“And then I find out, apparently, it’s Chris’s birthday today.”
“… Yeah. It is.”
“He didn’t even tell me, but somehow Nevin knows. He walks up to him all like, haha, congrats on being legal, and gives him a present. Like, who gets on birthday terms when they’ve only known someone for two weeks?”
Drew cleared his throat. “Hey, um, Isaac, I know you’re kind of going off right now, but also you’re talking about my brother,” he said. “Maybe you should just leave them be. I know you’re mad that Chris has been flaking out on you, but from my perspective, this is my shut-in brother finally opening up to another human again.”
“I’m not going off. I’m just…” Isaac started, leaning into his hand. He glanced back up across the room, where Chris and Nevin were chatting it up at the cafe line. Nevin didn’t even have a tray–he was clearly only there for the sake of conversation. “Fine. Maybe I’m going off a little. I’m just tired of how Chris keeps acting weird around me lately. What did I do all of a sudden?”
“I dunno.” The truth was, Drew had a few ideas, but he decided against mentioning any of them. “Do you want one of my cookies?”
Isaac looked down at the cookie that Drew was offering to him, averting his eyes for a moment and accepting it slowly. He then looked the opposite way, getting a good look at Edward’s group near the back of the room. Dez and her friends were passing their table, giving them an earful about something indiscernible. Isaac took a bite of the cookie. “There are too many weird people in this school.”
“I’ll say,” Drew replied. “Have you wondered if it’s a coincidence? I’ve been wondering that since I got slam dunked with actual reality last week. Or maybe… these people have been around us all along, and it’s only now that we’re noticing each other.”
Isaac let out a hum. “Or we all live on a radioactive meteor.”
Drew clicked his tongue. “Or we were all subjects in an experiment as babies and then dispatched.”
Isaac looked back at him, leaning forward slightly. “Or we’re all actually aliens and weren’t ever told about it.”
Drew leaned forward too, his hands flat on the lunch table. “Or someone here has a power that actually causes us to all gravitate together by the force of destiny.”
Isaac sat back, squinting. “Ew, destiny.” He shot one more glance over at Chris and Nevin, who had already migrated to one of the windows. In their school’s cafeteria, there were large caved windowsills big enough for a few people to sit on, and Chris and Nevin had been appropriating one lately. If that didn’t scream “leave us alone,” Isaac didn’t know what did.
“Seriously, Isaac…” Drew mused, eating soup out of a thermos.
“Is this because I make all those jokes about them dating?” Isaac asked. “Did I make this happen?”
Drew briefly gritted his teeth, frowning somewhat. “Yeah, that… usually doing stuff like that isn’t okay,” he said.
Isaac wasn’t listening. “He took it to heart. Oh, I don’t see Nevin like that, yeah, sure, whatever,” he groused, shoving the entire remainder of his cookie in his mouth. Drew briefly wondered if he brought this onto himself by complaining to Isaac first.
Suddenly, the cafeteria was invaded by loud music coming from one of the entryways. A group of jocks was hailing in, all wearing sunglasses. It was not Edward’s gang–no, they were already present, and at the sight, Edward’s face was contorting with disgust. This jock squad all wore custom letterman jackets made to be the inverse of the regular jackets, accentuated by black sleeves and white vests as opposed to the other way around. They were led by an ostentatious blonde boy with his hair spiked up who kept sizing up everyone in the room like he was passing judgment.
Isaac rolled his eyes, looking away. “Not this again,” he grumbled.
Drew raised an eyebrow, leaning down slightly as he observed this noisy group of jocks. “What’s up with them?” he asked. “I’ve seen them around, but what’s their deal?”
“It’s the football team. They’re even worse than Error’s gang,” Isaac told him. “They’ve gotten like this before, doing this gang war thing where they try to get to the top of the high school pyramid. They’re huge tryhards, and everyone can tell, so naturally it doesn’t work out. That dick over there, Felix Wolfe, has a stick up his ass about the fact that he’s not the school king because he’s a senior and he thinks he has a birthright or something.” He referred to the blonde jock, who was currently trying to make a pass at Dez, the words “if you change your mind” slipping into his speech before her tall friend stood up to look menacingly down on him and Niki stabbed a knife into the table. “Error apparently hates him so much, he rescinded his right to a nickname, or whatever.”
“Why do their jackets look like that?” Drew inquired. “They all look like they got Mr. Negative’d.”
The lunch lady hit her ladle against a metal pan, getting a jump out of everyone who was still in line. “FELIX! TURN OFF THAT BLASTED RUCKUS!” she shouted. Many students in the room choked on laughter.
Felix scoffed out loud, throwing his head back before bending forward again. “I have a warrant, Miss Porter! You can’t tell me what to do!” he declared. He ducked through the cafe, skidding over to Edward’s table past a wet floor sign, narrowly ducking under a crumpled piece of paper that Niki hurled at him. His group of jocks skidded behind him, a few of them stumbling and nearly losing their balance. “Quinton! How’s my favorite high school basketball star doing?”
Edward looked over his shoulder, narrowing his eyes. He rose to his feet for the sole purpose of being taller. “Horribly, thanks to remembering you exist,” he said.
Felix waved a hand. “Oh, you!" he said before his expression dropped. “Let me tell you how this is going to go, Quinton. I am going to regain control of the school this year.”
Cody chortled jeeringly. “With what, your bad opinions?” he asked. Justin snorted next to him until everyone at Edward’s table was ugly laughing except Edward himself.
Felix poked a finger hard into Edward’s shoulder. “You’re laughing now, but you’ve got no idea!” he declared. “You act like you’re superior, Quinton, but we’re not so different in how we go about things. The only difference is that you’re a pansy.” He gave Edward a push, sending him back a step. Felix shook his head, a sickly smile on his face. “And it’s only gotten worse.”
