I sat with my head down- hands together. . The room had a certain smell that seemed to linger. Every time I took in a shaky, uneven breath, all I could think of was the grotesque odor. Cinnamon apples and polished wood. This wasn’t my place.
I glanced up at and saw a tall golden haired boy who sat with his head raised toward the ceiling. He had his eyes closed as if he were sleeping.
Eventually, Mr. Fredrick (the man who decided to create this fun little cult of depressed teenagers) had walked cheerily into the wide room and sat in a bright green chair. He smiled happily and crossed his arms. “Ah! Miss Archer! It’s nice to meet you.” he turned to the others. “Everyone, this is Ryn.”
As if on cue the whole room mumbled, “Hello Ryn. . .” I resisted the urge to cringe with disgust. It was one of those groups.
“Now.” Fredrick spoke, clapping his hands together. “Why don’t we all tell each other our stories. We’ll start with Ryn.” He gestured toward me and I slowly opened my mouth, unsure if I’d freeze up or not.

In seconds, words were spilling from my mouth like a waterfall. “My sister jumped off of a building during a terrorist attack. She was out of the house for hours before it had happened and they found her body on the pavement. At least, that’s what the police said.” I paused. “The last thing she said to me was-” I swallowed, holding back a cry. Or maybe a yell. I wasn’t really sure. I wasn’t willing to finish my sentence. There really was no point.

Some people gaped, jaws hanging, while others just hid behind their hoods. I was surprised. I thought that if I had even spoke about Sadie, I’d start balling. Maybe I had gotten over the pain of Sadie’s death over the past few weeks. Maybe I had gotten used to it.

Other teens started reciting their depressing pasts and I just slipped my Porta out of my pocket and hid it behind my jacket, messaging my friends to come and rescue me. They instantly shot back a sarcastic comment and I rolled my eyes, holding back a snort.

Ha. I’m so surprised that you haven’t turned into one of them. Be there in a few.

I half listened to the other’s stories and their shaky voices. Damn, I really hope I don’t become one of them.
The boy with the golden hair started speaking and my stomach lurched. He had been in a motorcycle accident and his best friend had been killed. I guess he had developed survivor’s guilt or something. Next to him sat a younger looking girl with a black scarf wrapped around her head. She told the room that her dad was stabbed in the streets while her mom had killed herself out of heartbreak. The girl seemed to speak with ease, as if she was merely speaking of the weather.
The timer that ended the meeting went off and I practically jumped up from my chair and bolted out the door, getting some curious looks from the other kids and even Mr. Fredrick. I flew out the doors of the building, relieved to see Serena’s rickety old Ion parked in the roundabout. Accompanying her would be, the one, the only, blond shaggy haired Jeremy with a knitted sweater on. He was waving vigorously from the passenger seat and I couldn’t help but giggle.
“Jeremy! Serena! It’s like I haven’t seen you in years.” I joked, hopping into the back of the vehicle as Jeremy buckled himself in.
“We dropped you off an hour ago.” Jeremy smirked. “Was it really that boring?”
I solemnly nodded, remembering why I had been there in the first place. Your sister is dead and now your parents are saying all these things. And so are your friends. They say it will help you so just do it. It’ll make them feel better knowing you’re getting “help”.
But really, there’s no getting over my own sister’s death. There’s no “help”. I can get used to it; but, there’s no way in hell I could get over it.
I watched closely at the window to see a raindrop roll down the glass- like a tear. A rare summer storm? I rolled down the window as we pulled out of the parking lot. I was excited to finally leave the area to go back home. Where Grandmother and my parents lived. I wasn’t excited to sleep in the same room I had shared with Sadie. I remember waking up, panting at three in the morning a few days ago. I had had a nightmare about guns pressed against my head and knives at my throat. My mom drove all the way to the nearby pharmacy to ask for pills while I waited at home, clenching my fists and rocking back and forth.
Once we had merged onto the main road, Jeremy reached a hand out to the stereo and turned the music all the way up. Serena had nearly swerved off the road and I had a miniature heart attack. He started laughing and Serena flipped her silky, curly black hair out of her eyes, clenching her fists into the steering wheel. “Jeremy Scott, I swear to God, you do not want to mess with me today.”
“Why? What happened?” I sat up higher in my seat to see over Serena’s shoulder.
Jeremy spoke up. “Serena’s been a bit on edge. She just sent in her college applications.”

I gasped. “Serena! That’s awesome! You’re definitely going to get in!” Serena just huffed and we turned on the main road. We entered a small neighborhood that was nicknamed the Reserve, considering it was built in 2017. My grandmother had been born in this neighborhood the same year the houses were built and seventy years later, my family’s living in it with her. My mother had always been surprised by my grandmother, saying she was “hobbling about the house at a decent speed”.

