“What do you mean it’s still been happening?” I ask, turning down the corner to another hallway at our school. Sarah walks beside me, her short legs taking twice as many steps as mine.
I’d forgotten about that night until now; now that she’s reminded me. Actually, it was three nights, not one. She stopped calling for my help and as time went on I figured that it must’ve went away. Apparently, it hasn’t. I think the last time she called me or talked about it was around six months ago. Six months. She’s been dealing with this for six months all by herself. Why hasn’t she called me?
“I mean, just because I stopped calling you doesn’t mean that they stopped coming,” she says. “Because they have been. And I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” I take a long, hard look at Sarah, realizing now that I’ve been a terrible friend. It’s obvious that something has been wrong, but not once have I asked about her. I’ve been too caught up with my own problems. Her hair is in an unusual unruly mess, her skin looks much paler than it used to be, her hands never seem to stop shaking, and she’s lost weight. Her eyes dart around underneath her glasses like she’s constantly on the lookout for something. Afraid of something. Dark circles underneath her eyes give her a continual tired look. What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I noticed?
“Sarah, stop for a second,” I say. I grab her arm and pull her to a stop. “Why haven’t you told me about this? I would’ve done something.”
Sarah lets out a loud, over-the-top giggle that lasts just a few seconds too long. “What would you have done? It’s not like anyone else ever sees them. My parents think I’m crazy now. You would’ve, too, if I continued to call you in the dead of night only for you to show up and nothing be there.”
“I know you’re not crazy, Sarah. I believe you, and I’m sorry I haven’t been paying attention. Now that I know, we can do something. Don’t ask me what because I don’t know what. But if these–these men, or creatures, or whatever only come at night, then I’ll just stay with you at night. Every night. They’ll have to show up eventually. And when they do . . I’ll take care of it.”
She rubs her eyes. “Yeah, about that. It’s not just night anymore.” She starts walking again and I speed up to catch up with her. “They–they show up during the daytime too. Just . . following me. And anytime I try to point them out to whoever’s with me, they disappear before they can be seen. But I know they’re there,” she says, looking at me with wild, yet hopeful eyes. “They’re always there.”
I grimace. “Always?”
“Yes.” We come to a stop in front of our lockers.
“Okay. That means we’ll just keep someone with you around the clock. They gotta show up sometime, right?” I grab the lock attached to my locker’s handle and start spinning the combination in. “To me, it sounds like those people aren’t trying to actually kill you. If so, they would’ve done it by now. I think they’re just messing with your head, trying to get you to think you’re just losing your mind. Although, I can’t fathom why anyone would be doing such a thing. Do–” I glance over at her only to see her staring down the hall at something, obviously not listening to me. Her eyes are wide, frozen along with the rest of her body. I look around to try to find what it is she’s staring at, but other than a few random students shuffling around, there’s no one else here besides us.
“Sarah. Sarah, what is it?” She doesn’t respond to me at first, but ever so slowly she raises her arm and points. I turn and look behind me. Nothing.
“Did you see them?” Her voice comes out so soft that I barely catch it, even with my remarkable hearing. “Tell me you saw them.”
As much as I don’t want to do it seeing how desperate she is for someone else to see what she’s been seeing, I shake my head anyway. “They’re here? Right now?” She bobs her head up and down, though her eyes don’t move from behind me.
I grab her arm. “C’mon. We’re ending this right now. Stay behind me.” I walk as fast as I can while still holding on to Sarah, going to the area she was staring at. I look back at her. “Is this where they were?” She nods. “Well, you watching them the whole time, Sarah. They had to have gone somewhere. Where did you see them go?”
“Um . .” She squints her eyes and appears to be in deep thought about it, though the look on her face almost makes her seem like she’s about to cry. I want to comfort her, but if these men are really here right now, then I could end this for good and she won’t have to worry about them at all. So I’m gonna need her to disregard her feelings for the moment and remember where they went.
I bend down so I can be eye-level with her and make sure she looks at me. “Think, Sarah, think. They were right here. Where did they go?”
