“Katy, would you get down here already?” Alice squealed from down in the empty ravine. At least, it looked empty, but according to Alice it was full of a party just a half a mile down the trail inside. She was interested in getting wasted from what I could tell, and she thought I had the same motives. Because it’s not like she would let me tag along if she knew why I was really there, trudging through the mud and muck, which was likely camouflaging the snakes and spiders (eww!) that were bound to be down in the ravine. If she knew me at all, she’d know that there is no way I would go through all this just to see a bunch of anarchy-crazed teenagers getting drunk and setting things on fire – I heard there was to be lots of setting on fire.
So I guess it’s a good thing that she doesn’t know me very well, or else I wouldn’t be on the verge of getting a great story.
See, I’d been in News Paper at my school since I was a Freshman, and I had never once gotten the recognition I knew I deserved. They rarely even put my stories in the paper at all, and when they did they would put it off in a corner so that no one could see it. And I know it must sound like I’m a terrible writer – why else would they be so set on keeping me out?
Well, I’ll tell you why.
It’s all about your story. It’s not that I don’t write well, it’s just difficult to make a story about your Calculus teacher’s engagement very interesting. But with a story like this, they’d have to put it in the paper.
I sighed and put one foot on the wall of the ravine and picked the other up of the ground, trying to copy what Alice had done to get down. “I’m coming!” I called, sliding down the muddy wall. I wasn’t sure, but it felt like my back was against the wall too, catching mud as I slid down.
After falling for longer than I thought necessary, my feet smashed down on the ground. I thought I had been ready for the landing, but apparently not. Who would of thought that it’s bad to land so hard with your knees locked? I figured it out the hard way. They buckled painfully and I could feel myself dropping. My feet glided out from under me in what felt like slow motion which was interrupted by the world slipping upside down.
My back hit the slimy ground, and all I could think about was the creepy crawly creatures that would no doubt clime into my t-shirt if I didn’t get up fast.
“If I knew you were going to be so stupid and slow, I wouldn’t have brought you along.” Alice said, obviously annoyed as she grabbed my hand and helped me up. “Hurry. The party started at least an hour ago.” She said finally, taking off in a direction that felt like down stream, even though there was no water around.
“Right.” I said, giving up at my useless attempts to clean my muddy self off, and I followed willingly.
With much determination to not fall over again on my part, we made it to the party in no time. Alice ran straight for the booze, just as I expected she would, and I headed to a group of wailing boys gathered around a bonfire. I sat on a log and stared at the fire for a bit, looking at all the different kinds of things inside of it. It reminded me of the bonfire in Sleeping Beauty when they burn all the sewing wheels in the kingdom to keep the princess’s finger from getting pricked.
A leaf blew by me and I followed it with me eyes, watching the fire eat it. That’s when I spoke – though it was actually meant to be a thought. Some people don’t understand rhetorical questions when they’re drunk, it seems.
“Why logs?” I wondered softly as a pointy piece of bark poked me in the ass no matter how much i shifted, then a blonde boy sat next to me and made the log I was sitting on role a little further forward. He didn’t look drunk like the rest of the guys here did, but he seemed reckless enough to be.
“Convenience, I think.” He said happily, giving me a wide smile that I wouldn’t have expected from his small, innocent features and handing me a cup with water. I wasn’t sure why he was so friendly, but who cares, because I was totally parched.
“Right, except… it’s only convenient if you happen to have an axe or something.” I pointed out, patting the log we were on and smiling back before taking a sip of the water, but not without sniffing it suspiciously for alcohol first.
“It’s a stupid tradition. It’s dangerous.” I said, shaking my head and shrugging.
He looked at me confused and disoriented. “Dangerous?” He asked simply.
“Yes. I mean, there’s no fire pit around that fire, but there are lots of leaves. I frankly don’t understand how it hasn’t already caught onto the leaves, which would lead the fire to these logs. Wood catches on fire, and so do clothes. If we’re sitting on wood, wouldn’t that cause a slight problem?”
The boy looked around and chuckled. “Do these guys honestly look like they care what’s dangerous?” He asked bluntly.
I turned to see the group of kids he was staring at. It was a mob of people next to a blasting boom box. And it looked like they were sort of dancing, but really if you looked close enough, they were just smashing into each other to see who was the last standing. People kept popping out of the mob and falling to the ground.
“Not at all.” I finally answered, also chuckling lightly.
The guy was cool and all, but he wasn’t a good story. I needed to get the center of this party. I was just about to make some lame excuse to leave when a guy tumbled over in a total drunken haze.
