After a fatal subway crash, Madison Ray and four other girls are the only survivors. Madison believes she's going insane; hair falling out and seeing cloaked figures. Until a young, mysterious man named Caleb appears telling her that the five girls are defied mortals, humans gifted by the Gods and they are the key to destroying an evil that hasn't been seen for centuries.
But Caleb and the rest of his odd, mysterious crowd aren't telling the girls everything and Madison begins to wonder if s
My parents died in the middle of August. After a few weeks, I stopped screaming. Within a few months, I stopped feeling anything. Sometime in-between then, I died. I let Madison Ray go and became this empty shell. By the time they decided I was moving to New York City to live with my aunt, I was too far gone to fight.
I avoided everyone. I even avoided myself. I had spent days, months, hiding from mirrors. Anything with a reflection. When I got the courage to face myself one day, I saw dead blue eyes and fragile skin. The healthy glow from spending countless days underneath sunrays had vanished. If I squinted enough, I could still make out the bruises that ran from my chin to my forehead. It hadn’t been me. It hadn’t been anyone I recognized. Then I wondered what they looked like underneath the cool soil. If they looked the same as me. If they even looked more alive than me. I had stopped myself there and retreated back to the bed.
“Madison,” my aunt said and I flinched, looking up from my untouched food, “You excited for your first day of school? It’s a bit delayed, but November’s a good month to start over. Beats spending the entire day up in your bedroom, right?”
I forced a smile. “Yeah.”
“Oh,” she said, looking back at me, “Amanda called again last night but you already had your lights off so I didn’t bother you.” I stared ahead at the wall full of my grandma’s plates. “You should call her. She wants to know your plans for Thanksgiving.” I moved the scrambled eggs around on my plate. “Have you decided what your doing? Staying here or moving back to the island?”
No. No, I couldn’t go back there. All my friends thought I was fine. That I was having so much fun in the big city and my broken heart, shattered soul had healed. Emails were easy to convince anyone how things were going; I wasn’t sure if I could manage faking smiles in person with people who had known me since I was born. “I think I’m gonna stay here for now,” I said and made sure to exchange a smile.
“Well then you can finally unpack all those boxes,” she said, laughing and cutting something up for her restaurant.
I arrived in mid September but my Aunt Marie thought I still needed time to become myself again. I was too far away now. It was the beginning of November, the air was cool and the trees were beginning to lose their colorful leaves. Everything was dying. Everything was disappearing. Any hope for me was too.
I touched my limp hair and I recalled when it was full of volume and beautiful waves. It used to smell like lake water, and if the sun had a scent, it probably smelled like that too.
“You can talk to me, Madison. We’re family,” she said, “I hurt too.” She attempted to touch my hand. I stared at hers and then found the floor. I hadn’t seen her for years before my parents’ funeral. She barely had sent Birthday cards to my family. Now she expected me to confide in her. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said, sliding my hand away. When my Aunt looked back, I forced a smile. “I’m just tired.”
“You look better today…” she said. I brushed over the ridge of my jaw line, wondering if I was just tight skin and bones now. “You’re complexion looks better I mean.” My hand fell. I didn’t feel different. My body was still rigid and numb. “You look more like your dad.” Then I froze. I didn’t want her to mention him. I didn’t want her to keep bringing him up. That was exactly why I had locked myself in her spare bedroom.
I began to wonder if the only reason she had taken me in was because I resembled her dead older brother. People said I had looked like my mom, but my Aunt was the only one who told me otherwise. I didn’t know who I looked like anymore. Maybe a skeleton, a bloodless body, or Madison Ray?
“Thanks,” I said, “Well, I should probably go so I make it on time.”
“Okay, good luck! Have a good day,” she said, facing me. For a moment neither one of us moved, unsure of to hug nor shake hands.
Quietly, I stepped away from the doorway and walked over to the entrance. I looked in the mirror, only to see a picture my aunt had tucked into the side of the wooden frame. It was of my mom and dad. They were smiling and I wished I could remember how they smelled. I wished I could remember anything about them other than the last few moments I saw them. Blood-soaked, drenched in rain. Screaming. Crying. And I laid there. The same locket wrapped around my neck clenched in my bruised hand.
I left with that image burnt into my mind. It wouldn’t leave and any memories of them collided with that. The streets of New York City were busy and I took one last glance at the red brick townhouse I called home now. I missed seeing trees and grass everywhere. All I saw was cement sidewalks and lamp posts. A paper-white sky sat above the tall, well-built buildings and I felt even smaller.
I looked up to the high school. It looked enormous. It was enormous. Someone hit my shoulder and I stumbled. I walked into the school and darted for the change rooms.
