The sermon seemed fake to me. The preacher was talking about life after death and about saving your souls so you could get to Heaven. Did Heaven even exist, or was it just a place made up to keep the public in line? Why did I find myself sitting in the upper balconies of the church where nobody could see me? Why was I drawn to the place of my dreams? Did the dead guy lying in the coffin feel any better about what the man in the black robes was saying as he preached from the pulpit? Did the preacher spouting off the same words that he used at every funeral even believe half of what he was saying? There were no answers to be found here. I wouldn't find out the meaning behind the repetitive dream of my mother's funeral here. I needed to find her. . .
The boy from the alley weighed heavily on my mind but my mother had already answered most of my questions. Riley would find his way to my side, I only needed to give him time.
I left the church, deciding that the building in my dreams was the last place I wanted to be. Was it possible that my very presence in the building was its catalyst for destruction? The summer sky was clear of any clouds and the temperatures were already climbing for the day as I walked down the deserted side street. My thoughts were all over the place as I thought about everything that I had been told in the past few days. My life was never mine to live. I could only hope that my accomplishments were my own and that Destiny wasn't pulling strings for me to get ahead.
"Did you save him?"
My mother's question from the night before echoed in my head, distracting me from the weather.
'How did she know?' I asked myself repeatedly. Plus, she had come into my room right as I got back like she had been waiting for me. That only made me wonder what Brayden might know about everything that has been going on recently. Did he know about all of it? Was he playing ignorant only to protect his own secrets?
One thing was beginning to show itself to me above everything else.
I couldn't trust anybody.
The teenager was uncomfortable as he remained confined to the hospital bed, one wrist secured by a pair of handcuffs to the railing. His foster mother, Shelly Cooper, sat in a chair at the end of the bed, idly flipping through channels on the small television set. The woman appeared tired, but she refused to leave Riley's side until he was cleared by the detectives that were currently investigating the situation. David Ramsey, Riley's boss at the grocery store, had caught the tail end of the event and was currently in the process of telling Detective Sutherland what he had witnessed.
"It wasn't much, Detective," Riley heard David saying. "I got there right at the end. I saw a flash of light and only Riley was lying on the ground afterwards."
"And that's all you saw?" Sutherland asked with heavy doubt in his tone.
"Yes, Detective Sutherland," David responded firmly. "I saw them chase Riley into the alley and I ran to see what was going on. The flash happened just as I turned into the end of the alley."
"How long has this gang been bothering Riley?" A baritone voice asked just out of Riley's sight.
'Probably another detective,' the teenager thought bitterly. 'I don't even know what the fuck happened to me.'
"Too long," David replied. "I tried calling the police before, but they only told me they couldn't do anything unless Riley called them or I had evidence. Now, you guys are here to incarcerate the wrong person."
"We're not here to incarcerate anybody, Mr. Ramsey," the baritone voice responded kindly. "We're just trying to figure out what happened."
"Then, why is that boy handcuffed to the fucking bed like a damned criminal?"
There was silence before David finally spoke again.
"That's what I thought," the man said with a sneer. "Guilty until proven innocent."
"Now, Mr. Ramsey," the other detective started to say, only to be cut off by the kinder man.
"I will get his handcuffs removed once I am finished questioning him, Mr. Ramsey." The man informed Riley's boss. "I promise. We have no idea what happened in that alley besides some shaky security camera footage and the only person who saw anything is lying in that bed. Now, rest assured, I will get to the bottom of this."
"What part of the CIA are you with, anyway?" David asked.
"Section-9," the first detective replied.
"I've never heard of that agency before," David mused.
"One request before we part ways, Mr. Ramsey?"
"You want me to stay quiet about this, don't you?" Riley's employer asked.
"It would be in Riley's best interest if you did, sir." Detective Sutherland stated firmly. "There are a lot of dangerous people out there that want to hurt him."
"I understand, gentlemen," David acknowledged. "I'll see myself out."
The detectives mumbled amongst themselves while Riley considered what could have possibly happened to him. His entire life had been abnormal. Then, a man wearing a black suit, with brown hair and muddy-brown eyes was knocking lightly on the door frame. He had a light smile on his face as he glanced inside at Riley and Shelly.
