CHAPTER SEVEN: CONFLICT
I sat in the living room at home. The events from the previous night kept playing in my mind as I stared at the TV that was turned off. For some reason, I felt as if the memory of my parents’ bloody bedroom was displaced, like it wasn’t my own. The memory of the moon’s lullaby seemed more like a delusion than my own reminisced experience.
My body started to feel a little uncomfortable from sitting in the armchair for so long, rigid and sore. I didn’t know how much time had passed with me sitting there like that, and if I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought time had come to a standstill.
The moon. What was it doing? I thought about how it had witnessed the death of my parents … or had it CAUSED their demise? A part of me believed that they had died on Christmas morning, and that I was six at the time. I rubbed my eyes in frustration. What was telling me these things? Ever since the encounter with Zenox at the Shady Palm Café, my mind became invaded with these abhorrent memories. I thought I could still see the blood. I thought I could still hear the song I had heard that night as the moon sang to my parents their final lullaby.
It was so beautiful, the moon’s lullaby, and it was a kiss of death.
Gary and James came to visit me at some point, I don’t remember when. Jack and Laura were at work, and it was comforting to have my friends around, but I felt guilty for ruining their fun with my craziness. We sat in the living room, which seemed to be the only room in the world to me at the time.
“After you passed out,” Gary told me as he explained the events of the previous night, “we had to bring you back here. When we got you back, you kept talking in your sleep.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking it over. I didn’t know I talked in my sleep, and I wondered how often I did so.
“You said something about the moon,” Gary continued, “and how it sang when your parents died.” He paused for a few seconds to look at me. I didn’t respond. “But you also kept repeating yourself, saying you didn’t want any more tranquilizers. You sounded really scared, and me and James couldn’t figure out what you were really talking about.”
“Yeah,” said James. “Then it was like you were asking someone why they looked like you, and you just kept saying the same things over and over.”
I gazed at the TV. It was still off. What shows were on? The remote wasn’t in my line of sight.
“Do you know what you were talking about?” Gary asked.
I looked at him, then over at James. Both of them looked like they really wanted to know my answer.
“No, I don’t,” I said timidly. “Sorry.”
They were both quiet for a little bit.
“Okay,” said Gary. “Just thought we’d tell you.”
“There are too many things,” I said. “I can’t understand what they mean or why I know them, but they haunt me.”
“Like what?” Gary asked.
“Nightmares,” I said, “about a little girl who looks like me. I used to have dreams about an angel, tranquilizers and operating rooms, black horses with wings, and an old piano that plays the moon’s lullaby.” I stared at the floor, hugging myself. “I think I remember my parents’ deaths. I was six and it was early Christmas morning before sunrise.”
“Just try not to think about it,” said Gary. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
I shook my head, smiling weakly.
“It’s okay,” I said. “In the middle of the night, I woke up. I could hear a song being sang. It was a woman’s voice, I think, and it was a very beautiful song. I got out of bed to see what it was. It sounded like it was coming from my parents’ room, so I followed it in there.”
I paused. My throat became tight as I thought about the next part of the story. I swallowed hard and continued.
“My parents’ bed was all ripped up. There was blood everywhere. My parents were dead. The window was broken and the moon was shining directly onto their bed. I could hear its lullaby.”
I stared back at the floor. Gary bit his lower lip and James scratched his head. Both of them just sat silently. They must have thought I was too crazy to be their friend.
“I’ll tell you some crazy stories about me and Gary,” said James, perking up. “Last year, I secretly memorized Gary’s lock combination on his locker. So, when he wasn’t looking, I switched my lock with his, and he went all day carrying all his stuff to every class ‘cuz he couldn’t open his locker. It was great!”
“Yeah, I remember that,” said Gary with a chuckle. “But one time, James had diarrhea really bad after lunch, and he didn’t realize there was no more toilet paper in the entire bathroom until he was done, because some kids had used it all to teepee a house! That was priceless!”
“That sucked so much!” said James, holding his head. “It was just after we replaced the paper towel dispensers with hand dryers. I had to use the hand dryers so it wouldn’t be all wet, then clean the rest when I got back home.”
Gary started cracking up as he remembered the incident.
“But the best part was when Jason and Jon walked in and saw you!” Gary laughed.
“Dude, that was horrible!” said James, rubbing his forehead. “They just kinda stared at me with my butt up to the dryer, and all I could do was say, ‘Wassup?’ Then they turned and walked out without saying anything. Talk about embarrassing!”
