Isabella Parks, class of 2020
When his foot got covered in mud, he knew that it would not be easy to get to the creek today. Whenever there was mud at the trailhead, it was always flooded much deeper in the forest. The realization resulted in an angry sigh, but there was little he could do about such a thing. That acceptance came so easily with the fact that his daily travels had always been filled with things like this, regardless of the weather, but he had to warn his new, unfamiliar friend of these conditions.
“We’re going to run into some mud along the way. Sometimes, it’s deep. Can you handle that?” He turned around to face the brunette, who laughed a little at the shorter man before him. He didn’t laugh long and stopped quickly when he saw the blue eyes of the blond narrow in annoyance.
“Yeah. I’ll be just fine. I’m more worried about what you’re wearing.” He shrugged and gestured to the khaki shorts the other young man was wearing. The blond rolled his eyes again and shook his head. He knew that the taller man he brought along was worried about ruining his shirt, but didn’t say anything about the obvious fact. He instead just focused on his own mind and thoughts.
“I wear khaki shorts down here all of the time and there’s not a stain on them!” He placed his hands on his hips and smirked a little and the tall man, who brought his hand to his face while sighing at the gesture of the boy below him.
“Alvin, how are you seventeen?” The man lowered his hands and crossed his arms to look down at the man. The pale boy laughed a little at the insignificant suffering of the large man before. He knew he was enjoying this too, so he responded with a smart-alecky comment to achieve some sort of bonding between them. They had only met Monday the seventh and today was Wednesday the sixteenth of September. It had only been just more than a week. Alvin had burned his lesson with the last person he tried to tell about his secret to about becoming comfortable too quickly in his brain and had learned to never assume that he was truly safe around anyone. The last person now called him the weird kid, a term he had grown accustomed to.
“Dallas, how are you sixteen?” He turned the words against their original speaker and smirked in pride. It evoked a laugh from the both of them, but it ceased quickly as it wasn’t that funny. Alvin stepped onto the official trail and urged for Dallas to come along. He did and his smile became relaxed compared to the grin he had while laughing with Alvin.
Once in the woods, the boys could breathe in the true fresh air without the corruption from the air by the road. Sunlight was filtered by the leaves of the trees above and it even the light almost felt as if it was purer than the streetlights of their different neighborhoods. Alvin was accustomed to the smells and the lack of neon colors in the forest. Luckily, he approved of them. The earthy browns and greens with the occasional splotch of color from a trail marker, sign, or patch of berries were appealing to one who stared at a textbook of the opposite colors black and white all day. The trail below was deep brown rather than a faded beige or an asphalt gray. It also wasn’t solid; their shoes sunk in slightly with each step in many places where the water from that morning had stayed on the ground. The leader was pleased that he was wrong about the mud being deep.
“You weren’t kidding when you said that this was a beautiful place.” Dallas smiled as he walked alongside Alvin, who smiled back at him before nodding. He looked forward and watched the light-waves dance before him when a light gust shook the leaves above. He sighed a little and tilted his head towards his left shoulder while walking ahead of the man who was wholly unfamiliar with the real home of the man in front of him. Alvin stopped for a moment to look ahead, squinting his eyes to ensure he did not see something else moving in the distance. What only raised caution from Alvin alarmed Dallas.
“What’s wrong?” Alvin could feel the shaking off of Dallas and turned his head enough to see him in his peripheral vision.
“Nothing. I thought I saw something.” He continued forth and smiled again. When they came across the bridge that was only made from wood, rope, and a few screws, Alvin knew that Dallas thought it was unsafe without even looking back at him. It likely did not help that there was rot on some of the planks.
“It’s safe. Trust me.” Alvin stepped out onto the bridge and looked up at the trees again. There were fewer here and it illuminated him as he stepped out on the bridge. His hair appeared to be glowing as the beams of light struck against it, but when he moved, the effect was lost until he walked far enough to catch another ray of light that hit the spot. The bridge rocked several times while he traveled across, but he was unbothered. Once he had reached the other side, Dallas gulped and walked across too. His dark hair and suntanned skin did not give him the glowing appearance that Alvin had when he did the same thing, but it still enhanced the way he looked. His green eyes were brought out against his dark beige skin, but it was gone when he escaped the rays of light into the dark area Alvin was in.
