain’t always family.”

 

“I’m better off here,” Haruka agreed, taking a larger bite into her nigiri. She took a moment to chew and swallow, before continuing “There’s no evidence one way or the other on the traffic wreck being an accident, which doesn’t help at all. What do you think? Was it an accident?”

 

Tyler took a moment to think before he said anything. “You have a license?” he asked finally.

 

“As a general rule, I’m not all that crazy about cars.”

 

“Well, I’ve been driving since I was twelve. Went to juvie the first time for carjacking when I was fourteen. Wanna know somethin’?” He looked at her seriously. “Those things don’t care who’s driving them, or if they have children at home. On a highway, all it takes is one idiot to kill a dozen people. On a rainy day, all that you’ve gotta do is take one turn too sharp and that car’s gonna roll.” He took another bite of the nigiri, and swallowed it before he continued, “So if you wanna know what I think… I think your grandma’s an idiot. I think there’s better ways to kill yourself, if you’re gonna, and I think accidents are way too common to write ‘em off.”

 

“Right!? Shows how much she knows. And that’s the story of why I’m here, instead of attending some fancy school in Tokyo. It would probably have been some all-girls school too. Hmph. No thanks.” Haruka paused, and looked over the table. There was nigiri, sure, and a guest, but no drinks. “Are you thirsty?”

 

“Wouldn’t mind something to drink,” he said.

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Reno woke up, groaning as he sat up. It was probably the best sleep he had in the longest time, but it was time to go. He looked around, and he could see he was the last one to leave... maybe, he wasn't sure if the one in the bathroom had left or not. With a shrug, he quickly learned how to leave and where to go. He was almost tempted to stay here, since despite the raging monsters, it was really peaceful here. Sadly, he knew he couldn't stay, and so, he left.

 


 

It seemed the end destination was the abandoned homes that they started at. It seemed a lot less terrifying when there was sunlight. He looked around, seeing if there was anyone here. Thankfully, it seemed to be devoid of people, which was a good thing for him. He took a breath and headed to the only place he had to go today... home.

It didn't take him long to get back home, and the smell of alcohol filled the air, a disheartening but familiar smell. The house was empty, outside of him... so there was only one thing to do. Quietly and swiftly, he picked the bottles off of the floor, and throw them in the recycling bin. He sighed as he looked around. The house seemed so dark, so crowded. Still... his mind wandered to the people he met yesterday. They had it worse than he did... maybe...

 

Silently, he grabbed an old backpack he didn't use, and looked around the house. He found some food that'd he'd never eat that his dad bought anyways, and he stuffed as much as he could in his bag. When it was done, he went outside, and headed back to where they made found the way to another world. He was quiet as he walked, getting to that alley way where they met the homeless people. He dropped the bag of food and quickly left. Last thing he wanted was to be caught here.

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Quinn groaned as he stirred from sleep, his back sore from sleeping in a bathtub. Wait, bathtub? No, he'd fallen asleep so was definitely no way he could still be tripping. Unlocking the bathroom door he peeked out to see the "Nurse Shadow" still manning its position. Forcefully closing the door Quinn leaned against it pulling at his hair.

 

"Ok, there's definitely a rational explanation for this right?" Pinching the bridge of his nose he recalled the words from last night, the monster at the door had said that they could leave once the storm had subsided. 

 

Quinn glanced at his phone, which confirmed that 10 hours had passed and he was free to leave. Opening the door Quinn walked with purpose towards the door.

 

"Ah, Mr. Quinn, Mr. Pa-"

 

"No." Was Quinn's only response as he left the room.

 

iU8EggM.png

 

"Ah, Master Quinn, checking out?"

 

"Yes, check me out. Quickly please."

 

"Well, to that you'll have to dial out from the south side of the island."

 

"Ok, well where the hell is that?"

 

"It is the beach from, which you first came to the island."

 

"Are you kidding me? Can't you just dial me out from here, or something?"

 

"I cannot, unfortunately."

 

"Ugh, fine." Quinn brusquely turned on his heel his anger growing by the second at being dragged into whatever stupid situation this was.

 

"We hope to see you soon, Master Quinn."

 

"Don't funking count on it," Quinn replied pure venom in his voice as he left.

 

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Finally, back on the beach Quinn took his phone from his pocket and realized that he wasn't exactly sure how he was supposed to dial out. Nervously he began inching closer and closer to the water until he began to hear a crackling noise, which only grew louder until as he reached the shoreline a loud clap of thunder sounded over his head.

 

"Oh god, please don't kill me! I'm sorry for insulting your stupid hotel!" After a moment of cowering and find himself to be fine Quinn quickly realized that his phone was vibrating in his pocket. "Please let this work." Quickly dialing the resort number Quinn closed his eyes, and suddenly a feeling of weightlessness came over him, and the next thing he knew...