I would usually pester her when she sat down on the couch, asking her what she did when she was younger for work. “Is it really that important to you?” she would squeak. I would slump down in my chair, admitting defeat. She was never going to answer me anyway.

As we pulled up to my redbrick apartment, I shuffled out of the car, waving to my friends and entering through the bright blue door.

My mum greeted me first. She was chopping up onions while my dad had his tools displayed around the sink. He crouched down in a weird position, fixing something- a classic parents image.

“Hi sweetie.” She spoke, not looking up from her onions.
“Hi.” I grumbled, remembering that they had forced me to go to a support group I didn’t even need in the first place. “How was the group?” She set the knife down.

“Waste of time.” I muttered, skipping up the stairs. My mom finally glanced up with a look of confusion. She opened her mouth to say something but I was already in my bedroom.

I slammed the door shut and threw my bag at the blue wall. I slumped down in my bed, staring up at the window. There were small spider webs forming from the outside that I could see glinting in the afternoon sun. The storm had cleared up after awhile of sitting in a car but it’s obvious that it was starting up again soon. I eventually fell asleep staring up at my shelf. Sitting there were Sadie’s old white shoes I had stolen from the crime scene.
I woke up to something hitting my window. After a moment of panicking under my sheets, I decided to get up considering how annoying it had gotten. I paced to my window, lifting it up with ease. The moon was still shining in the night sky so I looked down at the sidewalk, realizing only two kinds of people would do something like this at night- Stalkers or Best Friends.

Jeremy almost threw another rock at my window until he noticed me squinting down at him. Serena looked bored and examined her long nails, leaning against a street light. “Could you be anymore cliché?” I smirked, rubbing my eyes. “If you wanted me to go out with you, you could have just asked.” I couldn’t see his face from all the way up in my room but his voice was sarcastic enough.

“Oh please, there’s no way I’m ever asking you out. In fact, Serena seems more interesting than you.” Jeremy glanced over at Serena as she looked up at him, snorting in disgust. Jeremy kicked at the cement, shoving his hands in his pockets. “We thought it would be fun to take you birthday shopping.”

“Birthday shopping?” I asked, taken aback. “But, my birthday’s in like. . . A week. And why would you take me in the middle of the night?”

“Don’t ask questions. Just change, brush your teeth, and do something with that rats nest.” He must have gestured toward my hair. Despite already being choppy and uneven, it was also a burden to brush out after a long night of bad dreams. I quickly slipped off my black T-shirt and threw on a knitted lavender sweatshirt and jeans. I hastily brushed my teeth and unknotted my red hair, rubbing my eyes again.

I slowly made my way downstairs, careful not to wake up anyone. As soon as I turned the corner on the last step, I jumped, holding back a scream. May Lynn, my grandmother, was sitting asleep in the arm chair just a few feet away from the blue door. Her gray hair was held back in a tight bun and her bony hands were folded together. She looked as if she was sitting at a conference table, despite her green robe.

I opened the door slowly and tiptoed out, locking eyes with Jeremy. I put a finger to my lips, slowly shutting the door and straightening my sweater.
We drove through the city in Serena’s Ion. I stared blankly at the glowing street signs and wires zigzagging back and forth from roof to roof, dangling only a couple of feet from the streets. We passed a familiar alleyway that was tagged with endless walls of graffiti. Most of the walls had propaganda pictures on it; one man holding up a rifle and another putting a flower into the barrel of the gun.

We passed another wall. This one had many quotes from a motivational speaker, or “Keeper of the Peace,” (as a many would call him) who had become very popular in the past ten years of King Stephen’s reign over England. The speaker, Deja Leroy, was arrested for his crimes of telling lies about the King and thrown in a jail made specifically for people with a terrorist-like agenda.

“Ryn-tin-tin.” Jeremy snapped me out of my reverie, making me jump in my seat. “We’re here!” He sang, his stormy gray eyes widening with excitement. I waited for the silver doors of the Ion to slowly open before getting out of the vehicle. I glanced up at the store that we were shopping at. Just a normal department store.

“Are they even open?” I asked, turning to Jeremy.

“Probably not. But that’s why I brought these.” He held up three black masks.

“Jeremy!” Serena gave him the death stare. “If you think we snuck out of our houses to help you break into a store, you’re insane.”

Jeremy snorted. “I’m just kidding! Geez, you guys take everything so seriously!” He turned to Serena. “And I am deeply offended that you think I would do such a thing!” He gasped jokingly. I chuckled, grabbing the masks and shoving them back into the Ion, closing the door.

