Nightschool chapter 1
We push darkness away… with our fires and lamps and brightly lit cities. But even there, shadows lurk. In the dark corners, behind the cold glass of darkened mirrors.
As old as our world is this one – the world of the night. The place of blood magic, swift wings, and sharp teeth bared in a knowing smile. Push it away though we may in our cities…
…It's still there.
"I'm telling you, something's not right about this school."
Three high school girls were walking down the school hallway, ready to finally go home for the night.
"I get the heebie-jeebies whenever I stay late," the blonde girl continued, clutching the strap of her gym bag, the one that matched those of the other two girls, ponytail bouncing against the sleeve of her pink baby doll.
"Just because you're a scaredy cat doesn't mean the school is haunted," the Hispanic girl said, shaking her head so her hoops hit against her jaw and her ponytail brushed against her shoulders.
"Yeah, no more horror flicks for you, man," the brunette said, laughing and looking back at the two behind her. Her sneakers were bouncing against her back, arms set behind her head, pressing her messy bob against the back of her neck and pulling against her jersey.
"Just let us know when you start seeing dead people, 'kay?" the Hispanic girl said, pulling the hood of her red and white cropped jacket over her hair and looking at the blonde menacingly.
"Oh, very funny!" the blonde yelled back, hitting her in the arm.
The girls froze, their hair suddenly swept up in a breeze. The blonde grabbed the black-haired girl's arm as the lights started to flicker.
The girls' heads whipped toward the sound. The door to the hallway's girl's bathroom screeched open, the "Do Not Enter" sign plain, even in the dim, unnatural lighting. The girls turned to look at each other, eyes wide.
"…Huh?" the blonde exclaimed, staring at the open door. "Huh?"
"Just wind in the pipes," the Latina said, sounding more confident than she looked. "Or… or something."
The three of them crept over and peeked through the crack.
"This one's been closed since last year," the blonde whispered nervously. "And tell me it doesn't give you the creeps!"
The other two stepped in.
"ARGH, DON'T GO IN THERE!" the blonde yelled.
"Well, it's pretty dark, but other than that…" the brunette said, looking around.
The Hispanic girl flicked the switch next to the door. "Hey, the light switch doesn't work."
The three of them stepped farther in, toward the almost full-length mirror, the blonde glancing around nervously.
"Wow, this mirror's huge," the Latina said. The blonde looked behind them.
The girls froze, all three seeing the silhouette in the doorway.
A hand reached out and flicked the light on.
"What are you girls doing here?" The African American woman just outside the room asked. "All club activities are finished. You should be home."
"H-hello, Mrs. Hatcher!" the blonde said, shocked and relieved. The other two were breathing too hard to speak. "We were just, um…" She glanced at the other two.
"Save it," the woman said, hand behind her back. A strange swirl of energy appeared around the palm. She held it out in front of them.
"You lot get on home now," she said almost hauntingly, the swirl growing in front of their stunned faces. "If I catch you wandering unsupervised after hours again…"
The three of them turned around robotically, eyes glazed over and staring ahead blankly.
"You'll be glad it was me. And not something else," she finished.
She watched the three humans head toward the door, their minds wiped of ever having been in the out of use restroom.
Her attention turned to the clock above the door. She watched the seconds tick away until the minute hand landed on the 12 and the hour hand fully on the 6 with a resounding tchk.
She raised her hands level to her chest as the door clicked shut.
"The hour strikes and the time turns," she whispered. An engraved circle appeared around her feet, swirls of light and shadow swirling in front of her closed eyes and lifting her blouse and cropped-short hair slightly with a quiet breeze.
"This place… is no longer yours." The blinds drew together and the lock on the front doors clicked in.
"Shadows, resume your reign."
An engraved circle identical to the one around the keeper's feet appeared on the lengthy mirror in the restroom.
A shadow without a source appeared in the center, the fingers of one hand reaching through.
"Keeper," the smaller woman stepping though the glass whispered.
"Madam Night Principal."
"Good evening, how are–" the night principal said brightly, heels takking forward, a full folder balanced precariously under one arm, a cup of coffee scalding the other hand.
"Madam Night Principal, I would like to lodge a formal complaint!" Mrs. Hatcher interrupted.
The smaller woman gulped. "…O-oh. My favorite way to start work…" She chuckled nervously.
"We absolutely must move the gate to a better location!" the keeper continued. "You just narrowly missed meeting three very suspicious day students face-to-face!" She glanced back as if worried someone else had stayed behind.
The night principal turned away and huddled over her folder and coffee. "…Oh dear, um…" she muttered. "…Can I have my coffee first?" she asked sheepishly, starting to walk down the hallway.
