4: They Don't Fight Fair

“Oh, Jason, Jason, Jason.” Seth made a clicking sound with his tongue as he continued moving toward me.

He looked like a ghost, and it wasn’t my imagination. It was that goddamn pasty skin of his.

Brad walked up from behind him, towering over me seemingly more than usual. They backed me against the window.

“NO! NO!” I insisted. I had to be having a nightmare, because what was happening was impossible. “Your leg?!”

Seth smiled. “What’s wrong with it?”

“I saw it! It ripped off and—”

“You really think I’d be here if my leg had ripped off?”

It felt like my head was going to explode. “No, but you can’t—”

“Look at him,” Brad interrupted, setting his hand on the window and leaning into me so that his nose was two inches from my face. I could feel his hot breath on my lips as he whispered, “He’s really cute when he’s scared.”

My heart raced. Not from the whole douchey Brad in my face thing. More from the whole Seth should still be in ER getting his leg set thing.

Seth got just as close as Brad so that we were all huddled against the window. My breath quickened and my heart sped up as claustrophobia started to kick in.

I glanced at Seth’s jeans. A huge bloodstain with streaks extended down to his shoes, which were covered in a mix of mud and blood. It was the only proof I had to convince myself that I hadn’t made the whole swinging leg bit up.

“Just let me play with him for a while,” Brad said.

His nose brushed across my ear. My head snapped up. He clenched his necklace and stared at me with his eager blue eyes. He bit his lip. It was evident that he wanted to do more than rough me up.

“I think he’d like that,” Seth replied with a giddy smile.

My fear was replaced with rage, but I kept it under control so that we didn’t have another P.E. experience.

“If you’re gonna to do something,” I said through clenched teeth. “Just do it.”

Seth’s lips tightened. He gave me a stern glare. He obviously wasn’t a fan of people challenging his authority.

“No, Jason,” he insisted. “You wouldn’t like that.”

We stared each other down.

He made a fist and took a quick step at me. My back arched, chest tensed, and fists clenched as my body went into defense mode.

Seth chuckled. He shook his head.

False alarm.

“You’re not worth my shit,” he said. He whipped around and headed for the door.

My testosterone kicked in, and I went at him fists-first.

He turned back, holding his necklace. He stared into my eyes. He didn’t look even a little concerned about my attack. I was sure it was because he thought Brad was going to bail him out, but at the speed I was going, there was no way even Brad was going to be able to pull me off before I got a few good face shots in.

Seth’s brow was cocked, like he was challenging me to take my best shot.

I swung. It was going to be nice to knock him and that stupid brow to the floor.

Just as my fist was about to make contact with his pasty flesh, a powerful force pulled me from behind and threw me back. Not just a little throw. My body flew into the air and my back slammed into the window so hard that I was surprised I didn’t hear it crack. Not the window—my back.

Damn Brad’s quick, I thought.

But Brad was standing beside me, his arms folded, a snarky grin on his face.

Seth stood a few feet from me, like he was still waiting for me to make a move.

I looked around, trying to figure out how I’d ended up against the window. An odd realization hit me. I was taller than Brad and much taller than Seth. I looked to my feet. I was literally hovering over the half-dressers between our bunks.

I tried to take a step forward. My foot didn’t budge. I was practically glued to the window.

My arms were stretched out, my wrists pressed against the glass just like my feet. I struggled to get one of my arms free. I pushed and pushed, but it was like I had a 700 pound weight tied to my wrist. I inched my hand forward till my muscles gave, and it flew back against the glass.

What the hell was going on?

I turned back to Seth. He had a knowing glare in his eyes.

Shit.

My entire sense of reality crumbled. I was right. Seth’s leg had fallen apart. I didn’t know how or why, but Seth had some sort of power. Maybe it was witchcraft, or superpowers, or tele-whatever, but he had something out of this world, and at that moment, he was using it against me.

Seth didn’t move, just watched me struggle.

A breeze wisped passed my face and pushed my head against the window. I could feel the back of my skull swelling. A force wrapped around my throat and tightened. I’d seen a special on the Discovery Channel where a boa constrictor wrapped around a bird’s neck and strangled it to death. It felt like I had a giant boa constrictor around my neck. My pulse pushed into my jaw. I tried to force a breath, but only managed to make a hissing sound.

“I know you’re new here,” Seth said patronizingly. “But I’m sure you’re a fast learner.”

I tried to look at him, but the boa-constrictor force was pushing my face up toward the ceiling.

“We own this school. And we don’t take crap from anyone. So if you mess with me or Brad, you’re dead. Got it?”