When I walked into the gym, I braced myself. It smelt of rubber and sweat and a chill clung to the air. The first bell then rang and at that moment, students started rolling in. The eyes were already clasping to my body. I didn’t care what they thought. The second bell rang shortly, signaling that class was ready to begin.
“Alright class! Listen up,” the teacher announced to everyone. I had met her before when I was shown around the school. She had offered me organic cookies and I politely ate them. I could barely taste the flavors though. My aunt took a bite and secretly tossed it when she wasn’t looking. “Today, we decided we’d combine the classes. I’ve organized the groups into five and I’ll come around to tell you each which group you are in.” As soon as she was done, students began talking again and I recoiled further into my shell.
“Hey, you’re new, right?” I glanced up to see a girl and a boy standing in front of me. “‘Cause I walked you around the school when you visited, remember?” I didn’t remember her.
“Yeah, I do,” I whispered, studying my shoelaces. The fabric was bright and clean; I realized then how much I missed my old, scuffed ankle Converse shoes. The color had dulled, but somehow, they were even brighter and fresher than the ones my aunt had picked out. Odd, I thought.
“I’m Kim,” the girl almost sung, grinning. Her face was very round and her skin a dark olive color. She had a healthy hourglass shape and her hair was bouncy and curlier than mine.
“Dylan,” the boy said, beaming. They both stood above me and I awkwardly waited for them to vanish. Nope. No such luck. Then they sat down on either side and I realized how trapped I was. “And you? Gotta a name?” Beams were glued to their faces and their eyes were glued to me. Dylan flashed his pearly whites and laughed––for the billionth time since they approached me it seemed. His hair was brown and shaggy. He reminded me of a sweet, lovable puppy.
“Madison,” I said, eyes falling.
Kim’s smile hurt to look at for very long. Thankfully, the teacher appeared in front of us, but to my dismay, was grinning also.
“You’re Madison Ray, correct?” Before I could nod, she continued, fixing her shirt that was loose around her athletic body. “I’m Mrs. Martin, if you need anything, just ask. You’ll be in a group of five with…” She paused, going over the clipboard in her hand, “Melrose, Shakelen, Maxs, and Lily. I’m sure Kim and Dylan can help you find them. Good luck.” With that, she walked away and left me stranded.
“Melrose Shepherd,” Kim said. She sucked in air, leaning back on her plump hands. “Good luck indeed.” I cocked a brow and looked over at Dylan, awaiting an explanation.
“Why? Who’s she?” As soon as it left my lips, I noted how innocent and naïve I sounded.
Kim stifled a snort and pushed a lock of dark hair behind her small ears. “‘Cause she can ruin your life.” She made it sound like a simple answer. That the whole universe knew about the vortex surrounding this Melrose. “She has everything––well she did just break up with her boyfriend, but they always break-up. One of those on-and-off type of relationships. She’s queen of the school. She’s a frigging Barbie doll; has the looks, the money, the popularity. Did I say looks? If I was a guy, hell I’d do her.” Dylan chuckled and the two of them watched the gym full of students. I eyed each classmate, searching for the girl. “She isn’t called Heartless Melrose for nothing though. Don’t mess with her.”
I held in air. “What about the others?” I hoped they weren’t the same.
“Uh, Maxs is cool. Weird and loud and interesting and–”
“You’re not going to find the right word for her, Kim,” Dylan interrupted, clear blue eyes smiling. “There isn’t a word to describe her.” Kim made a face at him and then turned her attention back to me.
“She’s the Leader of the Video Game Freaks,” she continued. I blinked a tad, confused. “She dyed her hair?” I followed where both of them were gawking to see a girl with faded pinkish hair.
“I didn’t pick her for a pink girl,” Dylan said, laughing slightly. “And Shakelen is too smart. Way too smart.” His eyes finally narrowed. Even like that, a faint smile still lined his lips. “I bet she’s the reincarnation of Einstein, bet you anything.” Kim and Dylan fought over what he would bet and then concentrated on my group again.
“Lily is––well,” Kim spoke, her voice trailing off and glancing at Dylan. Dylan wasn’t looking though, “a bit stuck-up. Kind of thinks she’s better than everyone. She has all her rich classy friends and doesn’t bother to speak to anyone here.” She took another second to think it over. “I mean, I don’t really know her at all…” Kim and Dylan chatted about something and I scanned the gym.
“Okay, let’s get into our groups. Everyone up!” Mrs. Martin announced at the front of the gym. I pushed myself up and glanced around, aimlessly searching for my group. “Madison, your group is over here.” Mrs. Martin grasped my elbow and guided me through the crowds. Four girls stood awkwardly around each other, one being the pink-haired Maxs. “Girls, this is Madison Ray. This is her very first day.” Thanks. Thanks a lot. Her hand landed on my unwelcomed shoulder and I attempted to turn to dust. “If you need anything, just ask.” With that she was gone, abandoning me in front of four unfamiliar faces.
