Author's note- Hey guys! So here's the next chapter and I wanted to quickly explain to not be distracted by some of the abnormalities in my typing. For instance, some of the seemingly unnecessary capitalizations. It's there for a reason. Otherwise, I don't have much to say, so I'll just get right to it.
Running. I'm running again. Each long, powerful stride left me more and more out of breath. My legs pushed to their limits and arms pumped against the wind that was determined to slow me down.
But I couldn't stop.
This run wasn't for the sheer thrill of it. It wasn't to taste the adrenaline or the exhilaration that radiated from the very core of my being.
It was to get away.
While minding my direction, winding through trees and thickets, I stole a glance behind me, panic driving me to move faster when I see that it's getting closer.
I don't know how far or long I ran, but I could feel myself slowing down, my human limitations getting the better of me.
Before me, I saw a break in the trees. A clearing. I didn't know why, but I had a feeling that, if I made it there, then I would be safe.
I ignored my protesting muscles and pushed even harder, desperately trying to make that last stretch. I could hear its feet pounding against the forest floor behind me, getting louder and louder with each passing second. A growl vibrated through the tense air between us, making the fear brewing inside me peak to undesirable levels.
Just when I thought that I just might have a chance, a tree root shot out of the earth, catching my stride and pulling me to the ground. I threw out my hands to catch my fall, my left one hitting the dirt first, snapping once it did. I bit back the voice of my pain and rolled with the rest of the momentum. I skidded to a stop just a few yards from the clearing. If only I could-
But, it was too late.
There was a snarl from behind me and I whipped around in time to see the large, black wolf leaping over the obstacle that had taken me down, green eyes ablaze and blood thirsty, jaw snapping and distance between us shortening.
The last thing I could comprehend was its thunderous bark and flashing fangs as it bore down on me.
I woke with a start, sitting up abruptly, a strangled gasp catching in my throat. I panicked for a brief second, taking the dark shapes around me as those of trees and wildlife back in the forest. But, as my eyes adjusted and my heavy breathing settled, I started to see the sharp corners and straight cuts that made the furniture of my dorm room.
I tried recalling how I got here, safe in my bed, as I couldn't remember ever coming back to my room the previous day. Then, the events of the day before came flooding back, causing my heart rate to pick up again.
I ripped away my sheets and swung my legs over the side of my bed, launching myself towards the door across my room. I managed to collide with my desk chair and knock it over in the process, hardly concerning myself with the started yelp that came from the inanimate object.
I rushed up to the full length mirror on the back of my door, flipping on the light as I approached it. With a quick assessment, I found that I was definitely still human. But, upon a closer look, there were subtle changes that I wasn't sure should be a cause for concern or not.
My jet black hair that usually touched the tip of my brow and sat against my cheek bones was just a few centimeters longer, tickling my eyelids. It looked a bit greasy, but I chalked that up to be because it was drenched in sweat. I lifted my hand and ran my fingers through it. When I noticed I was using my left arm, I started slightly and held it out for inspection. It looked perfectly fine, muscles quiet beneath light skin. But, I had remembered it so vividly, the pain of the bone in my forearm when it snapped during my episode. And yet, the limb looked as if it had never been scathed in its seventeen years of existence.
Glancing back at myself through the mirror, I peeled off my shirt- the one I was still wearing from the day before- and examined my torso. The thought of breaking my arm reminded me of the muscle spasms and convulsions. But, as I scanned over my broad chest and flat stomach, I found the muscles at ease and, surprisingly, somewhat more defined than what I was used to. I had always been big, but never as thick or prominent. I could make out each contoured line from my clean cut shoulders to the smooth planes of my abdomen.
I brought my eyes back up to the mirror to look over my face. My jaw was just a hint more strict than I remembered and my cheek bones were more pronounced. Aside from the miniscule differences in my features, I found a few angry, red spots peppering my chin and dark circles ringing my eyes.
And my eyes.