I was starting to see those little green and grey blobs—the ones that I used to see when I was little and held my breath with my friends to see who could do it the longest. My face felt like it was on fire. I wondered if it was all due to lack of oxygen, or if part of it was from sheer rage. Either way, I needed air. I needed it bad.

“I’m sorry,” Seth said. “I asked you a question. Do you understand?”

Here I was, powerless and desperate for air, and he was just rubbing it in. He loved watching me squirm. And that made me hate him.

“Brad, did you hear an answer in there?”

“Nope.”

Tears filled my eyes. It felt like my head was going to pop off, or my brain was going to squirt out my ear. I continued trying to breathe, but the closest I could get was a limp wheezing sound.

“You know, Jason, you really shouldn’t let your pride—”

KNOCK! KNOCK!

Seth and Brad turned to the door.

In an instant, all the force and power that I had been struggling so hard against dissolved. My body dropped. My knee and ankle hit the dresser, and I went rolling onto the floor.

I coughed a loud, obnoxious, dry cough. Not the kind of cough you do when you need to clear your throat. The kind you do when you’re lungs don’t know what the hell’s going on.

I took my first good breath of air. A wonderful sense of ease rippled through my body.

Seth stood by the door, his body tense. “Who is it?”

“Me,” came a little voice from the other side.

Seth relaxed. He opened the door.

As I forced more air into my confused lungs, the mousy girl from P.E. entered. She looked back and forth between Seth and Brad uneasily.

“What do you want?” Seth asked.

“I—ah—I—” She struggled, like she’d forgotten what she’d come there for. “I just wanted to check in to make sure you were okay.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

The mousy girl looked to the floor. In all the time that she’d stood there, she hadn’t looked at me once, despite the fact that I was making such a big, over-dramatic scene with my breathing and feeling my knee and ankle to make sure they were okay. Rats, rats, rats. That’s all this school seemed to have were rats.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure.”

Seth took a breath and gave her a hug. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just been a long day.”

She nodded. “Sorry,” she iterated. “I was just worried.”

Seth brushed his face through her hair. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” he said. It was like watching a Dad giving his little girl a hug after her first boo boo.

He pulled back, looked her in the eyes. “Thank you,” he said. It was the most sincere thing I’d heard come out of his mouth since I’d known him. Had everything else that had happened not left my stomach feeling unsettled, that would have made me want to gag.

She smiled one of those uncomfortable “I’m not really okay, but I know you want me to be, so I’ll just go with it” smiles. She still hadn’t looked over at me.

Seth gave her another hug and kissed her on the forehead. “You okay?”

She nodded, but something in her gaze made me feel like she wasn’t. And the suspicious look in Seth’s eyes made me think that he wasn’t buying her nods and smiles either.

My eyes widened as I noticed a shiny gold-coin hanging from a necklace she was wearing. It was identical to the ones Brad and Seth wore!

“Okay,” Seth said. “Now, hurry back to the girl’s dorms. You don’t want to get caught sneaking around over here and tarnish your perfect angel record, do you?”

Brad snickered, and Seth smiled broadly.

“‘Night,” she said. “‘Night, Brad.”

“Later.”

She turned back to the hall but flashed me a quick glance. Her green eyes shimmered in the fluorescent lights. Seth shut the door and locked it.

I was on my knees, looking up to see if they were going to continue abusing me with whatever power they had. I didn’t think I could take much more.

Seth sighed. He looked to Brad. “Well I’m beat.” He passed me by the bunk and climbed up to his bed.

Brad smiled at me. He stepped forward and bent down till his face was right in mine, just like it had been at the window. “So which eye you gonna keep open?” he asked, flashing his perfect teeth. He gave a little wink and patted me on the head.

A rush of heat spiraled up my spine to my face, but I didn’t dare make a move. I wasn’t going to be an idiot and get myself killed. Instead, I was determined to get to the bottom of all this, and when some of it even started to remotely make sense to me, Seth and Brad were going to pay.

Brad turned out the light. I crawled into bed. I didn’t sleep that night, but it was clear by Brad’s obnoxious snoring that it didn’t matter which eye I kept open.

My rational mind and my memory of being pressed up against that window warred throughout the night. I wanted there to be a logical explanation. There was no way that was possible. I tried to pretend that I’d just imagined the whole thing, but I knew better. Brad and Seth had some sort of power that had A) made Seth’s leg perfectly fine after Brad had crushed it under his weight, B) thrown me to the wall, and C) nearly choked me to death. Then there was the one other thought. The mousy girl. Who was she and what did she have to do with all this?

I was too rattled to sort through any of it for answers. One thing I knew: I was going to get these bastards, but it was going to take some time.