She smiled. Her eyelids closed into a thin slit, lashes rested over the lids. Still sleeping, but her face was vibrant, the tightened muscles pulled her lips into a curve, upwards to her cheek, which was pinkish. Occasionally, shuffling occurred as her body rearranged the posture, but anyhow it ensured a comfortable rest.
She dreamt, dreaming of something sweet, as her expression showed. Nightmares did happen, but not that night, as her mind was filled only with recollections of the day. No doubt she was thinking of Philip, the man who brought a great activity to her life. Unusual it seemed to have him around for so long, but without him she would surely cry. He was her main attraction, and he seemed to pop up anywhere, much even in her dreams; she did not know why, however, there was something about him. Something in her thoughts told her that he might mean more than just an arrival.
In her dreams, with Philip around, everything was perfect, everything was happiness, cheerful. One moment they were cycling together down the street, enjoying the breeze, laughing all the way of sheer delight. One moment they were in a small tuck shop, with little dishes arrayed on a table, while they savoured on the delicious food, relishing iced drinks and chattered merrily, having a light moment of their own. One moment they were far away from home, at a wide meadow filled with all kinds of flowers full bloomed, as coloured petals fallen from the floral plants swirling around in the air blown by the circulating wind whilst flower buds flying with the current and flowery fragrance emitted into the atmosphere, and they danced within the rainbow field, brushing themselves amidst the tall shrubs up to their waist, running around without bounds, without purpose, just to explore every bit of the outstretched terrain, feeling the pleasure when they were at their liveliest, shouting and screaming out to the open, playing under the roof of the blue welkin where the sun hung high yet so mild and cooling. Her fantasies were so strong till she had not realised that it was just a dream, just a wonderful show staged in her mind.
The break of day was greeted by glints shone into the chambers through windows ajar, followed by a morning draught that gently flowed by, hitting against the drapes, sending them to flaps. Elyn woke up to the lovely wind feeling fresh and energetic. A good night’s sleep she had, sound and undisturbed. Life began to mean more to her otherwise took for granted as she did before. Thanks to her friends who made her happy.
She jumped out of bed, and looked at the clock on the table. Six-forty-five it showed, she was early. So she drew the curtains and pushed the windows wide and had a breath of the air of dawn, sweet scented by the early dewdrops, which gave off a herbal, aromatic balm, tickling the nasal and clearing the lungs of dust. Once in a while the breeze would blow and her hair wavered to the current, her face cooled and her soul revitalized. “Ahh… a wonderful day today should be,” she personally thought, her eyes fixed upon the scenery before her, rows of buildings and a hilly landscape far at the end.
A queer feeling of something had happened occurred to her, but she could not place it, like a memory relapse. Then she recalled that Hewlett came to stay. It was already three days since the two mother and daughter had accepted his accommodation, but funny it seemed to Elyn that it had just happened, a second or two ago. Much strange, but she bothered no more, because great things ahead were waiting for her to do.
She changed into her school uniform quite rapidly, and went down from upstairs to the pantry, where she found her mother preparing breakfast on the table. “Morning girl,” greeted Mother, and Elyn did the same. On the table she saw a simple dish of bacon and eggs, but to her everything was a delicacy, especially when her stomach growls.
“Where’s Hewlett?” Elyn asked, seeing no sign of the boy since the morning. “I don’t know either,” shrugged her mother, “he went out a quarter earlier ago, and said nothing. It makes me wonder where he might have gone to so early at dawn.”
Elyn finished the last chow on the plate, and excused herself while saying, “bye Mum, I’m off to school. Let you know where he went when I meet him later!”
Hewlett slung a small bag over his shoulders, and wore snickers on his feet. His neatly combed hair never changed, so was his tidy attire. The tough wind never deterred him from advancing, small but strong his body was, fighting the odds. The sun was aloft anyway that kept him about.
He was supposed to wait for the seven o’ clock bus but the weather was too fine for him. Therefore he kept on walking. As dawn approached morning the wayward wind lessened, reduced to slight zephyrs, which optimised the serenity of ambience.
The time had moved away from its last quarter of six to the region of seven. Early it still was, and Heimford was also near. Just a few more junctions to be crossed, a few roads to walk and a few stones to step; however, he made an acute turn at a juncture, took not the usual route, seemed to have other plans. Maybe because of the time, he decided to wander around the area, getting more accustomed to the assembly of streets.