By that time, Gary was rolling on the floor, busting up with laughter. A few moments later, he caught his breath and wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Priceless,” he said. “Just priceless.”
I giggled, feeling a little better. However, the joy quickly faded as a vision flickered before me. Gary and James didn’t seem to see it, unsurprisingly.
“There’s something else,” I said quietly after Gary and James had calmed down.
“What is it?” Gary asked.
“Zenox,” I said.
“Oh yeah, that other weirdo,” James commented. “Why do they always find us?”
“He said something to me that day when we met him,” I said. “When I asked him what his power was … he said it was Darknae.”
James scratched his head.
“What’s Darknae?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, pulling my feet onto the armchair with me, hugging my knees closely. “But it’s so familiar to me. When I felt it from him. The word itself. When I heard him say it, a lot of weird memories came back to me.”
Gary thought it over.
“Like it triggered something?”
“But they don’t feel like my own memories,” I told him.
“So … they’re someone else’s memories, then?” James asked, confused.
“No,” I said, “they’re probably mine.” I looked at him and tapped my head. “They just shouldn’t be here.”
“I don’t understand.” Gary looked sullen.
“Me neither,” I told him. “But there’s something I really feel like I remember hearing. I really feel like it’s something that people used to tell me, even though I can’t remember.” I put my feet on the floor, sliding my toes across the carpet. My breath didn’t want to form the words, but I forced it to. Turning to face Gary and James directly, they were both watching me intently, wanting to hear the sentence that haunted my mind for … how long had it been?
“And what’s that?” Gary asked.
“When the moon sings, Darknae takes your soul.”
Gary looked over at me and opened his mouth as if to say something, but a knock at the door interrupted him. I stood up and walked over to the door. When I opened it, I was confronted by the last person I’d expect to see. Zenox, the stranger who had asked us to find Dexter, was standing on our house’s front steps.
“Hello,” he said. He had that same creepy grin as last time.
Gary and James quickly came over to the door.
“What do you want?” James demanded.
“You three,” he said.
“Why do you want us?” Gary asked. “Is it about Dexter?”
“Yes,” he replied. “You might want to go to the park.”
He turned around and started to walk away. Gary, James and I followed him outside.
“Why?” Gary ran up to Zenox and turned him around. “What’s at the park?”
“Better go quickly,” he said. “Wouldn’t want something bad to happen, would we now?” He chuckled slightly, then disappeared in a black cloud of smoke. The smoke itself came directly from Zenox’s body and, after an instant, disappeared along with him.
“He v-vanished!” James stammered, sounding panicked. “How’d he do that? What’s going on? What’s at the park?”
“I don’t know,” said Gary. I could tell he was frightened as he glanced around. “He said to hurry, so let’s go!”
“You’re just gonna listen to him?” James’s voice cracked. “To the guy who just poofed outta here?”
“Take me with you,” I said to Gary.
“No, you stay here!” he told me. “It’s too dangerous! Dexter could be there!”
“But we don’t know how to fight!” said James in protest. “Do you know how your Soulpower stuff works? Because I don’t!”
“We don’t have a choice,” Gary told him. “We’re the only ones who can do something, so we gotta do it!”
Gary gave James an encouraging slap on the back and took off running. James looked at me with fear in his eyes, grunted in frustration, then took off with Gary. My head throbbed, and I felt that feeling of pure rage and hatred surge through me, but only for a second. After it was over, I felt empowered. I hesitated at first, feeling rather frightened myself, but I ran after them. No way was I going to let them do anything crazy by themselves. Even if I didn’t have Soulpower, they were my friends, so I was willing to do anything to help them, even lose my life. That was how I felt.
All the way to the park, I stayed a ways behind them. If they saw me, they would just tell me to go home. My heart was racing from running, but also from anxiety. I had no idea what was going to happen once we arrived at our destination.
Finally, we made it to the park in the middle of town. Gary and James stopped to catch their breath. It was amazing that they were able to run that fast for so long, but it was even more amazing that I could keep up with them. I apparently couldn’t use Soulpower, but how did I manage to run all that way? Nobody I knew could ever sprint that far for that long.
The weather was nice, and there were people everywhere. Children were playing, dogs were chasing Frisbees, and all I could see was a gathering of innocents at risk of getting hurt.