"Hello," the detective greeted them. "I am Detective Leonard Hines from the CIA. I was wondering if I could ask Riley a few questions before we released him into your custody?"
"He isn't in any trouble?" Shelly asked in disbelief.
"Not at the moment," Leonard replied honestly. "I don't see any wrongdoing on his behalf, though."
Shelly nodded before she rose from her chair to leave the room. She smiled at Riley before the woman left her alone with the detective.
"Hello, Mr. Smith," Leonard greeted the teenager as he took the chair that Shelly had vacated. "That isn't your name though, is it?"
Riley frowned as he tried to figure out what the detective could mean. "I'm not sure I understand, sir. That's the name they called me when I was in the hospital after the accident."
"It's a name they give people that they don't know," Leonard replied with a shrug. "That's not important, though. I do know your real surname."
"You do?" Riley asked, sitting up as much as the handcuff would let him. His look of surprise was genuine as the detective smiled at the teen's enthusiasm. "You know who I really am?"
"I do," Leonard replied with a nod. "Your name is Riley Williams. You have a brother named Tyler and a dad named Stewart. Melissa, your mother, died in the same accident that you were in. You're lucky to be alive, Riley."
"I know," Riley whispered, falling back against the pillows. "That's why I never joined Carlos's gang. He tried forcing me to join, but I never did. He even shot a gun at my face and I still didn't join his followers. Do you know what I did, instead, Detective Hines?" When the man remained silent, Riley continued with his story. "I exploded into a ball of energy. It was like every ounce of my being was trying to protect me." Suddenly, Riley's voice fell. "I couldn't have done it without him, though."
"Him?" Leonard asked curiously.
"The boy with the blue eyes, Detective," Riley replied with a distant gaze in his eyes. Leonard could tell that Riley was remembering something from his past. "He appeared, out of thin air," the teenager continued, unable to focus on anything else but the moment the boy had appeared right beside him. "Just like in my dream. He had black hair and deep-blue eyes. Everything went into slow motion when he smiled at me and touched my shoulder. That's when the power was released, Detective. That's when everything turned to dust around us. Then, the teenager let go of my shoulder, and he vanished just as the dome of energy swept back into my body. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital."
Leonard looked at the boy thoughtfully. "I'm going to have to come up with a cover story to protect you from the media," the man mused. Riley just stared at him in confusion. Leonard smiled and reached over to pat the teen's knee affectionately. "Don't worry, Riley. I'll get you back to your family," the detective promised. "Just give me a couple days to get a few things together. I would like you to remain at Shelly's house until then. It would also be advisable that you didn't go outside during that time."
"Sir?" Riley was a ball of emotions as the man stood. "I don't understand?"
"You're a free man, Riley Williams," Detective Hines said with a grin. "All I ask is that you don't say a word about Carlos's gang. Keep everything that happened between the two of us, alright?"
"But I murdered those guys," Riley responded, still lost in his own confusion of everything that happened.
"No, Riley," Leonard objected in a very stern tone. "You defended yourself. Carlos was in the act of shooting you in the head. You wouldn't have been the first, either."
"But-," Riley began but Leonard quickly cut him off.
"Riley," Leonard spoke softly now. "You need to just let this go. You are lucky to be alive, let's leave it at that. If anybody asks you what happened, I want you to just say, "No comment." Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," Riley replied shakily.
Then, Leonard dug in his pocket and pulled out a tiny silver key. He tossed it onto Riley's lap. "You're going to need this, young man. Don't ever lose that key."
Riley quickly unlocked the cuffs and handed them to the detective. Then, he held the key out, unsure what to do with it.
"Keep it, Riley," he said. "Trust me, please. I'll see you in a few days. Be ready to go and try to stay out of trouble."
Then, Riley was alone in the hospital room, with nothing but his thoughts of the detective and their conversation to think about. The man had given Riley a key piece of information that the teenager had been seeking for four years. He now knew who his family was.
