All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Serpent Tattoo: A Prophecies and Destinies Novel
Author's note: I already submitted this, but I decided to change the title, and resubmit it, and it's a little edited.
“That is so cool,” a guy I didn't remember the name of said as he examined my birthmark.
“Wicked cool,” another guy added.
An entire crowd was encircling around my elongated arm, and I girl I believed was named Gracie, traced the swiveled, snake-like pattern around my arm up to my elbow where it ended. Just about the entire gym was making a fuss about it.
My mom told I've had this weird, snake-like birthmark since I was born. It even had the shape of a snake's head on the back of my hand. It was a little rough around the edges, but you could still make it out. Anytime I showed it to someone, they would be amazed by it's appearance, and how it seemed to slither across my left arm. I liked it. Even without the constant awe it received, it made me feel special somehow.
Personally, I don't think it was the fact that it looked like a snake that drew people to it, but more so it's odd coloration. Starting at the head, it was a faint red that shifted its way into orange and yellow, and glided into green and blue, with a little purple tip.
“It's pretty,” Gracie said. I smiled at her, and my eyes began to wander across the gym as everyone continued to caress my arm.
The bleachers were a bland tan color, and mounted high against the wall, about 20 feet. The bleachers and the floor were a couple shades off, but both were equally as depressing. The bright blue and yellow court lines tried to create a more upbeat atmosphere, but they just threw everything off, and made the gym look mismatched. The hoops were down, but they were really low. A seven year old could make a shot. The walls were nothing more than white brick. It wasn't exactly the best gym in the world.
I looked to my left, and saw a girl out of the standard yellow shirt and blue shorts that everyone else was in, but instead a pink t-shirt, and jean shorts, smuggling in the corner with a book. Her long, dark hair was tucked in a side ponytail, slung neatly over her right shoulder. She looked so calm, serene, peaceful.
Her name was Eden. I recognized her from a couple of my classes. I didn't really know her but I knew of her. She worked at our local SPCA after school, and on weekends, she volunteered at the soup kitchen. Her little sister was blind, so she went to a special school. Once a week, Eden would read to her little sisters class. She was probably the nicest, most kindhearted person you'd ever meet.
My attention was drawn to a sudden pressure on my arm. My head snapped to see five meaty, hairy fingers. Before I had time to react I found myself pinned against the blue squishy - but firm - mats that lined the bleach white, brick wall. The impact hurt my ribs, and forced the wind out of me as well as forcing my eyes shut, but I didn't have to open them to know who it was.
“Well, doesn't Jace think he's all special. ?” a mocking voice said breathing hot air into my face.
I opened my brown eyes to Liam Mitchell. His face was chubby – and way to close to mine for comfort – along with the rest of his body. His sandy blond hair was sticking to his forehead. Gym didn't even start yet, and he was already sweating. The gym crowd backed away from us.
He was a pretty tough guy, at least he was compared to me. I've known him since elementary school. When we were in second grade he would flush my glasses down the toilet. Now it was eight years later, and aside from the fact that I don't wear glasses anymore, nothing much has changed. I never understood what his problem with me was. I never did anything to him, at least I don't think so. I guess bullies were just insecure.
“Are you going to answer my question?” he asked, his voice a little harder along with his grip, as he shoved me farther into the blue mats by my arm, forcing my shaggy dark hair to fall into my eyes. He was a lot stronger than me. Trying to wriggle my way out would be a pointless, wasted effort. Even if I smacked him or something with my free arm, it wouldn't do anything. I looked around. No teacher was in sight. Damn it.
I turned my head back to Liam. He was still breathing his hot, cheesy onion breath into my face, making me gag a little bit. And then I smiled.
Getting an idea, I slowly reached into my pocket. He was too fixated on my face to notice. Feeling the small pack of orbit gum, I retracted my arm from my pocket, and held the pack out to Liam. “I think you could use this,” I said, offering him the pack of gum.
I knew exactly what was going to happen as soon as I got the idea, but it would be worth it. A simple punch in the face compared to his suspension was a cake walk compared to other things he's done to me. I took a deep breath, stiffened, and closed my eyes, bracing my self for the impact.
I didn't feel anything, but his grip on my arm let go, followed by by a thud, and an “ow!”
I opened my eyes to Liam on the floor, and my best friend, Tia Edwards– who like Eden, was out of uniform – standing over him with her hand on her hips, facing my way so I could see her face.
She was in cut off shorts with fishnet stockings, a gray shirt with a big Sharpie logo on it, and chucks. Her uneven bob was styled in it's usual way, the longest piece that fell in her face being curled, and the rest straight. Through the bob, you could just make out the bar in her ear that accented the stud nose ring, and eyebrow piercing.
“Were you going to hit him?” she asked. Liam just sat there on the floor, not saying a word.
“Are you going to answer my question?” she repeated the same question he asked me not to long ago. She cocked her head as she said it, and you could see the underlying blue dyed hair better that was best seen in the curl, and a few strands here and there. Again, he just sat there, and I watched as I rubbed my left wrist.
“Just like I thought. So here's how this is going to work. You can stay on the floor, and I'll proceed to kick you in the face and work my way down, or you can stand up and walk away like you didn't just get body slammed by a girl, and continue to be a d-bag for the rest of your days. Your call.”
He hesitated a little, but he eventually mad his way to his feet. “Whatever,” he said as he walked away. I followed him with my eyes as he walked over to the corner of the gym in front of that Eden girl. He bent over her, and did what looked like teasing. She ignored him at first, but he snatched her book away and threw it across the gym. Eden didn't do anything but put her head down.