Edward clenched his fists, raising both hands to shove Felix back, who laughed in mock offense, and moved back closer in an attempt to be intimidating. Edward stood his ground, glaring down at the blonde one. “Why don't you and your underlings go somewhere no one has to watch you humiliate yourselves?” Edward sneered.
Felix clicked his tongue, slowly shaking his head. “As much as I’d like to stick around and settle this, I did only drop by to give you a warning,” he replied, giving Edward a firm pat on the shoulder. “Because the best is still yet to come.” He chuckled nefariously, turning on his heel and lifting up a hand. “Ethan, you know my order. Do me a favor and bring it to the base, would you?”
Ethan, one of the larger football players, saluted. “Yes sir!” he replied nervously, scrambling away and nearly slipping over the wet floor while the remainder of the inverted jocks dispersed.
Edward sat back down in a huff, fuming as he clenched his fists on the table. “Fuckin’ rich asshole,” he groused. “Goddamn Wolfe.”
“Don’t let him get you down, boss!” Cody exclaimed, pumping his fist in front of him. “You know he’s all talk! Almost all talk!”
Louis nodded sympathetically. “Whatever that cretin is up to, I’m sure it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he added. “He may be able to senselessly expend money on foolhardy ordeals, but everyone knows how much of a loser he truly is.”
Edward lowered his voice slightly, leaning over the table. All of his minions imitated the position, creating a perfect whisper circle of jocks. “But is it that simple? Is it?” he asked. “He’s never this blatantly vague. What if we’re gonna have another incident?”
“You mean like… an evil dude?” Justin inquired.
“Fresh hated me, Wolfe hates me–they could be in cahoots!” Edward said. “If Fresh had this little book of evil whatever, who’s to say they’re not about to rain zombies on the school or some shit? We don’t know what they’re capable of!”
Louis hit the table softly. “Then we shall keep tabs on them, as we do,” he replied. “For the safety of these people and your rule, I take on myself this solemn duty. Should I sense demonic activity, we all know what to do.”
Cody pounded his fists together. “We pummel ‘em!” he declared.
Edward nodded solemnly. “Thanks, man. I just wish Wolfe would give it a rest. Hope he graduates soon enough, then he can take his bullshit to some snobby college.”
“Heheheh. Or like, some K-Mart,” Justin scoffed.
“Regardless, I presume his stupidity precedes him,” Louis said. “It is unlikely that his knowledge extends to creatures of darkness. He is more likely to deny such an existence–alas, safety precautions would still be wise. I certainly didn’t expect Fresh’s eyesore identity to have been founded on one of the Great Evils. It pains me that you, my brothers, have become involved in these dangerous matters.”
“… How big of a deal is this?” Edward asked, finally properly conceptualizing the idea that demons existed in their universe.
“From the grim and cold, or slumber of the brightest sun, from time beyond the grave I call thee–hither thence come, though dead, you shall trespass, with light you shall be seen, rise for a time, for guidance you shall give! Spirit I seek, come forth!” Felix declared, reading from a book. The candles in the den of the inverted jocks flickered violently while Felix’s minions nervously remained in a circle around the salt drawing in the room.
The small flames from each candle started blowing inwards, the flames growing and dragging longer to meet at the center where a bright light was forming. The light swirled together like a small whirlwind, eventually forming a humanoid shape as dust kicked into the air with the supernatural winds that enveloped the jocks, many of whom were crouching on the floor in terror now. Felix, on the other hand, stared the ghost straight on, smiling at the success of the ritual.
“What is this?” the spirit inquired, shapeshifting a bit more until it took on the form resembling an adult man. “Why have you called me here? I have things to do!”
“Walter Johnson,” Felix said. “You were the first one, yeah? The original school king of Foxfield High, back when it was first founded.”
“Oh, by god. Don’t remind me of when I was in high school.”
Felix tossed his spirit-summoning book on the floor. “I’m here to address one thing, and one thing only,” he said, grinning snidely. “Edward Quinton, who was chosen to be the successor by mistake. I, Felix Wolfe, should be the school king, not him.”
The ghost took a moment blink, clicking his tongue. “Uh, no. There was no mistake, Felix Wolfe. Quinton was chosen, not you, and his predecessor didn’t miscalculate. You might just have to deal with it.”
“What?!” Felix snapped, stomping his foot and disturbing the salt on the floor. “Fuck's sake! No! That fucking f… he doesn’t deserve this! I do! I went to all this trouble and you won’t even hear me out?”
“Stop it with the tantrum and man up, son. Kids these days…”
“Fine! You’ve left me no choice! I’m taking matters into my own hands, I don’t need your blessing!” Felix whined like an angry child. He waved his hand, turning around and leaving. “Quinton is going to regret the day he decided he was better than me!”
Isaac found himself in a bit of a situation. As bad luck would have it, the art room still hadn’t been repaired. In fact, it had been caught up in the damage from the explosion, and while he had ducked under all the caution tape that was supposed to encourage people to not pass, the art room literally had a gaping hole in the floor and there was twice as much caution tape in there as there was last time he saw it.
The world was out to get him. Sure, they probably weren’t obsessed with getting it repaired quickly, seeing as how there was only a handful of art classes in the curriculum and society hated artists for some reason, but where else was Isaac supposed to spend free period? This was basically the only place he could go where no one would get on his case, and it was far removed enough from the rest of the school that other students stayed out of his way. Unfortunately, the art room had a number done on it by Edward and was finished off by Fresh Graham Cracker.