On any normal day, my eyes were a murky green. Yesterday they had been red and bloodshot due to me being sick. Today, however, they were a crisp and clear jade. Brighter than usual. Keener, even. I blinked a few times, assuming I was imagining the change in shade, or the rest of the abnormalities of my body even. But, when I opened my eyes again, they were the same as well as the rest of my findings.
Whatever was going on, Tori had been right. I was changing. However, her bullshit game, this, 'curse,' she had gone on about, had to be a fluke.
It had to be some sort of drug. At least, that was the only thing that made logical sense. Some type of hormone for an overdose of testosterone and maybe an illegal plant extract for hallucinations.
Whatever it was, Tori was not going to get away with it.
A small, muffled grunt sounded from behind me. My eyes flitted from their reflection to that of my desk chair I had toppled over. Crouched beside it, a small figure shifted, a hand taking hold of the piece of furniture to hoist up its slender body.
I turned away from the mirror and saw her pull herself from the ground, rubbing her right thigh as she did so. She was short and quite young looking. She couldn't have been more than five feet tall, with shoulder length, wispy, blonde hair and wide, baby blue eyes. She wore simple clothing, tight enough to show what little figure she had and made her look like a freshman or maybe even a sophomore.
The question though, was, what the hell was she doing in my room?
When she finished pulling herself together, she met my eyes with a slightly unappreciative look. Running my own orbs over her face, I found that she actually looked somewhat familiar. She didn't have very memorable features. No major obstructions, but she wasn't exactly- for a lack of better words- drop dead gorgeous either. Just average. Cute. But I knew that I had seen her before.
Regardless, I raised my eyebrows, tossing her an, 'Explain yourself,' look. When she rolled her eyes instead and reached for a green book bag propped against my desk, I knew I was going to have to work for my answers.
With girls, that was something that I wasn't used to.
"Mind explaining what the hell you're doing here? Or who you are for the matter?"
The girl froze, her eyes catching mine, widening in surprise. Then she frowned and released a frustrated breath.
"Well, I knew I wouldn't be getting a thank you, but I wasn't expecting you to forget who I was or that I dragged your sick ass back to your dorm last night."
When I didn't answer she huffed and said, "Chloe Saunders. We've only had class together since elementary school. Also, you passed out last night and I carried you back here. I wanted to take you to the infirmary, but, of course, you refused. So I stayed here to make sure nothing else happened. You're welcome."
Chloe Saunders? I could vaguely recall her name and, as I tossed it around in my head, I could finally put her face to it. She had always been that girl who hung around in the background. I don't think I ever really noticed her until a year or two ago, back when Simon had a thing for her. If I remembered correctly, Simon said it wouldn't have worked out with her because she was interested in someone else. He was disappointed, of course, but I had still seen them talking every now and then.
"Anyways," Chloe continued, hoisting her book bag over her shoulder. "Your fever broke around two in the morning and hasn't come back up since. A few days of taking it easy and you should be at full health again."
Her mention of two in the morning brought my attention to how pale her skin was and the dark circles that ringed her blue eyes. She had helped me back to my dorm and had stayed up all night to make sure my condition didn't get any worse. That was something that I would have expected Simon to do for me, seeing as how we had been friends for over ten years. This girl was a stranger to me. I didn't know her, I didn't trust her. And, more importantly, I didn't want her involved in my business, especially this shit involving Tori.
"Well, what?" Chloe questioned. I scowled at her, finding her more trouble now than helpful.
"I'm obviously better now, so I don't know what you're still doing here."
Chloe's eyes gaped in disbelief. She looked away from me, eyes slowly jumping across the room, as if she were looking for something to come back with. After nearly a minute, she released a brief, humorless laugh and shook her head. Abruptly, she crossed the room and shoved past me, ripping the door open, but paused before passing through the frame.
"You know what, Derek? I know that there's something more going on with you than just a prissy faint spell. You don't want me involved? After what I pulled for you last night, I deserve a little more respect and you should just tell me to my face."
She stepped out into the hall and slammed the door shut behind her, leaving me standing in the middle of my room, irritable and annoyed.
Observant and intolerant of the attitude I usually dished out to every other girl at this school.