Riley couldn't help but to smile as he slipped the key into his jeans pocket. Shelly entered the room with a coffee in her hand.
"They let you go?" Shelly asked with a smile.
"Yeah, but I have to stay inside for a few days," Riley replied, still grinning. "They don't want any remnants of Carlos's gang to give me trouble before they take me home."
"Home?" Shelly sputtered on the coffee she was drinking.
"Yeah," Riley giggled lightly. "I know who I am, finally."
"Are you alright?" Brayden asked me as I climbed into his car.
"No," I mumbled.
"What's going on, Eli?"
I couldn't bring myself to look at him. He would know exactly what it was that was tearing me up on the inside.
"Is he safe, Elijah?" Brayden asked quietly.
"I think so," I replied with a sniffle. "I can't see him anymore."
Brayden reached over and squeezed my hand as he pulled away from the curb. Immediately, I felt my power spike and I could see Riley lying in a hospital bed with a detective asking him questions. I frowned wishing I could help him.
Wishing that I could ease his pain.
I heard him gasp with a slight intake of breath before his eyes stared straight towards the ceiling. He spoke in a quiet voice, but I heard every word as if Riley was standing right next to me.
"Thank you," his soft voice said full of gratitude. "I will find you! I promise!"
"I'll see you soon, Riley," I told him. "Stay calm."
The connection shifted as Brayden pulled his hand away from me, turning down a side street. Brayden's mood had soured as he drove, worrying me that maybe I was being too emotional about everything that was happening. Was I really letting it get to me? Should I just do what needed to be done without question? The formidable question always hung at the front of all the others, though. It was the one that demanded an answer.
Only when I figured that out, would I truly be able to devote myself to whatever cause I was fighting for.
"You're being unusually quiet, Elijah," Brayden observed. "Out with it!"
"What?" I asked in confusion.
"Tell me what's got your panties in a twist, Elijah," my friend demanded. "Don't make me pull this car over! You know I'll do it."
I rolled my eyes with a sigh as Brayden lifted his foot from the accelerator. "Fine," I groaned. "I'm just worried, Brayden. Everything is changing around me faster than I can handle. I mean, one minute, I was just a fucking teenager struggling through school, and the next, I'm some kind of special person with powers that I don't even fucking understand! What the fuck am I supposed to do, Brayden? Am I supposed to just roll with the fucking punches?"
"Yes," Brayden said softly. "It's what we're both expected to do, Elijah."
His words brought me up short and I couldn't help but look at him in wonder. I hadn't even considered how all of this was affecting him. As far as I could tell, he's always been able to maintain his cool in tough situations. The only time I had ever saw him panic was when he was dangling from the rollercoaster, barely clinging onto the upside-down car.
"What was the Awakening like for you, Brayden?" I asked in a subdued tone. "We've both been a little busy since then to talk about it."
Brayden smiled hesitantly before he answered my question.
"It was like a breath of fresh air for me," my friend replied. "I've always known that something was different about me, but to actually know what it was - that's completely different. Every night I've searched through my memories, trying to link up what I had always known with what was unlocked, and it was eerie for me to see how much my mom covered up for me. The only thing that matters to me now, is that I keep my family safe." Brayden turned to look at me as he rolled up to a stop sign. "That includes you and Elliott."
"Thanks," I whispered with a shy blush. "I'm sorry that I've been so difficult, lately."
"It's not me that you need to apologize to, Elijah," Brayden corrected me as he pulled away from the stop sign. "And you know that."
"I know," I said, turning my gaze to the window. "I will when I get home."
"What's Aunt Mattie doing today?" Brayden asked to change the subject.
"I think she was taking Elliott with her to some bookstore downtown," I replied. "I didn't catch the name of it."
Then, I felt a chill come over me as the world seemed to shift around me. I wasn't traveling somewhere, though. Not in reality, at least. I was having a vision.
I saw myself walking through bookshelves, the edges of the vision were blurry as the familiar voice spoke from the end of the aisle. "Come to me, Elijah," she whispered eerily. "Time is running out, Elijah."
