What would you do at the end of the world?
When the black and white merge, forming the incomprehensible gray.
We weren’t ready for this, to be completely honest.
I’m sorry, everyone…
Despite all the power I—no—we obtained over the years… It all amounted to nothing.
The paths that remain, however…
There may still be a chance.
Time is a complicated thing, I’ve come to learn.
If all the paths center on you…
If they all flow through you…
Then… Maybe, just maybe…
The despair will more than likely swallow you whole.
Even so, I’ll make sure you’re not alone.
For the sake of everyone…
For the sake of yourself...
Come on—let’s do this.
Adam Grayson slowly opened his eyes; their gray color reflecting the light from his window. He leaned up and rustled his hair, which fell down partially over his eyes. For the first time in a while, he took note of it and wondered why within his dark brown hair, lighter brown streaks naturally appeared.
Adam looked at the clock on his nightstand, noticing it was around 11:30 in the morning; a pretty standard time for him to wake up.
After sitting in place for a few minutes, Adam finally decided to get out of bed. Seeming half dead, he opened the door to his room and walked into the bathroom next door. Adam went up to the mirror and looked at himself, dead in the eyes. Holding his head, he seemed to be in pain.
“It’s going to be a bad day…”
Adam put on a black t-shirt and gray cargo shorts. Taking a second look in the mirror, he analyzed his unkempt appearance, yet shrugged it off as he usually would.
The town Adam lived in was known as Prelude, with only a few hundred residents. A lot of houses seem to have been made using Gothic architecture, just like his home was. He walked outside and shut the door behind him.
Breathing in, Adam took in the fresh air. This town was charming and peaceful, which he appreciated. Standing outside for a few seconds, Adam noted something he did not appreciate.
“This heat… why?”
“Yo, you gotta put up with it during the summer, unfortunately.”
A boy walked up to Adam just as he reached the road. This was Brandon Shepherd. He had an athletic build to him, as he played a few sports throughout high school. Adam noticed that he always stayed somewhat slender, though.
Brandon chuckled, wiping some sweat out of his short jet black hair, seemingly wanting to now agree with Adam’s complaint of the heat. Regardless, his light blue eyes lit up along with a mighty grin.
Adam looked at his friend in disgust. A mosquito was flying around Adam as he repeatedly tried to swat at it, failing miserably.
“It’s already humid as hell, why do the bugs have to add to it!?”
“Maybe they just find you so irresistible, dude.” The boy smirked. “Something’s got to.”
“Ignoring that-” Adam gave up on his attempt to kill the mosquito. “Why are you waiting for me in front of my house?”
“I texted you, though! Asked if you wanted to do something today?” Brandon took out his phone and pointed at it. “Did you get it?”
“Oh.” Adam pulled out his phone, realizing he did get a text. “Sorry, didn’t look at it.”
“Weird, you were always on your phone 24/7 during high school. Times must be changing, huh?”
“Yeah. Not sure if I’m ready for it, to be honest.”
Brandon patted Adam on the shoulder. “No worries, college will be a blast! I know you’re not one to party, but maybe getting you out and going to some will—”
Brandon’s idea was met with a baleful glare from Adam.
“So, uh… maybe not? Well, that’s all right! We’ll do cool things regardless!” Brandon was silent for a moment before a huge grin formed on his face.
“And just know, if you need the room for some late night ‘activities’ just let me know ahead of time. As I will with you. Cause…”
Adam started walking down the road toward the center of town, having lost all interest in what Brandon was talking about. Brandon sighed.
“That’s fine, we’ll lay down those rules later on.” Brandon ran and caught up with Adam.
“So, what do you want to do today? Do you already have plans? You managed to actually get out of the house without anyone pushing you to.”
“Maybe,” Adam responded. “I was planning on just going for a walk, but if you’re here, then we might as well do something.”
“Hmmm… what to do?” Brandon pondered. “Well, there’s honestly not a whole lot to do here in town these days. We could catch a bus to Nexus City. Or get Jerry to drive us? That’s a good idea, actually! Let’s see if he wants to hang out too! I’ll text him. I know he’s been busy with preparation for college, but maybe he’ll want a break?”
“That could be good…” Adam stopped. Brandon turned back toward him after realizing he did so a few seconds later.
“In all honesty, I could be content with just walking around this town. It’s very… relaxing for me. But I do want to do more. Even if I have to push myself to do something out of my comfort zone. It’s been almost six months since I…” Adam paused. Brandon has a look of concern on his face, knowing exactly what Adam was referring to.
“…you guys all taught me that where I was… wasn’t a good place to be. I want to be back where everyone else is, and not in my own lonely world. Even if some things aren’t for me, this is the place where you guys are. After all you’ve done for me… I just don’t want to be a burden.”