"I cannot work under these conditions!" the taller woman complained, following her, her fingers snapping over her own words. "I am undermined at every turn!"
"…I'll just have my coffee first," the principal said, taking a sip. The steam made her glasses fog up.
"And the new night keeper is still not here!" Mrs. Hatcher exclaimed.
The night principal looked back at her quickly and a bit startled, her black bob brushing against her cheek. "She's not? Doesn't she have another training session with you today?"
"YES! She is always late! Fire her already," the day keeper insisted, scowling and leaning down so she was almost the principal's height.
"But the kids love her," the principal said nervously. "Let's give her another chance! I'm sure she's just on her way…"
Elsewhere in the city, a young woman in her mid twenties was snoring loudly on a black leather couch, messy brown bob half-covering her face.
Guess who it was.
The white-haired girl standing next to the couch stared down at her silently, a ghostly black form with white streaks on its "head" and a simple white mask-looking face that spread out into what would have been a hairline floating behind her.
The girl turned around and the spirit handed her a bucket of water.
"AAAAAH!" the woman screamed, awoken by the splash of cold. She looked around quickly, alarmed and confused, but the girl and spirit had already slipped around the corner.
The woman blinked, dazed.
And plopped her head back down on her soaked-through pillow.
"Ten more minutes," she grumbled.
The girl jumped back, shocked.
She ran over and tugged hard on the blanket now clutched in the woman's hands.
"Argh, get up!" the girl yelled, struggling to pull the blanket away. "You're already late! Come on, you can't sleep in a puddle!"
"I am a mermaid," the woman deadpanned, not lifting her head up.
"Like hell you are!"
"I don't have to work today."
"Lies, all lies!"
The girl grabbed a mug from the spirit's hands. "Drink this," she said, holding it out to the woman, "NOW."
"W-what is it…" the woman said nervously, still hiding under the covers.
"A magic drink that will turn you back into a human," the girl deadpanned. "Now, DRINK. Don't make me hold your nose again!"
Three magic drinks (coffee) later, the woman was running around the kitchen, struggling to put on a white button down over her black camisole.
"THBMNGF?" she asked through a bagel.
"It's on the kitchen counter," the girl said, now sitting at the kitchen table with a notebook and several sheets of paper, the spirit beside her. Her heavy bang almost concealed her eyes, and her squared-off bob did the same to her cheeks.
"FNGMMNG!" the woman exclaimed, dashing around.
"To your left," the girl said. "Your other left."
"Bmhmn," the woman muttered miserably.
"Yeah, well, that's what you get for staying up so late," the girl said. She held out her hand and the spirit dropped a pencil into it. "Hey, you never gave me tonight's spell assignments."
The woman took the bagel out of her mouth. "Yeah, well, that's what you get for being home-schooled. I mean really, if only you…"
The girl's eyebrow twitched. She looked back at the woman. "This better not be another "school is awesome, you should go" speech."
The woman opened her mouth, hesitated, and looked away. "It-it's not."
"Good." The girl spread her hands apart, looking at the book the spirit was holding in front of her, a ball of energy forming between her hands.
The woman poked her head around the corner and looked at her as if there was something she wanted to say, but she knew she shouldn't.
"Don't look at me like that," the girl said, staring intently at the ball of energy. "You know why I can't go."
The woman looked away. "I, um… I-I think you could work around that. It's been what, three years? I mean, you're doing alright with me. Maybe with other people…"
"No," the girl said firmly, sketching on one of the sheets of paper.
The woman stared at the ground for another moment, then sighed. "Fine. Study pages 29-54. Try not to burn the house down."
The girl had her hands spread apart again, a swirl of energy between them. "I have a bucket of water, just in case. You may remember its cousin from fifteen minutes ago."
The woman froze, then chuckled. The next thing the girl knew, the woman's arms were around her. The girl's blue eyes looked up at her forehead against her head.
"Alex, Alex…" the woman said. "What am I going to do with you?"
She mussed up her hair.
"H-hey, stop that!" Alex exclaimed.
"Big sister pulling rank, ha-ha!" the woman said. "Whozza cutie, awwww!"
Alex struggled against her. "Argh! Stop being mushy! Eww!"
"Make me, make me!"
The woman kissed above her ear. "Study hard, hon," she said softly. "We'll figure this out, I promise."
She grabbed her bagel and purse and stepped toward the elaborate circle drawn on the wall. "Well, I'm off! If I don't come back within the next hour, that means I didn't get fired!"
Alex looked after her, obviously wanting to say something.
"Argh, where did I put my pass…" the woman grumbled through her bagel, both hands busy going through her purse.
