Scarlette Briarwood shook and woke up.
“Well, that was weird.”
Daylight trickled in through the greying curtains that may once have been a bright colour, but had now faded with their many years of use, and brought Scarlette back into her own time. She drew back the curtains, revealing the mucky window behind, and saw that she was alone in her shared bedroom. Alone and late. No dormmates meant that breakfast had dawned, and being late was dangerous for her this place that she called home.
Rushing, she quickly dressed in the simple gaments that were issued to all members: grey, shapeless smocks and long white socks for the girls; grey shirts and tacky brown shorts (and more long white socks) for the young boys. Scarlette hurried from the room, heading down the blank corridors. She didn’t run, for, although running was allowed, it would only make her appearance of being late even more apparent. She walked passed door after door of the same thick oak wood, identical in shape and form to that which she had just left. Dormitories they were, dormitories for the many young people who made up The Gifted.
As Scarlette was making her way through the tangled web of corridors in this building, a ‘Minder’ glided past her, and she flinched a little. This certain Minder was dressed in an embroidered floor-length cloak of a colour somewhere between blood-red and darkest brown. There was a ring of square-shaped stones at the collar of her cloak, amber, cerise, emerald and ruby, highlighting her authority in The Gifted. Scarlette lowered her eyes as she spotted the gilded tree clasping the threads of the cloak together into one. If you could sense the movements of nature around, it meant that you were one of a rare, and very powerful, group of magicians.
Scarlette continued walking onwards and, not long afterwards, to her relief, entered the dining hall. Plain tables stretched the length of the hall and people like her sat munching on rolls of doughy bread and light porridge. The sweet smells wafted over Scarlette, and she tucked a strand of her coffee-coloured hair neatly behind an ear.
Her forest green eyes scanned the room and quickly picked out a group of her colleagues and dormmates. As she slid into the hard-backed wooden seats, little more than a couple of eyes looked up to acknowledge her; it was a meagre life, living in The Sanctuary, it was.
One face that broke into a smile when Scarlette was noticed was that of Liam, the girl’s sole companion in such a secluded home. He was angel-faced with a halo of light that spilt across his brow, and his eyes were a symbol towards his ability: their azure nature reflected the control of liquids that was at his fingertips.
The ironically-named ‘Sanctuary’, and ‘The Gifted’ therein, consisted of a varied collection of magicians, some powerful, but most young, clumsily-skilled youths, like Scarlette, taken in for their own safety. It wasn’t that magic was forbidden or unknown in the cities that dotted around this crowded world, but some members of the public were still very wary; people still hated the existence of any supernatural powers that gave an unfair advantage over life.
Liam poured Scarlette a glass of water and she watched, with a smile, as the liquid turned to orange juice as soon as it touched her glass.
“What’s on your mind?” Liam queried, noticing her expression that dropped like a pin, and her eyes that could focus on nothing in the physical world of the crowded space.
With his words, Scarlette started back into focus again.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really…”
Liam’s eyebrows arched, neat and amusing.
“Yeah…” She looked around furtively, watching the girls at their table who were casting glares over at them, and the Minders who patrolled past every few seconds.
“It’s not safe to tell you here. Can you meet me in The Gardens at break, okay?”
Lessons at The Sanctuary were a variety of mathematics, a bore; science for use in the world, rather interesting; and then the afternoon was spent in groups honing the skills that the children had. Unfortunately for Scarlette, a psychic of little ability, this meant that competition was high. The problem with psychics is that you can’t keep a secret from them.
The psychic group that Scarlette was part of was of a medium to small size. There were, to name a few of the companions of Scarlette: platinum blonde twins, with whom Scarlette shared a breakfast table and dormitory; chattering amongst themselves but rather acid-tongued to others, they played the game of airheads well, but underneath were signals and telekinesis, devious and bitter. Who knew their past? No-one but themselves, and it had made them the people they were.
Another student, and one far more tolerable, was a boy a couple of years older than Scarlette. He, having been at The Sanctuary his entire life, was a more skilled psychic than the remainder of the students. His dark shock of spiky hair hid a mind filled with logic and intense knowledge; his eyes said what his mute voice could not. Scarlette had heard rumours that his tongue had been cut out for witchcraft, but there wasn’t much sense to the gossip.
Their teacher Minder, whose velvet black cloak was adorned with silver beads, and held together by a yellow clasp in the shape of a looming question mark, held an incredible aura over the twins, the black-haired boy, and other members of The Gifted, but thought nothing of Scarlette or his other pupils.
Those lessons became patronising, to say the least.
‘The Gardens’ were a fool’s name. There were no spacious green lawns, no wooden benches scattered amongst tall pine evergreens. In fact, the concrete plazas, with their little plots of dying roses, were far from fresh and green. Those ‘gardens’ were most often used, not being a place where The Gifted gathered for their own amusement, as a teaching-space, because they were open to all the elements, and therefore, a perfect practise arena for any skill of magician.
Liam met Scarlette on the last chime of the tenth morning bell, rubbing graphite marks from her fingers and looking frustrated as she sat on a bench coated with burn-marks.
“I hate industrial science,” she grumbled as he sat beside her, “In what situation will we ever need to know the processes and half-reactions of electrolysis?”
“More pointless experiments?” Liam shrugged, “At least The Sanctuary are putting hostile forces to use.”
Scarlette sniggered, stuffing her dirty hands into her mouth.
“I wouldn’t call Mr. Forbes ‘hostile’. He’s just a teacher who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Liam’s tongue clicked in a degrading way, but both chose to change the topic without saying anything further. Scarlette looked at her hands, feeling them start to shake again, like they had done when she had woken up that morning.
“Scar…what’s up? What happened? What is it that you wanted to talk to me about that’s worrying you?”
Scarlette sucked in what was left of her cold breath, and released it in a long sigh before speaking again.
“I saw something.”
“Like what? When?”
“That’s just the thing: I saw it all in my sleep. And you’d think it was just a normal weird nightmare, but…it was freaky. And when I woke up, it felt…too real, like I’d witness the real pain, there was blood…and a deadly-looking woman…”
She shivered and the same chill ran up her spine that had shaken it the moment her consciousness slipped back into the land of the awoken.
“Can you feel it now?” Liam asked.
“The images, those scenes in your mind. Can you sense them with the abilities you’ve been working on since you were initiated into The Gifted?”
Scarlette sighed, not wanting to think back to those days when she was a new face, and the trials that always came with fitting in, especially in somewhere as competitive as The Gifted.
“No, it’s all gone now; I know that what I saw was real though; I-”
Liam put a hand up to silence her.
“What?” she whispered, her voice dropped several decibels.
“Shh! Isn’t that the warning bell?”
Scarlette gasped, leaping up.
As thoughts jumped about in her mind, Scarlette herself grabbed Liam’s hand and they rushed to the interior Sanctuary.
I know for certain I’ve seen something dreadful…