His thought process was interrupted by the unforeseen screaming of a child. It wasn’t the "I'm in danger” kind, it was more of the ten year-old Minecraft player kind. Regardless, hearing that in a high school wasn’t exactly a normal occurrence. Isaac’s first instinct was to get himself out of the no-trespassing zone in case anyone important came down this way. Where did the scream come from?
Isaac turned a corner and was knocked off his feet as a jock rammed directly into him. “Christ! Watch it!” Isaac shouted up at him from the ground.
“Man, it’s an emergency! I think Wolfe sacrificed a CHILD! I gotta warn the boss!” Cody exclaimed frantically. “I knocked you over by accident this time! Sorry, nerd!” He ran away like a Kingdom Hearts character.
Isaac sat there, watching him leave with his mouth hanging slightly open. “… Texting exists,” he mused, even though Cody was already completely out of earshot. He pulled himself to his feet, barely having time to doubt the reality of Cody’s statement before a childlike figure phased through the ceiling and then the floor at hyper speed and every halfhearted question in Isaac’s mind was dismissed and replaced with several others.
The ghost was shouting a war cry, flying back up through the floor and ceiling again past Isaac. With the glimpse that Isaac caught, it somehow looked familiar. He was already on the top floor; was something happening on the roof?
Time to find out, Isaac thought, turning on his heel to make his way towards the stairs. Even though the roof had “do not enter” pasted in big black letters on it, the door was never locked. He didn’t usually go up there because it was a hotspot for the edgy rebel types, and he wasn’t exactly keen on reliving an incident he experienced sophomore year where Emmett James Felder punched him and threatened to throw him over the wire fencing. Not that it was really possible, especially since the gates had been barbed at the top in the last decade, but Isaac didn’t really want to chance being stabbed as an alternative.
Isaac pushed the roof door open a crack. He didn’t know what he was expecting. He could only react to the sight of two clearly-inhuman small children fighting each other for what it was. He felt like he knew one of them from somewhere, while the other one–a little girl with bright pink hair who was wearing mask that covered half of her face–was not ringing any bells in the slightest.
“You’re really starting to get on my last nerve!” Britney shouted. “Can’t a girl mind her own business in peace? I wasn’t joking last time when I said I’d put you in a coma if you kept bothering me!”
“Aw, come on! You expect me to pass this up when you’re obviously up to something totally evil?” Charlie replied. “Aren’t you like, in school?”
“Maybe, but it’s sooo easy for me to get pardons. I do value my education, but I’m here on serious business! So get lost, or I’ll kill you!” Britney threatened. She turned her head, seeing Isaac peeking through the roof door, and her demeanor shifted slightly. Isaac didn’t feel afraid often, but for some reason, this tiny girl in a costume shot a chill down his spine.
“Oh! The psycho hails in!” Charlie exclaimed, pointing at him. “Wait a second, don’t hail in! This doesn’t have anything to do with you!”
Isaac was about to shut the door, but in an instant, Britney somehow got her fingers in the door and pried it open, overpowering Isaac in spite of being about half his size thanks to being a literal demon. “Not so fast,” she hissed, pink power of sorts suddenly shooting out of her gloved hands that grabbed Isaac by the back of his flannel and lifted him into the air as she pulled him outside. “Get out of my way, Charlie, or I’ll harvest the soul of this random teenager!”
“Oh my god, you remembered my name after all?” Charlie asked, placing a hand on his chest in mock emotion. “I mean, uh… put him down! Taking a hostage is dirty!”
“I’ll do it!” Britney threatened. A pink spike rose out of her hand and she lowered Isaac enough to hold it to his neck. “Don’t test me!”
Isaac sucked in air and tried to turn his head away from the spike. “Can you take this stupid fight anywhere else?” he croaked. “What are you two, like, ten? There are playgrounds for things like this.”
Britney narrowed her eyes slightly, looking over at Isaac. “Wait,” she said, sounding unimpressed. She grabbed Isaac’s wrist and looked up and down between it and his face for a few seconds before throwing it back down. “Hey, like, I don’t want this soul! It has depression!”
Without warning, she flung Isaac to the side, his back colliding hard with one of the wire fences. Isaac groaned in pain as he hit the ground, trying to push himself up, but unfortunately, anime always made it look so much easier than it actually was. He turned his head slightly, holding his side, and saw Emmett James Felder hiding behind one of the electrical boxes and looking scared out of his mind.
“This day is the worst!” Britney exclaimed, throwing her head back and groaning. “I literally don’t even have time for this! Just you try and stop me, you… stupid hair!” She crossed her arms, turning her chin up before her body somehow disappeared into the ground in the form of a moving pink spot on the ground.
Charlie stomped his foot as the pink spot disappeared down the side of the building. “Hey! My hair is awesome!” he retorted, jumping into the air and following her. “Come back here and fight me, you coward!”
Again, Isaac tried to push himself up. He wanted to get out of here before Felder reverted back into an asshole, even though the edgy senior’s hands were still shaking as they frantically tried to light a cigarette. Isaac wasn’t sure why he seemed so mortified; maybe he just reacted badly to seeing something unusual for the first time. Isaac was more baffled by the sheer quantity of strange things that had happened in the last month than the strange things themselves. If he was going to be honest, after seeing the Onceler in flesh and blood, he felt prepared for pretty much anything.
Clenching his teeth, Isaac forced himself up and left before Felder could conceptualize saying anything to him.
Felix was laughing maniacally by the time supernatural gusts of wind encircled him a second time and filled the attic above the gym where he’d decided to situate himself for privacy. He dropped the demonology book in his hand to the floor behind him, slowly lifting his arms into the air as a black light gathered in the center of the summoning circle.
A speck of pink appeared in the center, growing abruptly and shooting out to the corners of the room. It warped into a monstrous shape, contorting larger before the candles on the ground blew out and the charcoal lining the design on the ground lit up akin to embers. As they glowed brighter and brighter, the likeness of a very tall man with long hair appeared.