Yet, from the way he made his progress saw he was not for a saunter, but there was something important that was in his mind. His footsteps were firm, deep. His eyes fixed to a direction, obscure from the beginning, but soon the place was definite – a wide cloistered garden of lush green, trees grown lavishly and flowers bloomed with pride. It was a park of the city, specially fostered for recreational purposes. But all for certain, he was not going there for only a stroll.
The huge gates of the entrance were open, a pathway of flagstones leading inwards, bushes aligned along, sheared into neat rectangular blocks. Hewlett entered through the archway, carefully treading on the track. Few people were around, some morning joggers and old folks using the park for exercise. Other than that, there was only quiescence.
He walked on, trampling some dried leaves that rustled crisply. He scanned around while he proceeded. Runners who jogged by and children playing and old men babbling on benches did not interest him; he was searching for something else.
By and by gusts of wind blew, shaking the trees and falling the leaves, scattering the ground with more dead decomposition. And in the mean time, the loud raking of the leaves was heard, sweeping and brushing against the grass. Hewlett carried on his trail and came upon the source of the noise – the gardener of the garden was sweeping the leaves with a long rake, with a big bag of his collection beside him overflowing with petals of green and yellow-brown. The man in charge as a caretaker was an old man, wore a long beard and moustache that almost covered his lips. The amazing part was his height, measuring to about seven feet high, lofty and lanky. However, he was still strong, his posture of standing resembled none of a frail sickly elder, nor hunched, but as upright as a young man. A pair of dark sunglasses he wore (nobody knew why he put on in the morning when there was no glaring sunlight), concealing his eyes, made him more of a frightening giant.
“Never looked like spring these days, more like fall, perhaps winter. These leaves are getting more and more in my pile each day,” Hewlett heard his grouse, near to him by then. The old man raked the leaves twice a time more, and then another whine, this time more seriously in tone, “ the catastrophe is near, I can just feel it,” then turned to Hewlett, “you’ve met the girl?”
A small nod Hewlett showed as an affirmation. Next, another question thrown towards him, “is she fine?” and another nod given. Then a long silence.
The grey-bearded old man looked away from Hewlett, staring forwards upon the azure sky and uttered, “ahh… you served me well all these times of hardship, o’ faithful, and I don’t expect much from you anymore. But do me a favour,” and the old man looked back at him, “help my son to watch over her; protect her, for she is our only hope. But do remember, tell nothing of this to her, keep it a secret. This is my order.”
A pink skateboard scooted down the lane, wedging through the traffic on the sidewalk, wheezing past stalls. Elyn was thrilled. A fine skate in such a fine morning surely stimulated the adrenaline. Inhaling the pristine air gave her a boost of freshness, while the breeze that cheered up to her face was delightful.
This time it was a leisure skate, not like before. No rush, no hurries. She made careful moves, making sure she did not bump into anybody or tear down a shed; though the pace was quite fast, her skills matched with it, controlling the wheels gracefully. Sometimes when she pulled a stunt or two, pedestrians around would dodge for fear she might hit them. But it never happened, for her ability had proven her capability of performing the trick.
Elyn made a dash for the main gates of Heimford with a remarkable speed. Students walking into the compound were unaware of her coming, all taken surprise when a speeding object zoomed past them. She steered a dextrous curve along the circling field, and jumped up with the skateboard and presented a spin midair in front of many eyes staring wide agog, and finished with a precise landing steadily.
Lifting up the board, she carried it into the hall, not wishing to break any more ground rules, or risk seeing the authorities. Nope, she would not want a second meeting with Madam Hallard. So she stuffed the pink skateboard into the lockers, making sure it was secure and left for class.
Striding across the hallway, Elyn was joined by her friends who came on the same time. Monica on the left, while Jessica on the right. Exchanging gestures they did as a practice, and after that, Elyn asked, “have you two seen Hew anywhere this morning?”
“You mean that cute little guy? Well, never saw his shadow. But isn’t he staying with you?” asked Jessica.
“It may sound strange, but he went off without my knowledge,” said Elyn. “You’re beginning to act like you’re his mother,” joked Monica, “can’t he have a life of his own? Besides, doesn’t mean when he lodges at your home he is obliged to tell you everything.”
“You’re right,” agreed Elyn, “but I’m just curious to know where he went.”
“I wonder if you’ve caught the ‘Curious Cathy’ flue,” giggled Monica, referring to their friend who was always nosing into other’s business. Three of them shared a laugh.