“Krystal?” Gary looked furious when he saw me. “What are you doing here? I told you to stay back!” It was the first time I had ever seen him so angry, and it was directed at me.
“I didn’t want to,” I said quietly. “I wanted to help.”
“You can’t really do too much!” said James. “You don’t have Soulpower, so you might not be able do anything.”
“Did somebody say the magic word?”
All three of us then saw the man with the black trench coat walking over to us, carrying the same sword he had during our last encounter. Everything inside of me cringed up. His scraggly hair, rugged skin, and murderous expression shaped him into a cookie-cutter image of a villain.
“You said something about Soulpower, didn’t you?” he said coldly in his deep voice.
“That’s right,” said Gary sternly. “We know who you are, Dexter.”
Dexter cackled menacingly. “You three are smarter than you look!”
“We came to end this crap,” said James, pointing at Dexter, “and we’ll beat your ass into the ground!”
“Are you serious?” Dexter asked with a sneer. “Do you truly think you can defeat me? Do you little boys even know how to use your Soulpower?”
“Of course,” Gary told him, putting up his fists. I could tell he was lying. Gary and James were going to practice for the first time today, but I had interfered with their plans. A knot was tied in my throat as I thought how my incompetence would cost my friends their lives.
“Oh yeah?” Dexter chuckled. “We’ll just see about that!”
Instantly, Dexter thrust out his hand and did the same exact thing he did to Gary in the restaurant, except with a lot more energy. Gary went flying back and slammed against a tree. James ran up to Dexter and attempted to punch him, but Dexter dodged it and pushed James onto the ground. Gary ran to join in, but Dexter let out a big wave of energy that sent Gary and James flying back. I watched from a distance as the shockwave rippled across the ground towards me. It felt like a huge gust of hot air when it went past me, and I stumbled to my knees.
“Take this!” Dexter shouted. He held up his sword, and a maelstrom of lightning bolts shot down out of the sky, blasting small craters in the ground. Gary managed to avoid them, and lunged at Dexter, who dodged every attack. Then James came from behind and tackled Dexter. I could see James trying to punch him in the face, but Dexter used an electrical energy attack to blow James off of him.
Gary saw what happened to James, and somehow created a fireball in his hand. He looked surprised at first, but immediately pitched it at Dexter, striking him directly in the face. It exploded on impact, and Dexter stumbled back and angrily sent down another storm of lightning. Gary got hit by a bolt and staggered to his knees as the surge of electricity sparked through him. A normal person would have been incapacitated by a lightning strike, but Gary had resisted it very well.
As the battle raged, I hid behind a tree. People were running for their lives as stray energy blasts and fireballs were flying everywhere. As I could see, Gary was the only one doing most of the successful damage to Dexter. James seemed to stumble around a lot, and Gary had to constantly protect him. Maybe it would take longer for James to learn how to unlock his Soulpower, or perhaps Gary was just a better fighter.
An energy ball from Dexter flew in my direction, hitting the tree I was hiding behind. I could hear the wood splinter and explode, and I ran away before it fell on me. Keeping an eye out for any more danger, I took cover behind a bush. It wouldn’t serve as very good protection, but at least I was hidden while I peeked through it to watch the ensuing fight.
James tried to tackle Dexter again, but Dexter grabbed him and slammed him hard onto the ground. My heart started to pound as I saw Dexter lift his sword high over his head and point it directly at James.
“You good for nothing vermin!” he spat. “I’ll kill you all!” He was surprisingly flustered and had blood on his face, which made me feel slightly hopeful for victory.
Before Dexter could bring his sword down, Gary ran up, moving extremely quickly, and hit Dexter in the stomach with a flaming punch. Dexter was lifted upward a couple feet and tumbled to the ground, his sword coming out of his hand. Gary quickly picked it up before Dexter could get back to his feet. He glared at Gary, wiping the blood off his face. His cheek was burnt from Gary’s fire.
“Give up, Dexter,” said Gary. “You’ve lost.”
Dexter growled angrily, and Gary pointed his sword at him, threatening him not to move. Knowing better, Dexter stayed where he was. He looked around, then spotted me in my hiding spot. Using another electrical energy wave emitted from his hands, Dexter caught Gary off guard and knocked him backward, then used the opportunity to jump back to his feet. I readied myself for the worst as Dexter charged at me faster than I’ve ever seen anyone run.