“What offering have you brought me, mortal?” the demon asked. On closer inspection, he was wearing a bathrobe and looked like he literally just got out of the shower.
“You take cash?" Felix inquired, taking out his wallet.
The demon sounded inconvenienced. “Money, fine, fine. But write a check, it’s easier to convert the currency that way.” Before Felix could respond, the demon threw a checkbook at him, which he only caught because he was a football player. “If you tell me you don’t know how to write one because you’re a child, god help me.”
Felix rolled his eyes, scoffing in the most extra way possible as he scribbled out the check. “So, about what I want,” he started, handing the demon the slip of paper. The demon put on a pair of reading glasses, looking it over and deciding it was sufficient. “I want your power.”
"Yes, yes, I figured as much, that tends to be what people want,” the demon said, tossing the check behind him. It disappeared in a flash of pink. “I’m a very busy man, so I won’t waste time singing musical numbers or trying to trick you. I will give you my power for twenty days if you agree to one more simple term.”
“Yeah? Well, get on with it,” Felix groaned.
The demon placed a hand on his chest, sighing as the expression on his face saddened slightly. “My daughter lives in this town, and I only wish to see her. As our deal will create a connection between us, I implore that we visit her.”
Felix’s expression twisted. “Ugh, fine, whatever,” he said. “Can it wait until later? I’ve got things to do in school today.”
“I certainly hope you’re valuing your education between sessions of your spiteful yearning for power,” the demon told him curtly. “You’re lucky I have no interest in collecting your soul or taking that horrifically hormonal body you walk around in.”
“Whatever. Hurry up and lay it on me!”
Felix’s subsequent screaming permeated the air for the next five seconds.
When Edward saw Cody's face in the window of his classroom, frantically waving to get his attention, he was dubious. Louis was supposed to be his spokesperson for emergencies and Cody’s face value judgment wasn’t exactly reliable. All the while, the blonde jock was trying to demonstrate what he thought happened in charades through the tiny classroom window and it was completely indecipherable.
A very muffled scream–several walls away, possibly, hit Edward’s ears. People in the class whispered until the teacher hushed everyone, complete with the drop of a passive aggressive comment.
Edward’s phone quietly vibrated. He glanced up at his teacher, waited until her back was turned towards the whiteboard, slipped his hand into his pocket and checked the device at hyper speed.
“There’s been a disturbance in the force.”
There was an ominous text from Louis in their circle’s group chat. Edward swallowed, putting his phone away again before the teacher could notice. He had to resist the temptation to check his phone as it buzzed up a storm; possibly a barrage of texts from Cody, seeing as how he was no longer in the window. There were only five more minutes of class. Anxiously, he waited. He had a feeling that scream he heard belonged to Felix, but why?
The moment the bell rang, Edward barreled out of the classroom before anyone could stop him in his path and pulled his phone out. As expected, Cody was screaming in messages about how Felix may have sacrificed a child, and with the sound of the second scream, it derailed into wild theories. A couple of others in the jock group were attempting to console him–or rather, telling him to stop causing the implosion of their notifications.
Edward had a free period now. As the righteous and respected king of Foxfield High, he reserved his right to investigate and figure out where Felix was hiding. He knew the football team had a base of operations, but it was always moving. Edward knew he didn’t have much time–he needed to do this quickly and efficiently.
An inverted jock crossed his vision. Edward clenched his fists, running forward and grabbing him by the shoulder and forcibly turning him around. “Where’s Wolfe?” he demanded.
“Hands off, homo,” the jock snarled. Edward gritted his teeth, barely feeling something snap in his mind. He slammed the jock into the lockers, holding him by his inverted letterman with both hands, everyone around them briskly clearing away.
“Where the fuck is Wolfe?” Edward repeated.
The jock tried to shove him back. “Beats me!” he spat. “He bailed and no one knows where he went. Not that I would tell you even if I did know.”
Edward let out a profuse huff of air through his teeth. His fists tightened around the fabric of the other’s jacket before he released the other and backed away, clearly still fuming as he turned on his heel and shoved into the crowd that had formed around them.
He turned a corner, trying to calm down and about to gently praise himself for not punching the inverted minion when Isaac appeared in front of him and gave him one of his usual vacant looks. Great, great, just amazing–as if this couldn’t get any worse.
“Attic,” Isaac told him simply. “The one above the gym.”
“What?” Edward asked, doing a double take.
“That’s where the scream came from. I heard it. And it was Wolfe, right?” Isaac elaborated. “If you’re looking for him, it might be worth your time to check there.” He walked around Edward, intending to not look back.
Edward was still in place, turning his head slightly to watch him leave out of the corner of his eye. “Hey,” he started.
Isaac held a hand up as he walked. “Can’t come with. I have class.”
Edward scoffed, turning away. “… I wasn’t going to ask. Stop giving me these weird debts.”
Isaac stopped walking and looked over his shoulder. “I don’t want anything from you. This is just convenient,” he said.
Edward found himself stalling. He whipped his head around, his brow furrowed. “Are you trying to earn complacency or something?” he suddenly asked, moving closer. “Is this about all the bullshit things you’ve been doing?”
Isaac’s eyes got slightly wider. “I don’t have time for this.” He turned on his heel and quickly disappeared into the passing crowd of students.
Edward took another brisk step closer, but Isaac was gone. “Answer me–!” He was frustrated for a moment, but decided it would be better to dismiss this. He had better things to worry about than Isaac’s bewildering nature. Whatever Felix was up to had to be substantially more pressing than this, and it wasn’t like this was something Edward wanted to expend brain cells on in the first place.