Brandon let out a small laugh. “Well, this ‘place’ that you’re talking about… the one where we are now. It’s not all that great. I can see why you ‘left’ it. But I think the fact is that all of us are here together. I mean, look at all the cool things in this world! We just gotta stick together and enjoy all the good we have!”
Adam smirked. “Not sure you’re too good at the sentimental talk.”
“I don’t even know what that means.” Brandon shook his head. “Oh well, how about I go show you what I’m talking about?”
“You’re not gonna start singing to me, are you?”
“No, I don’t sing.” Brandon pointed ahead. “Come on, let’s go!”
Two sisters stood shoulder to shoulder: Faith and Emma Roswell. The sun shimmered off their light brown hair; their eyes, matching the very same color were focused ahead.
The person that stood opposite of them was their mother, Pamela Roswell. Her hands were placed firmly on her hips with a huge grin on her face.
The sisters were panting heavily, sweat dripping down their faces. Emma, having long hair as opposed to Faith’s bob cut, had to move her ponytail out of her face. It was clear that they were going through some rough training, and the heat did not help them. Pam, on the other hand, did not seem exhausted at all.
“All right, you two. You’re doing great. One more round before I start getting an early dinner ready.” Pam raised her hands up in the air and motioned for the two to come at her.
“We’re almost there… I’m so hungry.” Faith complained. She began to take a few steps toward her mother.
Emma sighed. “Sis, you’re always hungry.” She slowly followed Faith’s motions.
Faith let out a small chuckle. “But training…”
She dashed at her mother with almost inhuman speed, fist clenched.
“Makes me even more hungry!”
Pam blocked the punch with ease. “Your speed is good, but you’re attacking in very obvious-” Before Pam could finish, Faith grabbed hold of her mother’s arm.
Emma appeared behind Pam with the same speed Faith used. Emma started to swing a kick toward her mother. With tremendous force, however, Pam was able to throw Faith behind her, intercepting the kick and sending both of the sisters flying.
“That was a pretty basic combo. Yet, I’m impressed at how you two were able to coordinate that without speaking to each other.”
The sisters stood up in pain. Without a doubt, if the two tried to take on their mother in a serious fight, they would lose with ease. It was a glaring gap that was created with years of her experience.
Pam raised her arm slowly into the air. With the movement of her fingers, steam began to emit from her body. Faith looked down at her hands. Her expression turned into a somber one.
Emma stared in awe at her mother. “It’s always amazing, no matter how many times I see it.”
“My good old Ability, Steam Engine.” Pam noticed her eldest daughter’s behavior. “Faith, honey?”
“I want to get to the point where I can use my Ability as easily as you can, but…” Faith’s body seemed to be shaking now. “It… it’s all right. This was something I’ve wanted to get over for a long time now. I think it was sort of a blessing that it ended up being this.”
Pam nodded. “That way of thinking works. Always turn the tables on things like this.”
Faith took a deep breath and slowly let the air out. “Can… can I try it out, mom?”
“Absolutely you can. Just take your time.” Pam breathed in as well, raising her arms up into the air; A lot more steam was now coming out of her body. “It’s a part of you, remember that.”
Faith put her hands together as if she was holding something within them. Closing her eyes, she continued to breathe in and breathe out. It was easy to tell that her breathing was unsteady, yet she continued to persist. A few moments later, a small flame began to form within her hands.
“There you go, sis! You’re doing i-”
Pam hushed Emma, preventing Faith from losing too much focus.
“Open your eyes, sweetie. Look at how beautiful your flame is.”
Faith did as she was told, opening her eyes gently. It was true, the small orange flame that she created was so calming and warm to simply look at. Faith was pleased with what she accomplished.
However, that did not last long: Staring into the flame for too long caused her breathing to suddenly pick up. Thoughts came rushing through her head almost instantly. She panicked and threw the flame out of her hands, which fell onto the ground. The fire quickly dissipated. Faith sat down, seemingly unable to stay standing up due to her shaking.
“Hey! Hey, sis, it’s okay!” Emma grabbed her sister’s arm, trying to calm her down. Pam let out a small sigh, the steam coming out of her body disappearing.
“I… I know. It just sucks that I can’t help… that from coming into my mind.” Faith was able to calm down just as quickly as the event began. Pam walked over to her daughter and leaned over, placing her hand on her shoulder.
“We’ll get there. No need to feel rushed, okay?”
“Yeah, I haven’t even awakened my own Ability yet!” Emma gave Faith a thumbs up, “We’ve got time.”
“Thanks… I guess you’re right.” Faith let out a rather loud sigh. “I really need to turn the tables on this though, don’t I?”