“Wyatt, man, you’ve got to see this! Martin’s puking and you can actually see whole marshmallows!” The drunk boy slurred, falling not so gracefully onto the log between me and who I now knew was called Wyatt.
“Dude, please. That’s so–”
“You can bring your girlfriend if you want!” The drunk boy interjected, making my cheeks heat up for a reason completely not having to do with the bonfire.
“Hunter, would you please go piss someone else off?” Wyatt said, and he was about to continue when I cut him off.
“No! I want to see this!” Okay, so obviously I didn’t want to see the marshmallow-filled puke, but I figured this guy might be my ticket to a more interesting part of the ravine. A part that would get me that story.
Wyatt looked at me like I was crazy, but he rose to help Hunter up, and then follow him with me to a section behind a couple of oaks where there was much cheering and a disgusting stench that made me extremely uncomfortable. I heard the chucking noise, which made me gag too, and decided to stop. Drunk Hunter didn’t even notice when I was no longer by his side.
I headed toward the crowd that didn’t smell like vomit, and slipped in, trying to look like I belong There were people shooting water guns filled with a piss-colored liquid that, when spewed in my direction, I decided by the tang was actually beer. It just seemed more likely that I could live with beer on my face than the other alternative. Everyone either had a beer-gun in hand or a joint, so I tactfully avoided the smoke and did my best to dodge the beer sprays. I stood behind two tall boys and eavesdropped, trying my best to seem inconspicuous.
“Incesttttt.” The fatter one grunted as they observed two people macking on each other.
“Your just pissed because you wanted Remy and she chose Sam.” The skinny one said, snickering.
“Yeah, right. Like I would want a chick who does her own brother!” Pudgy sneered, pushing some of the sweat-drenched long hair out of his face. Ew, salty.
“Dude, you know Remy’s his cousin. Don’t exaggerate.” Slim rolled his eyes and diverted his eyes away from the disgusting scene.
“Still. Somewhere, there is a retarded baby crying.” Pudgy said, and at this I had to hold back a giggle.
“What?” Apparently Slim didn’t get it.
“A retarded baby is crying for the little challenged kid those two are going to make together.”
I was just about to get tired of these two idiots when he appeared again, almost out of thin air just like before. “I knew you wouldn’t be interested in some idiot puking his guts out.” Wyatt said, which caused Slim and Pudgy to look back at me.
“Wyatt!” They both howled, giving him painful looking whacks on the back and shoulder.
“My God, does everybody know you?” I asked, watching the two idiots laugh in the stupidest way I have ever heard in my entire life.
Wyatt just grinned and shrugged. “I’m a usual around here.” He said casually, as if this didn’t say something very terrible about his character.”Hey,” He said, looking up at Slim. “What time is it?”
“11:10.” He replied, glancing down at his watch.
“Late.” Wyatt sighed, walking back over to where the drunk guy, Hunter, stood waiting for him.
“Hey, Wyatt, I found your girlfriend!” He howled and stumbled forward – or atleast I thought he had. But, no, no, it wasn’t stumbling. It was something much more odd than that. He was holding perfectly still, looking like he was halfway through a trip. Standing on one leg, arms splayed out like crazy. It was when I stepped forward and heard the crunch beneath loud and clear under my feet from the dried leaves and twigs – something I hadn’t been able to hear all night — that I noticed what was there. Or rather what wasn’t there. Silence was all around me, crushing me and making me feel like I was trapped. I looked around, and everyone was completely still, statuesque. What the —
“Whoa!” I heard, and for a second I thought I had shouted it by accident, until Wyatt creeped into my peripheral vision. “Well, hell, can you hear me?” Oh, great. I’m going absolutely bat shit crazy. Just what I needed.
I decided my best bet was to stand still, like Hunter and Slim and Pudgy, and hope that Wyatt would go away and let me sink back into the world of sanity.
“Okay, girly, I can see you breathing. Answer me.” Nope, I thought, willing myself to stop breathing.
I heard a rustle in the bushes and made the mistake of looking over. Damn, just another reason for freaky boy to keep yelling at me.
“Grizzle!” He shouted, and that was too weird for me to even keep my thoughts straight, so I looked over at him.
“What did you just call me?” I demanded, glaring at him with gritted teeth.
“No…” He said, looking incredibly wide eyed at me like he was utterly shocked that I, too, had fell down the rabbit hole. “Not you. Grizzle.”
What does that mean? I asked myself before the cursing started. It came from the same bush that had rustled a moment ago, and it just went on and on and on.
“Grizzle, shut your anus and get over here. We have a situation!” He called over his shoulder with his eyes fixed on me.