I found Tori by her locker and approached her from behind as she was spinning the dial on her lock. Just as she pulled the lever to open it, I shot my arm out over her right shoulder, hand catching the locker and slamming it shut.
Tori didn't even flinch.
"Ooh, hostile. Looks like I'm in trouble." She said, her tone almost playful.
I rested my weight against her locker, my arm making a barrier so that she couldn't escape until she gave me some answers. She turned around to find that she was trapped, but the smirk on her lips never faltered. She leaned her back against her own locker and crossed her arms, baiting me, obviously. Unfortunately for her, she was the one biting on my bait.
"So what was it then? Some sort of drug, I'm sure, I just can't figure out what."
"Interesting," Tori stated, the inflection of her words remaining the same. She had this knowing and greatly satisfied look in her eyes that threw me off slightly. I had expected surprise or maybe even anxiety once she found out that I was onto her and her little game. Instead, she almost seemed self-entertained. I clenched my teeth together as she continued.
"Mr. Future physics and chemistry major can't decipher a drug that doesn't exist. How disappointing."
"This isn't a joke anymore, Tori-"
"It was never a joke, Derek. It's a lesson."
"You're trying to teach me a lesson by drugging me?" I growled lowly. It took everything I had to keep quiet and still, not wanting to make a scene or have anyone eavesdrop on our conversation. Tori rolled her eyes, almost as if she were growing bored of this confrontation already. Her attitude had this effect on me where I just wanted to bang her head against the wall of lockers behind her.
"I can see that you're trying to make all this logically click in your brain, smart guy, but Magic doesn't work that way."
"There's no such thing as magic. Quit playing me for an i-"
"Let me break this down for you," Tori interrupted, annoyance seeping through her lips. "You were sick as hell yesterday, were you not? I can see how you might think that your body may have been rejecting some sort of consumption or injection. But, how do you explain the dreams?"
I blanched. How did she-
"You think that you're having some major trip or something? Hardly. The subtle changes? Those are not hormones, my friend-"
"We are not friends," I snarled, growing more and more frustrated by the second.
"And what about the pain, Derek?" Tori continued, ignoring me. "Your body was physically morphing into something else. No amount of steroids or acid trips can make you feel or imagine that. It's all real. The Change, the Curse and the Magic that's binding it."
I bowed my head and shook it, puffing out an aggravated breath. "You really think I'm stupid, don't you?"
"Your arrogance is starting to piss me off. Which shows me that you haven't learned anything." Tori said harshly. "Maybe you should spend less time fighting against it and more time trying to break it."
I snorted and stepped away from her, dropping the temporary wall I had enclosed her in. She may not have given me my answers, but she had given me an idea in order to find out what she was really doing.
"It's not going to take me too long to break this act, Victoria. I'm just going to keep an eye on you and, when I catch you trying to drug me again, be sure that there are going to be consequences."
"Oh no," Tori gasped in mock horror. I grimaced. "You can't! You don't mean, you're going to tell the principle on me?"
"Worse. The police. What you're doing is illegal and this is my only warning. Back off, or I'll have you expelled from this school so fast, your future will vanish in a blink of an eye."
The dark-haired girl shook her head and released an annoyed chuckle.
"You're just wasting time you don't have, Derek."
With that, she slipped around me and proceeded down the hall to class, the bell sounding in her wake.
My goal for the duration of the day wasn't just to keep an eye open for Tori, but for whatever I did as well. On my way to English, for example, I held my backpack in front of me instead of on my back, concerned of something being slipped in there while I wasn't looking. And, when I got to the classroom, before I took my seat, I gave it a good inspection to make sure it was clean. Even when Simon came up to give me his usual clap on my back, I leaned away, muttering that I still had a bug.
"But you do look a lot better than yesterday. I'll admit, maybe you were right. Guess you didn't have to go to the nurse after all."
"Yeah." I agreed monotonously. I wasn't about to tell Simon what had happened last night. He would only freak out and have me dragged to the infirmary even if I looked ten times better. And, if I had told him about Tori's involvement, well, let's just say that's twenty less problems to deal with.