Unknown to the family, Adam and Brandon had noticed their training session from the road as they were walking by. They decided to walk into the yard to check it out.
“Yo, Adam.” Emma completely ignored Brandon, who immediately grew a pissed off expression on his face.
“Is… is everything all right?” Adam asked her. Emma nodded.
“Yeah, just testing some stuff out.”
“Hey, Adam!” Pam greeted him. “We’re just testing out Faith’s new power, nothing to be concerned about!”
Faith slowly looked up at him. “Yeah… the flame has grown to be really pretty.” She smiled at him, giving the impression that she was okay. Adam saw through it, though.
Nevertheless, Adam smiled back at her. He held out his hand. “Here. I’ll help you up.”
Faith noticed his hand. This act triggered a sense of nostalgia within her. She quickly stood up on her own, seemingly flustered.
“I- it’s okay! I’m good! Thank you, though.” Faith calmed down quickly and smiled back at him, this time, sincerely. “Thank you.”
Adam was confused but didn’t think much of it. “Yeah, no prob.”
“So, what are you doing on this side of town?” Pam asked Adam. He turned around and pointed at Brandon, who was over near Emma. “Brandon and I were heading over to Jerry’s to see if he wanted to do something today. He’s not answering his texts, so he’s probably busy. We don’t want him to get too busy and stress himself out.”
Brandon was glancing over at Adam, stomping his foot, riled up about something. Emma turned toward him, “What’s your problem, idiot?”
He Looked at Emma, turning his irritation toward her. “Hey, don’t call me an idiot. I’ll fight you.”
“And I’d kill you, idiot,” Emma responded. Brandon wanted to continue arguing, but he stopped. He knew she was right.
“Oh, well, you two are welcome to stay for dinner! In fact, you can invite Jerry over as well! I know his dad is out of town for a conference.”
“Well, if you’re offering, then I don’t see why not,” Adam responded. “We’d love to.” He looked in Brandon’s direction. “Hey, we’re gonna have dinner here. Call Jerry and see if he’ll answer: Invite him!” Adam shouted.
“Oh, great. Now I have to be near you with forks and knives.” Brandon sighed, pulling out his cell phone.
Emma snickered. “Good, you’ll stay well-behaved then.”
Faith seemed to be in a better mood now.
Adam and Brandon were sitting on the couch in the living room. To the side of them, there was a chair that Emma was sitting in. The television a few feet across from the couch was currently on, playing the news. Adam and Emma were busy on their phones while Brandon seemed to be having some sort of crisis.
“What’s your issue?” Emma asked him, irritated at his behavior. Brandon didn’t respond. “Is it because my sister is in the other room, showering? It makes sense since you’re a pervert.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Adam agreed in passing with Emma. Brandon got angry,
“Hey! Who’s side are you on?”
“I’m usually on everyone’s side. I just favor people who make sense.”
Emma nodded. “Yeah. If you try to sneak a peek on me when I go in there next, I really will kill you.”
Brandon raised an eyebrow, getting a cocky smirk on his face. “Now, why would I wanna sneak a peek of you, you-” Adam interrupted Brandon by clasping his hand over his friend’s mouth, not even looking up from his phone, “You just want to die today, don’t you?”
Emma shook her head. “Whatever. Honestly, I don’t care what you think of me.”
Adam let go of Brandon’s face, wiping his hand on the couch. Brandon didn’t say anything; He just let out a small sigh.
Faith entered the room, wiping her hair with an orange towel. She was now wearing a black t-shirt and brown shorts.
“All right, Em. Your turn.” Faith walked up to her sister, who stood up from her chair. “About time! What took you so long? Actually, don’t answer that.”
Emma walked into the other room while Faith took her seat. “So! Is Jerry coming?”
“Yeah, he should be here shortly,” Adam answered. “He said he was bringing a surprise.”
“Food-related!?” Faith’s face lit up.
“Yeah, I think so.” Adam laughed lightly. Faith cheered in anticipation. Brandon was trying to focus on the news, trying his best not to have his eyes trail over to Faith.
“So, you guys are going to New Age University in the fall, right?” Faith asked the two.
“Yep, we sure are. This guy right here is gonna be my roommate.” Adam patted Brandon’s head mockingly, who swatted Adam’s arm off of him. “Jerry got hooked up with enough scholarship money to get his own room in that big fancy dorm they have for Phantonics majors; I don’t think I told you that.”
Faith smiled, “That’s great! New Age isn’t too far from Unity. We might be able to visit each other sometimes…” Her voice trailed off as she looked at the ground. Adam instantly knew what she was thinking about.