“What a perfect asshole,” Tia said, shaking her head. She turned to me with crossed arms, and a smug look on her face. “You can thank me now.”
I raised my eyebrows at her. “For?”
“Saving you. Again,” she answered cocking her head again.
“You didn't save me,” I argued.
“Oh, quit lying to yourself, Jace. I've been saving you since second grade.
I bit my lip. Technically she was right. One day, when Liam cornered me in the bathroom, I decided to let someone know, and screamed for help for the first time. Tia heard. me. To her, it didn't matter if it was the boys bathroom or not. She barged in anyway, and jumped on Liam's back to try to force him away from me. It was actually how we met. Of course, back then, she didn't look like a cross between a biker girl and a hipster chick.
“I had it under control.”
“You were controlling nothing.” To any other person that would've sounded harsh, but I knew Tia. She was just poking fun at me.
The sound of a whistle turned my attention to the far side of the gym. Mr. Morris was wearing his usual sweatsuit, though no matter how baggy it was, it failed to conceal his bulging gut that looked so out of place when compared to the rest pf his body, and Yankees baseball cap. He raised his hand as if to call us over to his standing point. Me and Tia obeyed. Eden practically ran, even if she wasn't in uniform. I don't blame her. I would do anything to get away from Liam. Everyone else eventually fell in.
“Today we are playing dodge ball,” he started, not bothering to take attendance, or even check who was dressed in uniform. “This side over here, that side over there,” he said, separating us into 2 groups. I groaned, and I looked at my arms, that unfortunately resembled toothpicks. I wasn't that strong, and I definitely couldn't throw a ball at any force that couldn't be caught. Liam was on the other side of the gym, smiling menacingly at me. Unless Tia could protect me and herself at the same time, I was doomed. I dragged my feet to the wall of the gym along side Tia as Mr. Morris lined up the balls at the halfway mark.
“You all know the rules. No aiming at the head, all balls caught, the person who threw them is out, and the catcher can bring back another player, and if you get hit, you're out.” He slowly raised the whistle to his lips, ready to blow. Everyone else but me shifted into position to start running for the balls. I just faded into the background behind everyone else. The unmistakable, dreaded anticipation that was building inside me was beginning to go into overflow, and I could feel my heart pounding. Mr. Morris looked both ways, making sure everyone was ready, took a deep breath, blew the whistle.
I'm sure the anticipation for others was beginning to ease, but for me, it was at an all time high. I could see Liam charging for the ball in the middle, but he wasn't looking at the ball. He was looking at me. Just like when he had me pinned against the wall, I closed my eyes.
But then a bright light peaked through my eyelids. I opened them to see we were all surrounded by a blinding, unexplainable light. Everyone stopped running, even Liam, and started looking around dazed, trying to guess what was going on. I did the same. I knew this kind of light didn't come from the artificial florescent lights of the gym. This light was more natural, and brilliant, like a thousand suns surrounding us. Everything in the gym, the basketball hoops, the bleachers, the mats on the walls, even the walls themselves, ceiling, and floor seemed to disappear, and it was like we were standing on an ocean of light, but the ground still felt solid. I looked at Tia, who was also staring at me. The look on her face was one of obvious confusion.
“What's going on?” she mouthed to me. I only shrugged, showing her I was just as freaked out as she was. Eden in particular, was probably the most scared. She folded her arms across her chest, as if she was trying to comfort herself. I looked down. The ground was starting to reappear around my feet, but it wasn't the gym floor. It was dark gray cement. I stared at it, trying to figure out how it could have changed. The floor began to expand, which meant the ominous light was starting to fade. The floor crept under the soles of others, and they all stared at it as well, probably doing what I was doing. After the floor, the light dimmed everywhere else, and when it cleared, we were surrounded by what looked like the inside of abandoned ruins.
The hallway was filled with sounds of panic. Everyone was shouting, some were angry, others desperate. I moved closer to Tia.
“What the hell,” she said as I got closer. She started searching along the walls for some kind of escape, but no such luck. “We gotta get outta here,” she said in a rush. She turned back around and started banging and kicking on the wall while everyone continued to shriek.
“Somebody help!” she yelled and banged in unison.
The sound of a whistle brought everyone's panicked screaming to a halt.
“Now look,” Mr. Morris started, his voice shaky, “I don't know what's going on either, but screaming our heads off isn't going to help anyone.” He tried to sound in control, but the look on his face showed he was just as confused as everyone else. “Let's just all stay calm and -”
“Yes. Please stay calm.”
A sadistic, but seductive and clearly male voice turned our attention to the shadows, interrupting Mr. Morris. The click of heels became louder and louder. All of us were staring curiously into the shadows, and a figure began to take shape. It inched closer, and finally came into view as he stepped out of the shadows.
The first thing you notice would be his hair. It looked like a long, black waterfall, so shiny and silky, and fell mid-waist. It covered half of his face, which was a direct contrast to his hair. His skin was pale white, and his eyes were a deep purple. He was dressed it a dark red pants suit, and boots. In left hand he held long brown, polished looking cane. On top of it set a translucent black stone that seemed to glow from the inside. I don't know why, but it gave me a bad feeling that matched the same feeling I got from the man holding it. In his right hand was a dusty, ancient looking book. He looked human, but I could tell he wasn't.