 

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Quinn started awake at the abandoned homes near Kevin's house.

 

"A dream...? Yeah, it must've been." However, as he looked at his phone realizing finding numerous missed calls and unanswered texts among other notifications letting him know that he had in fact been gone all night and that he had in fact passed out in some homeless community.

 

Picking himself up from the ground he began the long trek home. From here it would take several hours for him to reach home, however, looking at the some of the text messages his sister had sent him he wasn't exactly looking forward to coming home. Leaving the makeshift shantytown Quinn's phone went off with another notification this one the tone for Grindr.

 

"Oh... great..."

 

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Quinn tried to enter the door to his sister's apartment as quietly as possible, however his barely even a fourth of the way into the entranceway when he heard the sound of his sister barrelling from the kitchen.

 

"Quinn!? Is that you!?" Quinn's sister turned the corner and as soon as the sibling's locked eyes she went through a series of rapid-fire emotions, first relief, to happiness and then finally rage. "Where the funk were you last night!?" She shrieked pulling Quinn the rest of the way inside the house. "Do you have any idea how worried I was!? How worried everyone was!? Did you even think to call!?"

 

"I- I-" Quinn stammered he'd expected this response. However, something about the way his sister gripped his wrist, and the aggressive manner of her words and body language sent him spiraling. "I- I'm sorry, I- I just got tired, and I ended up sleeping at Kevin's house, I- I'm re-really sorry, for- for real!"

 

"You got tired!?" Gwen finally released her grip on his wrist running her hands through her hair, "God, Quinn you know I've really tried to let you have a long leash here. I know I'm not mom and dad and I wanted to give you a lot of freedom, but apparently, you're not ready for that! God, after what happened to you, what you were you thinking!? You- You're funking grounded!"

 

"What!?"

 

"Don't what me! You are going to go to school and come home. I'm taking your phone and you can have it when you go to school and that's it. No computer. No drama club. No friends. And especially no going out!"

 

"You have to be kidding me!" Quinn bristled all the anger from back on Origin Island was coming back to him.

 

"No, I'm not. I'm not going to sit here worrying every night if I'm going to have to identify your body in some dirty ditch in the morning cause you can't be responsible. I mean you got raped Quinn, and your rapist is still out there! Do you understand how much that makes me worry!?"

 

"Makes you worry? funk you, this isn't about you!" Angrily he pushed passed Gwen going to his room slamming the door and locking it. Gwen still in a state of righteous fury followed after her brother, however, she stopped herself short hearing the small sound her brother crying on the other side of the door.

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8/26

Confrontation

 

Jason came to about the exact location he and the others left from. Which meant he needed to get back home...immediately.

 

sheet...sheet...sheet... he thought, making his way back home, rubbing his wrist some. What happened to everyone else at the party? Were they arrested? He really hoped not, especially if they decided to want to call all the parents of those who came. I just really hope no one tried to find me at the house...otherwise I'll never hear the end of it.

 

He could only hope...

 

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-BGM-

 

It wasn't long before he saw the house and his heart was somewhat relieved that in the driveway, it looked like the parent's car was gone. Must mean that they were gone for a little while.

 

Nevertheless, he made his way up towards the front door and pulled out his keys. Jason started to insert the key into the lock, but the door was already starting to open by someone behind it. Jason looked up slowly and felt his face lose all color in it as there stood his foster father, Gary, and behind him was Alice. Both of them looked a little upset, well, Alice's face looked more worried than upset...that was namely the old man.

 

"Where...have...you...been?!" he barked out, letting Jason in before slamming the door.

 

"I was hanging out...with the Video Game Club last night." Jason responded, trying his best to avoid eye contact with him. Though without the eye contact, he could smell something: it was alcohol. A smell of booze was coming from Gary...which meant he was most likely drunk.

 

"And you found it necessary to leave...WITHOUT TELLING ME?! And what's worse is that you didn't have the audacity to call and say you weren't going to be home! You left that to Alice!"

 

"To be fair, you and mom were 'talking' when I decided to head out." Jason said, using quotation marks on the word 'talking'. However, this wasn't apparently what Gary wanted to hear, as Jason felt himself being jacked up by his collar and pushed against the front door.

 

"You trying to get smart with me, boy?!"

 

"Dad, please..." Alice tried to interject, but was cut short.

 

"Alice stay out of this. I should ground you as well for helping pull this little stunt!" he shouted, returning his gaze back to Jason for a moment. He finally let go of Jason and pointed towards the stairs. "Go to your room...I don't want to see you out of their until dinner. Maybe then I'll have a suitable punishment for you."