He wasn’t entirely in his right mind, either. Edward almost didn’t think twice about the fact that he was about to charge into the gym attic for a second time by himself when he found Justin in front of his locker, trying to fit a family-sized box of cereal in his backpack.
“Justin,” Edward started, approaching him. “I need some backup to storm the attic. I think Wolfe did something weird up there.”
Justin briefly looked surprised. “Uh, yeah, yep, no problem,” he said with some uncertainty, deciding that fitting the cereal in his backpack was too difficult and putting it back in his locker. “… Now? Without the other guys? Or like, Louis at least?”
“I just think something potentially bad happened,” Edward replied tensely. “Besides, I think he was the one shouting, I just need to check…”
“Okay, okay, I get it, man,” Justin told him, nodding solemnly as he put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s cool. But if it looks really bad, fall back, yeah?”
Edward brought a hand to his face in thought. “Er, yeah, ‘course. Let’s get going.”
Nevin was having a crisis. This wasn’t a particularly unusual occurrence, but that distinctive, heavy crawling feeling he sometimes got in his chest was happening too frequently lately, and he was beginning to worry that he knew exactly what it meant now.
Of course, he had no intention of mentioning it to anyone, and was fully prepared to continue to mind his own business in case it had nothing to do with him, but he couldn’t help but be worried anyway after what happened last time he got this feeling the previous weekend. Nevin couldn’t help the anger that was bubbling in his chest–what was it with these people and messing with these stupid forces? If it was Dez Gonzalez again, he was going to take matters into his own hands. How would one reap consequences on someone like her?
He fumed quietly, these thoughts swarming in his head as he hoped to see Chris in the hallway not possessed by the Onceler again. A minute later, he saw Chris in the hallway looking non-demonic as the blonde teen beamed at him. That was naturally a good sign.
Nevin waved, approaching him, when he noticed Chris’s attention claimed by something next to him and his eyes drifted to the same location. The closet door next to Chris was opened slightly, an odd-looking finger beckoning him inside. Chris looked inconvenienced. It took Nevin a moment to realize what was even happening.
Why did it always seem like there was conveniently some kind of janitor’s closet or storage closet around every corner of the school? Nevin ended up following Chris through the ominous door, and lo and behold, Chris’s weird little ghost brother was inside.
“Hey, have you seen a girl with pink hair anywhere around here?” Charlie asked. “Like, solid pink. Also, she’s tiny.”
Chris wasn’t amused in the slightest. “Charlie, we agreed that you weren’t going to come to my school again. Ever,” he asserted.
“She’s my nemesis! I just followed her here!” Charlie argued. “She’s up to no good and everyone is like, probably in danger, or something!”
Nevin blinked, reconsidering his decision to come in here. “Sorry, what’s going on here?” he asked.
“Charlie has a hero complex now and now he’s following around random people trying to fill his free time,” Chris told him flatly. “Or, more specifically, this weird demon girl who’s totally evil or whatever.”
“She tried to harvest the soul of some random kid a while ago!” Charlie exclaimed. “And she like, tried to kill your weirdo friend before deciding it wasn’t worth her time!”
Chris paused, processing this. “W…What?” he asked. “What does that even mean?”
Charlie nodded intently. “Yeah. You know, Ink. She literally took him as a hostage for a sec and almost stabbed him in the throat. I mean, she might have been bluffing, but that definitely could have happened,” he explained. “My nemesis is very evil.”
Chris rigidly held a hand up to his mouth, his fingertips digging slightly into his skin. “Oh my god. I…”
“And that’s why I’m asking where she is! So I can kick her ass!” Charlie punched the air.
“Are you telling the truth?” Nevin asked him, furrowing his brow. “Is she a demon? How long has she been here?”
Charlie shrugged. “I dunno. An hour or something.”
Too long ago, Nevin thought. His recent intrusive feeling was something different. He hated that the only thing he could deduce was that there were even more bad things happening than he originally thought. Why was all of this happening? Why did it have to be happening in such a close vicinity to him? It was, without a doubt, horribly unfair. Nevin’s gaze drifted to the corner of the closet as he distractedly ran a hand through his hair. “… I have to find Drew. I just… I have to find him.”
He turned on his heel and left, anxiously shutting the closet door behind him. This was the worst. The worst. He wanted to reassure himself that Drew was fine as he paced through the dispersing crowds of unharmed students in the halls, but he had to be sure. Nevin wasn’t quite sure why he hurried–he and Drew shared their next class, and they would end up in the same location anyway, but the pit in his stomach wouldn’t let him relax.
Nevin reached the door of the classroom. Drew was entering, barely sparing him a glance. At least he was all right. Was Nevin allowed to stop caring now? Were things going to stay all right?
His senses were suddenly pervaded by the quiet laughter of a little girl.
Did he imagine that? He shouldn’t have been able to hear something like that with the footsteps around him. No, he shouldn’t have been hearing something like that in the middle of school at all. Was it the demon? Just his luck.
Nevin slowly turned his head towards the staircase on his left. There was a little girl in a mask beckoning him. Somehow, any others who were still in the hallway and hadn’t flocked to their classrooms yet weren’t paying any heed, and a tense air sank down over the area. Nevin thought he was losing his mind when he suddenly started feeling passive fear emanate off everyone around him.
Nevin glanced back at his classroom door, then back at the girl. Why was she calling for him? He was trying to decide whether to ditch class and follow, or just roll his eyes and move on. The girl’s expression fell slightly the more his response delayed.
“Come on,” she said, almost as a command. Nevin gave her a quizzical look and decided to stride forward a few paces. The girl’s eyes were concealed by her mask, but she seemed put off by his behavior.
“Who even are you?” Nevin asked.
The girl hopped away towards the upstairs. “This way,” she continued.