The friends sported a march down the corridor, which seemed long, but ended at a cross junction. The morning was busy, students and teachers rushing their ways to their respective destinations, racing against time. In and out doors they walked, up and down stairs they climbed, to and fro the pathway they journeyed. Not a wee bit of interval they set aside for a breath.
From a distance, the three girls saw a towering figure approaching from the opposite direction. One of the exceptional teachers who appeared liberal, unbound by work, Philip dawdled about, with a few books clutched in his hands ready for reviewing. Tallest amongst the people dressed grandly in an overcoat and a necktie, there was an air of elegance around him. A stylish attitude.
“He’s coming,” Monica whispered teasingly.
No sooner when their paths were crossed, they halted. The girl and the man went into a daze, a locked gaze in the eyes. Infatuated by the bedazzling person before her, motionless she stood, staring amorously at the apple of her eyes, while Philip as his usual response showed an affectionate smirk. “This would be long,” sighed Jessica, whispering to Monica, “I hate it when they do that in front of me, gross!” she griped. “Well, that’s not for us to meddle, let’s say we leave them here for a moment to their own,” suggested Monica, and dragged her friend away.
“Hi, Phil,” glowing red, Elyn greeted bashfully, and shied away, looking down waiting for an answer. “Hye, how’re you?” asked Philip mindfully. “Still fine, thanks for asking,” she replied.
There was a break of silence between the two, an utter lull situation. Usually Elyn in conversations a great babbler she was, yet in front of Philip she showed another personality, the more modest and polite behaviour that good girls bore. But the main reason of her tense disposition was the embarrassment that held her back, the nervousness that made her heart thump. Still blushing red with rosy cheeks, she made not a sound, but stole small glances of Philip’s face, which was always so congenial and pleasant.
Philip suspected something, and asked, “You’ve anything to tell me Elyn?”
“Err… I… I just wish to ask if you’re free after school?”
“Well, nothing important is on my schedule. Why?”
“Nothing much. I would like to ask you out for lunch, at Chuck’s Diner. And, we may have a little chat?”
“Oh! Certainly, I’d love to. Anything else?”
“Nope,” she answered, “and I’ll meet you at two. Remember to go.”
“You’ve my word,” Philip winked a smile.
They bade each other a good off before they went each other’s way. Happy thoughts filled her mind as Elyn slowly paced to her class, foot by foot. A cherished soul bathed in a fountain of adoration, sprinkling mead of happiness, a life that had much changed she felt. The stars had dictated somewhat a whole series of connections strung up by a massive cobweb of life thereafter; she had an inkling of a predestined future.
A distinctive figure of a small boy entering the classroom Elyn saw, nobody else other than her new housemate Hewlett. Immediately she called out to him, attaining his attention as the boy turned round to answer the call. “Hello Hew!” cried Elyn. “Good morning, Elyn,” said Hewlett.
“So, you have a good night’s sleep yesterday? Is anything uncomfortable for the past three days?” asked Elyn, feeling concerned. “No, everything’s just fine and cosy, thanks for asking,” replied Hewlett, “I never felt so refreshed since the first day I came. How about you? You slept well too?”
“Oh, just the same. Anyway, where have you been just now? Mother said you left early, and I’m worried where you might have wandered to.”
“No where really, just some sightseeing in this little town. Your town is really nice, I like it.”
”You do? Then you’ll be thrilled when you see more of it! Wait till I take you around, say, a few days later?”
“Fine for me,” Hewlett agreed.
“Ok, that’s the deal. Hush, let’s get in before the bell rings.”
They took their seats in class after they entered. As Hewlett began the unpacking, some boys went to his place for a little conversation, which Hewlett entertained just fine. As the boys were chattering away, Elyn at a distance saw them and nodded. Hewlett was beginning to fit in with the others, she thought, and felt glad about it. At last Hewlett would have his own friends to mingle with, and would not feel left out or regarded as a stranger. Things had begun to work out more smoothly than she first anticipated.