Simon and I sat there for a few minutes, chatting about the upcoming game as the class filed in. For once, in the last couple of days, it was a nice distraction, though, I still remained alert for anyone or anything coming near me.
We were discussing the odds of our season this year when a soft and recently familiar voice interrupted.
The two of us glanced up towards the greeting, Simon with a friendly smile and myself sporting disapproving question.
You've got to be kidding me.
"Hey, Chloe." Simon piped. Said blonde gave him a tired smile before passing me a frown.
"Derek," She greeted, then, to my surprise, she took the seat between Simon and me. Simon's smile took a mischievous turn and he lightly elbowed Chloe in the ribs.
"Whoa, Chloe. Getting a little bold, aren't we?"
"Shut up," She muttered, a light pink touching her cheeks.
I reached towards Chloe and hooked my grip around her upper arm. She released a surprised gasp as I tugged her in my direction.
"What are you doing?" I hissed. I thought she had been perfectly aware on how uninvolved I wanted her to be. What did she think she was doing, making sure I didn't collapse into a full blown seizure right here in Mr. Chadborne's class?
For a second, Chloe studied me, confused by my question. She gestured impatiently to the desk and blatantly noted, "Sitting."
"I can see that. I meant, what are you doing? Why aren't you sitting at your own desk?"
"This is my desk." Chloe deadpanned. Before, she looked as if she were about to stab me with her pencil, but, as she answered, the offense that had been clear upon her face fell into an emotionless frown. "I've sat here the entire semester, Derek. You'd think for a guy who tries so hard to avoid everyone, you'd be more aware of your surroundings."
Though I didn't like admitting it, she was right. How could I have gone nearly half a semester and not notice who was sitting in the seat next to me? To be honest, I never really gave a damn. But now that Chloe had suddenly made an appearance in my life, I've come to see that maybe I should at least recognize who was around me on a daily basis. Those times I had seen Simon and Chloe talking, I now recognize that that had been right here in English class.
If I wanted to keep a look out for Tori jeopardizing my health, I had to be way more observant.
Unfortunately, the day passed just as painfully as the one before. By the time practice rolled around, I was both physically and psychologically exhausted. I was normally on my guard but this- being constantly vigilant of just about everything that came within a certain radius of my person- was tedious, annoying and tiring.
Luckily, the one time I had actually seen Tori had been at lunch. When I had made eye contact with her, I made a show of dumping my tray where I hadn't taken a single bite despite how hungry I was. I had refused to eat or drink anything, at least on the campus where I was surrounded by hundreds of people I didn't- couldn't- trust, primarily because one was using me as an experimental guinea pig for her lessons of life.
I wasn't so lucky, however, when it came to everyone else. My undesirable popularity brought about attention I didn't want. More so now than ever. I got my daily dose of Amber, or nearly did, until football skills became useful in a time that had nothing to do with the field. As she leapt across the lunch hall at the sight of me, shortly after my episode with Tori, I juked left and pivoted out of the way, instantly losing her in a sea of students. Even then, I had to bob and weave through that cluster fuck to keep them out of my own personal circle.
The fun didn't just end there. I had to deal with my regular debates with Maya, who may or may not have it in for me just as much as Tori did. I also had a run in with Brady before practice because I had snapped at his little girlfriend, Rachelle for running into me in the hall after school had been released.
Now, my wonderful day was coming to an end by me having my delicate space bubble popped by every direction possible as the entire football team reamed me throughout the duration of practice. Usually, considering I was the Running Back, I had to be, and was, a pretty strong player. My decisions, though, to keep myself from being doped up from anything consumable at school had left me drained and dehydrated and particularly vulnerable to Liam Malloy and his defense.
By the time Coach had finished drilling my ass for a better game come Friday, I was dragging my feet through the locker room, fighting away the familiar ache in my bones and throbbing against my skull.
I merely stripped myself of padding and excess weight I wouldn't need on my trek back to the dorms. I was too tired to shower and change and wouldn't dare even if I wanted too. Who knew? Tori had access to the men's locker room and, if she were stealthy enough, she could sneak in and dose my shampoo with something or tamper with my clothes.