Three other figures emerged from the shadows behind him. The first one was a woman. She was average height, and her hair was short and blonde. She wore sunglasses, and I couldn't see her eyes. She was dressed like an assistant, wearing a white blouse with gray pants and suspenders. The second was a girl who couldn't have been older than 13. Her brown hair was in pigtails, held there by red bows, and was wearing a white mini dress with a big gold bow wrapped around her waist, that had a red outlining, and was decorated by gold embroidered flours. The bottom half looked like a wrap around that flared a little at the bottom. The third was a guy, and unlike the others, he floated out of the shadows. His dark hair was spiked and messy, and had a little bit of make-up around his eyes, standard black mascara with green eyeshadow. He was draped in a black muscle shirt, with a green sash that matched his eyeshadow, and shimmering blue, baggy pants. I could tell all of them weren't human.
We all stared at them, unsure of what to say. The one with the cane, who I guessed was the leader, stepped forward. His eyes scanned over all of us. Some kids inched behind others.
“My name is Nero,” he said, his purple eyes staring at us intently. He pointed to the one with the blonde hair, “This is Reagan,” he said, and then gestured to the little girl, “this is Lila,” and then pointed to the guy with the spiked hair and make-up, “and this is Cyrus. You may or may not be wondering what you are doing here.” A few students nodded ever so slightly. Me, I just stayed still and tried not to draw attention to myself.
“Kind of,” Tia said sarcastically.
Nero turned his attention to Tia, he smiled slightly. He slowly started walking toward her, his hair swaying at his sides, and I felt the urge to tell her to run. He stopped at her feet.
“Well, don't you have a sharp tongue?” he said, and I silently begged Tia not to answer. She must have felt it because she just sat there with her arms crossed in from of her chest. But then Nero did something I didn't expect. He slowly held the cane up to her chest. She tried to back away slightly, but he grabbed her arm and held her there. He was staring at the translucent stone, I guess seeing if something would happen.
“It's not you,” he said, and he walked away. I could see Tia relax her shoulders. When Nero was back to his spot in front of everyone else, he said “I am looking for a pure heart. Now, whether or not that pure heart is here, I don't know, but I'm going to find out.”
“Now hold on,” Mr. Morris started, “could you be more -” he was again interrupted by Nero, but not like earlier. Nero held up his hand, and with a flick of his hand, Mr. Morris was flung against the wall. There was a crack as Mr. Morris collided with the wall, and fell to the ground. He didn't move, but blood was dripping through his Yankees cap. We all gave a collective gasp, and then we were silent as we all stiffened at the sight of the unmoving Mr. Morris.
“I suggest you not speak against me,” he said with a sadistic smile. He made his way to the farther side of the crowd. He began to do the same thing he did to Tia to everyone else, and held the cane to everyone's chest. One by one, he held the cane up, and one by one, people gave a sigh of relief as he moved on to the next. And then he got to me. He held up the cane to me, but something was different than the others. The stone became darker, less translucent, and my birthmark began to tingle, and I pulled it up to scratch it.
Nero drew a shocked breath. I looked up to see he was staring at my birthmark with disgust, and then he slowly raised his gaze to my face with that same look of disgust. I would have asked what was wrong, but as soon as I opened my mouth, Nero lifted his hand, flicked it, and I felt myself flying through the air, and landed on the floor in a heap, with a little skid, scratching my face. I lifted my head weakly to see Nero moving on, passing Tia, and moving on to Eden. I could feel the blood on my forehead sliding down, and dripping onto my nose. I wanted to get up, but I couldn't lift myself. My body was hurting, and sore, and after this, I'm sure it would be bruised.
Nero held the cane up to Eden. The black stone was now glowing even more than it was before. She stiffened, and looked at Nero, who was wearing a big grin. Something told me that wasn't a good sign. Nero grabbed Eden's arm, and snatched her away. She let out a scream, and tried to wiggle her way free, kicking and hitting his hand, but Nero dragged her away with ease. Eden might as well have been a broom to him. I was infuriated. I wanted to help somehow, but my body was still hurting from the impact of the floor.
“It looks like I have found my pure heart!” Nero exclaimed as Eden continued to try to wiggle free. She looked so scared, so helpless, and I could see the tears beginning to stream down her face.
Nero looked past the crowd to me, and half smiled. “Actually, I think I'll take everyone after all.” He snapped his fingers. “Cyrus, you know what to do.”
Cyrus nodded, and turned around. He lifted his arm, balled up his fist, and yanked on the open air, basically ripping off the fabric of space, and causing what looked like a portal to appear out of thin air. Wind started to blow my hair around my face, and I watched helplessly, as all of my classmates were sucked into the portal, one by one. Tia, turned around and ran toward me, but just when she was out of reach, she tripped, and landed on air. She grabbed my hand, and tried to hold on to prevent herself from being sucked in with the rest, but I could barely hold myself up, let alone someone else.
“Jace, don't let me go. Please.” I nodded, but I could feel her slipping, but I still held on with everything I had, which at the moment, wasn't much. Her face was urging me, but I couldn't do anything anymore. She slipped from my hand, and flew into the portal with everyone else. Nero smiled at me one last time, slowly turned away from me, and stepped into the portal, his minions following. The portal closed with a 'woosh' sound, and the wind stopped. Except for Mr. Morris, who was now surrounded by a pool of blood, I was all alone. It was silent, barren, dead. My vision was beginning to blur, and my head was beginning to hurt. The last thing I saw was a single candle on the wall as I slipped into unconsciousness.