“Then wh-?” I started.

He pointed across the street at the Red Lion cafe. “I’m taking you to your favorite cafe for your early birthday present. I wanted to do it before we all left for college in a few weeks.” He wiped away invisible tears, sniffling dramatically. Serena scowled and we skipped across the empty street to the cafe. “Memories were made here.” Jeremy put his hands on his hips as Serena opened the door.
The diner featured many miniature red lions painted on the walls, along with wooden booth seats and red bar stools. The robotic waiters came strolling around the corner and Jeremy shoved his arms out, making sure we didn’t run into it and spill the food it carried. I hadn’t been here since Sadie had died. I started not wanting to go out as much once we got home from the funeral. But once my mum made me go to the support group, that was the first time I had started talking to people other than Jeremy and Serena. The smart screen in front of us blinked three times then showed us all the tables available.
14; 56; 7; 37; 8; 90; 21
We sat down at the booth with an 8 on the table. We grabbed a techpad and started ordering. After Jeremy had finished clicking every entree on the menu, he clicked order and we sat and waited. I stared out the window, noticing the distant bright city lights and blinking planes. Even though we lived more in the middle of London, we loved coming on adventures through the “downtown” of the capitol. Some of the richer people called it the Ghettos, but to us it was more than that.

Once the robotic waiter strolled to our booth, I remembered how I hadn’t brought any money, or my Porta- which meant if anything happened down here, I wouldn’t be able to call anybody.

As the robot set out our food, I told Serena about my problem. Jeremy had answered for her. “It’s on me Ryn. You really think I was gonna have you pay for your birthday dinner?”

“Is this a dinner or a breakfast?” I changed subjects. Jeremy paused, putting a finger to his chin. “What time is it?”
Serena glanced down at her watch. “11:47.”

“I’d say dinner.” We all laughed and started eating our food.
While Serena and Jeremy started eating, I just stared out the window again, noticing a dark shadow crossing the street, wandering near the alley way. It seemed to be pressed up against the wall and seemed to have a very confident stance. An Ion passed by- headlights on- and as it passed the wall, I noticed that there was no figure. I could feel a pit in my stomach and my mind buzzed with terrifying questions.
Had my brain made that up? Was that real?
I had been so intent on the street, I hadn’t realised my hair had sunk into the ketchup on my plate. Jeremy giggled and nudged me. But his smile melted when we heard a distant scream. I bolted from the booth, nearly running into the robotic waiters.
I sprinted out the door, Serena and Jeremy following me. I looked around for anything that could have made the noise- or caused it- but there was nothing. I started running around, in and out of alley ways, not realizing how fast my feet were moving until I stumbled. I fell straight onto my hands, and I felt a searing pain in my palms.
Had I hallucinated that too?

I took in a deep breath with my nose and gagged. It was a foul smell that seemed to come from a nearby alley. I slowly inched toward the opening and clenched my fists, hoping to not get killed by a gang hiding in the shadows.
As I ventured deeper and deeper into the narrow pass, I noticed that the smell seemed to get stronger. I could almost feel it getting closer with every step and my heart was beating faster and faster. At this point I could only hear the sound of my rushing blood. The smell got fouler and fouler as I went deeper into the alley and I thought how stupid I was to have my curiosity get the better of me- especially since I didn’t have my Porta.
As I took one last step, I felt something hard under my shoe. I, of course, couldn’t see it so I shivered and attempted to venture on but felt another thing under my shoe. This time it was mushy and wet. Almost rubbery in a way. I froze, realising what it could have been.
And then the smell. It hit me like a tsunami, filling my lungs and body. My breath faltered and I almost vomited right then and there.

Suddenly, an Ion passed. It’s headlights illuminated the alleyway for only a split second. I backed up against the wall so quick I smacked my head on the hard brick. On the ground was a body. It had its throat slit and it’s face was covered in black bruises and nasty gashes. The body was obviously a man, considering its wardrobe. A black sweater and khaki pants.
Mr. Fredrick.

I broke down, knowing I was pressed against a wall with a man’s body at my feet. But I felt something warm and sticky behind my head.

Blood. And it wasn’t dried.

I shook and shivered uncontrollably, stumbling over my own feet as I attempted to at least get out of the alleyway.

I looked around wildly, searching for any sort of way out of the darkness. I started scaling the wall, hoping to find an opening.

Only gathering more blood onto my fingertips.

I finally turned to my right to see a bright, white light shining in my face and burning my eyes. I stumbled toward it, hearing faint voices. But I only made it a few more steps before the darkness seemed to take me over.

Read the previous chapter here;


Come back next month for the next chapter.