For a moment, neither of us moved or said a word. Then Maxs outstretched her hand and said, “I’m Maxs but I write it M A X S but you pronounce it like Max. I know it’s confusing and doesn’t make sense but when you’re like four and you like the way a name looks, you take it.” She was smiling––no beaming. I took my hand back.
“I’m Shakelen,” another said. I looked down at her. I would have assumed she was in Grade Five at her height. Her dark brows arched when she gazed over at Maxs. “And it sounds the way it spelt…”
The next girl didn’t speak. She looked away, concentrating on our surroundings. Her arms were crossed around her middle and she didn’t seem interested in anyone of us. Then her eyes caught mine, brow furrowed and she looked me up and down and quickly averted again. Her boney fingers fidgeted with white pearl earrings and I assumed she was Lily.
“Lack of Vitamin D much?” I glanced slightly over my shoulder to see the last girl standing alone. Her eyes were sharp; a look able to destroy a Roman army. “Snow White has competition.” I sucked in air and for once, my body vibrated fear in every bone. No; it wasn’t quite fear but it was a strong feeling.
I knew who she was. Heartless Melrose Shepherd.
My mouth twitched and I fought back the urge to retort. If I was smart, I would play dumb or innocent––like the new kid. Something again throbbed in my numb shell and I cocked my head, eyes raking over the girl before me. It was the migraine. It was the churning in my stomach again. The same feeling before the fatal car crash.
I was surprised to see the gym had grown silent. Everyone, including Dylan and Kim, were watching us. She had said something, something loud and obnoxious, but I didn’t listen. Mrs. Martin had left the room and now she was free to torment anyone she pleased.
“You look dead,” she said, laughing. I stared back and when I didn’t react, she said, “Vamps aren’t hot anymore. Actually, they never were.” Some more girls across the gym snickered, hiding their hideous smirks behind manicured hands. This girl had everything figured out. Everyone was wrapped around her rich finger. Melrose’s lips curved into a smug sneer. Her head leveled and a snicker escaped them. I was beginning to see her ugliness––her perfect appearance was a mask behind a beast. “What? Nothing to say?”
“Not to you.” My voice was hard and composed. I hadn’t expected it to come out as an insult, but from Melrose’s reaction and everyone else’s, it had. A few girls were gawking and others were whispering to each other. Melrose was huffing and puffing––like the Big Bad Wolf and her perfect complexion was bright red. Apparently, I hit a nerve.
“Okay, okay. Everyone concentrate on their own groups. C’mon,” Mrs. Martin said, flourishing her hands around the room. I looked around, surprised all eyes were on us. Mrs. Martin marched over, her brows furrowed and hands on hips. “I leave for a minute,” she said mostly to herself, “If you girls have a problem, we can take this discussion to my office.” She transferred looks between Melrose and I. I blinked and Melrose folded her arms, scowling. We both exchanged quick glances.
“No, there’s no problem,” I said, composed and words solid. Melrose studied me as if I had given away her secrets.
“Good, now get going,” Mrs. Martin encouraged, rushing off.
“It’s actually ultra violet light,” Shakelen said, dark brown eyes intensely watching me and then over to Melrose. I didn’t know what to say and I had no clue what she was talking about. Awkwardly, I gazed at the other two. Lily didn’t make eye contact, bold glasses falling down her straight nose. She didn’t care.
“Violet’s a color,” Maxs said, raising both her brows and adjusting her plaid hat.
Once Shakelen noticed that all of us were confused, she sighed. “UVB exposure induces the production of vitamin D in the skin at a rate of up to 1,000 IUs per minute.”
“Uh, English?” Maxs said, sky blue eyes squinted, but even then they were enormous. She was lucky her head was round and heart-shape or they would have had taken over her face. Shakelen rolled her brown eyes and groaned.
“Where are you from again?” Melrose said, appearing in our circle. I stood there, unsure whether to answer.
“Canada,” I said.
“Canada?” She laughed. “Aren’t Canadians supposed to be nice?” A wide grin appeared on her lips.
“No,” I said sternly, “Polite, not nice.” I was done arguing with her.
“Oh really?” she said. She could terrorize me all she wanted. It didn’t bother me. She was just another fake, another person to block out.
“Hey, I have an idea,” Shakelen said, halfheartedly laughing and her voice became sharp, “how about we get the basket balls, Melrose?” She stepped somewhat in–between Melrose and I.
Melrose’s eyes tensed. “No,” she said coldly.
“Well, I’m getting them,” Shakelen said after a moment. Lily followed after and they returned with a ball. Melrose sighed loudly and turned away, tying up her blonde hair. She glared once more and I averted my eyes.