“Don’t worry, we will visit each other,” Adam reassured her, drawing Faith’s eyes back up to him. Brandon seemed to be aware of what she was thinking about, as well.
“You’ve got Winona, don’t you? You won’t be lonely! You two actually ended up being teammates, right?” Brandon asked her.
“Yeah, we are. Win’s always trained alongside me. I’m glad we managed to actually be paired up together.”
Adam was briefly distracted by a report about dogs on the news, yet still paid attention to Faith. “Yeah. So don’t worry about it.”
They heard the bell ring. Adam was able to look away from the dogs as he stood up from the couch. “Come on, Brandon, let’s get the door. It’s probably Jerry.”
The two walked out of the room, Faith’s gaze following them. She still had an uneasy feeling about the whole situation.
Pam walked out of the kitchen and met the two in the hallway. “Oh, great. Thanks you two.” Adam nodded at her. They reached the door and opened it up.
Their eyes went immediately to the spiky red hair the person had, confirming it was, in fact, their friend, Jerry Peck. He raised up a bag that was in his hand.
“I brought cookies.”
Faith appeared in between Adam and Brandon, seemingly out of nowhere. Her eyes were lit up like stars, and she was drooling profusely. She snatched the bag away from Jerry, who appeared to be terrified. Before she could run off, Adam took the bag away from her.
“No. Not until after dinner.”
Faith was disappointed but agreed to Adam’s terms. She sulked while walking back toward the living room.
“Anyway, come on in.” Adam motioned to Jerry. He nodded, taking off his shoes. As he began walking into the house, he abruptly stopped. Adam and Brandon turned back to him, curious as to why he stopped. He started to smell food cooking in the kitchen.
“No, no, no!” Jerry shouted, storming into the kitchen. Pam whirled around in surprise as he investigated her cooking on the stove. “You’re cooking those chicken breasts at an absurd temperature. It’s all wrong!”
“It… it is?” Pam was rather amused. He nodded.
“Yes. Here, I’ll help you.” He turned toward Adam and Brandon. “Don’t worry guys, this dinner will be amazing.” The two slowly raised their hands, gave Jerry two thumbs up, and walked back into the living room.
After dinner, everyone was sitting at the kitchen table. They all had an incredibly satisfied look on their faces.
“Jerry, you can cook here anytime,” Pam stated. Faith nodded in agreement, rubbing her stomach.
“Yeah. Become my personal cook.”
Jerry blushed, laughing awkwardly. “Nah, it’s nothing special.”
Brandon turned toward him. “Jerry? Teach me how to cook?”
Jerry shook his head. “Remember that chemistry lab a few years ago? That’s what would happen if you cooked.”
Brandon was confused. “Do you mean the cotton candy stuff that tasted like clay, or the fire?”
“Both probably,” Adam answered.
Brandon sighed. “Oh well. You’re probably right.”
Pam stood up from the table. “Now, it’s my turn for a shower. You guys can stay as long as you want.”
The three boys thanked her for her hospitality as she walked out of the kitchen. Adam turned toward Faith. “Hey, Faith?”
“I know I said not to worry earlier, but I do feel the same way you do. We’re getting to that age where we may be more separated. It does kind of suck.”
Faith frowned but nodded in agreement. Jerry, who wasn’t there earlier, picked up on the topic pretty quickly.
“You know, guys. We should all do stuff together this summer. Before it’s school time again.” Jerry suggested.
Faith lit up. “Yeah, we should!”
“I should probably join you guys as well,” Emma suggested. “Michelle’s on vacation to the Bahamas all summer, so I’ve got nothing to do.”
“That’s fine.” Adam looked around the table. “So, what should we do?”
Everyone was silent, trying to figure out what would be fun. Faith stood up and looked Adam in the eyes.
Adam’s eyes widened. As children, they both came up with crazy adventures around Prelude and went on them all the time. Her saying those two words was a blast from the past. Faith knew this and grinned.
The others played with them as well back in the day but weren’t aware of what “an adventure” entails.
“We’ll get things planned out, and go traveling. All of us! We should all be able to fit in Jerry’s fancy car he’s got there, Win included!” Faith seemed ecstatic.
“Yeah, I guess I can drive us around if we wanna go somewhere. Just gotta take care of some things, but I should be able to go in a few days to somewhere.” Jerry looked around the table. “You guys free?”
Everyone seemed to confirm that they were indeed able to be free.
“I’ll see what Win’s doing as well. I’m sure we can get something figured out.” Faith stood up from the table. “Now where’s my phone…” She walked away to see where she left it, while Jerry stood up a few moments later.
“I need to get going. Gotta finish up some work. Can’t wait to go somewhere, though!” Jerry walked near the door, while the others followed closely behind.