“Shut my what?” The bushes grunted, rattling some more.
“The whole in the middle of your ass face, Grizzle.” Wyatt said impatiently. Oh, fabulous. Who would have thought that when people froze shrubs actually came alive and started to talk? “You’re late.” he added.
“God dammit, my shoe lace is knotted around some fucking bush!” He howled, before tumbling, ass face first, out of the foliage and right next to Wyatt’s feet. The bush kid looked up at him from his cozy spot in the dirt. “What’s your fucking problem tonight? I’m late cause my grandma-hag force fed me a pome-fucking-granate, which I’m allergic to, but does the wench care? ‘Course not, because she’s full of shit!” He said, using his arms to pick himself up.
“Please, Grizzle, language! We’re in the presence of a lady.” Wyatt said, not frazzled at all by the bush kid’s little scene.
He looked confused for a second and then shook his head. “No, dude, Jazzy couldn’t get out tonight. She’s locked up in her room.”
“Not Jazzy, you idiot, she’s hardly considered a lady. We’ve got a special guest.” He said, jutting his chin toward me. Grizzle slowly followed the gesture until he met my eyes. I stared straight back at him, and was apparently pretty frozen looking.
“Woo-wee. She’s hot, dude.” Grizzle said, grinning and looking back at Wyatt, laughing like a kid in a toy store.
“Dude, she can hear you.” I said, trying to mimic his idiotic tone. That stopped his laughing.
We were all quiet for a second, which was eerie with the surroundings of a frozen party. After an extremely awkward moment or two, Grizzle spoke again. “Wyatt. Explain.”
“Don’t look at me! I didn’t do anything, I swear. She was just kinda… awake.”
“No shit, sherlock? I thought she was under, you know, cause of the talking and all.” Grizzle said sarcastically. Then he got serious again. “Oh my god, man, what did you do? She gonna go tell he whole world, or something. Why the hell would you bring someone I don’t even know into the awake? God dammit, Wyatt! Dude, you have to fix this…”
“I didn’t do it!”
“…you have to put her back under!”
“I can’t, Grizzle! Listen to me, I didn’t do anything!”
“Then what are you saying?” Grizzle asked, completely flamming pissed now, and I felt intrusive to be watching the angry scene even though I knew it was about me. “I mean, it sure as hell wasn’t me or Jazzy, so who do you suppose did this, huh?”
“I don’t know! Maybe she’s just… like…. you know, natural? Like Jazzy.” Wyatt sounded totally embarrassed by the fact that he had suggested such a terrible thing, and I felt just as embarrassed for being here at all. Something was really bad about this place, and I should never have let Alice take me down here. Ever.
Then again… this would make a killer story. “Oh, yeah, that’s real likely, Wy. And in this theory of yours, how exactly have was gone around for years without noticing her? Besides, there’s just no way. I mean, come on, man, just look at her. She’s way too normal… she’s like beyond normal normal and is about 2 steps away from becoming Marsha Brady! She’s on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from us, Wy, so how exactly does that fit into your equation?” Grizzle ranted, and he was really pissing me off with the whole talk-about-her-like-she’s-not-here act.
“Excuse me,” I said in my anal, nagging voice and of course they completely ignored me.
“I have no idea, Grizzle, all I know is that I had nothing to do with this. Seriously, don’t you think I might notice that kind of thing? It’s not like I just walk up to every chick I see and stick my–”
“Okay, What the hell is going on?” I shouted, interrupting Wyatt mid-sentence. Wyatt turned and looked at me with the same wide eyed confusion he had had at first, and Grizzle just muttered some curse word and turned his head the opposite direction.
“What’s your name anyway?” Wyatt asked, squinting at me as if he was trying to read me without his glasses.
“You don’t even know her name, Wy? Fuck.” Grizzle said, still refusing to face me.
“You know what, why don’t you just tell Jazzy what’s up and I’ll deal with her, okay?”
“What am I suppose to tell her? You brought some random chick awake and she’s going to tell the whole world and we’re going to have a whole new Salem Witch Trials of our very own? She’ll kill us both!” Grizzle complained, only making me like him even less because he was so whinny and spastic.
“Tell her we have a very serious situation and that we’ll come pick her up soon.” Wyatt said calmly, seeming very experienced with handling the boy. Then he said to me again, “What’s your name?”
I looked suspiciously from him to Grizzle to Frozen Hunter and back to him. “Tell me what’s going on.” I demanded. “Did you drug me? Cause, I mean, if you did I need to know what you gave me because I had an aspirin like twenty minutes ago and I need to know if I have to worry about synergism. You put it in my water earlier, didn’t you?” I was surprised at how calm me voice sounded, because my heart was pounding out of my chest.