 

Jason watched Gary storm off, before clenching his fist slightly. He wanted to go at it with him, he wanted to so badly right now...but not in front of Alice. He cared too much for her to have a shouting and possible fist throwing match with him. Jason sighed and glanced at Alice before saying he was sorry in the form of sign language as he made his way upstairs and to his room.

 

Fan...funking....tastic... he thought, entering his room and collapsing on his bed. It didn't feel as good as the other one, but it would do for now. Jason quickly took his phone and decided to send Paul a text to let him know he was back home. "Hey Paul. It's Jason. Made it back home...just gonna say this, hope your folks aren't upset about not being home last night...I know mine are."

 

Tch...I hate the fact that they're quick to jump on my case...but yet...expect me to be just Alice and fall in line. Jason thought, tossing his phone over on his bean bag chair and laid on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Guess now I'm gonna have to be running everything by his ass from now on...still...hopefully this punishment isn't one that'll TOO bad...

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Avery's eyes went wide as her senses were flooded with the familiar setting. The ground was not sand. There was no hotel in sight. The sky was different. The air was different. The sounds were different. Or rather, everything was the same. Looking around, the girl noticed that she was back home - not home home, but just New Orleans. The girl let out a sigh, her expression clearly disappointed, before a small smile crept across her face. This place was ordinary. It was simple. It was real. Yet, there was something beyond that. Something that she had seen, felt, heard. Something more than just this. As the girl continued to think about it, she then looked around and realized something. 

 

Stranded. 

 

She was in the same place as that night. The same place where they had been running from. Which meant she was far from home. Sighing at this, the girl's expression returned to its more neutral look as she pulled out her phone. Without the faintest idea of how to actually get from here to home, the girl was about to open a map to navigate her way home, before she saw that there were missed messages from her parents. Worry crossed her face, as she realized she never told them she'd be out for the night, and merely tried to assure both of her parents that she was fine. With the messages being sent, the girl then opened her map back up, using it to help begin her trek back home. 

 

Once there, the girl merely said, "I'm home," before walking through the building. There was no response. Looking at the clock, the girl nodded to herself, affirming that this was correct. Walking through the house, the girl made her way to her room. As her fingers reached out for the door knob, a smile crept across her face, her neutral expression giving way for something far more gleeful. With that, the girl merely opened the door and, with a suddenness, shut the door behind her. 

 

The day was young and there were so many new things to write about. 

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Lazy Sunday
 
Paul's Sunday went by dreadfully slow.  The entire time, he could think of nothing but the fear of his mother finding out he partook in a rowdy, unsupervised party.  He couldn't let his mother know that her sweet, churchgoing, God-fearing, perfect A-student son was out having fun!  The things that would do to her mind were potentially catastrophic.  Paul rolled his eyes at the thought.  In truth, he was more afraid of Ms. Brown finding out that her second son -- and Paul's older brother -- was in town.  The only way Ms. Brown could find out about Randy was if he suddenly showed up at her front door, or if Paul accidentally blabbed it.
 
Paul turned over in his bed and faced the clock on his bedside table.  It was only 1:33 p.m.  There were still several more hours of daylight, and Paul had nothing to do.  He really needed to find some sort of extracurricular activities.  Or, at the very least, he needed to have more friends than just Kevin.
 
Paul rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling in his room.  He took his phone from his pocket tapped the screen twice with his finger.  Turns out he had missed a text message from... several hours ago.  And it was Jason.
 
"Hey, Paul. It's Jason. Made it back home...just gonna say this, hope your folks aren't upset about not being home last night...I know mine are."
 
Paul's lip quivered a bit.  He didn't know what Jason's folks were like, but he didn't think they would freak out over Jason going to a party.  He was a former basketball star after all.  
 
"Dude, my mom hasn't told me a thing.  TBH, I don't think she cares.  I'm still thinking about what happened on that island.  Did it actually happen?  We can't have all hallucinated at once, right?" Paul replied.  He let his phone flop down onto his bed beside him as he sat up.  He couldn't just sit here all day.  So much was happening so quickly that Paul now felt the need to be doing something.  Anything would suffice so long as he wasn't just sitting on his bed doing nothing.
 
It was then that Paul realized he never heard back from Amanda.  He wasn't even sure she got home safely.  He picked his phone back up and immediately checked in with her.
 
"Hey.  Sorry about last night.  I just got home.  You OK?"
 
He waited anxiously for her reply.
 
iU8EggM.png
 
 
This Sunday had come and gone.  Amanda finally texted Paul back and he jumped up from the dinner table the second he heard Amanda's unique notification tone on his phone.
 
" 'Scuse me," he said without waiting to be excused.
 
 When he got back to his room, Paul closed his door and flopped onto his bed.  He double tapped the screen on his phone and opened Amanda's message.
 
"Hey.  It's np :) I would've run too lol.  And yeah, I'm fine.  Are you okay tho?  You helped me n the club get out, minus Haruka.  You made it home safe, right?"
 