“Yeah, I should go as well,” Brandon stated, putting on his shoes just as Jerry was doing. “My dad might need some help in his workshop. You mind giving me a ride, Jerry?”
Jerry nodded at Brandon’s request. He turned toward Adam. Want a ride as well?”
Nah, I kinda want to go for a walk before it gets dark out. I should stop at the store to get some things. Thanks, though.”
Faith walked up toward the group. “Gah, I think I left it in the bathroom. Oh well, I won’t bother mom. Don’t have to text Win right away anyhow, no big deal.”
Brandon and Jerry waved goodbye to everyone and began to head out the door.
“Shotgun!” Brandon yelled. Jerry turned toward him with a slightly confused expression.
“You’re the only other person in the car, though…”
As the two went toward Jerry’s silver SUV parked in the driveway, Faith turned to Adam. “Not going with them?”
Adam explained to Faith what he just told Brandon and Jerry. Faith nodded in understanding. Her face suddenly lit up.
“Oh! This is perfect timing! Come on, I wanna show you something.”
“Oh? Sure.” Faith beckoned Adam as she led him into the living room. Emma looked at them, then glanced at the door. She turned back to the living room and once again, the door.
“Guess I’ll go to my room and play a game or something? I dunno.”
Faith reached under the couch and pulled out a small cardboard box. Adam had no idea what could be in it.
“I was cleaning the other day, getting some stuff prepared early for the move. I came across… this stuff.”
Opening the box revealed several photos. They were all pictures of Adam, Faith, and Emma as kids. One was of the three trying to fish at the local creek. Adam almost got pulled in by a gigantic fish while Faith and Emma held onto him for dear life. Another was of Faith and Emma having a tea party with all of their stuffed animals. Adam seemed to be an unhappy guest at the party but still participated.
“Wow… can’t believe you found this stuff.” Adam was amazed at the pure nostalgia these pictures held. They each sat down on the couch. “We were always together when we were younger, weren’t we?”
Faith began giggling almost uncontrollably. “I almost forgot about this one!”
She held up a picture of Adam pretending to be a brave knight who was rescuing the princess, Faith, from a dragon, which was portrayed by Emma.
“You always played the hero role, didn’t you? Well, not always. I played the hero sometimes.” Faith smirked. “You even played the princess that one time. That was hilarious.”
Adam said nothing, merely sighing. “Yeah, that was fun. I liked playing the dragon, as well.”
“Yeah, the hero and dragon roles are always the best, since those are the two who fight each other.” Faith nodded at her own statement.
“So, yeah. I didn’t always play the hero.” Adam started to pick up random photos and go through them. There was silence for a few moments.
“Well, I think you have.”
“Huh?” Adam turned toward Faith, confused at what she meant.
“The hero. You’ve always been like one…”
Adam rustled his hair a little bit. “I mean, I’m not too sure about that.” Adam set the pictures down and looked ahead toward the floor.
“I know you’ve been afraid of using your power,” Adam said bluntly. Faith seemed startled at this topic being brought up.
“I get why, after what happened all those years ago.” Adam put his hands together, just as Faith does when trying to create her flame. “Well, when it comes down to it, those flames that you’re afraid of… well, they saved me. So I guess that makes you a hero too. I can’t be the only one, okay?”
Faith stared at Adam, seemingly wanting to say a million things, but could not get any of them to come out.
“Don’t be afraid of something that can save someone.” Adam stood up from the couch. “I know you can do it.”
“Adam…” Faith stood up as well. “See, this is what I mean by the hero thing. You always know great things to say like that!”
Adam chuckled. “I mean, I guess. If it helps you out, that’s all that mat-”
He was met with a firm embrace. Adam could barely move his arms as Faith held him.
“Thank you for everything. Just know… I’ve got your back, all right?”
“Well, I mean, sure you do. Your hands are on my back at the moment.” Adam returned the hug, although it was done somewhat awkwardly.
Faith slowly let go of Adam, giggling. “You know what I mean.”
“Yeah.” Adam formed a smile and nodded. “I’ve got yours too.”
The two stared at each other, not noticing the presence standing at the entryway to the living room.
“Am I interrupting something?” The two turned to see Pam smirking at them.
“M-mom!” Faith jumped back onto the couch. Adam seemed unfazed.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” Pam laughed.
“Well, I should be going. Gotta do my walk and get to the store.” Adam gave a wave to Faith, who waved back.
“I’ll see you later, Adam.”
Adam looked back and nodded. As he walked toward the door, Pam followed behind.
“I gotta get something out of the car, I’ll be right back Faith!”
“Kaaaaay!” Faith yelled back to her mom, as she went out the door with Adam.
Outside, Adam turned toward Pam, knowing well that “getting something out of the car” was a filthy lie.