Nevin groaned. “I’m not following you anywhere.”
The little girl gritted her teeth for a second. “I said, this way,” she repeated. “Why won’t you do what I say?”
“Why would I?” Nevin hissed. “Go take whatever the hell you’re doing somewhere else.”
The girl stomped her foot. “This is so unfair!” she whined. “Nothing is going my way today! I don’t care anymore!” She turned around, disappearing into the floor. Nevin couldn’t help but stare at the pink spot that appeared where she once was that quickly moved out of sight. He shrugged his shoulders, turning around and making his way back to the classroom.
Something was prickling in the back of his mind, but he favored ignoring it.
Edward could feel that something was not quite right the moment he entered that dark attic with Justin. Felix was standing in the center of the room, back facing them, and looked over his shoulder as he heard them approach. He was laughing. Edward didn’t know why he was laughing. There seemed to be remnants of a ritual on the floor, and he immediately recognized that something may have been very, very wrong.
“What a joy it is to see you, Quinton,” Felix said wryly. “I thought maybe I’d have to come find you myself, but looks like you did the job for me.”
The leader of the inverted jocks turned on his heel. His eyes were closed, and when he opened them, a striking pink that sent a chill down Edward’s spine had invaded their color. Justin, on flashlight duty, nearly dropped his device.
“… What have you done?” Edward asked.
Felix’s smile grew wider. “Oh, Quinton. Greater powers! But it’s not like your pea brain would ever be able to comprehend it,” he replied. “Why don’t I just show you? It’ll be a little test.”
Edward clenched his fists. Something that he couldn’t describe was emanating off of Felix–there was no way it was normal. The way fear crawled into his core reminded him of something in particular, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. No, he was far too distracted to think of the details at the moment.
Felix put a finger on his chin. “Come here,” he said. He waved a hand at Justin. “Not you, whatever your name is. Just Quinton.”
Edward’s legs moved on their own. He almost wanted to run away, but he felt frozen. In spite of both of those things, something was forcing him forward.
“Oh my god,” Felix gaped, letting out a single huge laugh as his eyes got wider. “Okay. Now bow.”
Against every ounce of his will, Edward’s legs gave out and he almost crumbled to the ground, barely catching himself on one hand and knee. He was not having a good time. Justin looked like he wanted to do something, but was frozen stiff.
“Holy shit! This is awesome!” Felix exclaimed, brimming with exhilaration. “Who’d have thought you could gain ultimate demonic power just for a few thousand bucks?!”
Edward grimaced. “I think you need to get your financial priorities in check,” he choked out. “Stop this. You don’t know what you’re messing with.”
Felix held up a finger, giving Edward a look, and the school king’s mouth immediately shut. “I don’t think you know what I’m messing with either,” he said. “So who are you to talk, Quinton? I just did what was necessary to finally get the respect I deserve.”
Edward clenched his teeth as further retaliation refused to leave his mouth. He turned his head away and made eye contact with Justin. A slight tilt of his head, and the two of them created an entire exchange formed solely on expressions. Justin ran back where they came from at top speed before Felix could stop him.
“Wow! So much for loyalty!” Felix mocked, but Edward knew better. “What a great start. First order of business, we’re going to the principal’s office, and you’re going to tell everyone in the school that I’m in charge now.”
Edward glowered at him. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he asked. He flinched as the power coming from Felix abruptly surged. He fought to keep his voice from shaking. “This isn’t going to work, Wolfe.”
Felix’s expression fell into a scowl. He grabbed Edward by his shirt, lifting him up from his knees almost effortlessly and raising a fist. “This is the part where you stop talking back to me. You’re going to follow me quietly to the principal’s office.”
He threw Edward to the ground, who thumped backwards on the uneven floorboards and onto his side. Felix seemed pleased at his newfound strength. Edward struggled to push himself back up, visibly shaking as he couldn’t even bring himself to look back up at the other again.
“Now, are you going to do what I say or do I have to make you kiss your boyfriend in front of everyone?” the football player sneered.
Edward winced, his fists tightening against the ground. “Go to hell,” he growled.
Isaac was in the middle of class when the school’s campy announcement jingle suddenly interrupted everything. Everyone in the class was mumbling in confusion as the teacher, at first, didn’t even bother paying it any heed.
“What’s up, nerds! It’s me, Felix Wolfe, here to bring you a special announcement!” a familiar annoying jock voice emitted from the speakers. “By the way, if you’re wondering where the principal is, he’s in a closet. Voluntarily!”
Isaac blinked slowly, pausing with his pencil hovering above a doodle in his notebook. The teacher had taken notice now, looking up at the speaker with nothing short of utter confusion.
“I’m joined today by my good friend, Error Quinton! You have something you want to say, right, Quinton?” Felix asked. The announcement suddenly clipped out and the jingle played again as it turned back on. “Hey! No!” A second time, it cut out and the jingle repeated. This happened a few more times, like the button was being pressed repeatedly. There was a slam. “Say it!” Felix hissed.
“It,” Edward’s voice gruffly responded. Every student in the class was very invested and a couple of them started laughing.
A door was faintly heard opening in the background. “Okay, boys, back away from the annou–” Whoever had just entered the room on the other end suddenly went dead silent.
“Don’t mind that!” Felix’s voice came back. “All right, Quinton. You have one more chance.” The threat in his tone had risen, and everyone in Isaac’s class room tensely quieted down again.
“Wolfe is better than me,” Edward’s voice sounded incredibly strained. “He should be the king of Foxfield High. R…Respect him.”
Felix was heard clapping. “Thank you! What a great, momentous day it is today!”