The woman looked up. "Hmm?"
"I, um…" Alex started. "I hate you," she whispered.
Sarah smiled. "I know. I love you, too." She stepped backwards into the now-open portal. "See you in the morning!"
Alex looked after her a moment, then leaned her head against the spirit's and caressed its mask-like face.
An African American man stepped too close to the edge of the skyscraper, looking up at the sky with his almost-white eyes, dreadlocks blowing in the wind.
"Teacher," one of the seven kids behind him said. He was a red-haired, blue-eyed teenage boy with freckles and glasses, a shark tooth necklace blowing from his black T-shirt to knock against his many-pocketed jacket. "Are we Hunting tonight?"
"Yes," the man said, not turning to look at him.
"Then…" another of the teenagers started. She was a pretty, if bitter-looking, Hispanic girl with dark brown hair almost down to her waist. Her right arm was crossed over her left one, which was holding a stake that was knocking against the daggers on her belt. The high collar of her white cloak blew against her neck and over her tight black top, almost covering the black clasp that attached one side of the collar to the other. "What are we waiting for?"
The man looked back at her. "You are waiting until you learn the concept of patience."
"Ha-ha, gonna be a while for that one," another of the boys joked. He sneered at the girl, his dark eyes scrunching up, his shaggy brown hair blowing against the collar of his zipped-up sports jacket.
"Aw, you should talk," the girl grumbled back.
"As for me…" the man continued, returning his gaze to the sky, "I am waiting for a bad omen."
A symbol appeared in the clouds. Three white lines swirling out from the middle of a circle of black.
"And there it is," he said. "Hmm." He pulled up the hood of his white jacket. "Cassidy."
"Sir?" the redheaded boy asked.
The man opened his jacket and checked the three daggers on the inside. "You and Teresa are in charge tonight. Bring everyone back safe."
"Yes, sir," Cassidy and the Hispanic girl said in unison.
The man looked back at them, a light smile playing on his lips. "Curfew's at 6 a.m. You know what happens for missing it."
He jumped off the building. "Play it right, Hunters."
The seven Hunters, Cassidy and Teresa in the forefront, watched him leaving, not so much running as almost flying.
At one edge of the group stood a girl with heavily made eyebrows and dark eyeliner almost covered by her heavy brown bang. The squared-off bob-like style just above her chin blew against her lips, almost hiding the red paint over the top one and down through the center of her chin. Her waist-length braid whipped around her, swirling over her red and gray collar-clasped jacket, the end brushing against her low-cut black shirt.
Behind her stood an older-looking African American boy with short, curly hair and a thick streak of red under his left eye. He adjusted the high collar of his dark brown jacket, his sleeve brushing against his white T-shirt.
Next to him stood an androgynous figure with fair hair just past the shoulders, covering half the teenager's face and brushing against a zipped-up gray and black sports hoodie.
Slightly behind stood a younger-looking, lighter-skinned African American girl with large, pretty, almost amber eyes and her hot pink-highlighted, extremely curly, almost black hair in layered pigtails that brushed against the hood of her zipped-up, blue-detailed white jacket. Unlike the others, she wasn't standing straight in their teacher's direction. Instead, she had her left shoulder forward like she was about to walk off to the right.
Next to her stood the boy who had called out Teresa. He was the only one not looking at where the man had jumped off the building. Instead he was looking off to the left, away from the others.
"Right, we move out," Cassidy said, looking around.
The African American girl took a stick of chocolate Pocky out of the pocket of her jeans and stuck it in her mouth, munching thoughtfully.
"Aw, man," the boy with the shaggy hair complained, "curfew? We 12 years old orwhat?"
"Shut it, J!" Teresa snapped. "You got a problem, you take it up with the old man himself, yeah?"
A seal crackled on the main door of the school, then fizzled out.
"Oops," Sarah muttered, hands still held out.
"Ugh, step aside," Mrs. Hatcher complained from behind her. She stepped in front of her and held her hands so the fingers almost formed a circle in front of her chest.
"Seal," she said, hands now held out in front of the door.
The engraved circle of the seal kchked into place.
"There… finally," Mrs. Hatcher muttered, brushing off her hands. "Do you have all the–"
She was interrupted by a loud howwl.
"Keys," she finished, both women's heads whipping around to look at the shadows flitting across the lockers.
Mrs. Hatcher looked at Sarah. "A bit early for students to be arriving."
"Oh!" Sarah said brightly. "That's my manga/anime club."
Mrs. Hatcher stared at her suspiciously. "Your what?"
Sarah gulped. "A m-manga club… A-and anime… um, cartoons…"
Mrs. Hatcher's eyes narrowed at her. "You started an extra-curricular activities club?"
