I woke to the sound of a screeching alarm clock. It was such an ingrained sound, that I twisted around to turn it off without seeming to register anything. Still, the process was as familiar as it was simple. Only minutes passed before I was crawling out of bed. Soon enough my body was dressed and my dull black hair straightened out, several tufts ignoring the demands of my hairbrush. My sole thought, as it always tended to be on a school morning, was "At least it's not Monday".
I took my time getting breakfast downstairs. No one else would be up for a while, despite the looming day of school or work. My twin sister didn't like to be up more than ten minutes before catching the bus, and my parents would only get up ten minutes before that in order to make her breakfast and get ready for their own day. Only the best for a prodigy. I silently berated myself for the errant negative thought.
I didn't hate her for it, of course not. How could anyone not be left jealous when their twin- who came from the exact same circumstances as themselves, was so much more talented? I didn't want to be consumed by this petty jealousy, so I tried to claim what I could for myself. That included the mornings, a sacred time that was truly for me. This early, it wasn't just my family that would still be in bed. It was the only time that I'd give openly to anything from self pity to errant thoughts about school or hobbies, mostly on the self pity side. It was the cliche "me time" that most movies dedicated to spa-trips and the like. Of course, this was a much more common occurrence, and also free. I figured, if I tried my best to get it out of my system, then I could spend the rest of the day being as good a sister and as normal a person as possible.
Obviously, it never worked.
My parents did eventually filter into the kitchen, Mom making a beeline towards the stove, and my Dad to the cupboards to prepare a bowl of cereal. I continued to sit at my chair by the window.
"So, when is Cerelia's music competition again?" Dad asked suddenly. I didn't even know that my sister had a competition to do, but it didn't surprise me. She was always entering things like that to showcase her talent to the world. Mom and Dad got such a kick out of it that it was probably for them as much as it was for her.
"Next Thursday", Mom replied.
"Oh. What time is it?"
"five. But I have to get there early so they can set up. I don't know why they need our Cerelia for that, she's the star of the show. They should be able to manage setting up without her, since she's pulling all the weight." Mom complained, earning a sigh from Dad.
"I know, honey. Cerelia's got a lot on her hands. I'm sure the organizers just want everyone to pitch in so that there is less work."
Then suddenly, attention was brought to me. "Oh, Aurora! How about you come with us and take your sister's place setting up? Cerelia needs to prepare for the show, she won't have time to move tables and chairs."
I could only sigh and nod. "Sure." I replied. It wouldn't be the first time I'd "volunteered" to take over some of Cerelia's group related duties, and it wouldn't be the last. At least this time it was only setting up a little. I might as well, since the other kids in that group would probably get annoyed if they had no help at all.
Mom finished scrambling the eggs, and stared down at the two bread slice that were still stubbornly un-toasted. With a frown she pushes down on the toaster lever again, plunging the half-toast back into the slots. "Would you go wake up your sister? Her breakfast is ready." I nod and stand easily, barely giving a glance at the delicious eggs. There wasn't a point in asking for any myself. I knew the answer would always be some variation of "Oh, but there just isn't enough time". At least mom wasn't a hypocrite, she didn't make any for Dad either.
Quietly, I slipped up the staircase. Cerelia's room was right by the stairs. I knocked on the door quietly, at first. She's never been much of a morning person, although once awake, she could ready herself in a flash. I opened the door next, poking my head inside. There was a still lump underneath the covers, which finally stirred at the sound of my fist against a wall. The blankets slid down somewhat, and revealed a black head of hair, streaked with blood red. Cerelia turned over to glance at me, golden eyes squinted, barely awake. "It's time to get up," I informed softly. Cerelia blinked, nodded, and sat up. Her long, two toned hair was splayed about her like a silk curtain. How her hip length hair didn't get tangled around her in her sleep, I never knew.
Satisfied that she was moving about, I shut the door to give her some privacy. As my job was accomplished, I walked back down to the kitchen to clean my breakfast dishes and gather my things for school. Mondays were never fun.
On the bus, I tried not to pay attention to the mundane ramblings of the other students. They never noticed me, such was the magnetic personality of my sister. When they weren't talking about her, it was generally about out of school activities, or how much they disliked this teacher and that assignment. Sure, I probably could reach out and make some friends, but what was the point when Cerelia was the only twin that mattered? I didn't want fair weather friends- that lesson was learned the hard way. This year, things would be different. I may not have had much self confidence, but I knew what to avoid.