It was such a fine sunny day outside, with the chirpings of the birds ever complacent and pleasant. A waste of precious time sitting in a room was deemed unfortunate, Elyn sighed to the beauty of the morning, wishing herself away to the countryside where she could look upon the azure sky above and think of herself flying high up in the air; or perhaps bring some friends along to her favourite spot on Starvane Lake and enjoy a stroll within the depth of nature. Some exciting hopes she wanted, but returning to reality, she took out a timetable from her pencil box, and found a period of physical training some hours afterwards, and smiled because a few stretches outside the field would compensate the lost joys she desired. Used to love outdoor activities in school, today she was even more eager waiting that minute, for Philip was their instructor. At the thought of him made her lame, overwhelmed by quivers and gratification.
“Hi pal,” someone slapped her on the back. Elyn looked around to find who she had expected – Yvonne. A friend since the elementary years, she was the best chum of all, most empathetic of Elyn's feelings and emotions. A few months older than her, Elyn considered Yvonne as an elder sister, and she the younger, two great siblings of friends. “Oh, hi!” Elyn exclaimed.
“You seem cheerful today,” remarked Yvonne. “Yes,” Elyn uttered. “Have plans today?” Yvonne asked. “Oh, nothing really, just an afternoon tea with Phil, that’s all.”
“You mean a date,” teased Yvonne, “but never mind, it’s such a sunny day this day.”
Elyn could not have agreed more with her friend, as it was a cherry dawn, no flaws of nature or a speck of what so ever. However a sense of uncanny loomed over her. An inner feeling told her that someone was watching her from behind. She looked around, but saw nothing peculiar. Perhaps was an illusion, she noticed a fading black shadow on the wall, but soon disappeared. Ignoring the shadowy object, she resumed her conversation with other classmates.
Long lessons might seem never ending, but she liked lessons outdoors best. She could run, jump or even somersault, pumping blood all over her body flushing her red. All including one reason: the field being enormously wide gave her a boundless sensation, nothing to cloister her within. Everything bare, all but just her feet touching the ground.
The class was led inside to the changing rooms respectively, divided into two sections for boys and for girls. There, kept their sports apparel inside each locker belonging to a student. The room was completed with faucets for them to wash after their play. All were perfectly well organised to the students’ accessibility.
Her locker was dumped with all kinds of stuff. There were two racks, one on top laid her shirt and shorts, while at the bottom was almost everything: packets of unfinished crunches, rags from her old-worn outfit, broken sticks, burnt matches, and even newspaper cuttings of people. Yvonne approached her locker and took a peek, while laughingly said, “your collection can be filed into the list of antiques.” Then she picked up a photograph cut out from a magazine, “hey, isn’t this James Affleck, son of the famous Ben Affleck? You’re his secret admirer?”
“Oh, if you asked me a few years back then, yes,” said Elyn, “but not anymore. You can have it if you like!” Yvonne knew what she meant, and crushed the photo and into the wastebasket she threw, hoping her little effort would save some space for her friend to keep other stuff.
Elyn took down the clothes from the rack. She had not worn them for quite a long time ago, since last fall after the Autumn Rat Race, which took place in the whole town of Heimfirn. They were then washed, dried and kept inside the locker for three months to date. Though there was a mouldy touch, it was clean all right. Elyn quickly changed into her white shirt and black shorts, which fitted perfectly in shape, however, a little tighter than before.
“You look great as always in that,” noted Yvonne, who was ready by then, also in the same attire. “Same to you to,” replied Elyn. “Well, don’t forget your runner shoes. I’m off now. Better hurry up, you’re the last.”
Yvonne left the changing room, while remaining Elyn inside alone; nobody was around. Elyn took her uniform and placed it in the locker shelves, and after that, she hunted for her sneakers. At the shoe rack just beside the door, she found the only pair of shoes left on the rack, so she put them on, and walked out of the room into a small antechamber, where she saw Philip standing at the doorway out to the field looking at her.
“Hi, Phil. Why are you just, er, standing there?”
“Oh, just making sure everyone’s ready. Are you ready now?” asked Philip. “Sure!” cried Elyn, “but wait a second, my shoelace is undone.” Saying so, she sat down on a long bench to tie her shoelaces. Philip looked on.
They were quite alone now.
There was a strong urge of impatience in Philip, not because of waiting, but an urgent need to tell something. He tried to speak, but a hesitation pulled him back. He felt troubled, for double persuasion in his mind told him to tell and not to tell. Whatever the thing was, it was important. Finally when he found his voice and started, “err… Elyn, there’s something that I need to tell you.”
“Actually, I want to tell you that…” he stopped short at his words, for Elyn was now staring at him, making him uneasy. His voice died down.