“Wow, good job, you picked an idiot.” Grizzle said, walking back into the bushes with his hands on his temple. I could hear from the rustling in the bush that he hadn’t gone far.
“Ignore him.” Wyatt said, taking one step toward me, and I adjusted taking one step back. He just sighed at this. “I didn’t drug you. I’ll explain, just tell me your name.”
I glared at him for a moment, and he held my gaze steadily. I had to respect that, because my glares were famously fierce. “Katy.” I said simply.
“Okay, Katy,” He said in a voice that sounded controlled and tense. “We’re going to take a walk to the end of the ravine and then drive down to get one other person. Then we can try and explain, as well as figure this out.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” I snapped, taking another step back and crossing my arms over my chest.
“Look, girl, we can’t explain this to you without Jazzy. So you’re coming.” I guess curiosity got the best of me, because he was right. I went. I never would have done anything like this before – walking around with a complete stranger – but these were special circumstances. We were both relatively quiet as we walked to the edge of the ravine, but we heard it before we saw it. Actually, we didn’t really here the edge of the ravine as much as we heard Grizzle, who had been waiting there.
“Jazzy’s already royally pissed, Wyatt, and when she sees your little party favor she’s going to eat you.” He called right before we stepped into the parking lot. “We better hurry before she gets any angrier.” Grizzle walked over to a motorcycle parked next to a huge jeep and hopped onto it, flipping the kickstand and looking back at Wyatt. “What’s her name?”
“Katy.” I said before Wyatt could reply, because I was now determined to get him to acknowledge me presence.
“Jazzy will just have to deal.” Wyatt said, sliding into the drivers side of the Jeep and motioning for me to get in.
“What’s the deal, anyway?” Wyatt asked Grizzle as the tree of us stared up at the third story window in the back of the huge yellow house that we had caravaned too. I had learned very little about my situation during the drive, except that I wasn’t dreaming, which Wyatt had no problem demonstrating by slamming down the brakes and making my hips slap against the seat belt with a nice, shooting sting. This left me with only two options for what was going on; either there was something very seriously wrong with my brain, such as a brain tumor, or this was actually happening. I was rooting for the brain tumor. “How come she couldn’t just get out herself.”
“You,” Grizzle said as he grabbed hold of some strong vines hanging from the house. “Obviously don’t appreciate the incredible ability of grandma-hag’s locking system.”
Wyatt sighed. “So why can’t we just go around the front and unlock her door from the outside? I hate climbing this stupid wall.” I looked at the wall that Grizzle was now latched onto and working his way up as Wyatt approached and got ready to follow. It was really high, and I really, really don’t like heights.
“Well, we could…” Grizzle said, looking back at him with a strange look on his face. “if you would like to fish the key out of grandma-hag’s bra.” The gagging noise from Wyatt made him chuckle and turn back around, focusing on the wall again. “That’s what I thought. Get up here.”
Once Grizzle was high enough, Wyatt climbed up after him, and I stood there curiously. They hadn’t said anything to me about it, so I just waited, finding myself lucking for not having to climb the wall. Once they had reached the top and climbed through the tiny window like rubber-man, all I heard was arguing. It didn’t take long before they were all shouting over each other – but I still couldn’t understand a word of any of it. After what seemed like forever Wyatt stuck his leg out the window and begun climbing back down followed by Grizzle doing the same. The did so without a word, but when Wyatt had touched back to the ground he walked directly over to me and sighed. “Okay, Jazzy’s mega pissed already, and she doesn’t even know you’re here yet, she just knows we have a difficult little problem. If I were you, I’d talk as little as possible. She has a temper, and it can be potentially dangerous.”
As soon as Wyatt finished his warning, Grizzle reached the ground and groaned. “Alright, Jazz, come on down!” He called up at the window, which I now noticed had a figure standing in it, but she was in the shadows. Grizzle tensed and took a couple of steps away from the window, looking like he was scared to death, and Wyatt stepped protectively in front of me, which really did surprise me. Then, for a half a second, I saw her pale face, and then she was falling. It was unnerving how graceful she looked as she glided down from the window, her long dark hair trailing far behind her looking oddly like black wings. When she landed on her feet, looking completely at ease with the landing, her posture reminded me of a cat for a moment before she straightened up, pushing her hair out of her face and behind her ears. Her skin was practically glowing in the dark, and her eyes only hesitated for a couple of seconds before she spotted me. She looked calm and reserved as she stared me down, and I wasn’t sure what Wyatt had meant by a temper.