She blinks. “In–in there.” She points to the room next to us, which I recognize as the band room. I once again take her arm and guide us into the room. My eyes scan the large room, from left to right and back the other way, then again with my other set of eyes–my werewolf eyes. There’s rows of chairs set up in a half-circle around a small podium, and various instrument cases locked inside of lockers in the back. But there's not any people in here. Not a person, not a creature, not even something as small as a cricket. The only heartbeats are mine and Sarah’s.
I turn to her, finding frantic eyes and breathing nearing hyperventilation. “Are you sure this is where they went?” I ask.
Her eyes dart around the room, as if she still thinks someone could be in here. “They–they were here. I swear to god they were here.”
I look around the room again, then sigh. “Well, they’re gone now.” Sarah shoves her hands into her hair, clenching her eyes shut. She shakes her head a few times, but in such small motions it almost looks like twitches. I reach out and gently put my hand on her shoulder, opening my mouth to try to console her. I hate seeing her like this.
Her eyes fly open in response to my touch, and her head darts to the side. “Shut up,” she hisses. I glance to my left, where she seems to be directing the comment, but, like I already knew, there’s no one there.
“What’s going on?” I look up to find Luke standing in the doorway, watching us. Did he watch us come in here? I freeze with my arm still on Sarah's shoulder, stuck staring at him. I haven’t seen him since . . . since the last day of school, I guess, which was also six months ago. But that doesn’t really count, considering I had only been seeing him from a distance during the remaining duration of the school year after Logan’s death. The last time I’ve truly seen him was when he came over to our house after Logan’s funeral, apologizing and begging and weeping about how sorry he was before I kicked him out. I couldn't listen to that after what he did. If he hadn't betrayed us after we trusted him and put our faith in him, Logan would still be alive. I can't just get past that, even if it has been almost year.
He still has the same all-american look about him: the tall, moderately muscular body with blonde hair and blue eyes, similar to mine in that respect. Some might consider him attractive, but he never has been, and never will be, to me. His skin tone isn't near as tan as it used to be though. I'm not sure that he did football this year like he usually does, and it seems he hasn't been outside much either. Not that I care what he does.
“Is everything okay?” he asks. Sarah drops her arms and turns to look at him. I feel the blood rushing to my head. My body starts to tremble with fury.
“Get out,” I say. He stares at me with a sad look on his face, but he doesn’t say anything. He glances at Sarah, worry reflecting in his eyes. An insatiable rage wells up in me at the sight of seeing him even dare to show his face to us, let alone pretend to care.
“Get out!” I yell. He gives me another sad expression before turning around and walking away. His footsteps echo down the quiet hallway.
Sarah spins around after a couple of silent heartbeats. “I’m–I’m sorry, Julia. I’m not crazy. I know I’m not crazy. I just . . I thought they were here. I thought they were here. I thought they were here–” She rambles off into some indiscernible speech as I wrap my arms around her and pull her in, letting her sob into my shoulder. She must have so much built-up tension from all the time she’s been dealing with this, and it’s no wonder that she seems to be so disheveled. I would be, too, if someone were to mess with me like the people who are messing with her are. I don’t know who, or what, these people are, nor do I know what their little plan is, but . . but when I find them, they’re going to regret ever messing with Sarah. They’re going to pay for what they’ve put her through.
“You’re not crazy, Sarah,” I say. I rest my chin on the top of her head. “You’re not crazy. Someone’s screwing with your head and I’m going to find out who it is. We’ll talk to Parker and Elijah and . . and we’ll figure out a way to have someone with you all the time. We’ll catch them. We’re going to take care of it. You don’t have to deal with this alone.”
Through the sniffling and tears, I hear her stutter, “Th–thank you.” I continue to rub her with my arms and close my eyes to keep my own tears from rolling down my face. I can practically feel the fear radiating from her shaking body. I’m not letting anything else happen to her. I wasn’t there for her before, but I can make up for it now by taking care of this. I don’t care what it takes, I will protect her. I may not be at my sanest at the moment with everything that has happened, but I’ll be damned if I let that happen to her too.