“What’s it you say?” requested Elyn for the unfinished string of words. “Err… I… want to tell you that… they are outside now, and you must join them!” he replied, quite nonsensically, to hide the real intended answer that was not able to convey.
“Let’s go then,” said Elyn, hopping into the field, bidding Philip along. Philip, meanwhile, huffed a sigh of relief, but felt disappointed with his inability to overcome the frozen tongue that had prevented him from speaking. The time was not right, he consoled himself, and paced out to the field.
Beaming sun above cast yellow rays upon earth. Soft moisten grass sprinkling the dew as feet trudged upon the ground. Flopping through the thick, wet grass, Elyn joined Yvonne at a group of friends, whom she knew them all too well. Cathy and Monica were there, so were Lyra and Jessica. “Hi Elyn,” they all greeted at her arrival. “Hi everybody,” she greeted back well mannerly.
“It’s such a fine day today,” exclaimed Lyra, “it’s a rare chance we could have been outside breathing the fresh air.”
“I couldn’t have agreed more,” said Monica happily, “it’s too fine a weather to sit beside the window! Ah, there comes Mr. Stanley.”
The studded coach came walking towards them, dressed in a simple sweat suit and track pants. Philip watched the students warming up themselves, stretching and bending their bodies. Some aggressive boys even somersaulted to impress their fellow schoolmates who looked on with awe and admiration. Even so, the girls did not lose out to the boys in their physical prowess. Each demonstrated their skills of agility to show their achievements and to compete with each another. Philip smiled to see them so proactive and motivated.
The group of students lined up before their coach, waiting for his instructions. However, Philip was clueless of how to conduct the lessons, asked instead, “what did your former teacher told you all to do?”
“Run the track,” one called out. “But first we have to do warming exercises,” another said. “Then we get to play soccer!” another shouted gleefully. Philip paused to think for a moment, and then he decided, “for starters, let’s do a little bit of jogging around the school, alright? Now follow the lead, run behind me!”
Philip sprinted off, leading the group of students along the pathways of the school, while the others tagged along with him. The little party of students rounded the school, which might seem a large compound built with tall buildings and planted with tall trees. Of tarred roads to stone kerbs and narrow corridors they crossed, and sometimes trampling the muddy marsh, exploring every inch of the area. Never a time weariness arose, none but full-energised spirits driving the body to action.
Elyn was not too keen on completing the run or racing to be first in line. She cherished more the serenity of the surroundings, so peaceful and tranquil with only the sounds of nature playing all over, the time which she let her mind go free of thoughts and anxiety, nothing to worry about, just composure. She named it the nature run.
But still, there were disturbances bothering her. She did not exactly know what was the problem, however an ominous sixth sense told her the possibility of danger nearby. She tried to ignore it but the forewarned message was getting irritating as ever. Confusion started to overwhelm her and suddenly, her foot ungracefully stepped onto a smooth stone and slipped, throwing her down to the ground.
“What happened?” Yvonne was alarmed witnessing Elyn's fall, and rushed forwards to see her. She bent down and pulled Elyn up from her sprawl, easing Elyn to sit on the ground. “Are you alright?” Yvonne asked attentively. “Sure, I’m still fine, only a small graze on my knee,” said Elyn.
Yvonne examined the wound on her friend’s knee. A minor scratch measuring about half an inch horizontally, red blood flowing. Yvonne quickly took out a kerchief and guarded the wound, trying to stop the bleeding. “What’s the matter?” again Yvonne asked, “you seem troubled about something.”
“I would like to know to know what I’m worried about too!” exclaimed Elyn, “since this morning I’m feeling strange, it’s like a moon-struck all of a sudden I’m experiencing.”
“You’re just tired. Take your time to rest, we’ll pursue them later,” advised Yvonne.
The two friends were all alone by then. The little race had already gone to nowhere could be seen. All was quiet. To their left was a long stretch of buildings, to their right was a wide patch of green grass, and trees at the far end of the ground.
The provoking message had stopped troubling Elyn, which she sighed for relief. She looked around her. Then uncanniness started to creep her again. She looked towards the trees and spotted the shadowy silhouette she saw earlier ago. “Yvonne, did you see that?”
“See what?” Yvonne jolted, and turned to the direction Elyn was staring to. However, what she saw was only trees and hedges, nothing else. “Never mind,” Elyn said, realising the shadow had disappeared. But somehow Elyn felt that she was being watched, by whom and why, was still obscure.