“Katy,” Grizzle said, addressing me finally for the first time. “This is my twin sister, Jazzy.”
I could have sworn I heard her hiss when I squeaked out me, “Hello,” and fluttered my too long fingers at her.
“What in the name of Christ all mighty did you two dip shits do?” She spat, somehow still sounding cool in the terrible, accusing voice.
“Whoa! Hey, don’t look at me. This one’s all on Wyatt.” Grizzle said as he held is hands up in a surrender and Wyatt through him a don’t-blame-me-for-crap-you-know-I-didn’t-do-just-to-get-her-off-your-back look.
“No it is not. I was just as surprised as you two when I found her awake, okay? If you want to know what’s up, talk to her.” He said, stepping aside and immediately dropped the strong and protective act he had just put on.
I just stood there, starring at her with wide eyes as she stared back. “Fine. But first things first, then we’ll talk about the bimbo.” She said, taking off around the house and we all followed. I looked down at myself and frowned. I didn’t really look like bimbo, did I?
We reached the front of the house and Jazzy charged right inside, luckily through the front door this time, so I went as well since there was no climbing involved. She stood in the foyer and looked at Grizzle. “Where’s the witch?” She asked flatly.
“Isn’t calling her a witch disrespectful to your kind?” He asked, tilting his head and considering this.
“I’m not a witch, ass whole, now answer the question.”
“Fine, fine.” Grizzle replied, already looking wide eyed by her aggressive reaction. “She’s in the kitchen.” He flopped his hand in a random direction and we followed the gesture. When we reached the kitchen there was an elderly woman sitting on a stood reading a news paper in the dark, and I assumed her to be the grandma-hag. Jazzy walked straight up to her with out even a slight hesitation, stuck her hand crudely down the old ladies blouse, and came back up with a small ring of keys, some of witch looking decades older than myself.
The Jazzy smiled at herself proudly. “Let’s watch and see her try and live without these babies.” She mumbled before we were heading back out to the cars.
“Aren’t we going to talk about me?” I asked, bluntly, unsure of why we were already getting set up to leave the big yellow house. I immediately regretted saying anything at all. She pierced me with her fierce eyes and I felt a shuddered run down my spine.
“Tell her to shut her fucking mouth.” Jazzy snapped before whipping her head around and climbing into the Jeep’s passenger seat.
Wyatt smiled and said, “Sorry about her, she’s just really upset. We’re going somewhere else to talk, a place that’s more private. You’ll be riding with Grizzle this time.” He said, motioned towards the motorcycle.
“What?” Grizzle argued. “No way am I getting stuck with the mutant chick.”
“Would you rather have to ride with Jazz?”
Grizzle thought about this for a moment before sighing in defeat and throwing a helmet at me, which I was glad to have caught. “Fine. Get on.” He said as he climbed on it himself and scooted further forward than before. I got carefully on behind him, and he took of so fast that I almost flew right off, which was most likely his goal. Luckily I managed to stay put, and we slashed through the cold winter wind for a while, and I wondered what could possibly be more lonely than a world like this.
The roads were relatively clear, and all the cars that were on it were perfectly still, so we just swerved around them.. I kept trying to talk to Grizzle on the way – you know, trying to get him to warm up to me – but either he couldn’t hear me because of his helmet or he was just ignoring me. We got to our destination in less than ten minutes.
We parked in the front of the empty lot next to Wyatt’s Jeep, and I hesitated getting off. I was in a strange place, with strange people, and I had no way to run if I had to. And there as no chance of getting help since everyone in the entire town was frozen solid. What had I gotten myself into?
I got distracted from my worries when I looked up and saw the Pacific War museum.
“What are we doing here?” I asked, and I don’t really know who I was expecting an answer from since no one wanted me to even be here, much less annoy them with questions.
“Griz, shut Roxanne up. We only have three quarters left.” Jazzy said, jumping out of the Jeep and heading towards the museums entrance. Grizzle followed her without saying a word to her, and Wyatt looked back at me before doing the same. Unsure of what to do, I followed them and fell into step next to Wyatt. “My name isn’t Roxanne.” I pointed out softly, and Jazzy snorted like she was to good for me and knelt down to fiddle with the lock on the door.
“She knows that.” Wyatt whispered. “She’s just being a bitch.”
“Heard that.” She said indifferently, jiggling the door knob and listening to the noises of the little gadgets inside.
He sighed and said, “She meant from the song.”
“Like from Moulin Rouge?” I replied, offended and confused at the same time. “But she’s a –”
“No, like by the Police.” Grizzle said indignantly.