Eventually, the bus came to a stop, but not before driving over a speed bump swiftly enough to separate me from my seat for a moment. Everyone filed out of the bus, laughing and jostling. I made sure to pull out of my seat only after Cerelia, and therefore after most of the noise.
The first class of the day was math. It wasn't my idea of starting a Monday either. From my seat in the back, I surveyed the room of 12 year old children. Cerelia was in the middle row, surrounded by Mark, Lucy, and Rachel. It really wasn't fair that I ended up in Cerelia's class even now that I was in grade seven. Before this grade, at our smaller kindergarten-to-grade-six school, there hadn't been a choice. At this bigger school, I had a good six out of seven chance to finally get that separation. I was never able to break the shackles of shyness when anywhere near my sister. No, my optimism was crushed on the first day of school- we were bound together again in this class of grade seven kids.
I had hoped that, at the very least, our mutual newness at this school would even things out a bit, maybe give me the chance to do my own thing. Unfortunately, it was only October and it seemed that Cerelia had already taken her rightful throne on the school's social pyramid. I couldn't blame her, what with all of that natural talent in nearly everything stuffed inside one body, at least she only flaunted the minimal amount.
The teacher, Ms. Karn, cleared her throat, alerting me to the beginning of class. I sighed quietly, leaning back. She was handing back the first unit test, and I wasn't sure I wanted to see mine. I had studied pretty well, but it was very difficult. Everything seemed more difficult now, what with the new experience of middle school. It was confusing enough, having different teachers for each class. I still wished that they had gone ahead and done things completely high school style so that I wouldn't be stuck in Cerelia's class for every subject.
Mine is one of the first names called. I grudgingly retrieve my test. I didn't dare to look until I sat back down, only to sigh once I finally read it. A red pen marked 76% on the front page under my name. It was good enough for me, I only rarely got an "A", and from what I remembered, 76% was a B. Then, even knowing that I shouldn't, I glanced over to Cerelia as she picks up hers. She didn't study at all, or do any of the homework. Maybe she also took a bit of a hit from this new school? Maybe she'd sigh and frown and have to actually work for her perfect marks? The teacher smiled softly as she passed the paper to Cerelia, who in turn glanced down and furrowed her eyebrows I bit my lip, hopes rising even as I mentally chided myself for hoping on her failure. She sat down quietly, putting the paper face down on her desk. Cerelia looked up at the ceiling as if in impatience. I can't believe it- did she really do badly on this test? My attention is renewed when Lucy snatched the test and gasped in admiration.
"Oh-my-gosh, Cerelia, you got ninety nine percent! How are you so smart?" She exclaimed, and the others sitting nearby swivel around to extend their praises. Cerelia just shrugged and almost looked annoyed. She was never one to brag- being talented with feelings as well as everything else- but usually she would smile or grin or something. "It really isn't important, one little test like this" Cerelia began, shrugging again. "I'm sure you all have amazing talents in other areas"
I couldn't help but frown. I spent way too much time observing my sister from a mixture of jealousy and admiration. Of course, everyone had their off days. She probably just stayed up extra late or something.
"Ohh, that's not possible, Cere. You're so perfect, it isn't even fair to the rest of us!" Rachel laughed in good nature. I turned away from the sight in frustration, looking at my 76 that suddenly felt abysmal. That right there, was the story of my life.
The next class of the day was Phys-ed. That was a class I could usually deal with. I wouldn't call myself an exercise freak or anything, but I was fairly athletic, and enjoyed a good hike or bike ride.
"Okay guys, today we're going to play some soccer outside!" Our gym teacher shouted once everyone had filtered out of the change room. There aren't any complaints, today was a sunny, if a little crisp, October day. Some time outside was relatively welcome.
We filtered outside through the gym doors, teacher carrying the soccer ball. "Okay, let's see two team captains here, one boy, one girl!" After a moment of mumbling, Steve, a somewhat popular kid, stepped up. Everyone automatically looked toward Cerelia. She was always put in the place of authority whenever one was presented. Sometimes she volunteered, other times she was pushed into them form a multitude of nominators.
Instead of stepping up with a cheerful smile, Cerelia actually groaned a bit, looking around her. "Oh come on, I don't feel like it today. How about Tabitha?" She pointed at another one of her female friends. This time, everyone took notice at her odd behavior. I nearly gaped. Sure, she had become more distant lately, but never like this. I couldn't help but think that something might be up.
The teacher at least didn't dwell on it, even if everyone else began to look at Cerelia in concern. "Well?" He prompted Tabitha, who took one more glance at Cerelia before nodding nervously. Steve got to pick a student for his team first due to winning at rock-paper-scissors, immediately snapping up my sister. I didn't blame him, everyone would want her on their team.