“What’s up?” Adam asked her.
“You’re sharp. I’m happy you got that from your mother…” Pam reached into her pocket and pulled out a plain white envelope. “I was helping Faith out with cleaning, and I found this along with the pictures you guys were looking at.” She handed the envelope to Adam.
“What’s in it?” Adam started to open it, only to be stopped by Pam.
“I had to read it to see what it was, of course. So I know what it is. I want you to promise me you’ll only open it when you’re feeling your lowest, all right?”
“Hm?” Adam tilted his head in confusion. Now he was even more curious. Holding out the envelope in front of him, he eventually decided to put it in his pocket. “All right, sure. I can do that.”
“Well, I hope you don’t get to your lowest again. But if it ever happens… hopefully, that’ll help.” Pam placed her hand on Adam’s shoulder and looked him directly in the eye. “You have a family here, don’t forget that.”
Those words caught him off guard. He did not expect Pam to say something like that. It meant a lot more to Adam than one would think.
“Yeah… thanks.” Adam said his goodbyes to Pam and headed off.
Adam walked in the twilight. He always felt a rather strange sensation around this time of day. There were some ancient myths in his country of Requiem which related to the twilight, such as the famous one about souls having the ability to join together as one, which was always a favorite of Adam’s.
As Adam passed the scenery around him, he could not seem to focus on any of it. It was as though Adam was rooted in his own world. A world where there were no thoughts or feelings, only existence. He only snapped back into reality by a pain surging through his head.
“Gah… this again? Is it the medication I’m taking? No… that wouldn’t make sense. This has been going on for a while, way before I started taking stuff.” The pain seemed to subside as Adam walked into the heart of town. “It’s been happening a lot more recently though…”
The shopping district of the town was centrally located right between Adam’s house and the Roswell house. There was a slight increase in people around, but nothing too drastic that would make Adam uncomfortable. A few miscellaneous stores including a general goods store, a pharmacy, and a gas station were a few things people could go to.
Adam walked into the store, named Ann’s. The store was rather small, with a few aisles filled with your everyday goods.
A girl who was sitting in a chair behind the counter waved to Adam. He knew her as an acquaintance from school, Charlotte Smith, who had just moved to Prelude his senior year of high school. She played around with her black hair while her blue eyes were glued right to a book in her hands.
Deciding to do something out of the ordinary, Adam walked up to her and initiated small talk. “Yo, how’s it going?”
“Fine,” Charlotte responded, eyes still focused on the book. “What are you up to?”
“Just getting some food, nothing too special,” Adam responded.
“Damn, this isn’t good. Maybe the fact that she doesn’t seem so interested in talking is a good thing, I can get out of this quicker.”
Adam turned to the left of him, a wave a relief passing through him as the focus shifted away from the attempted conversation. Walking up the aisle to the register was Winona Collins, Faith’s best friend. Winona smiled at Adam.
“How nice to see you! Are you doing well?” Winona was holding a blue basket filled with various goods from the store. “I heard you had dinner at Faith’s? I wish I could have made it. I’ve been doing work in the garden with my father all day.”
“Yeah, I’m all right.” Adam’s tension from the talk with Charlotte was gone now. “You two love working in that garden, don’t ya?”
“Mhmm!” Winona nodded her head. “I always love having a wide variety of flowers to look at.” She shuffled her hand through her basket. “Now I’m getting some things to help mom cook a late dinner.”
“You enjoy that. I gotta get some things myself.” He waved at both Winona and Charlotte and headed into the aisle nearest to them.
“I’m all set, Charlotte!” Winona put her basket on the counter and took her items out of it.
Charlotte had a smile on her face as she rang up Winona’s items.
As Adam walked down the aisle, he looked back and forth between each side. A sharp pain started to form in his head again, and this time, it was as if he felt dizzy. Almost losing his balance, Adam was able to regain his posture and focus ahead of him.
There stood someone who wasn’t there before. A little girl, about six or seven years old, wearing suspenders and a pink backpack. She had brown eyes and brown hair wrapped up in pigtails using pink braids. Adam was trying his best to analyze her appearance, as something was off about it. Horribly off. Adam swore he could see right through her.
Before Adam could conjure up another thought, the girl had disappeared. It seemed as though time stood still. It wasn’t until he felt and hand on his shoulder that he snapped back to reality.
“Hey, how long are you gonna just stand there?” Charlotte was now behind him, seemingly more weirded out than concerned.
Adam turned toward her. What met her blue eyes were not Adam’s usual gray ones. Instead, his irises were glowing an eerie white. The wide-eyed look he had on his face was copied by Charlotte.
“You… no way. Is it you…?”