“.......ace.” I could hear a faint voice calling me. “Jace Princeton,” it said, a little clearer this time. The voice was soft, gentle, and female. I could feel my eyelids flicker. Someones hand gently shook my shoulders. My eyes slowly began to open. The first thing I saw was a candle on a stone wall. And then I felt a massive push in my head. I went up to rub my temple, and I noticed my arms were pretty badly bruised. I gently pushed one of them, and winced. What happened? Where was I? I couldn't remember anything. I looked up, and jumped a little.
A girl was kneeling over me. At least, I think it was a girl. It had long red hair, but it's skin was a pearl white, and looked tighter, and smoother than human skin. It's big eyes looked so feline, and shallow green with the curve at the end. It's face also had an odd black, swirl like vine pattern encircling it's eyes, and cheeks. Growing out the side of it's head were ears shaped like a goat, and perched backwards, and pointing up. It was wearing a yellow skirt that was loose and carefree looking. It's shirt was off the shoulder, just as loose as her shirt, and the same color as it's skin. It had breasts, so I guess it was a girl.
“Are you awake?” she asked me.
“Okay, good because you have to get up.” She got up to her feet, and that's when I saw Mr. Morris lying on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. It all came back to me in a rush. Nero and his minions, his cane with the black stone and the book, him taking Eden, along with everyone else, Tia. Without thinking, I jumped to my feet and grabbed the strange girl by her throat, and pinned her against the wall. I ignored the fact that it sent my whole body aching.
She put her hands up. “Please, don't hurt me. I am no enemy.” she said with a scared look on her face. She looked scared, and I slowly released my grip.
“So what are you?” I asked.
“You could say I was a nymph of sorts. You may call me Anastasia.”
“Okay then, Anastasia,” I started, “how do you know my name?”
She smiled a little, revealing teeth in such a perfect alignment. “It's a gift of mine. I look at you, and I know almost everything about you. I also know you happen to have a little sister who is mentally disabled, am I correct?”
That stopped me for a second. “Yeah, I do,” I said, wary.
“You also have a serpent tattoo on your arm.” she added.
I crinkled my eyebrows. “I don't have a serpent tattoo.”
She cocked her head, and her ears twitched a little, like an animal. She also crinkled her eyebrows which made the dark, curly vine pattern on her face crinkle also. She reached for my left arm. “This is not a serpent tattoo?”
I snatched my arm away. “No, it's a birthmark.”
“You mean it's permanently branded into your skin?”
“Then it is a tattoo. And it is shaped like a serpent.”
I examined my birthmark again, knowing serpent could be another name for snake. I was shaking my head slightly, sure this was all just a dream. There's no way all that stuff with that Nero person and his disciples could have been real.
“Wait,” I said suddenly, “Do you know who Nero is?”
“Yes,” she said, but she hesitated before she said it.
“Can you tell me?” I asked eagerly.
She bit her lip. “No,” she said.
“Why not?” I said, louder than I meant to.
“Because it is not my place to say.”
“Okay then. Could you tell me what happened to my friends?”
“No, I cannot. If you want to find out what happened to them, you must come with me.”
She grabbed my left arm again and tried to pull me away, but I snatched it back, and stayed in my place. She snapped around to face me. She tried to grab my arm again, but I backed away from her.
“I'm not going anywhere with you.” I started. “You don't know me, you just know things about me, and I don't know you. You haven't told me anything that would make me trust you.”
She took a deep brearth. “I told you, it is not my place to say. The only thing I can tell you is, you are a good guy in all of this.”
She reached for my arm again, but I backed away again, shaking my head.
“Look,” she stated, “I can tell you want to get out of here and find some answers, and I am telling you, the only way to do that is to come with me. I can understand why you would not trust me, especially after what you just witnessed, but you must, because I am your only way out of here.” She finished sternly.
I backed away a little, pressing my back against the stone wall. I looked down at the floor, causing my dark brown hair to fall in my eyes. I closed my eyes, and took a deep brearth, trying to relax myself. Lifting my head back up, I caught sight of Mr. Morris, still lying there in a pool of blood.
“He's dead, Jace.” Anastasia said bluntly. I turned my head to her. Her cat eyes were sad, and her ears twitched a little. She started walking toward me. Her straight red hair was swaying around her shoulders. When she reached me, she put her hand on my cheek, leaned in to my ear, and whispered “I am sorry.” When she backed away to see my face, she was crying a little.
“Okay. I'll go with you,” I said, giving in.
“Okay.” And with that she gently grabbed my left arm, and made her way past Mr. Morris, to the darker end of the hallway. “Hold on,” she said. She put her arm around my waste, and began to wave her hand around. The next thing I heard was a “woosh” that reminded me of when Nero fled. I couldn't see anything, but I felt like I was flying through the sky, without a care in the world. I could feel wind on my face, and all over the rest of my body, and it was exhilarating. I took another deep brearth of it all, letting the air fill my lungs and lift me up higher into the black sky.
“Bend you knees,” I heard.
I couldn't react in time, because just as soon as we were flying, I was face down on a marble floor, making me feel the cut on my forehead.
“Are you alright?” Anastasia asked, slightly panicked.
“Yeah, I think so,” I responded, trying to get to my feet. Anastasia got hold of my hand to help me the rest of the way.
The sight in front of me was surreal, and at the same time, Medieval. The buildings were magnificent. Most were average sized, but it was the structure of them all that caught my eye. The doorways were arched, and the doors were a deep russet red, with two black iron bars going across them, like the door to a castle. The buildings themselves were made out of a tan stone. The little town was filled with colors of red, black, tan, and white, all blended together in a way that was nice to the eyes.