"Um, kind of…" Sarah said softly, nervously. "Several… We don't have a budget, I know, but we can fund-raise…"
Mrs. Hatcher turned away and scribbled something on a notepad.
"Oh, please don't fire me!" Sarah said desperately. "I need this job!"
Mrs. Hatcher turned back toward her and handed her the slip of paper. "Give this to Madam Chen. It's a recommendation that you get an activities budget and a raise."
Sarah blinked, uncomprehending. Then threw her arms around the older woman.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Sarah cried.
Mrs. Hatcher struggled to get loose. "If you are thankful, stop being late to work!"
"But it's so hard to wake up…"
"If I can do it, so can you! Being a keeper is not supposed to be easy! And we are not on hugging terms, so get off!"
Sarah complied. Mrs. Hatcher checked her watch and brushed her hair away from her forehead. "I am late for dinner, Miss Treveney, I have to go."
She stepped halfway through the portal the seal had opened for her. "Keep up the good work."
She stepped back so only a fuzzy silhouette was visible. "Be safe from Hunters."
The smile melted off of Sarah's face. "Be safe from Hunters," she echoed seriously.
Four haunting-looking shadows appeared behind her.
"Hello, Miss T," one the eerie figures whispered.
Sarah turned toward them, eyes glowing white with left-over magic.
"Hello, children. Welcome back."
The two men guarding a door in a vast Manhattan building stared at the man in front of them.
The Hunters' teacher had a crossbow aimed at them.
"How did you get in here?" one of the men said through his teeth, panic showing in his slit-pupiled eyes.
"Magic," the African American man said. "You boys going to be stupid, too, or are you going to step aside? And yeah, these are silver, in case you are wondering."
The door behind the two men creaked open an inch.
"Daemon, are you here?" a small voice from behind the door whispered.
"In the flesh, seer," the African American responded. "Got your message."
The men turned toward the figure mostly hidden by the door.
"Miss?" one of them asked, dumbfounded.
The figure behind them flung one of the doors open, hiding behind the other.
"Just be a minute," Daemon said, shoving a crossbow at each of the guards, who flinched involuntarily. "Hold on to these for me."
He stepped into the large, messy room and took in the elaborate and expensive furnishings.
Daemon turned toward the source of the sound and saw a face peeking up from behind a couch.
He walked over and knelt down next to the small girl of about 12 or 13, her short, spiky black hair half-covering her pale forehead, her heavy eyeliner emphasizing the bags under her eyes. She was cowering under a small table, chin set on the torn stockinged knees pulled up to her chest, two tiny hoops in one ear and a large stud in the other brushing against them, combat boots pulled against the leather miniskirt half hidden by her white cloak.
"What's going on, kid?" he asked. "They treating you right?"
"No," she said quietly. "Yes. Yes, they are fine. They give me anything. Don't hurt them. It's not them."
"You've seen something," he realized.
The girl's hands came up to her face, fingers arching over her glazed-over eyes.
"A broken seal," she whispered. "Something… something was in there. Not anymore. There is me, standing. And then another. And another. Seven. All children. All cloaked in white. We waited a long time. And now… we walk away.
"And the sky turns wrong. There are bodies everywhere. We walk. And walk. And walk."
Tears sprung into the girl's eyes. She buried her face in her hands. "Teacher, I am so scared."
"Marina, do you still want this job?" Daemon asked after a moment.
She shook her head. "I want to go home," she whispered.
"That's all I need to know."
A moment later, the door flew open. The guards ran in.
"Miss Zaikina!" one of them yelled desperately, only to discover their seer was missing, replaced with a note pinned to a table with a dagger, reading:
"Due to personal circumstances, Marina Zaikina is no longer able to remain in the employ of the Chase family as seer. Any concerns about this fact should be addressed to her legal guardian,
"Sorry 4 the
The one reading the note stiffened and turned to the other guards, eyes wide. "You morons! Boar's going to have our hides for this!"
Daemon and Marina walked down the crowded New York City sidewalk, his arm protectively around her small form, emphasized by his impressive stature. She clung to his long black cloak that framed his more subtle jeans, sneakers, and white jacket, hood still over the head that was as high as two of her. She mumbled something incomprehensible.
"What is it?" he asked, looked down at her.
"I am still walking, Teacher," she whispered. "The others are still walking." She looked up at him. "But not her."
The image of a white-haired girl, a ghostly black form behind her, appeared in her head.
"She is already here."
So, what do you think? If you like it, check out the manga, which makes it easier to visualize what I'm putting here. There are 4 volumes, each containing 6 chapters.