“Huh?” Adam had no clue what Charlotte was talking about. His head seemed to calm down now, as the glow slowly left his eyes, returning them to their natural gray color.
“You seem to not know, do you?” Charlotte folded her arms, sighing. “I can feel it though, now that I seriously stop and sense it.” She closed her eyes, seemingly deep in thought.
“You know who I am…? I’m Adam. Adam Grayson? We were in school together?”
Charlotte opened her eyes; tears seeming to fall from them.
“Thank god… finally. After all this time…!”
Adam took a few steps back. “So, uh. I gotta go grab some apple juice. It’s my favorite. So, if you’ll excuse me…” He started to walk toward the back of the store, where the drinks were located.
“It seems it hasn’t really awakened yet.” Charlotte wiped her tears away. Adam stopped and started to turn toward her. Something about her tone in that sentence uneased him.
Before he could turn all the way back around, he was met with a chop to the side of his neck. It was light-speed; he did not even know what happened until he saw Charlotte’s hand move away from him. His consciousness started to fade.
Adam fell to the ground. His gaze ended up on the spot where he saw the little girl moments before. With his last second of consciousness, he could have sworn he saw her again.
Adam felt a cool breeze upon his skin. He seemed to instantly focus on the fact that Charlotte knocked him out. Vision returning to his eyes, consciousness was coming back. The next moment Adam was on his feet. It was only then he took in where he was.
It seemed to be a clearing of some kind in the middle of the woods. Knowing the layout of Prelude his entire life, he could tell that he was still near the town based on the nearby pine and apple trees, and how they were lined up in rows. One row was filled with pine, followed by apple in the next, and so on. All Adam had to help him see was the light of the full moon above of him.
“How… long was I out?” Adam looked in each direction, his fists clenched ready to jump into action if need be.
Adam turned toward Charlotte, who was standing behind him. He could have sworn he looked that way and did not see her at all a moment ago.
“I’ve felt that it would show up here. Ever since I forged my way into your school, I was sure it was being narrowed down.” Charlotte looked up at the moon. “Wouldn’t expect a guy with no physical training whatsoever to have it.”
“What… on earth are you talking about?” Adam took a step forward. “Right now you’re really talking like a crazy person, you know that?”
Charlotte sighed. “Not sure if you heard me before, but I am sorry that I can’t be nice about this…” Her attention return to Adam.
“Do you want to know something interesting?” Charlotte smiled softly. “I’ve actually existed for hundreds of years, at this point.”
“Huh?” Adam did not seem convinced. “All right, Charlotte the Kidnapper… think that’s all the time I’ve got for today.” He clenched his fist. “I’m not dealing with this anymore. Sorry, but not sorry.”
Adam dashed forward, planning to knock Charlotte down. Swinging his fist, he was sure that he made contact.
But his entire body went right through her’s.
Falling onto his knees, it felt as though Adam just went through a freezer. In fact, he started to shiver a little.
“You’re…” Adam stood up, teeth chattering. “Y-You’re a…?”
“A ghost, you could call me. Or a spirit, whichever works for you.” Charlotte’s smile, which remained on her face during Adam’s attempted attack, faded. “Someone simply dying and remaining as a spirit though couldn’t do what I’ve been able to do. That secret lies in my blood…”
As Adam was about to ask her what she meant, an azure aura started to form around Charlotte. Starting off calmly, it quickly shifted into a tremendous force that knocked Adam off his feet. He tried standing up, only to be knocked back down once again.
The force diminished a few seconds later, and Adam was able to regain his footing. Focusing his attention back onto Charlotte, he noticed she changed. Instead of the jet black hair she usually possessed, Charlotte now had pure white hair. Her eyes seemed almost sapphire in color now. The clothing she wore was now a set of blue armor.
“That appearance… it reminds me a lot of…”
Charlotte nodded, seeming to know what Adam was thinking. “Yes, I know it’s been taught in your curriculum. My true name is actually Charlotte Ouderkirk, a member of the royal family of Requiem!”
Adam’s head started to hurt, his eyes shifting once again from gray to that glowing white color.
“Agonizing, right? Seems there’s been a lot of emotional strain on you recently, which is causing that to happen.”
Adam held his head, sharp pains erupting from it and seemingly scattering throughout his whole body.
“Oh World Mirror, I’ve waited so long for you!”
“What the hell’s a World Mirror?” Adam continued to hold his head, which actually kept him standing.
“Don’t worry about the details for now. I promise I’ll explain it later.”
“I feel like I won’t live that long…” Adam gulped.
“No, no. You must live! I need to see the World Mirror! I’m so tired of waiting! So stay alive while I beat it out of you!”