“Where are we?” I asked, taking in everything.
“This is Madelia,” Anastasia answered.
The people were all hustling and bustling in a way that looked anxious, and also nervous. Even the outfits of the people looked a little odd. The girls and women were dressed in those big obnoxious hats you only see rich people wear, and headbands with huge bows on them, and medium to long length dresses dresses with bright colors, and the guys in those pants from the 1800s, and vests.
One couple talking in particular stood out to me. They were both crying, arguing about something, and the man pointed to the sky in the distance. I followed his finger, and saw what was probably the biggest building in this little town. It wasn't really a little place to eat, sleep, or a persons house, but more like a tower. It had a top part of the tower was flat, and stretched horizontally across a little portion of the sky, but what was above that gave me an uneasy feeling. Right above the flat top, was an ominous looking, dark purplish spot, that marred the clear sky. I looked at Anastasia, who was also staring at it with a cross of anger and fear. She hurried and grabbed my arm again to drag me away.
“Come on, we do not have time to gawk. You have to talk to Sicarius.” she said as she speed walked me through the town.
“Who's Sicarius?” I asked.
“You will see.” she answered.
“Let me guess,” I started, “It's not your place to say?”
“You catch on quickly.”
As I was walking through the town, I could hear panicked cries from all of the people as I zoomed past them. One in particular, stayed in my head. A little boy was crying onto his mother's chest, while she caressed him, and told him everything was going to be alright. Her voice said one thing, but her face told a whole different story.
“We are here.” We stopped in front of a building that was different from all of the others. It was the standard house shape, with a triangle roof, but also different from everything else, the exterior was a deep blue, with mixes of green. The door was a little wood door with a brass doorknob. Anastasia stepped forward and knocked on the door three times. I stood back, waiting for what was behind that door.
The knob turned with a click, and slowly opened, and behind it was an old man. He was old, but he was tall, and healthy looking. He had a white beard to his neck, and he was bald. His wwrinkleswere soft, and more accented by the warm smile on his face. He was draped in a blue robe that matched his house color, and his green eyes were welcoming. I slowly began to relax.
“I have found him, Sicarius,” Anastasia said. I raised my eyebrows at her. 'I have found him?' I looked at Sicarius, who was now staring at me. His eyes were examining me with the intent only an old person could muster, and I felt like I was a museum piece on display for curious spectators. His eyes wandered to my left arm, and on my birthmark. The smile on his face went a little bigger.
He looked back at Anastasia. “You did well,” he said, and she looked at the floor and smiled, pleased with herself. If she could blush, I'm sure she would have.
“Come in,” he said gesturing us with his hand.
Anastasia led the way in, and I followed after her.
The inside was even more peculiar that the outside. It had a musty, ancient smell, but at the same time, it smelled homey. It was only one room. A table was closest to us, and on the left side of the room. A stove and oven was next, and on the right side, and in the very far back was a bed that was made neatly, with simple colored sheets. Against the walls were countless shelves that were filled with dusty looking books, and weird looking trinkets, and other items you would find in a role playing game. The only normal thing was a fish bowl, and swimming inside it was a little gold fish. While Sicarius was roaming the shelves for something, I made my way farther down the shelve I was on, stopping on something that looked like a wand. It was long, and red, but with a black tip. Something about it seemed to glow, and I felt the need to touch it. I reached up, slowly extending my arm and -
“Don't touch that,” Sicarius stopped me. In his hand was a suspicious looking yellow liquid, and a sponge. He grabbed a chair, and lay it out for me. Anastasia was on the other side of the chair. I don't know why, but it made me feel trapped.
Knowing I couldn't do anything about it, I sauntered over to the chair and sat down.
“Put your head back,” he told me. He took the vial of yellow liquid, and dumped a little of it into the sponge. Then he took the sponge and moved it over my cut. I expected it to sting a little, but it didn't. It felt like sunshine on me face. It made me relax finally.
“I see you've met Nero,” Sicarius said to me with a little chuckle.
I popped up out of my seat.
“You know Nero!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, I do.” He said. “Sit back down.”
“When you met Nero, did he have a book and a cane with him?”
I scanned my memory. “Yes, I can remember a cane and a book.”
“Did this cane have the Black Diamond sitting on top of it?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“That diamond, is cursed,” he said, his tone and his face going dark.
He paused a second, as if preparing himself. I looked at his face, and I could tell I was going to be sitting here for a while.
“The book in his hand, that was the Book of Psaris,” he launched into his story. “It is filled with prophecies and glimpses of the future.”
“The future?” I asked in awe, my eyes bulging out of my head a little.
“Yes, the future. Naturally, everyone wanted for themselves, hoping to take a peak at their future, but no one who obtained it was ever happy.” His voice was deep, and haunting. “The reason being, it held frightful stories not meant for human eyes. The main prophecy, being the one of the Black Diamond.”
My heart was beginning to beat a little faster, but I ignored it, already entranced in this story.
“'Only the blood of a pure heart may activate the Black Diamond, and henceforth, open the black hole,' so it is written.” As he said this, his eyes were distant, looking out into space.
I was fixated, until my mind hung on a certain phrase. Only the blood of a pure heart may activate the Black Diamond. My mind then wandered back to Nero, and how he said he needed a pure heart. And that's when he took Eden, Tia, Liam, Gracie, and everyone else.