Just as I made it to the end of the aisle, I saw her standing behind a counter with a look of concern filling her pale face.
"How do I find you?" I croaked nervously.
"Follow the lights, Elijah," she said, her lips never moving as her voice floated around me. "Hurry!"
The next thing I knew, I was sitting back in the front seat of Brayden's car. We were pulled over to the side of the road, and Brayden was shaking my shoulder as he tried to get me to respond. He hugged me tightly, tears falling down his cheeks, the moment I took in a deep breath and opened my eyes.
"Holy shit, Elijah!" Brayden was crying as he held me in his arms. "What the hell was that?"
"What?" I asked in confusion, trying to get my wits about me. "I think I saw something, Brayden."
My friend leaned back, the look of fear in his eyes filled me with dread. "What did you see, Elijah?"
"It was her!" I told him sharply. "She told me that time is running out, but she wouldn't tell me where she was, Brayden. It's just more riddles," I whispered as I felt my hands beginning to tremble. "I'm lost, Brayden. What do I do?"
"We have to find the other Guardians, Elijah," Brayden replied. Then, he pulled away from the side of the road, heading towards my house.
I spent the remainder of the ride in silence until we turned onto my street. I felt a chill go down my spine as we pulled up in front of my house. I looked at Brayden and could tell that he felt the same thing that I had. I jumped out of the car and started walking to my front door, not waiting for Brayden as he got out from his side and followed behind me.
I was nearly to the front porch when I heard a shout come from inside the house and the windows were filled with an orangish glow. My foot had just hit the first step when everything went into slow motion around me. The windows along the front of the house began to explode outwards, shooting millions of tiny shards of glass shooting out across the front yard followed by balls of fire and black smoke. The walls buckled outwards, straining against the forces coming from inside my home before the front door shot towards me and the remainder of the house began to collapse. The door hit me before I could duck out of the way, and I felt myself being flung backwards. My mind seemed to expand outwards as I tried to think of any way to save myself. I managed to twist around and put the door between me and Brayden's car just before it slammed into the passenger side. I heard him scream out just before my head hit the door and I was sent into a restless darkness.
Riley lay awake in his bed, the hours of the night drifting by slowly as he thought about what had happened to him. Detectives Hines had given Riley a second chance, believing his story about what had occurred in the alley with Carlos and his gang members. The teenager tossed and turned every time he closed his eyes, seeing the gun pointed in his face and realizing how close he had come to dying in that moment. Tears fell from the corners of his hazel eyes, unable to resist the emotional hurricane that was raging inside of him.
It was sometime after midnight when there was a light knock at Riley's door and a tiny voice called out through the crack. "Riley?" Ayden asked in a worried tone. "Can I come in?"
Deciding that he didn't want to be alone, Riley answered the door and let his foster brother into his room. Riley put his finger to his lips to signal to the younger boy to be silent until they were both safely in Riley's room with the door closed. Riley climbed back into his bed and patted the spot next to him. Ayden was quick to cuddle with the older teenager, reveling in the warmth of his chest as Riley pulled the covers over the two of them.
"Are you okay?" Ayden asked quietly, not looking away from Riley's chest as it rose and fell with each breath the teenager took.
"I'm scared," Riley replied with a shrug. "I had a gun pointed in my face and I lived to tell the tale. Would anybody have even noticed if Carlos had killed me?"
"I would have!" Ayden nearly shouted as he pushed himself away from Riley and jumped out of the bed. The younger boy had tears in his eyes as he stormed towards the door, only to be pulled into Riley's arms just before he could open it. Ayden sobbed into Riley's shoulder. "I would have noticed! How dare you say something like that?!"
"I'm sorry," Riley sobbed in return. "I don't know what I was thinking, Ayden. Please forgive me, little brother?"
Ayden sniffled as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand before he finally nodded at Riley. Riley carried the boy back to his bed and made sure they were both comfortable before he pulled the blanket back over them.
"Don't ever say that again, Riley," Ayden demanded. "I love you!"
"I won't, Ayden," Riley swore. "I promise!"
