Close calls, and too many of them. After two corners turned, a bathroom door opened, and a locker door closed, Nalin is starting to believe that Kyle might be able to teleport into startling proximity when he’s not paying attention. And yet, he always seems to be preoccupied—not that Nalin can complain. Strike that; Nalin can always complain. It all just seems suspicious and now paranoia is creeping back into its comfy Nalin-brain bed.
It doesn’t help that he is now accompanying this weirdo with a penchant for academic martyrdom to her predictably self-inflicted doom. Where, Nalin recalls with dread, their mutual tormentor would be waiting. Before they round the corner, Nalin’s resolve goes on an undeserved vacation, and he cuts short Lyric’s story about the mysterious goo she found sticking her homework pages together.
“Hey, uh, I just remembered that I left my history notebook in my locker—“
“Oh, did we have homework?”
Fuck. “No, but I wrote a reminder in there for another class, and I can’t remember what it was, just that I wrote one.” Less and less believable, ohgod she’s going to ask questions—
“You’re trying to avoid Kyle, aren’t you?”
“Oh no, you’ve discovered my motives. See you later!”
Fortunately for Nalin, Lyric can’t spare the time to chase after him. It’s always advised to be early for detention, as one never knows when a particularly strict moderator will be assigned. Always be prepared for the worst, which is to say, always be prepared for Ms. Powers, who is notoriously into discovering new and border-line legal methods of discipline. One foot out of line and she’ll have you dissecting it under a projector, with minimal anesthesia. Nalin never thought he’d show that much interest in Biology until he was too scared not to.
The detour takes him past the art room, where he spares himself a couple minutes to bail out his best friend.
hurp it’s late and i’m too lazy to continue this scene at present. more soon. maybe. probably. maybe.
“You’re buying my lunch today,” Lyric states as she closes her locker.
“What?!” Nalin whips his gaze from rifling through his bag.
“Hey, I saved your butt this morning, got a detention that I’m going to be spending with a jerk who stares at mine, and—”
“Whoa whoa whoa, you were at tardy limit? What the fuck! Why would you do that!” Nalin closes his locker a tad harder than he meant, causing his other neighbor to flinch and walk away, muttering something about chilling the fuck out.
“Becaaaause I’m your friend?” Lyric suggests. They start in the direction of the dining deck. “Plus I’m saving up to get Lindsay a new scooter since Zander broke it trying to get it off that stupid ramp. She can’t get enough credits because of her D in Writing, and it’ll make up for the crappy birthday present I got her last year.” Nalin huffs, which is Lyric’s way of knowing that he concedes to her demands while maintaining his characteristic perpetual anger.
A familiar blue bounds into Nalin’s peripheral vision.
“GUYS! GUESS WHAT!” Lyric laughs at their exceptionally cheerful classmate.
“I dunno, Deo, it sounds like they just announced the construction of the City’s biggest slide from the top of the tallest building and you get to be the first to ride it!”
Nalin elbows her, halfheartedly chastising, “Lyric, don’t joke about that. You’ll give the kid a heart attack!” Deo just laughs.
“Nah, but you can bet I’d be first in line if that did happen!” The short, blue haired teenager bounces a bit as he falls into stride with his friends (though, really, who wasn’t his friend?). “My schedule change processed today! Starting tomorrow, I’ve got Cooper with you guys in the morning, and we share a lunch period! And I’ve got this period free today because the whole class got A’s on the last essay!” Nalin wonders if Deo’s grin can get any bigger, and why his greener than green eyes can manage to actually sparkle. He decides he’s more concerned at the loss of quiet time in his school day.
I guess there’s always the library. The three enter the Deck, a large, square enclosure with a glass sunroof. One wall of the Deck is lined with constant supplies of food, cafeteria style, showcasing a wide variety of choices. Deo pauses his excited explanation of what he’s looking forward to in taking a welding class to ask one of the servers if they have synthetic cheese pizza today. Nalin grabs a plate from the closest stack and locates his usual shredded fish sandwich and fruit salad. He decides to go crazy and takes a serving of red gelatin.
Walking over to Lyric, who is making the difficult decision of macaroni and cheese or angel-hair pasta, Nalin comes to a horrible realization.
“Doesn’t Kyle T.A. for Deo’s Lit class?” he whispers with dread. Lyric looks up at him, frowns, then opts for the macaroni.
“We can either hope that he’s still busy, or take shelter in the back of my mom’s class. Her studio’s never full at this period, and we can help her T.A. organize paints or something.” She grabs a pudding cup, then decides to exchange it for a slice of cake. They approach the food scanner, miraculously without any accidents, as Nalin looks everywhere around the Deck for potential trouble. Deo, with his already purchased meal, waves at them from the table he’s selected. Lyric places her tray in the scanner next to Nalin’s, and looks to the cashier.
“He’s paying for all of it,” she nods in the direction of her friend. Nalin simply nods.
“Swipe both cards, please, and indicate which food items are yours,” the cashier drones. They follow her directions and Lyric selects the area of her meal the with touch screen attached to the scanner.
“Thank you, have a nice day,” says the cashier un-enthusiastically. They set their trays on the table Deo has chosen, Nalin still glancing around cautiously.