After all classes were done, I left, hoping to catch the first subway back to the house. I missed it and ended up standing in front of a dark tunnel. I stepped to the edge, letting the tips of my shoes hang. Lights spiraled onto the graffiti walls and the screeching burst into my eardrums.
The subway screeched to a stop and I walked on. I could finally think. Very few people sat on the train and I found comfort in that. Then I noticed one of them was Maxs. Apparently, she thought the subway seat was her living room couch. I wasn’t surprised to see a video game attached to her fingers after what Dylan and Kim had told me. She was hypnotized by the game so I decided to leave her alone.
I fixed my brown leather backpack and thought of taking out a book to read. Then I saw a few more teenagers enter the subway and was startled to see Shakelen and Lily––separate of course, sit down. Lily didn’t look at anyone. Shakelen jotted down notes into a book that was falling apart, occasionally stopping to bite the end of her pen. Her eyes caught mine and she hid behind her wool-thick hair.
Nothing will ever be quiet again.A sigh escaped my dry lips and I rested the back of my head against the strong glass. It was dark out there. The tunnels were endless and I felt a numb pinch in my stomach. I had made myself this way––numb. I hadn’t been able to cope with the loss, with the painful truth. The guilt. Endless nights of sobbing and shrieking. For what? I had no clue what I was screaming for. Maybe for them; maybe for death to find me. I was a wreck. No one could help me. I wanted someone to take the pain away. It had been a dream; a man came in the middle of the night, calming me with chanting and an offer to take the pain. For me to feel nothing. I begged. It was still summer then. My room was humid and sticky, but after that dream, I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel a thing.
It was then we stopped. Melrose Shepherd stood in front of the subway doors, gawking at me. Her face was contorted and blue eyes slitted. Out of all the subway trains in New York City, she had to choose the one I was on.
When she finally stepped, she shook the water droplets framing her hoodie and combed her bangs back with tough fingers. She was the exact opposite to the usual Queens of High School. Faded blue jeans, a gray hoodie and scuffed, worn-down tennis shoes were her image–in front of me at least. Melrose scanned me one last time before she sat down and then made sure she concentrated on her shoes.
The track of the subway screeched and we zoomed around a curve. It only took a second for her to gain back confidence and finally, she met my dull eyes. She arched a thin brow and her full lips curved into a frown. She was not pleased to see me.
“What?” she said. I wouldn’t have been surprised if her voice had been capable of shattering my shell. It didn’t though and my expression stayed composed.
I blinked, side-glancing at the others obviously watching. Maxs sat a few seats away, mouth agape and her Video Game music filling the awkward silence.
“Nothing,” I said in the same composed voice as usual. That was what I was. I was nothing.
Carefully, I gazed around the subway. A girl was staring. Her dark eyes wouldn’t look away, sunken into a gaunt face, consumed by lifeless dark locks. I tried to look away, but I found myself glancing back. Why was she staring? Skin so pale and heaps of dark fabrics overburdened her fragile body. Another pinch in my numb shell washed through.
Her eyes were gone. They were dead and distant and damaged. They were dark. The life in them was fading, disappearing. I sat up and edged closer. I saw me. I saw myself in her and wondered if I was staring into a mirror.
The subway shook––it shook more violently then the few times I had been on it. I checked the others’ around me and I noticed I wasn’t the only one who felt it. They were whispering, exchanging concerned looks with strangers and studying the darkness outside. Something flashed brightly in the tunnel and I gripped the seat.
“Dude, what the hell was that?” Maxs said. I didn’t look away though. Something was coming. Something out in the darkness of the tunnel was crawling closer. I could feel it. Even with my numbness.
It wasn’t another train speeding towards us. It wasn’t human. It wasn’t anything, but it was everything.
Then the whole subway jolted hard and people were thrown. My body pulsed. Every second grew to a thousand minutes. A blinding glow was building, hurling towards me. The objects in its path vanished immediately and exploded into nothing but dust. It began to come closer and I kept my eyes on the light, waiting for it too to destroy me. Maybe–maybe I would see them. Maybe I would be happy again.
I took a wallop of deep air and grasped my locket swinging hard. The churning surged through me. The same feeling I had gotten the day my parents died. The stomach migraine. When I clenched my stomach, it was like poking a bruise.
The blinding light swept through the rest of the train, silently swallowing everything in its path. Time slowed down. Even I felt it. Screams collided off the crumbling walls and I could see the light writhing closer. Dark figures blurred in front of me, figures cloaked in despair and loathing. They were clawing at me and slurring words. Words that made sense. I could see something familiar. I could feel it. Almost taste it.
The pain lifted off of my chest, off of every limb and the light vanished.
Then the subway crashed and darkness took over.
At that moment, I felt again.