“What do you mean 'the blood of a pure heart?'” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
“I mean, a pure-hearten person must die in front of the Black Diamond in order for it to activate.”
I rolled over that in my head. Nero said Eden was his pure heart. Sicarius had just said a pure heart had to die in order for the black whole to open, and at that my mind went back to that purplish spot I saw in the sky. A single tear slid down my face as I made the horrifying, heart wrenching connection.
“Oh my God,” I was shaking my head in denial. “He killed Eden,” I choked on the words.
“If the Black Diamond is not stopped, the black whole will consume all worlds.”
“Who wrote this book?” I said, the tears streaming harder.
“Nobody knows. But it is a theory that the one who authored the Book of Psaris is the same one who created the Black Diamond.”
“Is there a way to stop it?” I said, sure my face was pale white.
“Yes.” He got up and went back to one of his bookshelves and pulled a book that was covered with dust. He slammed it on the table, and a dust cloud blew up, making me cough a little.
“This book was written by my ancestors, the same one who built this here town, to counter act the Book of Psaris. My ancestors called this the Book of Itha.”
I drew my hand across its learthery binding. The pages were a little ripped, but like Sicarius said, it was written by ancients.
“Also created by my ancestors, was Iridescan's Amulet.” he reached into one of his pocket, and slowly pulled out a gold chain with a gold, solid circle hanging off of it. He held it up to me. It looked like it was missing it's middle piece.
“Like the Book of Psaris, the Book of Itha tells the story of this little beauty right here,” he said, waving it in my face. “I see you noticed it's missing it's piece. Well, my ancestors were worried about the security of it, and to protect it, they separated the middle piece into eight different factions, and spread them throughout different realms.” I nodded my head, drawn to the story again. “'Once one piece is found, the next one will reveal itself by opening the portal to its realm,'” he quoted another passage. “I have the first piece right here actually.” he reached into his pocket again, and pulled out a small red stone, that like the Black Diamond, was translucent, and seemed to glow from the inside. The sight of it made my birthmark burn, in a good way.
“So, which realm is this?”I asked.
“It's not really a realm at all. It's more like...” he stroked his beard, trying to find the words. “You could say it was between realms.”
“Wait, if you have it, why don't you just find the other pieces?”
“Because it is not my place,” he said, repeating Anastasia.
“So who has to find them?”
A smile slowly spread across his face as he stared at me. “You,” he said.
I choked on my brearth. “Me?” I asked in disbelief.
“Why me?” I asked again, my voice more than a little shaky.
“Because, you are the 'Boy with the Serpent Tattoo.” He said, staring at my birthmark. I quickly slid it under the table. Sicarius brought my arm up and lay it on the table. With his bony finger, he traced the birthmark to my elbow.
“The Boy with the Serpent Tattoo must travel through these realms to find the pieces of the Amulet. 'When all pieces are found, the very last piece shall reveal itself.'” He looked at me. “However, just finding the pieces won't be enough to stop the Black Diamond completely, it will only give you the power to do so. In order to completely stop the Black Diamond, The Boy with the Serpent Tattoo must harness the power of Iridescan's Amulet to defeat the Black Diamond's wielder.. That wielder, would be Nero.”
Nero had thrown me 50 feet clear with just a flick of his hand, and he didn't even touch me. How could I possibly fight, let alone defeat him? Sicarius' mouth was moving, but his words were barely clicking in my head. I was overwhelmed by what he was saying. This had to be some weird dream, and I would wake up any time now, and get ready for school. I pinched myself, but nothing changed. “Listen, I want to help. I do, but I can't be your hero, or whatever.”
“But you are the hero of the prophecies-”
“No, I'm not. I can't even throw a dodge ball.”
Sicarius examined me again. “You doubt yourself.”
“I'm honest with myself,” I replied.
“Jace,” Anastasia interjected.
“Jace,” he said, “you have a lot of strength that you don't give yourself credit for.”
“I know. I'm weaker.” I sighed. “Look, I'm sorry, but you're just going to have to find yourself another hero.”
I snatched my arm back, and got up from the table.
“Jace, wait,” Anastasia said after a period of silence. “You can't go.”
“I can, and I will,” I told her.
I turned the knob, and left into the little town known as Madelia.
The bright light of the outside hit me like train. Trying to get as far away from this place as possible, I started walking forward into the little town, or Meldina, thinking over all I had just been told.
So this dark, prophetic book called the Book of Psaris, which was written by an unknown author, tells a tale of this stone called the Black Diamond, and the unknown author is rumored to have created the Black Diamond. In the Book of Psaris, it is written that by the killing of a pure hearten person in front of the Black Diamond, it will activate and tear a black hole in the sky.
I looked up at the dark purple spot in the sky, that now that I look at it closer, moved in a clockwise direction. I went a little cold.
If the Book of Psaris, and the Black Diamond are both not stopped, it will consume all worlds, dimensions, and realms. The Book of Itha was written by Sicarius' ancestors, and Iridescan's Amulet, which also created by his ancestors, were created to counteract the Black Diamond. Iridescan's Amulet was split into eight different pieces and spread throughout different realms in an attempt to protect it. The Boy with the Serpent Tattoo must find the eight pieces to Iridescan's Amulet, harness its power, and use it to defeat the Black Diamond's wielder, and apparently, the Boy with the Serpent Tattoo was me.