Most everyone, reasonably, was skeptical, and their immediate assumption was that this was a very weird prank. On the other hand, there was Isaac, who was piecing together events from earlier in the day and considered that things might be slightly more wrong than just a little. He quietly returned all of his belongings to his backpack and slipped out the nearby back door of his classroom while everyone else was distracted by Felix’s incessant subsequent rambling.
Isaac certainly didn’t care–he just wanted to know what was happening. Before class he’d told Edward where he thought Felix was and just assumed that they would get into an isolated fight or something, but that clearly had not been the case. He didn’t know much, but he knew that Edward and Felix were practically archenemies, and whatever he was hearing come out of the announcement speaker was far from normal. With a little effort, he found the principal’s office and threw the door open.
Sure enough, Felix was leaning over the desk microphone with Edward stiffly seated next to him. The latter jolted slightly as he looked over his shoulder, and there was no denying the disappointment in his eyes that the person whom he’d briefly hoped had come to help him was not the person he wanted to see.
“Well, well, well!” Felix said, releasing the announcement button and sitting up. He leaned back in the principal’s spinning chair, putting his feet on the desk. Immediately, Isaac could tell something was off. His feet wouldn’t move. No, his whole body refused to move. “Wow, Quinton. Did you need to be saved by your princess? Wow, uh, too bad.” Edward flinched visibly, looking like he would have snapped had he barely been able to move. Felix extended his arms to both sides of himself, smiling. “No one can oppose me! Great, huh? Everyone is quivering with terror and can’t help but do anything I tell them to.”
“You are just as much of a useless snob as everyone thinks you are,” Isaac told him, exhaling shakily. His heartbeat started to accelerate as Felix gave him a quizzical look, throwing himself forward to stand up and walk over to Isaac, eventually looming over him. Isaac swallowed thickly, processing the way that Felix’s eyes now glowed.
“Y’know? I’m getting really tired of people looking down on me,” Felix replied, nodding innocently. He grabbed Isaac by both sides of his flannel with one hand, lifting him up into the air. This was the second time Isaac had been lifted off the ground today and he wasn’t sure how to feel about it. “So do me a good one, and take that shit out of my sight before I have to start beating it out of you people. Apologize, and I’ll consider not throwing you into that shelf over there.”
Isaac had his hands clenched around the one holding him up, fighting for steady breath. He gritted his teeth for a moment. “Sorry… you have so many fucking screws loose,” he said, flashing a sardonic smile.
Felix growled loudly, throwing Isaac to the side. The artist barely emitted a shout as he hit the shelf of materials, books and pictures, knocking down everything inside, whether over or out of the shelf entirely. Isaac thumped to the ground and wasn’t moving. “Apologize! I said fucking apologize!” Felix snarled. “That was supposed to work!”
He didn’t notice that Edward was now standing behind him. The school king punched Felix backhanded across his head at full force, knocking the football player to the ground. Edward nearly fell backwards as his legs gave out under him, propping himself up with the desk behind him.
Felix was slowly pushing himself up. He’d most certainly lost his shit, but he hadn’t said a word yet. Edward hoped for the best. His eyes briefly flickered over to Isaac, who still hadn’t moved.
As if on gracious cue, Louis and Justin barged into the room, the former carrying a book of sorts. Justin tossed a sheet on the floor with a demonic circle of sorts drawn onto it and Louis was already chanting some kind of incantation.
Felix’s eyes got wider. “Hey, what the hell are you doing?!” he shouted as some kind of visible essence started to be drawn out of his eyes. “What is that?! Stop!”
As Louis continued, the lights in the room started to flicker and papers started to fly about. As Edward felt his legs regain their strength, he immediately jumped down to Felix and pinned his arms behind his back as the football player tried to flail around. Felix’s resistance fell into screeches as the strange essence was drawn into the circle, and after what felt like copious drawn-out seconds, the papers blowing around the room fell to the ground. Felix lost consciousness, and Louis was turning to a different tab in his book.
“It is time to banish this demon back to the dark world where it came from,” Louis declared. He looked down at Felix, whom Edward was now backing away from. “Wolfe… the weakest of men. Such a coward, he hoped to make all as fearful as himself. It’s fortunate we caught him before he could do any real damage.”
“He really did do a demon thing…” Justin commented thoughtfully. “Well, I hope he goes to jail, man.” He looked over at Isaac, who still wasn’t stirring. “Hey, what’s the nerd doing in here?”
"Beats me,” Edward replied immediately. He looked away, pursed his lips, then looked back at Isaac. Letting out a soft groan, he moved over and knelt by the unconscious artist, silently hesitating before lifting him up crudely and checking his head for an injury. “Ah, shit. There’s blood.”
As Edward fished for what to do next, an odd energy was fizzling from the demon circle on the sheet next to them. Louis stood his ground, ready to begin the incantation that would banish the demon, but before he could start, the likeness of the pink-haired demon quickly formed.
“Wait, wait I say!” the demon said. “I couldn’t care less about that insufferable mortal getting his full money’s worth, but I still need to see my daughter!”
Louis squinted. “… Your daughter?” he asked.
“Please… She can never visit me!” the demon continued. “I miss her very much…”
"Your schemes fall on deaf ears,” Louis told him, his grip on his book tightening. “Prepare to taste the fires of hell once again, demon.”
There was a quiet knock on the window. Something slipped into the room–a patch of pink, per se. A little girl in a mask rose out of it, her hands gently clasped together. “… Daddy?” she started. “Is that you?”
The long-haired demon gasped, almost getting teary-eyed. He tried to move, but ran into the invisible wall surrounding the circle. “Baby!” he exclaimed. “Britney, my dear!”
The girl smiled gleefully, leaping straight into the circle and into the demon’s arms. “Daddy!” she cheered and he spun her around. “I missed you so much!”
The others in the room could only watch.