“Yes, she’s a whore. Congratulations.” Jazzy said, pushing on the big white door and it opened easily and slowly. She grinned evilly and walked in, Grizzle, Watt, and I following her. I frowned and shook my head. What was her problem, anyway? She didn’t even know me, and she was accusing me of being all these terribly things. I had no idea why, and it frustrated me to no end.
Jazzy took a seat at a big, plain white table in the middle of one of the rooms, pulling one of her legs up onto the chair with her and laying the other casually on the table. She began to pick at the end of her nails, painted black. Grizzle and Wyatt sat on either side of her and I sat across from them cautiously. My pulse shot up every time I looked into Jazzy’s eyes, and I couldn’t stand to look in them for more than a second. Something deep in my gut was unsettled by her, and it churned my stomach to hear her piercing hiss of a voice. It was hard to see Wyatt and Grizzle in the darkness, but she stood out, her pale skin shining unnaturally bright.
“This is ridiculous. Can someone please tell me what’s going on here?” I asked in severe impatience.
“Why don’t you tell us, princess? What the hell are you doing awake?” Grizzle asked, leaning forward on the table.
“I don’t understand what you mean… Why wouldn’t I be? Why is everyone else frozen?” I demanded. As soon as I really heard myself and what i was saying I realized that I must be insane. People freezing before your eyes? Impossible. I must be totally mental. How can they all act so calm? The were probably just part of the hallucination. They had to be; no one could really be that pale or that fierce looking.
“Zero hour.” Wyatt said right at Jazzy opened her mouth to say something else rude, interrupting her a deserving a frightening glare. “You shouldn’t be here because you’re human.”
I stared at him for an endless moment, trying my best to comprehend. I couldn’t have heard him right. Because I’m human? If that were the problem that what was he saying he was? Or Jazzy? I might be able to believe Jazzy was something else… but Wyatt was way too human, as was Grizzle. Grizzle…what a weird name. I wondered what it meant.
“Hora of gnaritas.” Jazzy said, and I recognized the language as Latin, though I didn’t know what she said.
I opened my mouth to ask for translation, but Wyatt was one step ahead of me, getting the words out before I could even ask. “It means the Hour of Knowledge. That’s what they used to call it, anyway. We just call it Zero hour.”
“But what-” I began before Grizzle cut me off, again answering my question before could speak it.
“It’s a place for those few people… beings with superior existence.”
“Superiors existence? I don’t understand.”
Jazzy scoffed. “Of course you don’t! You’re not suppose to understand, because you’re not suppose to know about it! She shouldn’t be here!” She hissed, jumping up from her chair and walking over to a window, leaning her forehead up against the glass.
“There must be some reason they would send her here.” Wyatt said, shaking his head, and I didn’t like the way they were talking about me. Like I couldn’t hear. Like I was just some insect.
“Punishment.” Grizzle mumbled, and Wyatt and Jazzy both shot him piercingly sharp looks. Meaningful looks that were obviously meant to shut him up. There was still something they didn’t want me to know, I could sense it. Something they did. Something that would deserve punishment.
“It doesn’t matter.” Wyatt said sternly, trying to rectify the situation. “What matters is that she’s here now, and we have to make sure she’s ready to handle that. Treat it like she’ll be here every night.” That caught Grizzle’s attention.
“Hold on.” He said, holding up one of his hands palm forward. “So, are we thinking that there’s a chance she won’t be here every night?”
The other two were silent for a moment, thinking about this. Jazzy sat down in the chair beside me, which frightened me for two reasons. One, she moved completely absent of sound, so stealthy and smooth. Two, the way she sat with her back arched toward me and her eyes shifting she looked aggressive like a predator.
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll see tomorrow.” Wyatt finally decided, but I wasn’t so sure there would even be a tomorrow. The deep black outside and the intense silence filling the room made this frozen moment seem completely endless. “Like I said, for now we just assume she’ll be here all the time. We need to teach her.”
They all stared at me for a very uncomfortable, very long moment before Jazzy rose once more and walked back to the window. She stood there for a couple of seconds before turning back to me..
“Come here, girl.” She called to me, her voice seeming to age centuries with the sudden surge of wisdom that seeped through. I walked over to stand awkwardly beside her, feeling feeble and silly just being there with her. She held her hand up by the window sill, tracing her finger tips along the ridge until something about the size of my fist creeped up under her palm, making me jump back. It was a spider. It was deep black and very bulky as it crawled lethally up her fingers and onto the back of her hand. I flinched every time one of it’s long, ugly legs twitched. “Don’t be afraid.” Jazzy said, lifting the spider up to her eyes level, examining it. She had seemed determined to scare me, so hearing her tell me not to be afraid was very unexpected.
