Young Adult by Nicole Zoltack
Mr. McMichaels hated me ever since he confiscated a story I wrote during class. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.
I guess I can't blame him for that but I hated chemistry class. And I hated pop quizzes even more. Who needs to know the entire periodic table other than scientists?
Mr. McMichaels cleared his throat. “Ten minutes, people,” he announced, his voice barely containing his excitement.
He wanted us all to fail, I could tell. I wrinkled my nose and wrote down the initials to all the elements I recognized and stalled over several. The bell rang, and I scrambled to fill the remaining squares.
Mr. McMichaels stood behind me. “Time’s up, Riona.”
I wrote down another element and handed him the paper. “Here you go, Mr. McMichaels.” I half-smiled.
He huffed and resumed collecting the rest of the quizzes.
Cassie, my best friend, slung her school bag over her shoulders. “That was rough.”
I laughed. “Give me a break! Your father taught you the periodic table when you were, what, seven?”
“Eight.” Cassie shrugged as we exited the classroom and walked down the hall. “He’s still hoping I’ll be a chemist, too. Even though I almost turned my eye into an egg last lab.”
“Lovely visual, Cass, thanks.”
She grinned. “Talk to you later.” She headed down the stairs.
"Riona?" someone called.
I turned around and saw Artex, a recent transfer student approach, a piece of paper in his hand. "Hi." I smiled, unsure why he was talking to me.
"I think this is yours." He handed me the paper.
I skimmed it. Yes it was mine - a story I had started in Spanish class, about an obsessive-compulsive knight named Roderick. "Thank you. I didn't realize I had left it behind."
"You're a good reader." He fell into step beside.
My cheeks grew hot. "You read it?" Even though I dreamed of seeing my name, Riona Streaming, on the spine of a book, I didn’t have the courage to allow someone else to read my writing.
He laughed and brushed back some of his dark hair from his forehead. "How else did I know it was yours? Poor Roderick. You really wrote him into a tight spot. Those bloody pirates are more than he can handle. Are you going to finish it?”
"Eventually." I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. I didn't know him that well but he liked my writing so how bad could he be?
I paused before my English class door. "Class," I said, feeling lame. Gah, why couldn't I ever talk to cute guys?
Artex grinned. "I know. I have English with you." He waved his arm. "After you."
I walked into the small classroom and slid into my customary seat in the middle of the classroom. In the front, the teacher can see if you’re taking notes or not. In the back, the teacher assumes you’re a troublemaker.
But in the middle, you can do anything.
Artex sat in the front.
Mrs. Tyebeta stood in front of the class. With her long flowing skirt and earth-toned jewelry, she looked like an Indian princess. “Class, today I want to talk to you about the writing evil. You’ve all read the book A Wrinkle in Time. Did you know Madeleine L'Engle had a hard time publishing it because of the nature of evil in it?”
I furrowed my brow. Evil was a matter of fact within the world. Look at the evening news. Murders, shootings, war. Evil and mankind were inseparable throughout history.
“For the rest of class today, I want you to start a short story that shows evil in some way. You story must be completed by the end of the week. If you want, you may share your story with the class. You can begin.”
Permission to write during class? Fantastic! Evil… hm. What could be more evil than a necromancer? But that would be too contrite. Not all necromancers had to be evil. Slowly the idea formed, and I began to write about Zumar and his revenge against the people of Harrock. My pen raced across the paper.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. Someone was staring at me. Artex? I glanced up. Sure enough, Artex was turned around in his seat, looking at me. He faced forward and returned to his own writing.
Toward the middle of the story, I stalled. What had been Zumar’s motivation for becoming a necromancer?
A few minutes later, Artex stood up and approached Mrs. Tyebeta. They exchanged whispers before she called out, “Class, Artex already has a story he wishes to share.”
I blanched. If Artex had stolen my Alessandro story…
Artex walked to the front of the class. He cleared his throat and began, “Hatred coursed through Zumar as he stared at the city below him. The people of Harrock had done him a great injustice.”
I gasped. Those were the same words that graced the top of my page. But how could Artex have know? He sat in front of me, not behind me. He couldn’t have copied it.
Artex hadn't stopped reading while I thought this. Every word he said, I had also written. “Despite his closed eyes, he saw a bright, raging fire, consuming a small building, his home, with his wife and only child trapped inside. Zumar watched in horror as the flames covered their clothes, and their loud shrieks filled his ears.”
Yes. I had determined Zumar’s his wife and daughter dying as his motivation — but I hadn’t written that far. I leaned forward, my elbow on the desk, my chin resting in my hand, daring Artex to finish reading his story, my story, but the bell rang.
Mrs. Tyebeta smiled apologetically. “You can finish sharing tomorrow.”
“Of course.” Artex caught my eye, smiled knowingly, and practically ran out the door.
I hurried after him, but the crowd of students hindered my progress. By the time I reached the hallway, Artex was nowhere in sight.
Could it have only been a coincidence? It had to be. After all, people can’t read minds.
Still. The next time I saw him, Artex would have some explaining to do.
I walked slowly to my next class, so slowly that the hallways were almost empty. Before I entered the door, I saw a figure down the hallway almost outside my peripheral vision. I looked over, and my heart started to beat way too fast, the pulse drowning out all other sounds.
I saw a face with dark eyes and red skin. The being was massive, with broad shoulders and muscles on top of muscles, and so tall its head nearly touched the ceiling. I gasped with fright.
"Miss Streaming, care to join us for class?" my teacher asked.
I turned to face him, then glanced over my shoulder. The demon was gone. With my arms trembling so much that I almost dropped my books, I hurried to my desk.
For weeks now, I had been having recurring nightmares, all about demons trying to hunt me down and kill me.
I shivered as a feeling of déjà vu came over me. The demon I had seen — no, not seen, it had been a product of my overactive imagination — the demon had looked exactly like those in my nightmares.
Needless to say, I wasn't able to concentrate on any of my classes the rest of the day.