Thinking of it all made my head hurt. I rubbed my forehead to try to ease the pain, when I realized I didn't feel any blood. The gash on my forehead was all healed. Noticing my arms, I also noticed the bruises on my arms were gone. I lifted up my shirt. No bruises on my stomach either. The yellow liquid Sicarius rubbed on my head must have been some kind of healing serum. He was willing to do that for me and he didn't even know me. That means he must be a good person, right? I shook my head. No, it doesn't. He only wants me to be in my best shape so he can use me to fight his battle.
Walking even further into the town, a sudden truth slammed into me. I had no idea where I was. I didn't know where I was going, and I didn't know how to get out of here. As far as I'm concerned, I'm stuck here.
No, your not, I told myself. You're going to get out of here, you just have to ask the right person.
I started looking around to see who might have any clue. I saw a potter, and a weaver outside talking and smiling. They were both wearing scarfs wrapped around their heads, and drab looking dresses you'd see on waitresses. They looked like friends to me. They were also pretty old, and probably lived like this all their lives. They were guaranteed to know something right?
I slowly approached their work stations, plastering a friendly smile on my face. “Hello,” I said cheery.
They looked at me like I was crazy. They eyed my clothes in a peculiar way, and I realized I was still wearing my gym uniform. I got it now, compared to everyone else, I must have looked like I was out of my mind.
“Hi there...” the potter said, unsure if she should talk to me. I ignored the blatant thought that was all over her face, but remained unspoken.
I still smiled, continuing. “I'm a little lost,” the look on the weavers face said 'clearly,' “could you help me find my way out of here?”
They crinkled their brows in unison. “What do you mean by 'find my way out of here?'” the weaver asked.
“Like, is there a way out of Madelia?”
“There is no way out of Madelia. At least not that I heard of. What about you,” she turned to the potter.
“I haven't a clue.”
I dropped my head. I was dead wrong, and these two were useless, and not to mention rude. When I lifted my head up, I still kept my fake smile. “Well thank you for your time.” I said, waving as I tried to hide my annoyance.
Come on Jace. There's got to be someone is this town that can help you. I looked around desperately, brushing the confused looks people gave me off my shoulders. I starting jogging forward, not really looking where I was going. I was almost traveling at full speed, and the people around me were starting to blur.
I had to get out of here. There was no way I was some hero of prophecies or whatever he said. Full blown running now, my hair was blowing back around my head. My eyes were completely uncovered, but I still could barely see through the haze of my desperate tears. I was about to break into a sprint when I ran into something hard, and knocked me to the floor. I slowly opened my eyes to see what looked like a restaurant. On the door was a picture of a pot with steam coming out in all its clip art like glory. If there's a person who may know something, it would be a chef right? Chef's know everything.
I immediately got to my feet, and pushed through the door.
The aroma from the kitchen immediately hit my nose, sending me into a delicious daze. I sat there, inhaling the smell of spicy soup when a New York accent snapped me out of it.
“Hey you!” a lady behind the register wearing an apron and holding a spatula yelled at me.
The restaurant itself was small, and the kitchen was literally right behind the counter that held the cash register. There were few tables, about ten, and each had three chairs to them. I guess every place in Madelia was small... “You just gonna stand there, or are you gonna bye somethin'?”
I slowly walked over to her, assuming she was the cash lady, and the chef. She looked different from everyone else. Her hair was slicked back in a ponytail that rested in the middle of her head, and her shirt was blue. She was her own person from everybody else. She had to know something. I took a seat in one of the stools in front of the counter.
“Actually, I wanted to ask you a question.”
“Well, your not gonna get an answer unless you order something.”
“Okay...” I said looking for a name tag. That's peculiar. She didn't appear to be wearing one. I looked up at her menu. There were a variety of things, most of which I had never even heard of. “I guess I'll take the spicy mushroom soup looking stuff,” I said. I couldn't pronounce the name...
“Coming right up.” she said, thankfully, understanding what I meant. She turned, whipping her ponytail in my face, almost hitting me. I turned my head away. A guy was standing outside the opened doorway, frantically handing out fliers. He was no older than 30, wearing the standard outfit for men in this town. I could barely make out what he was saying. I craned closer, and felt an unmistakeable twinge of guilt. He was shouting 'Apocalypse.' And then he started frantically pointing at the sky.
I wanted so desperately to help. So much, but I didn't know how. Ever since my younger sister was diagnosed with Asperger's at four, I had become her protector. Her 'squishy' as she called me. But that was different. When ever she needed my help, it was from little 13 year old boys her age. The whole universe wasn't at stake.
I quickly repositioned myself on the stool, and snapped my head back to face the chef to see the soup stuff glide under my nose.
“That was fast,” I chuckled.
“It happens when you've been doing this your whole life,” she answered bluntly. I nodded. I was just about to dig in when she said, “That will be 15 gledos.”
I looked up at her with a 'what did she say?' look on my face.
“What are gledos?” I asked.
“Gledos, you know like money,” she answered while rubbing her fingers together. “Don't tell me you don't have any gledos?”
“Well, I...umm..” I sat there mumbling like an idiot. “Well, let me see what I have,” but the chef lady was already reaching under her counter for something. I fizzled through my gym short pockets, trying to find something before she pulled out an intercom or something. I didn't find anything. And she was already stating to come up from under the counter. Damn it.
Her head came up from under, and I stiffened, waiting for her to call security or something. I heard a clang, and she pulled out a cage, with a bird inside. I stared in bewilderment as she reached in and pulled the bird out of it's cage, and, to my utter shock, put the side of its head to her lips, like she was kissing it. But then her lips started to move against it, as if whispering. She moved her face, and held the bird up to the ceiling. It flew, flapping it's blue feathers, making a single one slowly glide to the floor. It settled on a plank on the ceiling. I was staring at it intently, with extreme curiosity.
