Before long Blair had arrived, and I was spending all of my time (outside of school, of course) in her company. She didn't mind; she told me in secret that I was the reason she came to visit. "I missed you," she said, enveloping me in a hug. "It's been way too long. So, how are you? What's new in the life of Grey?"
I smiled, something I don't usually do; but she deserved it. "I found a Black Smoke mask. It was only five bucks."
Her eyes widened; unlike everybody else I knew, Blair actually had all of the information I did and knew why I researched it. "That's a good deal," she said. "I bet those are really hard to find." She paused, then added, "That's the gas mask-looking thing you showed me on Google, right?"
I nodded, laughing a bit. Okay, so I may tell her most everything, but that didn't mean she had my passion (or memory) for stuff like this. "Yep, you got it. I had to look everywhere for one, but I eventually got my hands on it. Want to see?" I asked her, stepping off my bed and making my way to the closet.
"Sure!" she said with a grin, sitting cross-legged and leaning against the head-board of my bed. "How's school going? 7th grade treating you okay?"
My face fell a bit at the mention of school, but I didn't let her see. If Blair had any idea that I didn't have a single friend, she would probably go to the school board over it. I eventually settled on, "It's all right, I guess," and handed her the Black Smoke mask.
Blair ran her hands over it, an awed expression on her face. Though she wasn't necessarily interested in apocalypses, my cousin absolutely loved history. "So cool," she muttered, fingering the plastic. "You have to like some part of school. What's your favorite class? History?"
"No, actually," I said with a smile, carefully packing away the mask once more. "I'm taking Astronomy this year, so that's my favorite."
"No way! Astronomy, that's so cool. I'm taking this college class…" We kept talking like this, casual and comfortable, until I had to go to bed. I fell asleep that night happy for the first time in a while. Thoughts of Mars and the quickly approaching date of the apocalypse were far from my mind for once.
Of course, that peace wouldn't last.
"Current events? Anybody?" the teacher asked. I sat in the back of the class with an empty chair by my side; nobody wanted to be my partner, not that I cared. I was in my usual scholarly position, my chin resting in my hand, my eyes half closed. Hardly anything interested me anymore and, since I could ace every test using the textbook, listening (or even further, participating) in class seemed like a waste of time and energy.
I saw the girl in front of me turn and steal a glance my way when she thought I wasn't looking. "Don't you think that Grey would talk in this class?" she whispered to the boy next to her, twirling a lock of strawberry blond hair around her finger. "I mean, in this class the teacher actually likes her, right?"
The boy scoffed, making no effort to be quiet. Knowing Derrick, he probably wanted me to hear whatever he had to say. "Grey-the-Fey? She never says anything. Just hides behind that creepy black hair of hers."
The girl, Anna, looked at me again with a frown. "But she aces all of the tests! I bet she could answer every question."
Derrick slung an arm around her shoulders, making her look away. "Don't worry about that freak," he told her. "You don't want to associate with someone like her. And she won't talk to you anyways, so what's the point?" I shot a glare at him before tuning back into class so I could ignore his blatant douchebaggery.
"Has anybody heard about the solar flares they spotted yesterday?" the teacher asked, a wide smile on her face. The class was silent; obviously, nobody had. "NASA satellites spotted unusual solar flares yesterday, each exactly two hours apart. This activity is highly unusual, as were the structure of the flares." By now I was listening in actual interest as she pulled up some pictures from the NASA website. "Most solar flares look like flames," she continued, "these, on the other hand, appear to be jets of gas propelled laterally from the sun."
My heart thumping I frantically grasped in my jacket pocket for my journal. Flipping to an earlier page, I found a picture drawn in 1894 by an English observatory worker; a picture which was found later to depict the launching of a Martian cylinder. Though the picture in my notebook was black-and-white and simply an illustration, it held a striking resemblance to the NASA picture currently on the board. Add this to the regularity of the flares and the fact that Mars was currently behind the sun, and you've got a no-so-coincidental recipe for disaster.
Sure, there were some differences. Like the flares being every two hours in contrast to every twenty four. But Earth technology has excelled tremendously in the last few centuries, why couldn't theirs have too? Of course, nobody else in the class put two and two together as I scribbled madly in my journal. In fact, some of them looked at me strangely, as if they couldn't fathom what had suddenly got me so excited.
"Why're you so worked up, freak?" Derrick asked, leaning back in his chair to stare at me. Anna was looking at me with wide eyes as well, though probably because she was worried I was writing down some homework assignment she missed.
I shot him a look, but didn't say anything and went back to the important task of chronicling these events. I had learned long ago that no matter what you said, they would turn it against you. It was much better to stay silent and imagine throwing your fury at them.
"Oh, this is about the 'apocalypse', isn't it?" Derrick said tauntingly. My eyes immediately widened. How had he, of all people, put it together? "I should have known. Tomorrow's the 21st of December, that's the doomsday for you conspiracy theorists, isn't it?"
Well, that's two things made certain. One, Derrick is not a genius, he's still just a jerk. An aware jerk, but a jerk nonetheless. Two, the cylinders were arriving tomorrow. The day the Mayan calendar ended. A total reset of the planet Earth.
The apocalypse was almost here.
The bell rang, startling me out of my racing thoughts. Stuffing my journal in my pocket I quickly packed up and left the classroom, headed to my locker. I put everything back in it, not bothering to take anything out. After tomorrow, schoolwork wouldn't matter anymore. I would have just skipped and gone home, but until the end of the world my parents could still ground me, and I needed free reign to be able to prepare.
"What's wrong, freak?" a familiar voice asked from behind me.
With a scowl I shut my locker door and turned around. "What do you want, Derrick?" I growled. At a time like this, he was the last person I wanted to talk to.
He gave me a smirk as Anna stared at me from behind him. She had probably thought I was a mute up until now. "I just want to know if you have any advice," he said derisively. "After all, you've been a freak since we were in elementary school. Surely you know what to do for the 'big day'?"
Though I knew he was just trying to make fun of me, I actually considered his words. After all, nobody deserved to die; the least I could do was five them some idea of what was going on. Anna especially was an innocent soul, not a cruel bone in her. "Watch the sky," I eventually said, "and pack the essentials. Once the cylinders land, the war (if you can call it that) will begin."
Derrick looked at me for a beat, then laughed so loud that other students in the hall turned to look at him. "You… you actually believe that?" he exclaimed, still cracking up at my expense. Not that I had ever expected him to believe me, but still.
"Always have," I responded coldly, and walked away. "Fine, die with the rest. See if I care." If he wasn't interested in listening, I wasn't interested in talking. All my life I had been surrounded by skeptics, and tomorrow my day would come; but I wasn't happy about it. The end of life as we know it isn't exactly something to celebrate.
The rest of the day passed by painfully slowly. My attention in class was even more absent than usual because I was mentally checking and re-checking my supplies at home. Still, seconds felt like minutes, minutes hours. At the end of school I practically ran out of the classroom, not bothering who yelled at me in the hallways. I was on my way to the bus stop when I heard my name.
"Grey!" somebody shouted over the noise of students. I turned to find Blair waving at me from her car. Turning on my heel I sped over, practically leaping into the passenger seat. "I thought I'd pick you up from school today!" she said happily, starting the car.
"Drive," I curtly responded, curling up my knees and hugging them. "I have a lot to tell you."