Ayden nodded again before he pulled Riley's arms around him. Both boys were drifting off to sleep when Riley began to have a vision. There was the familiar voice of the young woman with black hair telling him to find her, but instead of being in a bookstore, Riley was standing inside of somebody's kitchen. He watched as woman with long-blonde hair carried a tea kettle over to the gas stove and turned it on with a flick of the knob. Then, she went over to the counter that stretched halfway across the kitchen and separated it from a small dining room where she flipped open a newspaper. The woman gazed at the different pages, not noticing the flame flickering on the stove. Sparks began to jump out onto the floor of the kitchen where they took the form of a teenager with red hair and fire in his red eyes. None of his movements were human as he stepped out of the flames. The woman finally noticed the flickering of light from behind her and jumped up when she saw the young man standing in her kitchen.
"Hello, Simon," the woman greeted the man with a hint of contempt in her voice. She moved to where the counter was separating them from each other, never taking her eyes away from his burning aura.
"Hello, Salena," Simon greeted the woman with a formal bow of respect. "I take it that the boy is not here?"
"No," Salena confirmed. "He's not. It's not time for your encounter, anyway."
Simon scoffed in disgust. "Fuck the rules! Even you should know that everything has always been ruled by the choices that are made in the moment of the Event?"
"That's not all that matters, Simon," Salena reminded the burning figure. The edges of his human form were blurred with fire and his steps were leaving scorch marks in the tile covered floor. "The moments leading up to the Choice matter, as well."
Simon grinned smugly. "I'd love to debate the Prophecy with you, Guardian Mother, but I have more important things to handle."
"You're not going to touch my son!"
Simon barely had time to evade the ball of white energy that flew past his head. His body dissolved into flames just as a second energy blast past him before he threw a ball of fire back at Salena. The woman jumped to the side, letting the fireball slam into the wall behind her. She threw another ball of energy at the demon before she threw another to follow behind the first.
"You can't defeat me, bitch!" Simon screamed in fury as one of the blasts threw him into the stove. Fire climbed up the walls. He climbed to his feet and cracked his knuckles. "You sure you want this fight, witch?"
"I'll die to protect my children," Salena declared angrily. Then, Riley watched as she drew a sign in the air with her fingertips. A disc of blue fire appeared in the air in front of her. The demon shook his head in disbelief before he frowned.
"Let's do this, then!"
Then, the demon seemed to swell in immensity before he exploded in a fireball that destroyed the entire house. Riley threw his arms up as the fire swept over him, only to wake up panting in his own bed. Riley glanced over to see that Ayden was still sound asleep before he slipped from the bed and into his bathroom. The teenager splashed water on his face before he headed back to bed. He would tell Shelly about his dream in the morning.
'Detective Hines will want to know too,' Riley told himself as he settled back against his pillows. Ayden quickly cuddled into the older boy's side with a sigh of happiness, making Riley smile at his foster brother. 'I love you too, Ayden.'
I was a walking zombie with the death of my mother. Elliott was just as bad as me. He leaned into my side and sobbed uncontrollably until Natalie came and took him away from me. She had said something to me, which I didn't hear. My thoughts were somewhere else. My thoughts were solely focused on my mom.
At some point I shed my own tears. I think it was about the time that Aunt Mattie came to sit with me. She was replaced by Brayden who spent the time talking, his voice a low humming sound in the background as my own thoughts and emotions blocked him out. I know he put his arm around me and kissed my cheek, but I didn't feel it. I had completely cut myself off from the outside world, sinking into a shell of misery and grief.
Not even the voice of the woman from my dreams could pull me from my stupor. I was untouchable. The death of my mother was the last straw, and I broke.
I vaguely remember being in the hospital for a few hours while the doctors made sure there wasn't any permanent damage done to my body. Then, I was taken to Natalie's house where Brayden helped me get situated. There is where I remained besides occasional trips to the bathroom.
The next morning, Aunt Madison made me ride with her to the funeral home. My heart was hammering in my chest the entire time as I fought the urge to teleport myself out of the car. The plans for the funeral had to be made, and my aunt was making certain that I was involved despite my grief.