Meanwhile, I was picked at about 4th last. It wasn't because I had no skill or anything. It was mostly because I wasn't known. Everyone picked their friends first, then their acquaintances. Timid freckled girls with messy black hair were afterthoughts, even if they were related to clean and ivory skinned beauties.
I could block out my thoughts a bit better when we were running about. I ended up on Cerelia's team (of course), and so I played a defensive position. It was my favourite but I couldn't defend against my sister, so I always played offense when she was on the opposing team. The way she could run circles around everyone, ducking and weaving almost like a professional was honestly unfair. The other team stood about as much a chance as I did in beating her at anything.
At lunch I couldn't help but observe Cerelia's strangeness today. She fidgeted and picked at her food as if impatient for something. She had been antsy before for no apparent reason, but nothing like this. Every subtle hint confused me more and more. Eventually, I had to give up on it and eat my sandwich in the privacy of my own lunch table.
After that, English and Social Studies passed by in a blur of boredom. We were working on various assignments, and I couldn't afford to pay attention to anything else, even if I really didn't want to do my work. I could only feel the anticipation of some event, even if I didn't know what it was.
Finally, the last period of the day was Music. That was a class I could enjoy, at least. Even if Cerelia excelled at all things instrument related, I had just one skill against her. One skill that she didn't have. I could sing. Not even amazingly, and I never showed it off in class because I was too shy. But it was something, and I could treasure it silently while struggling to wield my flute.
Near the end of the class as the teacher was about to ask us to put our instruments away, Cerelia's hand shot in the air.
"Mrs. Fenfield, Can I show the class something I've been working on?" She inquired. That was more like my sister, though she was practically bouncing in her seat as she spoke. Maybe this was what she's been waiting for all day? The teacher just nods, and Cerelia goes to the front of the room with her Clarinet. She had started with a flute like mine, mastered it on a high school level in the first month, then switched to Clarinet out of boredom. Of course the teacher let her, how could anyone not when faced with such skill? Plus, there were no rules against switching instruments.
Cerelia cleared her throat before beginning, "Okay, this song is an opening from my favourite Anime, Naruto. It's a show you all should watch if you don't already!" She nodded to herself, and then started playing. It was odd, she didn't ever mention Naruto to people at school. I generally assumed that it was because she wanted to avoid any negative stereotypes of fat Anime geeks living in damp basements. Not that anyone would dare to apply any kind of negative stereotype to her. Even though she was rather obsessed with the Anime, especially in the past few months.
When she finished, everyone clapped earnestly, not just out of politeness. Cerelia was still looking odd. Everyone began to mill about the door- it was last period and the bell would ring soon. I stayed in my chair to avoid the crowd. It wasn't like I would be that much later if I only got up when the bell rang.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a jacket on the seat beside me. It belonged to a kid named Chris. I looked up and saw him out by the door, making googly eyes at my sister. I wondered if he knew his jacket was still over here. The bell rang and he strolled right out after Cerelia. I hoped he wasn't going to ask her out again. She refused everyone, plus it was awkward because I was always there and they never bothered to ask in private, like I didn't even matter.
I glanced back at the jacket. It would be a little rude if I didn't try to get it to him, especially if he was going to be following us home. I snatched it up and hurried out the door, catching up to Cerelia and the jacket's owner.
"Um," I began, trying to meet his eyes. He was attempting to work up some kind of courage as he trailed behind my sister, and didn't notice me. I try again, "Uh, hey, um Chris?" I prompted louder, and he flinched back, turning to me.
Instead of making conversation, I pushed the jacket at him. "You forgot it in class", I mumbled. He took it with slight confusion in his eyes.
"Thanks, uh... you're Cerelia's sister, right?" I nodded, not bothering to state my name. After all, that tended to be how I was defined by most people. Chris glanced back at Cerelia, then at me, then at Cerelia again. He shook his head and abruptly changed directions, walking off with his lost courage. I fell in step with Cerelia. She was walking rather fast, with a strange, almost crazed expression on her face.
"Cerelia? Are you okay?" I hesitantly asked. She spared me a glance for one second, before turning back to the road ahead of us. "I'm fine." She answered curtly. I took in her tight posture. There was definitely something off.
"A-are you sure? I mean, you've been a little off all day. Are you going anywhere tonight?" I tried again. All of these clues pointed towards something going down. I knew her well enough to recognize a kind of anticipation around her.