Elyn splashed water from the running tap on her face several times, then wiped with a clean towel. She was now relaxed, only a slight searing pain on her left knee that was sore. She went out of the washroom and collected her dirty clothes she had changed, ready to take home for washing. There she met Hewlett, who caringly asked, “are you alright, Elyn? I heard it from the boys at the back saying you fell just now. Are you hurt?”
“Oh, nothing to worry, I’m old enough to take good care of my self,” replied Elyn with a wink. “I fear you might be seriously injured! I would feel bad if you were,” he said. “Oh come on Hew! Could things turn out that disastrous?”
Both of them walked to the canteen, as it was recess, each carrying a bag of dirty laundry. They were among the firsts who entered the little eatery, while most of the students were still in classes. After the morning training all were tired out and prepared for a relishing meal to ease growling stomachs.
Elyn was not too keen on food. All the while she sat on the chair with head resting on an arm, looking blank, apparently thinking of something. Beside her was Hewlett sucking closely to his straw, while observing Elyn, seemed rather interested and curious, “what’re you thinking about, may I ask?” Elyn said nothing for the moment, continuing her passive stare. Then she turned towards Hewlett with eyes fixed on his pupils, deeply spoke, “I’ve told no one of this but now I’ll tell you. Today, I might have seen some apparitions lurking near me.”
“Apparitions?” Hewlett exclaimed. “Yes, shadows that have eyes are watching me, that’s so if I wasn’t mistaken. Even so, seeing it two times isn’t any mirage.”
“You mean there’re invisible beings stalking you?” Elyn nodded to affirm. “Why don’t you tell it to your other friends, and… seek their opinions?” again Hewlett asked. “Tell them?” cried Elyn, “tell them and they’ll think I’m nuts! Tell them there’re ghosts around me, and they’ll say I watched too many horror movies. No, never!”
“Then why tell me?”
“You? Well, the reason why I told you is because you’re so mysterious yourself! And perhaps mysterious persons might apprehend some incomprehensible matters, like my case. Nonetheless, of you don’t believe me either, that’s fine, and there’s no need to care for my feelings, say it.”
Elyn huffed a sigh. Somehow she was regarded as an eccentric person by her friends, seeing and believing aspects that were unacceptable by normal human beings. Perhaps it was the powerful imaginative thoughts that caused her irrational beliefs, perhaps not. It was all too perplexing and too early to draw a conclusion on what was real and unreal.
Yvonne joined in with Elyn and Hewlett. “What’s up, pal? How’re you feeling now?” Elyn answered, “I’m still fine, but my mind’s so confused and foggy. I don’t even know what’s happening to me.”
“What’s the sensation?” Yvonne enquired. “I feel dizzy, on and off. It’s like something interfering with my thoughts, clobbering my senses.”
“Hmm… there’re two possibilities. One is you’re experiencing neuron turmoil, which would not happen to a healthy person like you. That means it’s the other – spirits are disturbing you.”
“Spirits?” Elyn felt astonished. “Yes, not any common spirits, but prophetic spirits. These spirits normally warn us of dangers and calamity that were bound to happen. If that’s true, it means you’re receiving a warning of your future.”
Eerie thoughts came to Elyn. How bad should any misfortune befall her, gauging from the extremely serious admonition given to her. She prayed solemnly, hoping nothing tragic would happen.
“Never mind Elyn. Let’s get back to class, we’ll talk about this later,” ushered Yvonne. The three of them left their seats for the exit.
Two girls and a boy travelled through the corridors unhurriedly, passing the time that was left about five more minutes. Five minutes equalled to three hundred seconds, where every second counts, and much could be done within these three hundred seconds. Hewlett parted the company and went elsewhere, while the two girls stumbled upon Mr. Olsen after some time, who was seen carrying a few boxes of files and documents.
“Good day Mr. Olsen,” greeted the girls politely. “What can I do for you?” kindly, Elyn offered to run an errand, after many misdeeds that she had created and upset Olsen, trying to repay a favour. “Why, thank you so much!” exclaimed Olsen, “how nice to have two good girls to help me with my work! Well, here are two boxes of files, one to go to the secretarial office, the other to Lab 32. Elyn, may you bring this to the lab and, you are… Yvonne, right? Please send this to the office. Thank you so much!”
“You can count on us, Olsen!” both girls replied.