“Hey, do you know if Halten let Kyle free this period, too?” Lyric asks.
“Umm… I’m not sure. But he has lunch 4th period, so I don’t think he’ll be around. Why?” Deo stuffs the rest of his pizza crust into his mouth. Nalin shoots a quick glare at her. She ignores it.
“Just wondering. Halten’s one of my picks for my teaching assistance period next semester.” Nalin notes that Lyric is acting particularly diabolical today. Deo happily points out that the opened half of the sunroof has let in some birds who decide to perch in the small tree near them. One even decides to land on the back of Nalin’s seat, so he tosses some bread from his sandwich next to the table.
They manage to finish eating and escape the Deck without seeing Kyle, but with Nalin still harboring the feeling that he hasn’t seen the last of him today.
holy fuuuuuck i am too tired to function properly and figuring out what to write on was so hard. I know some of it seems irrelevant, but I SWEAR, the background information will spread out after the next part.
btw there will be a part three of this chapter. because this one was shorter than I wanted it to be :B
I fucked up and have to finish Chapter 1 tomorrow, so here’s some of what I wrote for Chapter 2 to tide the “masses”. Herp.
Despite Nalin’s resolve to never expect anything of his brother, he still got pissed whenever he didn’t pull through. Mostly for Katrina’s sake, because she never got angry, just disappointed. And when Katrina was disappointed, that made Nalin angry. So he was angry for the both of them. It didn’t ever make Nalin feel better, but he convinced himself that it was a justified and logical reaction.
Blake has already been gone an hour, despite his promise to return with groceries before he went off to do whatever the fuck he did. Nalin doesn’t care what it was, but he knows it’s probably something evil or stupid or both.
Katrina yawns and Nalin curses his brother with an angry text—really the only kind of text he sent him. Forget the fucking groceries.
“Hey, I don’t think he’s gonna get back anytime soon, so I’ll go get the stuff from the quick shop,” Nalin tells his sister. “Lock the doors and keep your phone on you. I’ll be back in twenty.”
Katrina calls after him to stay safe, as she usually does when he leaves the house at night. He’s out the door with his hoodie on and his card in his pocket, waving shortly when he sees a couple of Aldrich boys racing their bikes on the slight incline of their street. They shout acknowledgement but face forward, each determined to win. Nalin considers asking Lyric to accompany him, but realizes that this is stupid because she’s almost always busy at this time of night. Instead he texts her that Blake is a dick and can’t even perform simple tasks. He doesn’t expect a reply, and he doesn’t get one. Maybe later.
Kyle has been added as a side character, and I’ve deemed him important enough to get into the header. This may change, and if it does, bye-bye header!Kyle.
Ali has drawn a wonderful illustration for Chapter One, Part One, and I have put it into the appropriate place in the text. Go, enjoy.
I’ll be trying to add an update later tonight/tomorrow early morning. Gotta finish homework first.
Tolerance, Nalin decided one day, is what it takes to get through life. Not the kind of tolerance where you happily accept each other’s difference, but something more like perseverance. All you have to do is put up with people’s shit and realize that there is nothing you can do to change them. Then, be the kind of person that people don’t necessarily tolerate, but ignore.
Unfortunately, Nalin also decided, I am not a tolerant individual, and the latter technique was better in theory than in practice. As far as he could tell, he’d never done anything to attract any sort of attention to himself, and yet, he went through the same exact shit every day. Certainly not shit worth tolerating.
“Soul-less, I’m talkin’ to you!”
Come on, the door is right there, I can make it— Suddenly, the path of escape is blocked by a frustratingly familiar figure.
“Didn’t your parents ever teach you it’s rude to ignore people who are talking to you? One might think they were never around.”
“Kyle, I’m going to be late to class.” Fuck, why won’t you just fucking die already?
“Nah, man, we’ve got time! Let’s catch up,” Kyle Hunter says, grabbing Nalin by the shoulder and turning him away from the safety of a room full of witnesses. “Y’know, like the old days!” His grip tightens as the halls empty.
“We really should get to first period,” Nalin tries, “Both of us are at tardy limit, and I can’t do detention today. I promised Katrina that I was going to help her take her science project home—”
“Hand over the backpack,” the bully orders as they turn the corner and out of sight.
“Kyle, please—” Nalin is met with a shove against the wall as a response. He loosens his grip on the bag and it’s snatched away from him. He stands there, helpless, as his tormentor fumbles through his things, tossing notebooks and papers in no particular direction.
“You should clean this thing out more often, buddy.” Kyle looks at a paper and crumples it. Nalin suppresses a cry of protest as he watches that stupid essay he spent hours last night finishing become an unacceptable mess. Soon, the entire bag is emptied and dropped, a disemboweled corpse lying atop what was once inside. “Oh, man, this sucks! I’d help you pick it up, but I’m gonna be late to class,” Kyle shrugs and walks away. As Nalin bends over to start shoving his stuff back into his backpack, he hears someone else approach.
“Crap, Nalin, you’re gonna be late,” that someone starts, sliding to her knees and scooping up pens and papers. “Kyle is such an asshole.” Nalin looks up to see his best friend, Lyric, assisting in his efforts.
