Some place that, in your mind, resembles the United States
She was laser focused. She had the target in her sites. She concentrated on her breathing. There was nothing that was going to stop her from getting her meal this time. She thought that she heard something on the wind. It sounded like some sort of aircraft. She paused, tensing her body. She almost felt that she could focus her hearing on the tiny noise and determine her location.
Then the noise was gone. She remembered where she was and what she was here to do. It had been awhile since she had eaten a decent meal. She focused back on the target. It hadn’t moved. She held her breath, drew back her arm and released. Bullseye! She hit the target dead on, in the exact same spot that she had pictured in her mind. When it struck it made a small thwunk sound. She stopped and stared for a moment. She couldn’t believe it. She had done it. All of a sudden the crowd started cheering. Willow Evergreen had won her high school dart championship.
She knew that she wouldn’t be missing lunch today. She was done. The bell rang and she exited the auditorium amidst the throng of students. Everyone patted her on the back and she just half-smiled at them. Willow wasn’t much of conversationalist. She looked through the crowd and saw his face. It was her best friend in the whole world. The only one that she truly cared about, but never in a romantic way. Sue Thornbush. He was the only one, she felt, who understood her. As she approached him in the crowd, suddenly his face slipped away. Fading into a blur of colors and sounds. And Willow was falling.
She awoke with a start. She sat up straight in her bed and looked at the digital clock display. 1:38 AM. She had been dreaming again. Dreaming of memories from a better time. That had been six months ago. Since then, things had changed for Willow. More people tried to talk to her. More people had tried to be her friend. But she pushed them away. Boys asked her on dates but she made up excuses so that she wouldn’t have to go out with them. She didn’t want to have to make any tough decisions. She didn’t want to think about making any tough decisions.
Her thoughts turned to Sue. She was sorry to leave him. She wasn’t leaving him forever, but still, she was going to miss him. He was her best friend. She started thinking about the school she was going to be attending the coming year. She had never heard of it before – the Pixocero Public School for the Incredibly Gifted and Otherwise – until she had received a letter from them immediately following the darts competition victory.
She had immediately begun researching the school and the nearby town of Bacon Cove. She learned that Pixocero had once been a prestigious school for magic users, werewolves, vampires and other extraordinary individuals. It had reached the height of its success as a private school near the turn of the 19th century. But since then, enrollment and attendance had dwindled slowly until they almost had to file bankruptcy, but instead sought grants from the government in exchange for opening the doors to all. So now since the school had to accept anyone who wished to enroll, administration went out of its way to seek out individuals who were more exceptional than the majority of the world’s population. This way they could maintain their high standards of enrollment and meet the government requirement that they could accept anyone.
There was absolutely no benefit to the school for doing this, they were merely trying to hang on to the past.
Willow also learned in her research that one of the main reasons that the school had lost so much enrollment was that they had ended the centuries old tradition of the Twilight Games. The Twilight Games was a competition that was held annually on the school grounds. Participants were selected from each of the twelve halls on the campus. None of the halls had a creative name, they were simply known as Hall 1, Hall 2, and so on. But each hall was very proud of the participants who participated on their behalf. During the Twilight Games, the selected students would be placed into the school arena at dusk and forced to battle one another to the death. The last student standing was the winner.
The curious thing about these games though was that the participants were removed from the arena each morning so that they could attend classes, oftentimes sitting next to students who they would have to kill the next time they were placed in the arena. No one knew which days they would enter the arena. These days were seemingly chosen at random.
Over the course of the next six months, Willow had become obsessed with learning everything she could about these games. She studied strategies and weaponry. She didn’t know why. It wasn’t as if she was going to be participating. It was essentially morbid curiosity. And now here she was, two nights away from leaving for her new school. Leaving her family and friend. She lay back on her pillow. The cool air coming in from the window had already cooled her pillow and gave her goosebumps as she shivered. Pulling the blanket up tight around her, she couldn’t help but to fantasize about what it would be like if she were given the opportunity to participate in the Games.
In a small town on the Oregon coast
Stella put the last of her things into a vinyl tote and put the lid on it. She couldn’t believe that she was actually leaving. It seemed that she had just arrived to live with her dad, who just happened to be the town sheriff. But he didn’t understand her. He couldn’t give her the advice that she needed. She was a conflicted teenage girl and her old man of a father just could not understand her. In her mind at least. She was going to move back in with her mother. Wherever that was. Her mother was always on the move. Going wherever her latest boyfriend wanted to go.
Up until recently her mother had been living in Hawaii. This was primarily the reason that Stella Shawn wanted to go and live with her mother. She needed a tan. However, once she had approached her mother about moving in with her, she found out that her mother was moving too. She would be moving to Bacon Cove, Newfoundland. So much for getting any sun she thought as she carried the last tote downstairs.
She placed it on the patio and sat on the top step curling her legs up underneath her and pulling her hands inside the sleeves of her black hoodie. It wasn’t cold, she just did this a lot to appear vulnerable.
For awhile she just sat there watching cars pass. Her mother was supposed to come pick her up and take her to the train station. Stella would be riding the train to Newfoundland alone. Her mother had to stop somewhere along the way at a former boyfriend’s house to pick up some of forgotten things. She was supposed to meet Stella at the train station in Bacon Cove.
Stella really didn’t know anything about the town. But she imagined that it couldn’t be any worse than this place that she had been living in for the past year.
There weren’t any home across the street from her dad’s house, just the beginning of a huge forest. She thought that she saw some dark shapes among the trees. She squinted her eyes to try and see better and the shapes disappeared. She wasn’t too worried about it. She knew that there were animals out there. There were even rumors of the town of giant wolves. But she didn’t believe that.
Stella didn’t believe in anything but science. A self proclaimed atheist at age 11, Stella had broken her dad’s heart when she told him that she no longer believed in God, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. She said that the science just couldn’t prove the existence of any such things. She typically avoided the topic with others in this town, because they tended to look down on her for her lack of belief in anything. This also caused her to not try to make any friends.
Her dad had spoken with her on occasion about making new friends. He had told her that if didn’t look so constipated all the time and bring up her beliefs, then people would be able to relate to her more. She had laughed at him and accused him of trying to censor her. That had been the beginning of her desire to move away from her father.
And now here she was near the end of her stay in this horrible town. It made her physically ill now to look at. She could no loner stand all the people in this town with their pale skin and holier than thou attitudes. The sun was starting to set. She stared into the skyline as it changed colors. She saw a vehicle approaching. It was a taxi. She could barely make out the woman in the back, but she knew it was her mother. Stella stared at the setting sun again. She thought that it was quite symbolic that the sun would be going down on this phase of her life, and the dawn would be breaking on another phase, far from this place.
Her mother jumped out of the cab and gave Stella a motherly kind of hug.
She said, “So sorry I am late sweetie. There were a few people that I wanted to see in town.”
Stella just shrugged her shoulders and half-smiled her constipated mile. Her mother begain throwing the totes and suitcases into the trunk of the cab and then got into the passenger seat. Stella took one last look around and thought to herself, “Good Riddance.”