Was I paranoid? Absolutely. But, like I had told Simon a couple days before, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
I grabbed my gym bag from my locker and shoved it full of all my belongings. With my simple desire to just make it back to my room and escape the major cluster this day had been in mind, I weaved around the other players in the room and breached the back door, stepping out into the late October chill wearing no more than a black wife beater and the bottom half of my uniform.
The field was on the north side of the courtyard, where the dorms were on the west. You could say that the courtyard was the center of the campus, the field to the north, school and gym on the east, bookstores and shops to the south and dorms on the west. I was cutting across the field in order to make my hike shorter, not enjoying the way the insides of my stomach were starting to roll and churn, when the sight of a couple figures near the goal posts caught my attention.
If I had been more aware of my surroundings in the locker room, I would have noticed that Liam hadn't been there. Instead he was leaning against the goal posts casually, his helmet in his hand and his other clasped loosely around a girl's wrist, his thumb rubbing idly up and down her skin.
The weird thing, though, was that the girl was Chloe.
Amidst the hectic shit that occurred today, ever since my encounter with Chloe Saunders in my room this morning, I had seen her just about everywhere. She wasn't lying when she said that we had class together. Not only was she in my English course, but my history class as well. I caught sight of her at lunch also, sitting next to a carrot top I knew to be Nate Bozian and Maya's friend, Sam Russo. And again during study hall in the library near the end of the day.
But, what was she doing out here with Liam Malloy?
She was smiling at him, though, it seemed a little forced. That didn't have to mean anything really. She had done the same to Simon earlier this morning because she was sleep deprived, which meant that this wasn't any different. They just looked like they were talking. I knew Liam to be a real spot light enthusiast and, most times, a major asshole. But, with Chloe, he looked somewhat thrilled to be in her presence, excited even.
However, his grin fell into a slight frown and he released Chloe's hand, muttering something in the process. Chloe nodded as she took a few steps back and bid him a goodbye. I suppose he just wasn't too thrilled that she was leaving. I had seen this kind of part before. Like a cutesy couple where they weren't going to see each other for a few hours, minus the nauseating make-out session.
Liam was usually quite the boaster. Yet, I had never heard him go on about a girlfriend before. Of course, I normally did my best to ignore the egotistical jackass and, until this morning, I hardly knew that Chloe existed.
Realistically, I could care less. Good for them, or whatever. But, something about it nagged at me. As Chloe turned away from Liam, I wondered if he was the guy she had chosen over Simon a couple years back. And, if that was the case, I found myself surprisingly disappointed in her.
Chloe looked up then, her eyes catching mine, slender golden brows stitching together in question. She was too far for greeting but close enough to see that I didn't want any even if she were able to. She frowned and instead of turning away because I didn't want to have anything to do with her, I did so to hide how I winced as a wave of pain rolled down my spine.
Ignoring the sense that she was still curiously gazing at me, I picked up the pace and broke into a lazy jog once I escaped into the courtyard. I had to make it back to my room. The journey almost seemed impossible with each new surge that pulsed through my body. I could feel bile threatening to rise and my muscles squirmed in beat with the tempo of my accelerating heart.
It didn't make any sense. I had been so careful the entire day. There was no way Tori could have slipped something passed me or how observant I'd been. So how was this happening again?
At the moment, it didn't matter. It was hard to think as I broke through my bedroom door and rushed to the bathroom, bending over the toilet and relieving the acids from my otherwise empty stomach. I didn't even have a chance to take a breath before the convulsions began, or blink before I was curled on the linoleum floor writhing with each new spasm that attacked my muscles.
It didn't matter how attentive I had been or that Tori had no chance to drug me all day. All I could think of was the pain, and the steady sound of growling licking at the back of my conscience.
Hmm, Anyone have any ideas where I am getting the plot from? I think the next chapter would give it away quite clearly, but it would be awesome to hear your thoughts.
Also, any helpful critic or ideas anyone might have would be greatly appreciated and considered.
So review please! :) Until next time.