The two boys continued to travel deeper into the forest. They occasionally came across areas that viewed out to vast plains of grass, but they were passed quickly. Alvin had no interest in them while the other man thought they were quite lovely. It was a reminder of the school’s sports field. He didn’t stay to observe the plains long because his friend was still walking. He was almost in a hurry and Dallas wanted to ask, but Alvin explained the increase in pace before he could formulate the question in a way that didn’t sound rude in his mind.
“Sorry that we’re going so fast. I need to get to Scramble Alley before nine-ish.” The explanation to the question Dallas was just about to ask came out of Alvin’s mouth. He sounded calm about it and continued at the pace he was going. Dallas nodded and followed along, trying to find something to talk about with the man in front of him. He wanted to ask why he had to be at such a boring park so late, but refrained from asking.
“Did you see that fight between Matti and Jasper?” Dallas asked as he continued to look around. The scenery had yet to change; it was still just the forest and it was beginning to bore Dallas. Alvin did not seem tired of it, but nodded at the question.
“Just the end where the principal got them both. I missed the actual fight.” The older boy shrugged, but he knew what the fight was like. The two girls had started to yell at each other and he didn’t know why, but their yells were loud enough people left their classrooms to watch Jasper throw the first punch. Someone got in the way, so the next punch wasn’t seen, but he could assume it was Matti who fought back. Their quarrel didn’t last long and they had to go to the office the moment they were separated. The fight was over, but the energy was still present. The people in the halls still shouted as they were forced back into their own classrooms. Witnesses were captured to be inspected as well.
“That sucks.” Dallas only had that to say to Alvin, making that the end of their conversation. They walked to the sound of the wind and the crunching of the leaves beneath their feet for quite some more time, making Alvin think some more. The boy looked back at Dallas and decided to ask him a question to ease him into the real reason they were there.
“What did you make on your genetics test?” The forest grew darker from the dense trees and the sun’s lowering. Alvin started to move a bit faster now that he knew it was nearly seven and he had to be at the park by nine. They both did, even if Dallas knew it or not. “I did pretty well, but I heard everyone else didn’t do so good.”
“I bombed it. God, I did so bad.” He chuckled nervously while Alvin looked at him with a slight smirk. He knew that he wasn’t too ashamed of his poor grade, so he wasn’t afraid to boost his.
“I got a ninety-five. You made a forty-seven, didn’t you?” Alvin crossed his arms as a rather strong breeze came from above. The cycling of air was sometimes good when it brought warm air from the fire he and his other friend in his group made to him, but it was awful when it brought a cold draft to him.
“Yeah. How did you know?” Dallas’s chuckle turned into a serious frown when Alvin guessed the number exactly. Alvin bit his tongue before shrugging.
“I saw a test in the trashcan and guessed it was yours.” The boy provided a satisfactory explanation of which Dallas approved of. He didn’t question any further and let Alvin continue to lead the way.
It was not long after their conversation regarding their grades that the sunlight became intense and the sound of running water began to get louder the more they moved. Alvin knew they had arrived at the creek long before he could even see it and smiled as the smells of the creek reached him. He would have bought a filter a long time ago if he could afford one, but he couldn’t. He instead had to bring his own tap water. The mud was rather deep, so Alvin was careful to keep moving around and told Dallas to do the same to avoid sinking. He obeyed and they found some dry rocks to rest on that were right next to the flowing water.
“All of that walking for this?” The man who was more familiar with the town asked as he looked around. “There’s a creek just like this behind my house.” Alvin shrugged and looked at the creek. The bugs were swimming across the top, but he didn’t see any fish. It was completely clear, but he knew better than to drink it. When he looked up, he realized this was one of the areas in the forest where gray and brown were more prominent than green, however, if he looked to the sides, he saw the green again. He instead opted to look at the stony bed of the creek for a few, brief moments before talking to Dallas.
“Yeah, but it’s isolated out here. No one can see us.” Alvin smiled up at the sky and let the air blow around him. His hair waved slightly, but not as much as Dallas’s slightly longer version of a similar haircut. Dallas shrugged and sighed.
“Fair enough.” He fiddled with his fingers while his friend sat with his legs crossed on the rock. His eyes were closed and his face content while he became one with the environment. The less tuned boy decided to strike up another conversation with his odd friend.
“Did you hear that I got a girlfriend?” Dallas boasted to Alvin, who smiled back. He already knew that and everything else about her.
“Amber, isn’t it? A senior?” Alvin pulled out his pocket knife to begin creating kindling for a fire he would be helping make later that night.
