I woke with a jolt. Sometime in the night, I had broken in cold sweat, and it trickled down my forehead and cheeks. Even though I knew full well this was necessary, I couldn't help the hairs at the back of my neck standing on end. I'd be a fool to not be scared. I had no idea what I was facing; or rather, who. I slung the backpack over my shoulder, which I had prepacked the night before, and fidgeted with the windows creaky locks until it swung open. The fresh air hit my face like cold water. I barely felt it. All I felt was a numbness in my chest that throbbed and tingled up my arms.
I was out and about in mere seconds; having used the ladder that lay outside my window. It was a two-story building, so of course I had put the ladder there prior. I had planned everything perfectly, and yet something at the back of my head,a calm voice that was barely above a whisper, told me I hadn't done everything right. That I would never be a match for what i was about to face.
I paid it no mind; after all, it is completely normal to be nervous. I was sure of my plan. I would find Josh, maybe even some of the other missing girls. I would find Anne. The very thought made me smile. Once I brought them back, I would be the town's hero. The thought didn't make me as thrilled as I thought it would. Just as I was preoccupied with that thought, another pushed its way in. Auburn hair and sparkling golden eyes that bore through me-
I shook my head violently to get rid of the burning image and turned my attention to the towering trees before me. The branches tangled together, and light was barely allowed through. It gave the forest an air of mystery and eeriness; uninviting. Shivering from a chill that had nothing to do with the cold, I began to step towards a small entrance where the trees parted.
Something grabbed my shoulder, and I jumped, reeling back towards the source.
"Max?" I let out my breath in one long sigh, relieved. He, however, didn't look so delighted to see me. That didn't surprise me. Eyeing me up and down disapprovingly, he gestured to the general direction the school was.
"The principal wants to see you." Was all he said, his voice hoarse and cracked, as if he'd been crying too. But other than his voice, there was nothing else to indicate he had. No red eyes, no wet cheeks. His cold blue eyes glared at me when I didn't move, and so I turned to give a last longing look towards the forest and set off in the opposite direction.
The hall was empty except for a few kids lingering, cleaning up posters and decorations, laughing and chattering loudly. They didn't notice me gliding over the floor, head down. That meant they didn't see the tears either.
When I turned the knob of the office door, the first thing I noticed was several murmuring voices. It wasn't just the principal in there. I swung the door open slowly.
"Ah, Sidney! Come in, come in." An officer sat idly in a chair in the far corner smiling at me curiously. As my eyes wandered across the room, my breath caught in my throat. There sat Zen, glaring at me with intense desperation. Leave, his eyes pleaded. Say no and just leave. But I didn't. I couldn't even take another step. The principal looked at me oddly, offering me a confused smile.
"I see you two have already met?" His voice sounded lost, uncertain. I nodded before Zen could open his mouth. I ignored his burning glares, trying to focus on the principal instead. The clouded look in his eyes cleared and he smiled warmly.
"Wonderful! Zen here is new to Oldemeadow. He's from...where did you say you were from?" He turned his gaze to Zen. Without taking his eyes off me, Zen took in a breath.
"Bleedsoul." There was remorse in his voice The principal frowned.
"Blee-why, yes, of course." The confusion returned to his face. The police officer fidgeted in her seat uncomfortably. I could understand their discomfort. I had never heard of such a place in my life.
"Would you be so kind-as to-to show...er, Zen, here, around the town? You are one of our top students and, well, you'd be a great role model..." I blinked twice, not quite processing it.
"Show Zen...the town?" I repeated flatly. Mr.Ross looked at me nervously, nodding a bit too frantically. And then I understood. They thought he was going to be trouble. They thought I could knock some sense into him.
"Look, Mr.Ross-" I began, but he had already turned to the officer, chattering away. I clenched my jaw and slowly turned to face Zen. He looked as stricken as I felt, his face pale. I gestured to him, then the door. You, out. I was afraid that if I spoke, my voice would shake. He didn't budge, but his expression hardened. I did the gesture again, but no avail. I began to reach for his arm to drag him away, but he shied away from it, eyeing my outstretched hand warily as if it was a snake about to strike.
I shot him a warning look, and his gaze met mine. I don't want to do this either, I put into the gaze. But we have to. He seemed to understand perfectly; just as if I had said it out loud. His expression softened in defeat and he shot up from his seat, walking out the door. I trailed behind him, trying to keep up with his pace.
"I thought I was the guide?" I mused under my breath, just loud enough for him to hear. He didn't even acknowledge my presence. Great, I thought, another frown forming on my lips. It seems like I found Max's lost twin.