The funeral home was a light tan in color with several benches sitting out front. I pulled slightly on the tie that my aunt had made me wear before I followed her into the eerie looking building. The inside was decorated with lavish carpets and a garish looking paint that looked like it was from the fifties. Gothic-framed windows lined the walls of every room, and I felt a chill go down my spine as the air kicked on in the office we were led into. For the next hour, I helped my Aunt Madison prepare my mother's memorial service. When it came down to haggling out the price, I excused myself to step outside and take a much-needed break.
I sat down on one of the iron benches where I buried my face in my hands as the tears began to flow freely. My shoulders shook with each of my sobs, my entire world blurred by the salty sting of the tears. It was several minutes before I managed to pull myself together and I wiped my eyes to notice that there was a bookstore across the street from the funeral home. Every nightmare and dream I had been having flashed through my mind as the woman's voice called out clearly to me.
"You're so close, Elijah," the whispered words tumbled over themselves as the leaves of nearby trees rustled in the wind. "Come to me!"
I snapped free from whatever spell had come over me to find that I was standing halfway down the sidewalk. I had started walking towards the bookstore without even thinking about it.
"Holy shit," I muttered to myself as I wiped my eyes one last time with my sleeve. "Get your shit together, Elijah!"
I took one last glance at the bookstore before I headed back towards the building behind me. Aunt Madison was just leaving the building with a weary expression on her face as I arrived back at the steps.
"Everything is all set, Elijah," she told me before she motioned towards the car. "Let's go ahead and get back to Natalie's house."
"Yes, ma'am," I replied numbly as I followed Aunt Mattie back to her car. I took one another look at the bookstore as we drove away.
"How long will it take us to get there?" Riley asked as Leonard helped him carry his bags to the trunk of the awaiting black sedan.
"About nine hours," Detective Hines replied with a shrug. "Are you sure you want to do this, Riley?"
"More than anything," the teenager replied with a toothy grin.
"Good," the detective responded. "Let's get Shelly and Ayden, and we'll hit the road."
"Thanks for getting Shelly permission to bring Ayden along with us, Detective Hines," Riley said happily as he hugged the detective without hesitation.
"You're very welcome, Riley," Leonard responded as he returned the hug, wondering if he was going to get the same reception from his own son. 'Does he even remember me?'
Leonard had called the night before to warn Natalie that he was coming, and that he was going to have to find a plausible cover story for everything that had been going on in Crater Lake. Currently, the only thing he could think of was an earthquake to cover the collapse of the school. The story would be partially correct, at least. It could also help explain the house explosion the prior morning. He didn't know how to explain the dark-haired boy appearing out of thin air, though.
Leonard couldn't help but smile when he heard Riley telling Ayden that he was glad the younger boy was going with them. He wouldn't have been able to leave Ayden behind and still be happy to meet his family. Riley and Ayden continued to chatter quietly to each other as they settled themselves in the back seat of the sedan, leaving the front seat for Shelly. Shelly was glowing with happiness as she watched the interaction between the boys. Riley was sure that he heard her whisper something to Leonard, but the teenager was too happy to care what it could have been. He had told Detective Hines about his dream, and Leonard had immediately pulled out his phone. The man had tears in his eyes when he slid his phone back into his pants pocket.
Deciding it was impolite to ask, Riley gave the man his time to grieve without saying anything else. Now, everyone was smiling again as Leonard turned onto the highway, heading west towards Crater Lake.
Riley's true home.
I sat on the edge of Brayden's bed, unable to bring myself to move as my aunt told me that she had to go handle some more business about my mother's estate. I nodded absently, watching her as she closed the door when she left. My eyes were dry as I stared at the back of the door. My thoughts were a whirlwind of depression as I thought only about my mother. She was the one person that had managed to protect me throughout my life and now, she was gone forever. I didn't even know what had happened. The police and fire department were trying to say that it was a leaky gas line caused by the earthquake, but I doubted every lie-filled word that spewed from their mouths.
It wasn't an act of God that killed my mother.
It was magic.