“Um, yeah. How did you know that? I thought you didn’t really know any of the seniors?” Dallas watched him, afraid of him while holding a knife that could easily be turned against him. Thankfully, Alvin put it up and put the frayed wood pieces in his pants’ pocket. Dallas questioned the method, but had nothing to say in regards to it.
“I saw you with her yesterday and asked someone else what her name was.” He smiled at him while the other man could only look back in complete bewilderment. He shook his head a little while looking back at Alvin.
“Okay. I guess that makes sense. Just, please don’t tell anyone! My parents would kill me if they found out!” The dark haired man begged while the other nodded.
“Of course! I won’t tell a soul.” He smiled and looked back to the soft creek. The rays of sun danced across the ripples and identified where the leaves in the water were. Alvin stuck his hand in the water and smiled with his eyes closed. His breathing was soft and his lips were in a smile. He knew the flaws of this little world he had created in the forest, but they did not bother him in the slightest. The flaws of the creatures here were more bearable than the flaws of the people in school or in his own home. They’d never understand if they could see into his own mind. Suddenly, his eyes flared up and he turned to face Dallas with a frown and furrowed brows. Dallas looked back in surprise from the sudden aggression before Alvin relaxed and shook his head. He took his hand from the water and sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Dallas asked, knowing Alvin was upset from his defensive position. Alvin thought of the correct words before speaking, which created an awkward moment of silence in the tension.
“I know what you think of me. I’m weird, yes, but you also think I’m some crazy spy.” Alvin looked up at the taller man and realized his words, even after thinking about them, was completely incorrect. Dallas’s concerned face slipped into one that resembled Alvin’s from minutes earlier, except it was far worse.
“What gave you that assumption? The fact that you know everything about me or the fact that the reasoning you gave for knowing everything is completely false! I threw my test in the recycling bin, not the trash can, and I didn’t even see Amber yesterday! She was home and sick!” Dallas lunged forward and pinned the blond to the rock below. Alvin reached for his pocket knife, but decided not to handle this situation like that.
“Get off of me! I can explain!” Alvin pleaded while squirming enough to force Dallas to let go or risk falling into the water. His tanned enemy let loose of him and went to the rock he was sitting on before. His accusing, city born green eyes stared at the one accustomed to the forest but not with the way humans interact. Alvin knew the truth was the only way out and was thankful that Dallas had noticed the flaws in Alvin’s lies. The truth was why he had brought Dallas here, after all.
“Alright. Fine. Explain it.” He crossed his arms and scowled lowly at Alvin while he fixed his clothing. His pants had some mud on them from when he was attacked, ruining his stainless record.
“Think of a color. Just do it.” Alvin said as he calmed himself. His sky eyes looked at Dallas intently while the other man complied.
“This is stupid.” Dallas exclaimed! “Why does me thinking of a color mean anything?” He crossed his arms and leaned back a little with his legs crossed, annoyed by the simple request when he wanted answers.
“Brown. The same shade as Amber’s eyes.” The boy with eyes of blue said. The one before him shook his head in disbelief. His mouth opened to speak, but he had nothing to say. His arms loosened slightly as he stared, but he tightened them in their crossed position quickly. He then lowered his brows as looked back at Alvin in the eyes again.
“You’re pretty lucky and that was an obvious color for me to pick.” Dallas blew a small tuft of his hair out of his face. Although he acted strong, it was clear he was scared from the way he scratched at himself and the fact that he was over forcing his expression. Alvin could tell that from how squinted his eyes were.
“Fine. A number.” The one being questioned uncrossed his own legs and hung them straightforward to stretch them out. It didn’t take him long to speak again while Dallas looked at him without a word. “Seventy-three? Isn’t that your number on the football team?”
“H-How?” Dallas’s frown came back, but it was slightly open. His eyes were wide with terror as he stood up. His right hand stayed on the stone up until it could no longer touch. “How are you able to do that?” Alvin could only shrug.
“I’ve been able to do it since forever and I learned it was better not to say what everyone was thinking young.” He brought in his legs to hug his knees. He looked down at them for a moment before back up at Dallas. “It’s a little bit of a blessing and a curse. I know what everyone is thinking at all times. I know every single little rumor, lie, and secret, but I know what everyone’s thinking during a test or a game.” Dallas sat back down to listen to Alvin. He, while still creeped out, now understood Alvin’s avoidance of classmates. “In case you haven’t already guessed it, I come out here because the animals here don’t think the way people do or the way most pets do. Forest animal minds are more thoughtless than the consciousness of people and pets, well, are slightly louder than woodland creatures.”