They parted their ways, each carrying containers to be delivered to their respective places. Elyn took some effort reaching Lab 32, which was situated quite far from the rest of the rooms. She had to walk all the way from the east wing to the north wing, where all the laboratories and workshops were allocated in that area. The place seemed deserted (seldom students strolled there), and few lab assistants were around, many went for tea breaks at the canteen. She finally did find Lab 32, right at the end of the hallway.
Elyn knocked at the door, but nobody answered. She carefully pushed the door, and found it unlocked, and peered through the little opening. All was gloomy inside. “Perhaps I should put it on the table,” she thought. But where was the table? Carefully, she laid the box down on the floor, entered the room and searched for the lights. She fumbled for the switchbox, but came across none. She walked further in, groping in the dark, cautiously placing her steps not to knock over any chemicals or equipment.
It was some sort of wind that blew and slammed the door shut with a loud bang, making her jump with fright. Now having no source of luminescence to guide her around, she stood at her ground frozen, not knowing what to do next. Elyn felt a strange eeriness inside the room, thought she heard a faint cackle coming from somewhere. Then she was almost frightened to death when a ghastly voice spoke, “ha ha ha… how’re you, little mortal?”
“Who… who are you? Show yourself,” stammered Elyn, retracing her steps, preparing to fight off whoever, or whatever that was taunting her. “Don’t you know me?” the spooky voice spoke again, this time a question.
Elyn took some time to adjust her vision to the darkness. She could then make out objects: there was a table to her right, and a row of drawers to her left. In front of her she could make out a figure, a man wearing a long drape suit and a hat, covering his features completely. “I don’t know you!” shouted Elyn, trying to brave her fears.
“I don’t care you know me or not know me,” the voice underneath the heavy clothing said. Then the man took off his hat, and revealed the most alarming green gleaming eyes, scaring Elyn off her wits. “I come here to say that you have lived your day…”
“What do you want?” Elyn stammered. “Your life,” was the curt answer, “your life can secure victories to my goals. And I came to seal your doom today!”
Elyn was petrified completely with those spine-chilling harassments. She almost thought that servants from hell were calling for soul. “Keep away from me!” she faltered, retracting her foot slowly attempting to escape, and grabbed the handle when she was near the door. However hard she tried to open the only exit, the mechanism jammed shut. Sweat trickled down from her brow when the assailant advanced towards her.
“No need to be so frightened, my dear. This would not be painful…” the man reached out a hand from his sleeves, and to Elyn's horror, huge clawed fingers were aiming at her neck trying to strangle her. She screamed at the top of her voice, but fear had made her to lame to even whimper with sound. She closed her eyes, afraid of watching the devilish creature’s hideous face. The claws were so close to her skin that she could feel the cadaverous touch….
Suddenly, a bright white beam shot out from Elyn's chest and hit upon the man’s face. The spellbinding ray was like a repellent; the man shielded his face with both arms, and made a dreadful shrill of a banshee, then collapsed to the ground. Elyn was too afraid to know what happened, and quickly regained her mobility to escape from the assailant clutches. Despite how she ran, the farthest she managed was at the back of the table, keeping a distance from the insane attacker.
The man recovered from his injuries very soon, and stood up from his fall, eyeing Elyn on the other side of the table noxiously. “Curse that Thor!” he shrieked, “curse him to have protected mortals from my damnation! But you won’t be able to escape death this time, mortal! I’ll let the forces of nature to finish you, even if I can’t destroy you with my own hands.”
The man raised his hands, which startlingly flickered with flames, burning fiercely. The fire then shot out from his hand and splashed on the cupboards. The cabinets caught fire immediately. Another ball of fire shot towards the ceiling, and another to the drawers. The flames were spreading rapidly, devouring all combustible objects could be found.
“Ahh… it’s so warm, so comfortable… ha, ha, ha… hope you enjoy it!” the man then disappeared into thin smoke, while left was the blazing laboratory as a mark of he was there.
Terror-stricken, Elyn tried to force her way out of the raging fire. As most of the things were engulfed in flames, Elyn had no choice but to crawl on all fours under the burning table to the exit, avoiding combusted furniture that blocked her way. To make things worse, reactive chemicals started to explode one by one, as glass equipment shattered, and some substances even burned with colourful dancing lights like fireworks display.
Not withstanding the scorching heat, Elyn soon fainted, with body sprawled on the floor, while the fire kept burning.