The next thing Adam knew, Charlotte had struck him directly in the chest. With a punch? Kick? Adam did not know. It was too fast for him to see. The moment this even registered, he found himself flying into the woods behind him. His body rolled through several bushes and eventually went straight through a tree. He fell onto the ground as the tree fell right beside him.
“How could my body go through a tree?” he thought. “How am I even alive?”
Blood quickly blinded him. He felt searing pain throughout his entire body as much of it was now broken.
Adam could not decide on whether to scream in agony or cough up his lungs. He went through a mixture of the two, his body having no way to process this level of pain.
Charlotte was now in front of him, although Adam’s senses were in complete disarray. He had no idea what direction was what at the moment.
Charlotte waved her hands in a motion as if she was beckoning someone. A blue glow formed near her hand, and a long sword of the same blue color appeared. Adam seemed to notice this and had begun to focus back on reality.
“It’s not coming out. It needs to come out!”
Adam was able to hear Charlotte decently enough. He tried to form a response, only to realize that he somehow bit his tongue during the hit. Only blood came out of his mouth. At the same time, tears came out of his eyes, which continued to glow even now.
Charlotte raised her sword but halted after noticing Adam’s tears. She took a deep breath and lowered the blade.
“I looked through the various medical records of all the students. Being a spirit, I can slip by things pretty easily if I want. Getting them was no problem.” There was a rather long pause.
“Six months ago, you tried to kill yourself. Is that correct?”
Adam was able to temporarily handle the pain, as the shock of her knowing that seemed to take over.
“A kid with no real hobbies, no real plans for the future. Friends that have loads of promise, on the contrary. You distanced yourself from them, thinking they no longer needed you. And your home life… heh. Truly, you don’t have much of a family, right?”
Adam’s mind went back a few hours ago to what Pam told him.
“You have a family here, don’t forget that.”
Anger seemed to fill Adam’s body. It was strange, he now seemed to shut off the majority of the pain at this point.
Charlotte pointed the blade toward Adam’s face. “Along with all of that though… something happened to you, didn’t it.”
Adam was slowly standing up. He did not notice the fact that his body started to form a white glow similar to the one his eyes were producing. The injuries he just received were fading away.
“Tell me, Adam Grayson. How do you perceive this world?”
While Charlotte moved the blade up to Adam’s throat, his gaze met the moon above. At that moment, despite the surge of emotions inside of him, he was able to answer calmly.
“I saw it. All of it. Clearly. Despair plaguing the world. Ever since all of those things happened years ago, I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to save… her, and everyone else. Including myself… that feeling combated that despair, and lost.” Adam formed a light smile.
“It’s funny how I lost due to happiness, however. It felt as though she was better off without me. I was so able to see her genuinely smile again. She, and my other friends as well. They have so much going for them. They don’t need me. And that’s all I had… the fact that I could help them through things. I was too scared of the rest of the world to try to find something myself.” Adam fell to his knees, his eyes still locked onto the moon; tears coming out at a faster rate.
“Can’t they see… all of this twisted shit in the world? I know they can, everyone can. And they… they don’t do a damn thing about it! Nobody ever does!
Charlotte lowered her sword. A few seconds later, it faded out of existence. “Let me ask you, why are you upset?”
Adam’s eyes widened, seemingly confused from her question. His eyes would not stop looking upwards, however.
Charlotte answered her own question. “It’s because that feeling actually didn’t lose. That feeling to combat that despair. It’s still there. But it’s struggling. Life makes everything struggle. But it’s not over.” Charlotte walked over to Adam and bent over him, now blocking his gaze at the moon with her own eyes.
“You have a purpose. To continue fighting that despair. And if you think you’re useless, that you have no power, just look.”
Charlotte motioned to the area around him. All the trees around him have now toppled over many meters away from where they originally stood. It was as if the two were standing in a crater where a meteor struck.
“That’s why the World Mirror manifested within you. It knows you want so desperately to fight, regardless of how many times you fall.” Charlotte dropped down onto her knee and bowed to Adam.
“I’ll be by your side while you do so. That’s why I’ve existed for so long. I was meant to wait for the World Mirror to appear again and assist whoever it chose to reside in.” Charlotte smiled. “It’s the least I can do, for being so physically and emotionally harsh to you. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me one day, yet you don’t have to-”
Before Charlotte could finish talking, Adam fell down. The glow the World Mirror created faded away. His body was exhausted, and could hardly handle was what happening anymore.
“Well, that’s fine. I’m exhausted as well. I think to have to act like a villain exhausted me more than using my power.” Charlotte chuckled, holding her head. “Was it acting, though?”
As Adam fell asleep, an apple from a nearby tree that miraculously remained standing fell onto the ground.