“Wow. That’s amazing. Why haven’t you told anyone?” Dallas would have if it was him. He would have gladly made himself famous, but he didn’t know what happened to people like Alvin. Alvin would have to make sure Dallas didn’t tell anyone.
“There are people who hunt people like me. Believe me. I didn’t know until someone else told me. She said that if I didn’t stop exploiting my gift as often as I did back then, they’d find me.” This new bit of evidence caught the powerless man’s mind.
“There’s at least maybe five or six of us. Perhaps seven or eight. I don’t keep track of how many show up to the nightly meetings and it’s different every day. The only night we are all there is Saturday night. That’s when our queen tells what the future holds of each and every single one of our weeks. Her future sight only goes so far, but we figured out a week is about perfect.” Alvin smiled as he thought about his nights at the park. Every night he was able to come was so much fun for him as he felt like he belonged. The minds of others with powers were far more interesting than those of his classmates. Dallas processed the information given to him and nodded. He didn’t need to ask if they had different powers; Alvin had practically just told him the answer to that question.
“Who is your queen?” The man wanted to know who this woman was so he could meet her. Her power sounded wonderful and he’d love to use it.
“I can’t tell you right now, but I can tell you one more secret.” Alvin smiled a little at Dallas, who was frustrated with this game. He understood the reasoning to why her name was to remain a secret, so he played along.
“I’ll keep it.” Dallas listened to whatever Alvin had to say. The man had gained his full attention at this point.
“There is one more person I’m aware of that has powers, but they aren’t in our group yet. I feel like you know them really well. If you can guess who they are, I’ll take you with me to the park to meet the Queen of the Scramblers.” The blond brushed his hair with his hands while talking to the other man, who thought for a moment before rattling off all of the names that came to his head.
“I swear if it is Amber.” Dallas now seemed concerned for his lover. Luckily, Alvin shook his head.
“Nah. You know who they are even better than you know her!” Alvin smirked a little at the confused man.
“Is it anyone in my family?” Alvin nodded to the question before looking up and in an off direction slightly to think.
“Yeah, but they’re extremely close to you.” He added on, leaving Dallas with one last guess.
“My little brother?” That was the last guess he had in his own head. The blond shook his head again to Dallas’s dismay.
“Close enough that if he was to look in the reflection, he might mistake himself as the one I’m talking about.” Alvin’s wording was almost too complex for Dallas to understand, but the moment he did get it, his eyes became wider than when he realized Alvin could read his mind.
“But how? What powers?” Dallas asked while still absorbing the information. Alvin shrugged a little.
“I don’t know. I can just see auras around people with powers that don’t appear around the usual person. Plus, the queen told me that some dude whose name she didn’t know would discover he had his powers during a game on Tuesday in two weeks on Thursday during school last week. I saw an aura around your mind and assumed you were the guy. Your game is Tuesday, so I think I made some excellent time in getting you alone to talk to you.” He boosted his skill and added a smirk to his face. Dallas looked down at his reflection in the water. He had always known his face, but the ripples in the water acted like ripples on his body. He thought he knew himself rather well, but that was in fact not true. The now powerful man looked at his hand and sighed.
“What time do you guys meet at the park?” He smiled at Alvin as he slowly began to accept the truth. The thought of having some powers interested him and, unlike Alvin’s, haven’t bothered him in a way he noticed before. Alvin beamed with pride after being asked the question.
“The queen is going to be ecstatic when she sees you around the fire! We meet at nine!” Alvin stood up. “And we better get going! It takes longer to get out of here than it does to get in!” He reached his hand down to help Dallas stand. Dallas did and then noticed the look on his now close friend’s face.
“What’s wrong?” He asked. Alvin looked back up and sighed. He didn’t want to mention this without the queen knowing first, but Dallas had seen the look of concern in his eyes.
“It’s about the queen. Her aura is turning black.” He sighed. Neither of them knew what it meant, especially not Dallas, but Alvin would have to tell her about it. “I’m telling her as a warning. Maybe it’s normal with age. She’s our eldest, after all.”
“Maybe so.” Dallas smiled at the less horrific idea than the one in his head regarding whatever it meant when an aura went dark.
“Let’s go.” Alvin led Dallas back the same way he had brought him in, but now, it was different. Closer because of a secret they both had to keep, the two of them now had to find the leader Alvin praised.