Gregor had the sense of falling. He opened and closed his eyes, realizing it was too dark to see. He turned all around, only feeling the wind rushing through his shaggy hair, and arms. The place had an uncertain air of familiarity to it, but Gregor couldn't figure out why. Then, a scream pierced the air. Gregor flipped around towards the noise as best he could, expecting to see someone, but his eyes still couldn't discern any objects. Another scream came from his left, but as he turned, there was another to his right. Then another scream, coming from behind him. Screams were quickly filling the surrounding area with the deafening noise. Gregor shoved his hands to his ears, curling up into a plummeting fetal ball, surrounded by terrified voices.
Barely insolating the anguishing sounds of those around him, Gregor screamed, "Be quiet!" at the voices. As if responding to his word, there was a sound; not of screaming like the rest, but of something more sickening and gruesome. Below him, there was a thud. One of the screams vanished along with it. Thud, thud, went another two screams. Soon, all around him, the screams were being cut off and being replaced by a thud. Gregor's anticipation grew. "What is this?" he thought. "What's going on?" He tried to scream, but no noise came out.
Gregor fell for what felt like another hour. His anxiety grew with each passing moment. Just when Gregor couldn't take it anymore, he hit something. The feeling of falling abruptly stopped, replaced with sense of rising. As he miraculously rose, his bearings slowly returned to him. Foggy at first, but definitely an improvement from before. He was riding Ares, his bond. He looked at the direction that they were headed, and an audible gasp escaped from him.
There was a group of dreary vagabonds at the mouth of a stone pit, which he and Ares where coasting down towards now. He recognized them immediately as Luxa, Ripred, Temp, Aurora, Boots, and his Dad. They were on the quest from The Prophecy of Gray. Ares landed on the cold stone, and went to stand by Aurora. Gregor began walking towards Luxa, who was… crying?
"Luxa?" Gregor asked, putting his hands on her shoulders, trying to get her to look up at him. "Luxa? Everything is going to be fine, OK? It's going to be fine."
She looked up at him, her beautiful violet eyes contorted in a mixture of hurt, fear, and transgression. "Why?" she asked simply. "Why were you saved?"
Gregor looked at her, face expressing the true internal shock that was a result of what she had just said. "Luxa, what are you talking about?"
Before she had a chance to answer, his Dad spoke up. "Gregor, son, how could you leave me here like this?" Gregor's Dad asked, unimpressionable pain in his voice as he gestured to himself and to the pit. "Dad, you know-"
"Let Tick, die, how could you, let Tick die?" cried Temp.
"I-" Gregor began.
They all let lose with questions. Horrible and torturing memories resurfaced in Gregor's mind; the battle against the ants, against the rats, and against the Bane.
"How could you let me die, Gregor?" asked Ares accusingly. "I thought we were bonded!"
Gregor turned to Ares, pleading. "I tried to save you! I tried Ares!"
The other members of the group grew silent, as if to spectate the debate.
"The prophecy asked for the warrior's death, not mine!" Ares argued.
Gregor fell to his knees in that moment. He too had been wondering why he had not died in that cave instead of Ares. Ares was right. It was Gregor's death that the prophecy asked for, not anyone else's (save the Bane).
The questioning resumed again, and Gregor couldn't take it. He fell back, his sight slowly disappearing just as it was when he was falling. Soon there was quiet, and he was alone. Gregor sat upright in his bed, sweating from the terrifying nightmare he just had. This was not uncommon for him. For the past five years, he had been having nightmares of the sort, but they were rarely this intense.
Gregor threw off his covers and made to the bathroom, that was five steps from his room. Well, it wasn't really a room. It was a storage closet, but that suited him just fine. Wearing nothing but his boxers, Gregor looked into the mirror. "Huh" Gregor thought. "I'm a walking, talking record, aren't I?" It was true. He could map out his adventures in the Underland because of all the scars he had accumulated over the year he spent down there.
"Gregor?" a voice Gregor recognized as Lizzie said threw the door. "Is that you?"