“This is part of it, Katy.” She addressed me using my name for the first time. “Spider’s are the good guys, here. They’re very friendly to us.” She held it toward me and I jumped so high that I thought I might hit the ceiling. “Really, they aren’t back.” She picked up the spider by pinching it’s body between to fingers, and flipped it over on it’s back. It’s legs flitted around nervously as I stared at the large red hour glass shape on the spider’s stomach.
“You’re holding a black widow in your hand?” I baffled, stepping further away. It wasn’t until she laughed at me and brushed her finger lightly across the shape that I noticed it was moving.
The red hour glass was flowing in one direction, away from the spider’s face. The way it trickled down it looked like a real hour glass measuring time… “What’s it doing?”
“It’s measuring the time we have left.” Jazzy replied. “Whenever the rest of the world stops, that’s when the spiders really come to life. We have an hour, every night, beginning at 11:11 all to ourselves, and the hour glass tells us how far along that hour is.”
I looked a bit closer, leaning in nearer to the spider despite my fear. It was about half way done. I watched the two dimensional red beads fall from the top of the glass to the bottom for a long time before I could trust my eyes.
I opened my mouth to respond, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. For the first time before many to come, I was speechless. As I looked down at the bulky spider I felt like I could suddenly hear with my eyes. A crack with every twitch of it’s legs. A swooshing sound every time it’s beady eyes shifted. A thump every time it took a step across Jazzy’s hand. I knew that these movements were much too small to really hear, but it was like I could feel the sounds. Like somehow, in some far off, mindless, impossible, and uncomfortable way I was connected with to the spider. I could hear the connection.
“Why…?” My dry throat eventually croaked out, still staring unblinking at the spider.
“The history and reason is Wyatt’s thing,” She said before putting the spider back down on the windowsill and letting it scamper away. She jiggled the window open, then, which surprised me because I didn’t expect museum windows to open so easily, and leaned out to look up at the sky. “I’m more about the creatures.” She gazed fondly at a few spiders crawling on the ground below.
Jazzy slowly began to let out a soft hiss that was so low I almost didn’t hear it. After only a few seconds of this a flock of bats began swarming together, flying away towards the river followed by a parade of scampering spiders.
“Shhh.” She hushed my question, looking out steadily after her pets.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw Grizzle and Wyatt still sitting stiffly in their chairs, watching expectantly out the window, so I did the same. Staring far into the black night, wondering what was out there. The darkness almost seemed alive. I pictured the ice cold stony bodies of everyone in the ravine, how they had all seemed totally lifeless, as if nothing soulful or animated could have ever resided under their rock hard shell. The night seemed to have more life than any of them did. I could almost feel it moving, despite some of it being more than a mile away, like I was connected to it just like the spider. It called out to me, whispering and hissing for me to come. To join the darkness in it’s twists and turns of the wind, to fall endlessly, from nothing toward nothing, to close my eyes and become part of the blackness.
Then I heard it. A hard, unbelievably loud smack, like rock against rock. It came from over where the bats and spiders had fled to. I saw a flutter of light, which seemed out of place in my night, and it flashed like a wave of fire before quickly going out. I looked at Jazzy, awaiting some sort of explanation no matter how vague.
“The nocterns.” She said simply.
When I realized she didn’t plan on elaborating, I asked, “What are they?”
Then the screaming started. It was human, that was obvious enough, which was surprisingly not comforting at all. Perhaps because I was now under the peculiar impression that I was the only human left in this frozen alternate space. There were dozens – if not hundreds – of howling high pitched screeches and it was shockingly easy to tell that the screams were that of horrific pain. They seemed to get closer and closer which was evident thanks to the increasing volume. The world seemed to be softly tremoring from under me, but I was too encompassed by the sounds filling that air around me to care. Dark figures high up in the air came faintly into view, silhouetted against the horizon. Still they come closer until they’re shapes and colors were clearly definable. That was probably when I started to hyperventilate.
A large hand wrapped around my arm and began trying to pull me away from the widow. “We have to get to the basement!” Wyatt said, staring frightened out the widow. He pulled me out of my trance and I was finally able to process everything that was going on around me. Grizzle was bent over, listen to a locked door, probably trying to pick the lock. Wyatt was standing behind me, tugging at my arm. The earth really was shaking like an earthquake, only much more violently then I had realized up until this point. The noises were just screams of terror, but also that of battle cries. It sounded like a war was happening just on the other side of the museum wall.