This time, Cerelia didn't turn to look at me, but I could see her conflicted expression. "I... there's something... well nothing you need to worry about. Everything is fine!" It was clear by her loud statement that the conversation was over. I supposed that I went too far. It felt big, but Cerelia clearly didn't want me to be a part of it. I tried to ignore my curiosity, allowing the walk home to be filled with silence.
We got home in a mere ten minutes, rather than the usual fifteen. It was probably due to Cerelia's extra long strides. Mom greets us at the door, having just gotten home herself. "Oh, how was your school day?" It was an open question, I nodded and replied with a "fine", even though I knew it wasn't exactly directed at me. Mom stared at Cerelia expectantly, prompting her to no hurriedly.
"Yeah, s'all good. I'm going upstairs. No interruptions, please." She practically bounded up the stairs, but before she could slam her door shut, Mom interrupted her. "Are you okay, dear? You haven't been bullied, have you?" While it may have seemed laughable that someone could bully someone so popular, such a thing had happened before. Sometimes, people were even more jealous than me, and would try to deal with it in a worse way, by harassing her. I did as much as I could to prevent that, mostly just identifying the perpetrators and outing them. This time though, I was certain that bullying was not the cause of strangeness.
"No, no, nothing like that. I'm just... working on finishing the special project that I've been doing in my spare time. It's really delicate, so I don't want anyone barging into my room." Mom smiled in understanding, and Cerelia continued to her room, locking the door behind her with a soft click.
So that's what it was. Cerelia's mystery project. No one else knew what it was, only that it started about half a year ago, and it was the reason for various spontaneous trips to places, and the new small dresser that I wasn't allowed to look through. Considering the amount of time she'd been absorbed in secret things recently, I supposed it did make sense that she would be so excited for its completion.
I had a feeling that it was something to do with her Naruto Anime. Whenever the secret project came up in conversation, she always deflected by talking about Naruto. I didn't know a whole lot about the Anime, blocking out most of her talks about "head canons". It wasn't that I couldn't appreciate a good manga or Anime After all, I was a regular reader of One Piece. It was the extent to which she was involved that I could not comprehend.
Still, the only thing that came to my mind as far as secret Naruto projects went was a large scale art piece of some kind. Maybe a life size sculpture, or a wall sized mural? Cerelia was very good at art, she could probably pull either off.
Curiosity somewhat settled, I decided to leave it alone, and prepared an afternoon snack to eat in the living room. I snagged a mystery novel off the shelf, I was about halfway through my second reading of the book. It was enjoyable before, and still fun now, even when I knew how it was going to end.
In fact, it was interesting enough that I ended up near the final climax of the story before I was interrupted by Mom asking for the table to be set. I put the book down, and walked to the kitchen. We were having chicken and rice, so it did not take much time to get the plates and utensils and condiments out. I sat down at my seat, but refrained from serving myself. We didn't eat until everyone was present.
"Supper's ready!" Mom called to Cerelia. We waited in silence for several moments. "I think her door is still closed." I pointed out. Mom nodded. "Yes, she probably can't hear me from here. Aurora, can you please let your sister know that the food is ready?" I agreed, making my way up to Cerelia's room again.
I knocked on the door. "Cere, dinner is ready!", I called. There is still no response. "Hey, can you hear me?" I knocked again. I put an ear up against the door. There was a dull noise from inside, like Cerelia was speaking at a constant monotone. Whatever it was, she was not paying attention to anything else. If I wanted supper, something had to be done. I tried the door- still locked. Luckily, it was a safety lock, one that had a slot on the outside knob that could be unlocked by sticking a coin or thin piece of plastic in the slot and turning.
I rummaged around my pocket, coming up lucky with a quarter. The lock clicked open easily with a twist of my wrist, and I opened the door quietly. I wanted to see what had Cerelia so single minded for so long. Just what was this secret project?
Creeping into the room, the first thing I am struck by is the mess on her floor. Most of the floor space is covered by big white Bristol boards taped together. There was some circular design painted neatly over all of the boards, extremely intricate and reminiscent of the alchemy circles from Full Metal Alchemist. Surrounding the boards and circular pattern were lit candles and plant pits. It looked like a cult-magic scene taken right from a movie. Adding to the mess was a similar taping of Bristol boards on the ceiling, barely sticking together. There was another circle painting, although it looked much different. While the one on the floor had many shapes and lines, with symbols a symmetrical points, the ceiling circle was composed almost entirely of strange symbols, spiraling out from the center.