"Yeah I'm good.  Haruka should be okay too.  We hung out for a bit after we all escaped the cops."  Paul couldn't believe he was lying to Amanda.  He and Haruka didn't 'hang out'.  They almost died in another world and he had no idea how they got there.  But then, isn't not dying together sort of like hanging out?
 
"Oh okay cool.  Well don't forget this week is Spirit Week.  I'm thinking we can maybe do a club outing to a football game since pre-season is startin" Amanda replied.
 
"That doesn't sound too bad.  When's the first game?"
 
"Dunno.  I'll find out tomorrow.  Don't forget to wear school colors."
 
Paul rolled his eyes.  He wasn't a big fan of orange and blue.  "Okay.  Well I'm gonna crash for the night.  See you tmrw?"
 
"Yup.  See you tmrw."
 
iU8EggM.png
 
8/27
 
Monday
 
Humid
 
This was a special week for Greater Orleans High.  This coming week, all kinds of tryouts would be happening for school-wide teams.  From football and basketball to volleyball, baseball, cheerleading, and track, every team that was a part of Greater Orleans high would be trying out new members to keep its talent fresh.  The boys and girls basketball teams would share Monday with the boy's football team.  The basketball teams would divide the court evenly while the football team took to the field outside.
 
Tuesday would be occupied by the girl's volleyball team in the gym.  Wednesday belonged to the boy's baseball team on their brand new diamond.  Thursday would be taken by the cheerleading squad, held in the auditorium.  Friday was picked up last by the track team who would be outdoors behind building C.
 
Each team was accepting a maximum of five new members, excluding the football and track team who were accepting ten students.  Over the course of the week, different activities for each organized team would be held.  There were pep rallies, after school pick-up-games, fundraisers, and more.
 
Too bad Paul wouldn’t be attending any of it.
 
He sighed as he walked toward his morning American History class.  When he got up this morning he threw on a blue Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap with a blue and white striped polo shirt, blue jeans, and blue and orange laced sneakers.  He was wearing school colors, but he certainly wasn’t in the school spirit.  His mind was on a number of other things.  
 
His brother.
 
Cavo and his crew.
 
The island.  That was the biggest concern he had.  He was going back no later than Thursday.  But then, was that too late?  Georaldo had said the island would only be around for a short period of time.  Ten days, was it?  There were nine days left.  If he waited until Thursday, there would be less than a week for Paul to get answers.  Was that enough time?  He furiously rubbed his head as he stood out in the hall, pondering things to himself.
 
“You feelin’ okay, Paulie?” asked a familiar voice.  It was Amanda.
 
“Hmm?  Yeah, nah, I’m just kinda… out of it.  How ‘bout you?” Paul asked.
 
“I’m not hungover and my folks don’t know about the party, so I’m good.  Like, James Brown good,” she joked.
 
Paul nodded silently, which made Amanda wonder.
 
“You sure you’re okay?  You’re normally all cheery and-- wait.  Did your mom get pissy over the party?” Amanda inquired.
 
“Wha-- nah.  No.  She doesn’t even know it happened.  I got some other things on my mind that I just can’t shake right now.  I’m sorry.  Look, I’ll catch you later at the club, okay?” Paul said as he stepped into his classroom.
 
“Okay, Paulie.  Feel better, and I’ll see you after school,” Amanda called as she walked away.
 
Paul took a seat in the back of the classroom and pulled out his phone.  He was fifteen minutes early and the first one in class.  He folded his arms on his desk and tucked his head into them, gingerly.  What if he needed more than six days?  What if this god-thing was dangerous?  What if he had to go it alone?  There was no guaranteed anyone else was going to follow him back to the island.
 
What if it disappeared early?  What if he got followed and someone else ended up getting sucked into his mess?  There were so many unanswered questions, and Paul could barely think straight.  He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  He had to think about his schedule.
 
Ded. Fiction would meet Monday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays after school.  That meant he couldn’t go back to the island on Thursday.  He already had prior commitments.  This would leave his Tuesdays and Fridays available.  Returning Friday would mean that Paul would risk a lot of questioning by his mother.  Friday nights were a big risk if he didn’t inform her early of any “plans” he might make for the weekend.
 
On the other hand, Tuesday nights were almost perfect.  He could feign interest in Spirit Week and buy time.  At least enough time to explore the island a bit more.  Or… he could do both.
 
Paul sat up and let out a breath.  That was exactly what he was going to do.  Tomorrow, he would return to the island.  And if things panned out, he would go back once more this coming Friday.  He couldn’t let this sit in the back of his mind anymore.  Paul had made a decision.
 

  • Attend class.
  • Attend after school clubs (if applicable).
  • *Interact with others who went to the island (optional).

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