“I came here because the charm you gave me said something good would happen if I came here today!” Britney exclaimed. “But, but, I thought there was some random teenager’s soul I was supposed to get. And then bad stuff just kept happening… oh, by the way, I’m wearing a mask just in case I do anything totally evil and then newscasters get it.”
“I’m so proud of you, baby!” Britney’s dad told her. “How is, um… your mother doing?”
Britney threw her arms in the air. “Boring human! Boring!”
Edward decided that he didn’t want to be a part of this and personally decided it would be better to leave. He put a hand on Louis’s shoulder, they exchanged a nod, and Edward found himself bending way down to try and hoist Isaac’s arm over his shoulder as he exited the room. It was a difficult task, thanks to how much smaller Isaac was than himself. Maybe it would have been easier to just carry him like a potato sack, but Isaac may have had a concussion, so that wasn’t exactly an option.
The hallway was empty for some reason, but Edward barely had time to pay that any heed as he suddenly noticed some kind of apparition appearing a ways down the hall. His guard went up again, but after feeling nothing but raw, inexplicable fear for the last while, the feeling wasn’t hard to manage.
There was what he could only assume to be a ghost in front of him. A literal ghost. While Edward was staring, Isaac finally stirred next to him. The smaller boy didn’t seem pleased that Edward was touching him, but after a shot of pain in his skull, he couldn’t find it in himself to try to move.
“Edward Quinton,” the ghost began, “My name is Walter Johnson. I was the first school king of Foxfield High, son.”
“What the fuck?” Isaac gaped deliriously.
"Though I’m long gone from this world, that no-good Felix Wolfe brought me back to try and question the lineage of kings,” the ghost explained. “No surprise, he was wrong, but he forgot to send me back, so I’m now I’m stuck wandering around here until it wears off at sunset.”
Isaac’s head dropped forward. ”This. This is drugs.”
The ghost adjusted his hat. “I thought I’d give you a message, son,” he said. “So you can know for yourself, there’s a reason you were chosen, Edward, and it ain’t just because you play basketball or are popular with the ladies.”
Edward was listening intently. “… There was?” he asked.
“It’s your passion, son,” the ghost affirmed. “Like none else, you’ve got a passion for the unknown, you’re always lookin’ for it, and it’s always lookin’ for you. Being the king isn’t just about being cool. It’s about being hard-boiled, protecting your people, and you know, in that heart of yours, that’s what you’ve got to do.” Somehow, the ghost took out a ghostly cigarette from his pocket and lit it. “And that’s not all. It’s always been the duty of the school king to be the balance between the normal and the abnormal, and you were the best fit for it. From high school generation to generation, the title and the power that comes with it get passed down.”
Edward’s mouth was hanging open. “Are you talking about…”
The ghost nodded. “That feelin’ in your gut, son. Intuition. I'm sure you know it. Tells you who’s hiding, who needs to stay hidden. Tells you all kinds of things you don’t need to know sometimes.”
"Holy shit…” Edward barely whispered.
“Anyway, nice talking to you. Take care of yourself, kids.”
Before Edward could object, the ghost disappeared, leaving him alone with Isaac again. Isaac slowly looked over at Edward, eyes wider than Edward thought he’d ever seen them. “What the fuck, Error,” he said flatly.
Edward looked back over at him, the expression on his face indiscernible for a moment. It cracked into a smile, and he started snickering softly. “I’m important,” he replied.
Isaac groaned, turning his head away, but clearly still in pain at the movement. ”Shut up and take me to the nurse.”
“You fucked up your head by barging in there for no reason,” Edward told him, virtually dragging Isaac alongside him. “What possessed you to show up? Oh, I don’t like you. Oh, I don’t wanna have anything to do with you. Oh, I literally have class.”
“I just wanted to know what was happening,” Isaac mumbled. “Besides, last time we had a demon problem, it was basically me who stopped it.”
Edward let out a huff of air. “Yeah, at what cost?”
Isaac sighed. “Prefer not to answer.”
“Ah. So I’m guessing that thing I asked you earlier: you don’t want to answer that, either,” Edward said.
“Thing?” Isaac asked. “Oh. The complacency thing, or whatever. I didn’t think that hard about it. You think too much. But sure, it’d be nice if you stopped getting mad at me for everything.”
Edward let out a small hum. “Well, I’ll stop getting mad at you for everything if you stop getting mad at me for everything,” he told Isaac.
Isaac made a face. “Ugh. You’re doing that thing again–that functional person thing. Is that even legal for you?”
“Hey. I never said that I didn’t do bad things,” Edward responded. “Whatever, man. I still don’t understand you.”
They moved along in silence for a short time, Isaac staring at the ground. “… Maybe I’ll think about it,” he said quietly. “Maybe.”
Edward instantly rebounded. “Great. Because I have this idea,” he replied. “So, I apparently have this extremely important responsibility to protect this school from evildoers. No idea why no one told me that earlier.”
Isaac rolled his eyes. “God,” he drawled.
“How does supernatural investigation club sound?”
“Good thing nothing I’ve ever done has been because you suggested it.”
They arrived at the health center. Somehow, there was still nobody in the hallway, like the announcement had stopped earlier and everyone had simply resumed class. Perhaps Felix had picked off any additional roadblocks on his way to the principal and they were stuck in a closet somewhere.
Edward gave the door a knock and pushed it open. “I’m gonna go,” he said as Isaac moved away from him to put a hand on the doorframe. “See you around.” Edward turned, walking back down the hall where they came from.
Isaac hummed quietly, otherwise silent for a few seconds. “Bye,” he finally replied. His eyes trailed to the ground, and he looked back up to see Edward give him a curt wave, still walking away.
For only a moment, both considered the quiet thought that they had never met a stranger person than the other.