What happened next nearly made me fall out of my chair. The bird opened it's beak, and I expected it to squawk. But instead, it began talking. Like, actually talking, but with the ladies voice.
“Security, we have a code 4532. Stealer, I repeat, stealer,” it twanged that same New York accent. I was too stuck on that fact that it was a freaking talking bird to really notice it was talking about me.
Coming from the two back doors, two big burly guys dressed in all black busted through. They didn't register in my head until they gripped up my arms and pinned them behind my back, as well as slamming my face to the counter, pulling my open mouthed gaze away from the blue bird.
“I'm gonna guess your not from around here. Any other person would have ran as soon as I went under the counter.” I looked up, to find her shaking her head, moving her dark ponytail. “Get him out of my sight.”
I felt my arms nearly yanked out their sockets as I was dragged out my seat. Just like in that gym class, I knew struggling would be pointless. She started to turned back to her work station, but she stopped halfway. She slowly turned back to me as I was being dragged out.
“Are you...” she stopped her question. Well actually no, I just didn't hear the end of it because I was tossed out. Pretty hard too. I was flailing my arms, trying to grab onto air, but I slammed into the marble floor, smacking my head against it. The force made my body bounce twice. I opened my eyes, and rubbed the back of my head. This was the 4th time I smacked my head against something. I had a concussion for sure. My vision was red, but was slowly starting to clear.
“Who are you?” a high, squeaky voice asked me. I turned my head to see a little girl, no older than seven. She was blonde, and she was wearing a blue bow in her hair, and a bright red medium length dress. She knelt down beside me. Her face was examining mine, and she reached her hand up to touch my forehead. “Are you alive?” she asked me.
I smiled, chuckling a little, and propping myself up on my shoulders. “Yes, I'm alive,” I said. At least I thought so.
“So who are you?” she asked again.
“My name is Jace. Jace Princeton.”
“My name is Schia.”
“Schia? That's different,” I said.
She cocked her head. “Really? It's pretty common here. There's one other Schia in my class.” She scrunched up her little face, pursing her lips. “Why are you wearing that?”
I looked down at my gym clothes, biting my lip trying to decide what to say to he. “Let's just say I'm not from around here.”
Her big hazel eyes got even bigger, and she started hopping up and down eagerly. “Are you the hero?!” she asked in a rush.
Shit. I wanted to say no, and then get up and run, but I couldn't tell her that. Or do that for that matter. I most likely was this hero person. The problem was I didn't want to be. Whoever was this hero, he had to save all worlds and realms from absolute destruction. Who would want that kind of pressure on their shoulders?! Because I most certainly didn't. I was only 16 for crying out loud!
“Nah, you can't be the hero,” she said suddenly, interrupting my inner turmoil. “The hero is supposed to be big, and strong. You look kind of weak.”
I think I was offended by that.
I smiled at her as she launched into her big description of what the hero was going to be like. I couldn't help but laugh at her descriptions, as everything she said couldn't have been more opposite to me. It was weird, she was six years younger than my sister, Katie, but she reminded me of her so much. The way she was so innocent about everything. How adorably clueless she was about the real world.
My sister... Sicarius said the black whole would consume all worlds. Did that include the Earth I knew. Would that include my family? Thinking that it might have hurt my heart.
I shook my head. You're not going to think about this now, I told myself. You're over thinking things. There's no way, that included Earth. Right?
Wait a second. Maybe Schia knows something. The innocence was a good coverup for keeping secrets. The one who knows the least, knows the most.
“Hey, um, Schia,” I started, stopping her story “this is going to sound like a weird question, but, could you help me find a way out of here?”
“No,” she said bluntly for the second time. Was everyone in this town so straight forward?
“Because there's no way out. Unless you're the hero. He's a dimension traveler. That's the only way.”
“But why is there no way out?”
“Well I don't know. The only way out of a dimension, or area between dimensions is to be a dimension traveler. You came here with some weird looking girl thing. I saw you earlier.” She stopped her choppy sentences and looked at me. “There's no way out of the dimension you came from, is there?”
I thought about this for a second. Earth was Earth. There really wasn't a way off of it, unless you were an astronaut. Judging from the way they did things around here, I assumed they didn't have that kind of technology yet. There intercoms were talking birds...
“No,” I answered. “There isn't.”
“Then there really isn't a way out of here either,” she said, air quoting 'out of here.'
I sighed, and plopped back on the marble floor. She was right. She was so wise, yet she was only 7. Well, I technically wasn't wrong. The one who knows the least, really knows the most.
Sudden truth slammed into me. If I wanted to get out of here, I could only do one thing.
“It was really nice talking to you, but I got to go, okay?”
“Okay,” she got up with a little bounce on her feet, and walked away.
I got to my feet, and began walking back to Sicarius' house. But then I stopped.
Earlier, I just kind of ran without direction. I had no idea where I was, and had no idea where I went. Okay Jace, don't panic. Madelia isn't that big, and his house sticks out like a sore thumb. You'll find it in no time. I turned around, and collided with a long, blue, solid cloth. I backed up a little bit, and in front of me, was Sicarius, Anastasia by his side.
“Are you looking for someone?” he asked with a smile on his face.
“I knew you'd come around,” Anastasia said.