I would find her killer and when I did, I would make them pay with their own lives. That would be my only satisfaction. Only then, would I be able to let go of this world and tell everyone to go to Hell.
I glanced up to see Brayden standing in front of me. I hadn't even noticed that he had come in the room.
"Elijah, are you okay?" He asked in a worried tone.
I couldn't answer him as he sat down on the bed beside me. He put his arm across my shoulders and pulled me into his side. I couldn't stop myself from crying as Brayden held me tightly against him. He whispered soothing words, but never complained about my emotions as we sat there together. Brayden filled the silence by telling me stories from our childhood where my mother was always involved. I couldn't bring myself to respond to him, but he didn't seem to care. He just continued to talk until I fell asleep in his arms.
The room was dark when I awoke several hours later, finding myself alone in the center of the bed. My eyes stung as I blinked them open, trying to adjust to the darkness in the room. There had been no dreams this time. I had actually slept without any interruption. The clock on the nightstand said it was a little after midnight, explaining the peaceful silence that filled the air. I sat up and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. For a moment, I had a wave of vertigo sweep over my body, making me feel like I was going to fall off the edge of the bed.
"Like I need that to happen," I muttered in annoyance. My bladder was begging for release, so I steadied myself on the bed before making my move and rising to my feet.
I felt extremely better by the time I made it to the bathroom and was able to relieve myself. I vaguely heard voices coming from downstairs, but I decided that a shower was more important to me at the moment. I turned on the water and while it was warming up, I grabbed a towel from cabinet and removed my clothes. My thoughts were drifting as the steam filled the air. Once I had checked that the water was the right temperature, I climbed in and let the hot water cascade over by bare shoulders. I couldn't stop the sigh of pleasure that escaped my lips as my muscles began to relax under the steady stream. For one solid moment, I was able to let go of everything. I said a silent goodbye to my mother, wishing that I could tell her how much I missed her, already. I wanted to escape the fact that I had all of this power locked away inside my body. I wanted to scream! I was nearly done with my shower when I heard the voice again.
"The time is coming, Elijah!" Her voice made me sway on my feet. "The dawn of our meeting doth approach, steadily. Be ready for anything! You have the abilities! Use them!"
I was falling backwards before I knew what happened, the shower spinning around me. I felt a sharp blow against the back of my head as I hit the wall before I fell into darkness.
"What's wrong with him?"
The voices sounded distant to Riley, but he couldn't break free from the vision of the teenager with the blue eyes being knocked unconscious in the shower. For him, it was like he was standing in the same bathroom. Riley could feel the heat from the steam, smell the shampoo that Elijah had used on his black hair. He saw the small trickle of blood coming from the back of the teenager's head where he had hit the wall. Riley could feel the air pressure in the room beginning to drop as that trickle of blood mixed with the water flowing into the drain.
"I don't know what's going on," Shelly panicked. "It's like he's watching something that we can't see."
The boy wanted to scream out that the woman had gotten it correct, but he was still locked in tightly to the vision of the teenager lying on the floor of the bathtub. The lights began to flicker in the tiny bathroom before another teenager busted into the room and quickly turned off the water. The teenager turned and called out for someone, but Riley couldn't hear any sound from the strange sight that he was watching. An old woman and a younger woman came running into the bathroom. The younger woman pulled the teenager out of the way before she started checking the unconscious teenager's injuries. Riley saw the house beginning to shake around the small group when the two women glanced up at each other, their faces filled with worry.
"Do hear that?" The older woman asked, making Riley question why he could hear them.
"I do, Madison," the younger woman replied. "How do we handle this with Elijah being unconscious?"
"I wish he would have found all of the Guardians," the older woman said desperately. "We could really use their help right now."
"What about Brayden?"
"Do you think he could handle Sarah on his own, Natalie?" Madison questioned. "She's not the most powerful of the Elementals, but she can definitely hold her own when it comes to a fight."
The brown-haired teenager glanced between the two women. "What's going on?" He asked in confusion.
"You're going to help us defend our home, Brayden," Natalie told the teen with no room given for him to back out of the situation.