The most notable thing, though, were the creatures that Jazzy’s bats seemed to be fighting. There were three things in the air. The first were the bats which were much larger than I had realized, some of them with a wingspan twice the size of mine. The second was a more humanoid type animal with a vicious birds body and the head of a human, which seemed to be fighting with the bats, and the third were giant birds, much, much larger than either of the other two with a mouth similar to a sharks, with rings of pointy teeth.
“Let her go, Wyatt.” Jazzy ordered serenely, slapping his hand away from my arm without shifting her gaze from the animals. “She needs to see this.”
“You were the one who said to treat her like she’s staying!” She demanded, stabbing him with her sharp eyes.
He quickly withdrew from me then and frowned. “It’s dangerous.”
“Which she will only really learn by seeing it herself.” She hissed and grabbed my arm, spinning me around to look out the window again. “They’re all kinds of creatures.” She began to explain my earlier question. “The bats, for one. And Harpies and Stymphalian Birds, too. If it ever come down to it, you can count on the Harpies fighting on your side, but the Stymphalian Birds are terrible and malicious. The bats are with us, too, of course because they’re afraid of us more than they are of the Birds. There are hundreds of other creatures as well, but these are the only ones we provoked enough to bring into obvious sight.” She was having to shout to get her voice heard over the cries from outside which somehow made it all seem even less real.
Jazzy leaned out the open window and began humming a melodic tune that fit like a matching puzzle piece with the still, black sky. The fight began to fizzle out as she sang, and the bats and Harpies retreated away in one direction, the giant Birds in another. One Stymphalian Bird remained, flapping it’s wings furiously. I had noticed this particular Bird before because it was the hugest of them all, and the most viscous and violent. It slowly lowered it’s flight until it had it’s huge talons on the ground. It was ten times my size at least, and it bent it’s head over to glare right into Jazzy’s eyes. She glowered right back, and it wasn’t until then that I realized she had stopped humming already. After an extremely tense moment they both shifted their malicious gaze to me. It may sound silly because of the size difference, and it might have been because Jazzy was standing so near me, but I was far more afraid of her than I was of the huge Bird.
After a few extremely frightening seconds the Birds began to furiously wag its wings until it was back in the air, soaring after it’s giant brothers.
“What was that?” Grizzle asked cautiously with one eyebrow raised at Jazzy.
She turned very slowly to face her brother and smiled a heart attack inducing, evil smile. “Carlisle seems to think that uniting against a common enemy might be… of mutual satisfaction.”
“Typhons? The Minotaurs?” Inquired Wyatt.
“Mmm, Smaller.” She said, turning and looking back at me with crazed, rabid eyes. Chills crawled down my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood strait up. I couldn’t look away from her, she was so spectacularly frightening, but I heard Grizzle gasp in disgust and felt wyatt grab my arm again.
“I never thought I’d see the day that you’d get any fucking crazier, Jaz, but here it is.” Grizzle baffled, shaking his head. I was still staring at her.
“Seriously, Jazzy, use your head. She could be one of us! You need to cool it, now.” Wyatt said critically as he dragged me away from her and Grizzle began to talk to her in a fast, hushed voice that I couldn’t hear.
“Sorry about her. She doesn’t really like people, especially people like you.” He sounded sincerely apologetic, but the especially not like you still irked me a good bit.
“What is that suppose to mean?” I demanded rudely.
Wyatt just shook his head and dragged me quickly out to his car. “Nothing. I’ll explain more later. Right now I need to get you home, the hours almost over.” He said, looking down at the ground where a black widow lay upside down showing it’s hourglass.
“No! I need to go to the ravine.” I told him weekly.
He tilted his head back and looked up at the sky for about a second before looking back down at me. “No, not tonight. It’s not safe tonight, you need to go home.” He picked my up easily and put me in the passenger seat of his Jeep. “Where do you live?” He asked once he’d crawled into the driver’s side. I told him the address and he began driving furiously fast in the direction of my little house.
I gladly went inside and climbed into bed. My parents didn’t even know I had left the house at all, I’d told them that I was going to bed early so that I could sneak out with Alice for the ravine. It seemed like days ago, though it was really only about an hour. My mom was frozen in the kitchen with a dirty dish in one hand and a sponge in the other. Tiny specks of splashed water were hovering around her form the running sink, and they sparkled. My dad was in the living room lounged on the couch with a cream cheese bagel half way in his mouth. My older sister was sitting on the floor, leaned up against the couch right by my dad’s head, and she looked fairly normal staring at the TV.
It was surprisingly obvious when the time began to move again. I hadn’t even noticed the faint orange tint that everything had during that time until it disappeared.