“Good morning, Captain Obvious, out to get yourself a tardy, too?” He picks up his essay and attempts to straighten it. “Think Cooper will take this?”
“No, but that’s why you e-mail things to me to read over. I’ve got an extra copy with my stuff. It might not have all of your corrections, but at least she’ll grade it. And,” she says as she pulls a slip out of her pocket, “I’ve got a hall pass.”
“You crazy, calculative—” Second bell. There go his chances of avoiding detention. “Fuck.”
“Ugh, sorry I didn’t get out here sooner.” Lyric closes the last notebook and hands it to her friend. Both teenagers straighten themselves out, and begin to walk back to class.
“Whatever. Could you pick up Katrina today? She’s gotta take this project home and I was supposed to help—”
“Sure,” Lyric agrees, then takes Nalin’s backpack from his shoulder and shoves a paper into his hand.
“Hey!” Nalin starts, hushing his voice quickly as they enter the classroom.
“Mister Soul,” their teacher states coldly, “Miss Aldrich. You are late.”
“Sorry Ms. Cooper,” Lyric says. “It won’t happen again. Nalin has a pass, though!” She gestures toward the scrap she’d exchanged for his backpack. Nalin glares at her before handing the pass to the teacher.
“Very well, take your seats.” The two make their way to the back of the class, where Lyric returns Nalin’s things and removes her own bag from under her desk.
“You are ridiculous,” he whispers. She smirks.
“I’m awesome.” She takes two essays out of her folder and hands him one as Ms. Cooper tells the class to pass them forward. Nalin can’t argue with this, so he scowls instead to show his frustration with her menial sacrifice.
The City is a strange place. Anyone who lives there could tell you this, if they knew anything different. There are even some who would still tell you that, but perhaps it is too dangerous. They would tell you in private, or as close as they could get. Others would disclaim them, tell you they’re crazy. Maybe they see it, too. Maybe they are simply too frightened to acknowledge the strange things that happened— that continue to happen, and will happen in the near future.
The City is far larger than any city you’ve probably visited. Within it are several districts without names, neighborhoods without communities, and levels of living. Everything is contained within invisible lines that seem to have existed forever. The City grows upward, sometimes outward, but even the space left for expansion has its end at the Fence. Hardly anyone commutes between the City and the Fence. Mysterious white trucks leave when there is no one around to see them, invisible to the public eye.
There is nothing beyond the Fence. A single, unused road reaches away into oblivion, where the wind and clouds are mysteriously born. Nobody leaves, and nobody visits. As far as anyone knows, there’s nobody to come and visit.
These things are ignored. It’s dangerous to question the City, and more dangerous to question the Fence. The history scatters into vague origins that limit the knowledge of school children and even the most respected scholars. The few who know the truth live far from everyone else, forever extending their reach to the sky and hiding their trails in a closely kept bureaucracy.
But they are not important. Not here, not now. They are too distant from these events, even while they watch. Too distant to be noticed by a few unfortunate Souls.
Nalin is an unfortunate teenager with no parents, and a shady older brother to take care of him and his sister. A string of curious events involving his ever chipper classmate, Deo, have forced him into heroism and hilarity.
Deo is a happy-go-lucky boy with a strange ability who decides to take justice into his own hands. After discovering a similarly strange power in his friend, Nalin, he takes to recruiting himself a sidekick.
Blake is the secretive eldest child of the Soul family, and legal guardian of his siblings, Nalin and Katrina. His source of income is unknown. Blake usually has a polite demeanor, but Nalin knows he’s hiding a dark side of himself, and maybe a few secrets.
Kill Joy is an equally secretive and sinister crime lord. He is notably flamboyant in presentation, claiming that style and strategy go hand in hand. With a finger in each crime ring, he maintains control over most of the city. Though Kill Joy rarely executes his plans himself, he is feared by those under and above him for his skill and ruthlessness as a killer.
Katrina is the younger sister of Nalin and Blake Soul. She is smart, resourceful and intuitive, though her desire to see the good in people can seem naive. She cares greatly for her brothers, and often takes care of Nalin better than he can take care of her. She dreams of being a scientist, like her parents were, and knows just about everything there is to know about chemicals and their properties.
Lyric is Nalin’s best friend and, to some degree, confidant. She seems to be the only one who believes that Blake is up to no good, and they bond over sarcasm and their cynical views of others. She is also friends with Deo because he’s a good kid.
Kyle is a jerk who can’t cope with his problems. He’s bullied Nalin since they had a falling out as young kids, and he’s turned this into a hobby of being a dick to everyone else around him. He also kind of has the hots for Lyric, and those feelings most certainly are not reciprocated. Oh, well. Just another thing to be a dick about.
Andrew is a popular stylist in the city, and owns a chain of hair and beauty salons. He also dabbles in fashion. His rise in the industry was rather mysterious, but his sense of style was enough to overshadow any doubts the public may have had early on.
Michelle seems to have very advantageous connections, but it is unclear what exactly she does. She can be recognized as an associate and patron of Andrew’s main hair salon.