"Yes, mother," Brayden acknowledged without an argument.
'I have to do something,' Riley thought in a panic as he watched the scene unfolding. 'They need me!' Riley felt a tingling sensation beginning to build over his body as the lights flickered in the house that he was staring into. He followed the teenager known as Brayden as the boy carried Elijah to a nearby bedroom, placing him gently on the comforter before leaving his mother to tend to the teenager. Riley followed along as Brayden went downstairs with Madison waiting for him at the bottom. Her blue eyes were filled with worry as she stared towards the front windows of the house.
"Are you sure you can handle this, Brayden?" Natalie asked her son, her soft voice dripping with concern and worry.
"Yeah, mom," Brayden nodded. "I've got this. Besides, I think I can feel Eli's friend hanging around with me."
Natalie and Madison both looked in Riley's direction at Brayden's comment.
"I can feel him, too," Madison declared with a suspicious glint in her eyes.
"I promise," the teem tried to force the words out so the woman could hear him. "I'm not here to hurt you in any way. I just want my family to be safe."
Madison nodded after a moment before she returned her attention to Brayden. "Riley's going to help you, Brayden," she patted the teen on his cheek with a smile. "If Eli trusts him, then so do I."
Brayden looked like he was about to say something else when the front windows of the house exploded, sending glass flying into the living room. The roar of the wind became deafening as Riley watched Brayden move to the center of the archway just as a blonde-haired woman with pale skin appeared, seeming to form out of the wind itself. The edges of her blue gown drifted along, fading in and out as though they too were just wind that was too weak to form a solid shape.
"Hello, Sarah," Madison greeted the woman. "It's been a long time, daughter."
The blonde glanced at the older woman for a brief moment before her attention was directed to Brayden. "You are not the one that I came for," she sneered. "Where is the Chosen One? It is my task that he is to die tonight."
"You'll have to go through me first, Demon!" Brayden declared fiercely.
"That will be easy enough," the woman named Sarah growled before she twisted her hands towards Brayden. "Let's see if you can stand your ground against a little wind."
Before anybody could react, the front room was filled with a torrent of wind that sent furniture flying. Brayden held his ground, though. Easily standing against the demonic-inspired weather. Sarah's brow furrowed and Riley saw Brayden falter in his footing as the wind continued to get stronger. He got behind Brayden and threw his weight against the teenager, doing whatever he could to keep Brayden from falling victim to the strange woman.
"Die already!" Sarah screamed in a fury that made the entire house feel like it was going to collapse around us.
"Not today," Brayden replied before Riley felt a huge drain of energy leave his body. "Now, it's my turn."
Then, Brayden threw his hands forward, sending a wave of pure energy at the demon. Sarah didn't have time to react as the energy hit her, sending her ghostly form scattering around the living room. Just as she formed into another solid being, Brayden hit her with another blast of energy that trapped the woman. Seeing that she was immobilized, Riley quickly threw his own wall of energy at her, turning the woman's wiry form to dust. The only thing that remained was a yellow crystal, lying in a pile of ash.
Brayden walked over to the crystal slowly, kneeling beside it as it seemed to pulse with energy and anger. "What is it?" He asked.
"It's the source of her power, Brayden," Madison told him. "It needs to be destroyed so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
"How do I do that?" Brayden asked.
"You can't, Brayden," Natalie replied. "It's going to take Riley to destroy it."
Riley could feel the surge in his powers as Brayden stepped away from the stone and turned towards where he was standing. "It's up to you, Riley," the teenager said in Riley's direction. "Destroy the stone."
Riley stepped over to the stone and knelt beside it, holding his hands out over the rock. Then, he felt a tingle of energy run down his arms before a white light filled the air under beneath his hands. Riley pushed as much of his energy into the destruction of the stone as he could. Just as he was beginning to worry that he wasn't going to be able to break the stone, Riley heard it shatter and a swirl of wind roared out in every direction.
"How much more can my house take?" Natalie asked as Riley fell backwards onto his butt.
"Thank you, Riley," Madison said. "I hope we get to meet you, very soon."