It was really a sight to take in. I just stood there for a moment with my mouth wide open. Numbly, I close the door behind me. Finally, I look towards Cerelia, in the middle of it all. She was standing in the center of the circle, back to me. The noise I had identified earlier was indeed her talking in a very monotonous voice. I did not recognize the language at all, and considering the surroundings, it sounded much like chanting a spell. I sat there, entranced as she continued to speak.
She then started to move, still chanting. There was a bag in one hand and a knife in the other. At one point on the outer circle, she took the bag and sprinkled some of the contents- a black powder of some kind- on the floor. I could have sworn that the black paint glowed for a moment. She walked to five other points on the circle, sprinkling the substance and speaking in that strange language the whole time. She didn't glance up to see me in the doorway, and for that I was glad. My original quest was forgotten in favour of watching this barely conceivable event. I felt like I was hallucinating, as the paint definitely glowed that time as she dumped the last of the powder on the fifth point and walked to the middle of the circle.
I couldn't explain it, but the whole thing felt terrifying as well as magnetic. I couldn't pull myself away, but at the same time I felt an unexplainable nervousness that went beyond confusion. That was why, when Cerelia took the knife out this time, I knew that nothing good could be happening. I stepped into the circle without thinking. She pressed the knife against the side of her hand, and I gasped as she drew blood. Finally, I was pulled out of my shock enough to speak.
"W-what the heck!? Cere, what are you doing?" I practically screamed in panic, snatching the slightly bloody knife. Cerelia finally turned from her lightly scratched hand, and flinched back as she saw me.
"Aura, what are you doing here!? Get out!" She looked nearly as panicked as I was, and for whatever reason, shook her cut hand, throwing tiny droplets of blood onto her detailed paint circle. It flashed a bright white for a moment, distracting me.
"Not until you tell me what this is! Are you trying to cast some kind of magic?" I exclaimed, gesturing wildly. My hands clenched tightly, I barely felt the sharpness of the knife in my left hand. My heartbeat was pounding, something innate sense alerting me that this was to be feared.
"It's not about you! This is my dream!" Cerelia shouted, clearly she was also agitated by whatever was going on.
"You're not making sense at all! What dream?" I froze as the circle patterns began to glow steadily.
"There's no time to explain! Get out of here before the spell rips you apart! It's going to take me where I belong!" I brought my hands in front of me as Cerelia advanced, knife falling to the ground. It caused the runes to flicker, and then double in strength.
"Cerelia, just make this thing stop! What do you mean, it's going to take you?"
"Ugh!" Cerelia growled. "There's no stopping this, I'm going to the Naruto world, and there's nothing you can do about it. The spell already accepted my blood, even if I wanted to stop! Now get out of here before you're killed!" She pushed me roughly toward the edge of the circle, I was too frightened and bewildered to attempt overpowering her. A whining noise sprung up, but I barely noticed it.
With one final shove, Cerelia pushes me out of the circle. Or, she tries to. I felt myself hitting a wall of something, almost like solid energy. It stung where I touched it, and pushed me back into my sister.
"Wha-?" I looked behind me. There's nothing at the edge of the circle that could keep me in. Cerelia screeched, pitch high with panic. "Aurora, what did you do!? Did you cut yourself?" I wanted to say that I didn't think so, but my stomach lurched. The paint circles were doing something strange now. I felt like I was seeing double, as if the glow was leaping out of the paint and spinning around us. Cerelia was also struck by something, she immediately stumbled, just catching herself.
The room began to spin along with the circles. I was overtaken by an unimaginable fear. The colour seemed to drain from the room, and in my panic, I latched onto Cerelia. A slow stretching sensation took over my body, starting at the tips of my fingers, following through to my torso. I tried to breathe- it was more like a gasp. The feeling pulled stronger, stretching me like I was in a medieval torture machine. The room began to fade out, and I screamed. I could barely hear it now, but Cerelia screamed too. The whining had increased to a full blown screeching, high pitched like nails on a chalkboard. My eyes squeezed shut as the pain increased. All my senses were on fire, until the only not painful thing I could feel was my sister as we both held each other.
Somehow, even through all the pain and darkness and confusion, I knew the very moment our bodies moved. I couldn't comprehend the feeling, it was the same feeling that old me to fear this. At that moment, we no longer existed in our universe.
In an instant, we were gone.
Just a rewrite of the first chapter. I feel that the first several chapters are not really at my current skill level, however it would be too much work to rewrite everything. The first chapter was just really suffering the age old problem of telling rather than showing. I hope this is a good improvement- it's a bit longer though. The original first chapter was rather hasty, I wanted to get to the action fast, and lay down everything in three pages. I hope this does a better job as a pilot chapter.