Gregor sighed, and opened the door a crack. "Yeah Liz, it's me. Now go back to bed." She nodded and sunk back to bed. Gregor was too tired to be angry at how paranoid his family was. Even though they tried not to let on, they were scared he would leave them and escape to the Underland. Gregor couldn't believe that they would think he could do that! Break his family apart right after they had reunited! "Why can't they just—"Gregor sighed, bringing his hand first to his forehead, and then ran it through his brown hair. "Don't let the rager side take over."
When Gregor had gotten back to the Overland, he had been in a stupor. For weeks all he would think about was the Underland. When he reminisced, however, something nagged at him. It took him a while, but he found out what it was. He was just about to leave the docks of the Underland when Ripred had told him, "That isn't just going to go away; it's part of you." Gregor realized how right Ripred had been, but if he ever saw the old rat, he would never admit it.
Since then, Gregor had been observing himself. To be more exact, his rager side. He found out within a few months of altercations at school who tried to mess with Angelina and Larry that the rager persona relates to every emotion. It mostly covered two emotions, though. Hope, one which Vikus had given him, and love. Needless to say where that came from.
He had his suspicions when he first kissed Luxa. It was not the normal raging feeling that he got when he fought, but it had been just as strong in a different, softer, way.
Gregor hadn't seen Luxa in five years; he missed her most of all. After a year of quests and deaths and revelations, they had confessed their feelings for each other. Gregor had been worried that he just said that in the heat of the moment, when he thought he was going to die. However, after he survived his fight with the Bane, he realized he really did love her. Wait a minute…
"Her birthday is next week!" Gregor exclaimed. How had he forgotten Luxa's birthday? He thought about her all the time and he forgot her birthday? Gregor slammed his hand into his head, angry at his stupidity. Ripred really was right; he was all brawn and no brains. However, if he was serious, he could still pull this off. Her birthday is in exactly one week from today. That means I have tomorrow to go work at Mrs. Cormaci's for forty bucks.
With the forty dollars he got from Mrs. Cormaci, he had another forty saved from the last time he went. His family wasn't struggling financially anymore, so Gregor could save his money that he got from work. Gregor turned back to the mirror again. Who would know what to get for her though? Gregor thought. He knew for sure that he shouldn't risk buying something when she wouldn't like it. Luxa was turning seventeen, so someone their age should be able to help out…
Gregor threw his palm back to his head. Angelina! Gregor yelled at himself silently. Why didn't I think of this earlier? Gregor stood up straight, looking himself in the eye through the mirror. You better get this right, he said to the mirror. Or I will never forgive you. With a nod of consent, Gregor left the small, cramp bathroom and rolled back into bed. I'll ask her Monday, he thought to himself.
Gregor awoke to the sound of his alarm clock. He fumbled around and shut it off. The thing was so loud and obnoxious. What was it trying to do? Waking him up so early on a Monday morn…. Crap! Gregor thought. I have to get ready for school!
Gregor vaulted out of bed, leaving his sheets looking like a bomb had been dropped. He quickly showered and ate and got dressed. He was brushing his teeth when Boots came up beside him to brush hers.
Stopping for a second, Gregor examined his little sister. She was seven now, her golden curls more bright then ever. She had a shirt on that said, "Princess". Gregor saw it at the store last month and couldn't resist getting it for her. Boots looked up at him with the same brown eyes he had. "Gregor, what's wrong?" He snapped out of his little day dream and replied, "Nothing Boots. You're just getting big!" Boots looked at him sternly. "I am a big girl!" she said. Gregor held up his hands in defeat.
"You sure are little one."
Five minutes later (Boots spilled toothpaste so he had helped her clean it up); they were on there way to school. Lizzie was sick today, so she wouldn't be going with them. "Bye!" Boots said cheerfully. She loved school; every part of it.
"I'll see you guys later, ok?" They waved goodbye as they walked out the door. After all these years, the hallway was still pretty bad. The white paint was starting to intermingle with a dust looking gray, and was peeling off the walls. One time, Gregor tripped and his nails scraped the wall, leaving a giant three prawn claw mark in the wall.
"Gregor, I'm cold." Boots complained, hugging his leg. He reached down and patted her head. "Don't worry little girl, we're almost outside." It was the middle of September, so it was starting to get kind of cold in The Big Apple. However, his apartment building was colder, so all they had to do was survive the walk until they were outside. Finally Gregor pushed through the large glass doors, and slightly warmer weather hit his face. He looked around at people's faces as they walked by before moving on. How is it that they don't know?