Hewlett joined a few boys in a conversation with their sports master, Philip Stanley, about their morning training session. They enjoyed a nice chat, sitting on benches along the corridors, discussing about exciting games and sports that were the boys’ favourite. Philip got along with them fine, his friendly and carefree nature provided a comfortable mood for the students to mingle with him, share thoughts freely without fear of reprimand.
The boys left moments later after the bell rang, while remaining Philip sitting and Hewlett standing beside him. A short respite followed. Then very abruptly, Philip stood up, thought he heard something, felt greatly disturbed. “Do you hear something?” he asked for Hewlett’s opinion. Hewlett nodded to agree.
Suddenly, a wailing siren rang across the hallway. Following the distress signal they saw people scurrying out from rooms and running through corridors, panicking around. It was the fire alarm. “This don’t look too good,” uttered Philip, and pulled a student over to question. “Fire, fire broke out at the labs. Hurry, we must evacuate the building before the building explodes!” cried the girl and ran off, following the crowd.
Minutes later with only Philip and Hewlett remained, suddenly they could see Yvonne darting out from a corridor panting heavily. She waved impatiently to them, wanting to tell something. Philip and Hewlett rushed to assist her regain her breath, and slowly she said, “fire… there’s a fire… at the labs… Elyn… she’s in there!”
“What?” Philip gaped shockingly, “she’s in great trouble now! Hewlett, accompany Yvonne out of this place. I’m going in for her.” Saying so, he hastened off to the north, running like a speed of light.
He was racing against time, for every moment of time wasted posed greater danger for Elyn. His heavy steps thumped all the way, creating waves of echo around. Never seemed tired, his agile legs thrust to the laboratories, searching for Elyn's whereabouts. He opened each door along the stretched passage, but found no trace of her. At last there was one remaining door facing the other corridor that turned to the right. Lab 32 was the sign on the plaque. Philip turned the handle, however, the door was locked. Next he heard a loud explosion inside the room. The fire spread out the corridor, and white fumes seeped from underneath the door. “Oh no, this is bad,” he said to himself.
The final solution was for him to barge the door down. With one big push with his body on the wooden barrier, it came crashing down, fell on the floor. (His strength was amazingly great.) Within the flames that lit up the room so brightly more brilliant than the stars, he saw Elyn lying unconsciously on the ground. With haste, he carried her away from the surrounding fire, sprang a great leap out from the scorching ground, and crouched at a corner of a wall for cover.
The thick white smoke that filled the space clouded his vision, obstructing him from making his move. With Elyn still in hands, he was undecided of where to proceed. Matters had gone from bad to worse when the flames started razing the structure poles and walls, threatening to collapse the building. An unexpected danger lied above, a large piece of singed wood blackened to ashes was dangling on the ceiling. Elyn was at risk, for the chunk was aimed directly at her. Philip prayed. Hopes went unanswered. The wood snapped and dropped upon them.
His eyes opened widely staring at the object falling closer and closer by every inch as though he was in a bullet time. He closed his eyes into a deep concentration. Then very magically, two white-feathered wings sprouted from his back and shielded them both from the flaming chunk of wood. The article bounced harmlessly from the protective wings and hit the ground. After some while, after he made sure that there were no more falling hazards, he refolded his feathers and concealed them. “I’ll let nothing happen to you,” he whispered to Elyn, stroking her hair with attention. Sweat perspired from his pores.
The thick smog subsided a little, enabling Philip to make out a figure that was standing a few steps away in front of him. Hewlett appeared amidst the swirling fumes, signalling him to follow. It was much easier to the exit with a guide, and three of them escaped through the backdoor out to a lawn.
All were safe and unhurt, with only some minor breathing difficulties that could be treated with fresh air. Philip rested Elyn under a tree for her to recover. “Is she alright?” Hewlett enquired, looking at the dismal state of the girl, with face covered with soot and her clothes rumpled with creases. “She will, she will be fine,” said Philip, wiping her sweat and dirt on her face with a kerchief.
“Then what about the fire?” Hewlett asked.
Philip stood up and watched the razing ground, black smoke billowing up to the atmosphere. Far to the right he saw several fire fighters splashing water to the flames but with no avail.
“Let nature decree the fate of it,” he answered.
Philip closed his eyes, mumbling something in his mouth and lifted his hands to the air. Very miraculously, the clouds darkened and rain started to pour, sloshing torrents of rainwater onto the site.
The fire died down beneath the rubble….