“Krystal, run!” Gary shouted.
I took off as fast as I could. I could hear Dexter’s feet pounding the ground behind me as I tried to get away from him. Just as it sounded like he was going to catch me, I saw a bright flash of light that erupted from behind me.
I turned around to see Dexter hunched over on the ground. His trench coat was burnt and smoldering, and he quickly removed it, making me believe that it was hot, and making me wonder how anyone could roam around in Florida during the summer wearing a trench coat. James was standing in a position about fifty yards back that suggested he had just used some sort of long range energy attack.
“Leave her alone!” James yelled angrily.
Dexter slowly stood back up, and James fired a bright beam of light out of his hands that struck Dexter in the back. It exploded with another brilliant flash, and Dexter fell to the ground. Gary, James, and I stood in our spots and watched him. After a few moments, we slowly walked over and stood around him. He groaned and twitched on the ground, but didn’t show any signs of getting back up.
Dexter was glaring at James. He looked like he was in a lot of pain from James’s last attack.
“You,” he muttered in a raspy voice, “what … did you do? That attack … the energy ….”
Dexter appeared too tired to talk more and stared at the sky.
“I think we did it,” said Gary, catching his breath.
“It’s over,” said James quietly. Then he pumped his fists into the air. “Yeah, rock on, baby! Oh yeah! Who’s bad? Who’s BAD? We are! That’s right!”
“That was it?” Gary wiped the sweat from his dirty forehead. “That seemed a little easier than what I expected.”
“You did it!” I said happily. I hugged them both, feeling so glad that Dexter was done for.
“I can’t believe it,” said Gary. “We didn’t even practice, and we beat him.”
“Maybe he didn’t practice much either,” said James, prodding Dexter with his foot. “Tough talk for a wimp!”
“Okay,” said Gary, looking around, “we’d better get out of here now, before the cops or something get here. We don’t need this kind of attention.”
I looked at Gary and smiled, and he smiled back. I gave him another hug.
“Hey, guys.” James was rubbing his stomach. “I feel kind of funky.”
Before any of us could react, James began to give off a bright golden glow. He slowly rose into the air, shining like a second sun. His hair was flowing freely and elegantly, and I could feel warmth radiating from him. Whatever was going on, I didn’t feel threatened by it at all. In fact, it made me feel even better. The warmth he was giving off was very soothing, chasing away the negative feelings.
“What’s going on?” said Gary in awe.
“I don’t know,” I replied quietly. “He’s giving off good energy. It’s … comforting, isn’t it?”
James soon became completely engulfed in light, an encompassing effulgence. Dexter cringed and groaned on the ground, covering his eyes. My whole body was filling with warmth and good feelings. Something was telling me that a very good thing was happening to James.
After a few seconds, he stopped glowing and floated gently to the ground, holding an incredibly beautiful sword. The pearly white blade was polished to perfection. The gold grip and cross-guard were encased in a diamond-esque coating and filled with glistening jewels that seemed to give off their own light. I’d never seen a more brilliant weapon, not even in the movies.
“What is this thing?” James asked in bewilderment, examining the sword closely. “What just happened? Wait a minute. This sword is … Flare Blade.”
“It’s what?” Gary asked apprehensively.
“Flare Blade,” James repeated. “Don’t ask me how I know, but I do.”
Our time of confusion was interrupted by the sound of unenthusiastic clapping from one person. Zenox had come out of nowhere and was walking up to us.
“Very good,” he said darkly, his creepy smile spreading across his face. “You were strong enough to defeat Dexter, and with no practice, I assume.” He looked at the two boys sinisterly. “Such natural talent.”
“You’d better believe it!” James cheered. “Check out this sword! It’s awesome!” He instantly stopped smiling and stared at Zenox uncomfortably. He, too, felt the same thing I was feeling.
“What’s wrong?” Zenox asked, advancing closer to us. A feeling of pure evil was flowing from him, just as before. However, it was much more pronounced this time, and I could feel my body shaking just from the ominous presence that I had felt in my dreams.
“Get back!” Gary warned, holding Dexter’s sword out.
“Who are you?” I asked quietly. “That feeling … I’ve felt it before. Not just the other day when we met, but before that.”
“Oh, really?” Zenox let out a dark, quiet laugh. “And where did you feel it before, my little sunshine?”
I didn’t want to remember. Those misplaced memories were the last place inside my head that I wanted to visit.