Before he got caught up in his thoughts, Gregor grabbed Boots' hand and tugged her along to the elementary school, about a block away from his High School. He dropped her off in the little playground out front and started moving towards school. Gregor didn't make any new real friends since the Underland. Everyone except Larry and Angelina just avoided him. Some were even scared of him. When he walked by kids being bullied, the bullies would stop and back off, probably because of what happened two years ago.
It was a bright spring day; school had just started up again. The weather was nice enough to wear shorts and a shirt, but because of his scars, Gregor wore a long sleeve shirt and jeans. Like always. Larry and Angelina were the only ones who knew about them, although they didn't know how he got them. The school gang leader, Jason Braq, a tall and particularly overweight guy, with black haired and chubby hands, was out of kids to bully since the last switched schools. Naturally, he would turn to the weird kid that always wears long sleeved shirts and jeans, never showing any skin. He and his three friends had stopped him from picking up Boots at the end of school one day.
"Hey there, freak." Jason sneered. "It sure is nice out today, don't you think?"
"Nah," Gregor replied. "Still kind of cold to me." Jason's smile faded a bit.
"No one likes a smart-ass, kid." Gregor leaned back, a crowd starting to grow, sensing the oncoming fight. "No one likes a bully either," Gregor retorted. "Or did you not get the memo?" A moan rose from the crowd of bystanders. Jason looked around, eyes enraged. "That's it kid. You asked for it." Jason said, getting into an attack position, his friends following suit.
Gregor smiled wryly at their positions. "Four on one? I'm honored!" but then Gregor turned serious, his eyes angry. "But I think I'll pass." This time it was Jason's turn to smile. "Worried are we? How the high and mighty have fallen!" Jason snickered. The crowd laughed a little. However, this wasn't good enough for Jason. "Where are your friends? Oh wait, what friends?" He and his friends were howling with laughter along with some of the crowd. Jason looked him in the eyes. "Or are they dead?" Within a second, Jason was slammed into the wall behind him dazed. Everyone followed back to Gregor, whose leg was out from kicking Jason. He set down his leg and looked around. "What?" he asked simply as if nothing had happened. He just received wide eyed stairs. Finally Larry came in and broke up the crowd. "Come on! Go home! Tomorrow is testing! Shoo!" Larry made gestures with his hands emphasizing his words. The crowd slowly trickled away, as did Gregor, but not before a hand grabbed his arm.
"Gregor," a soft, feminine voice said. "Are you….alright?" Gregor turned to see who it was. It was Angelina. He could tell just by her eyes that she was worried about him. Gregor smiled the most fake smile in history so he could utter his next words. "Yeah of course! Why wouldn't I be?" Angelina still stared at him, followed by Larry. "Come on guys, I'm fine!" He exclaimed. "Let's get home before it gets dark ok? I still have to pick up Boots and Lizzie."
Gregor came back to real time. He was subconsciously getting things from his locker. Looking around, Gregor saw no one. Just the same old dingy hallway with fading red lockers. He sighed and headed off to his homeroom. He had Mr. Provis, the AP Business teacher with Angelina, to Gregor's great relief. He was so anxious to talk to her about Luxa's gift. Right before he entered the classroom, Gregor felt a hand clasping around his shoulder. Startled, he jumped away, doing a little spin to face the person.
Larry's face looked at him, a smile forming on his face. Larry had jet black hair, which was the same length as Gregor's shaggy do. They were about the same height, although Larry was a bit taller. Larry had asthma, so he was in between skinny and bulky. "So this is how I get treated after how many years?" Larry asked, stifling a laugh.
"Sorry man, it's just that-" Gregor started.
"Don't worry about it." Larry interrupted. "I need to talk to you about something quick."
Gregor's brow furrowed. It was very, very rare that Larry talk to him so. His tone was soft, with a hint of shyness. "Yeah sure man, what is it?" Larry shifted his feet, trying to speak his mind.
"Well, you see….I…. well…" Larry stammered.
"You what?" Gregor pushed, wanting to hear what his friend had to say.
"I think I…..kind of like Angelina."