by Leslie Loo
Welcome to Tingle Town! Where you can relax! Or will you?
|Author's Note: If anyone doesn't know what ASMR is, it stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. Here's a definition below:|
a feeling of well-being combined with a tingling sensation in the scalp and down the back of the neck, as experienced by some people in response to a specific gentle stimulus, often a particular sound:
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to the title "Tingle Town". A few ASMR content creators came up with that name. Also, there is an ASMR artist named TingleTown. Besides the title and some characters based on real people, the work itself is based entirely in fiction.
Hello. Welcome to Tingle Town. The place where you can relax. Here are some rules that every citizen must follow. First, you must whisper or at least speak softly. If you have loud children, try to tell them to be quiet. If not, take them to a daycare where they will learn to be quiet. The only time you can ever yell is either in your own home (unless it is in an apartment), in your car in a secluded area, or in case of emergencies. The second rule is: you must be kind to everyone. No bullying. Whether you like a person or not, you must show kindness. You don’t know what that person may be going through.
Tingle Town was founded by Arnelius Samuel Mackery-Ron, aka A.S.M.R. He was a massage therapist and became a sleep doctor. Sadly, he is no longer with us.
Make yourself at home. Here you will find stores, malls, churches, and schools that meet your everyday needs. When you watch television, all channels are limited to silent cartoons or anything with whispering. As for music, your playlists will be limited to only spa music and lofi hip-hop. Our hotels provide the most relaxation with the softest mattresses, great food, and great customer service.
Again, don’t forget to whisper, but more importantly, don’t forget to smile.
Serenity Brooks’ mom looked down at the brochure, reading it aloud. The catalog was printed with an image of the night sky, stars accompanying it and the yellow moon falling asleep, z’s floating from his lips.
It was another quiet, peaceful day at Tingle Town. The whole environment darkened as if devoid of sunlight. However, no complete darkness was present. Just a dimness in the sky, the source of light unknown.
Serenity, her mom, and her sister enjoyed their first night in the town. Everyone seemed so kind and calm, especially their next-door neighbor, Mr. O’Brien. That night, he offered them a honeycomb cake he made and the family politely accepted it.
“What a nice man,” Ms. Brooks said as she placed the cake onto the table. “We should invite him in sometime.”
“Sure, if he’s trustworthy,” Serenity said.
“What do you mean? Serenity, this town is meant to be safe.”
“I know, but we just got here, so I don’t trust this place, yet.”
“We’ll see about that. Aren’t you girls excited for school tomorrow?”
“I guess,” Serenity said. She wasn’t sure what this school would be like. Would it be awkwardly quiet for the rest of the school days? Would she have to be ignored by her new classmates? Questions kept swirling in her head nonstop.
“How about you, Laqueta?” Ms. Brooks asked her younger daughter. “Are you looking forward to your new school tomorrow?”
“Uh-huh,” Laqueta said in not even a whisper. She hated talking, which made the place right for her.
“Let’s turn on the TV to help ease the anxiety a bit,” Serenity’s mom said as she grabbed the remote. As the TV switched on, it showed a female news reporter holding slightly stacked papers.
“Good evening,” she spoke softly. “This just in, another person has gone missing this afternoon.”
Yeah, that’ll ease the anxiety alright, Serenity thought to herself.
“Young Najwa Issawi was last seen at 2pm at Gardenland Park.” The screen showed a teenage girl with dark hair. “Many have suspected that Professor Sneaky, the town villain, kidnapped her, but the information has not been confirmed. Please stay tuned for updates.”
Serenity looked at her family. Her mother frowned and shook her head while her little sister clutched her teddy bear tightly.
“Mom, are you sure it’s safe out here? There seems to be a villain out on the streets.”
Her mom sighed. “Don’t you worry, honey. As long as we stay together, we will be all right. And I’m sure security guards at your new school will protect you.”
“Unarmed security guards? What if this villain is too powerful to be stopped by security guards?”
“Serenity, just go to bed. We can all sleep in the same room tonight.”
Serenity played with her French braid as she entered the ASMR Academy. She had never been to a school this quiet. Her last school was too noisy and crowded. But this school — It was silent with plenty of space. The whole building was dim, yet tranquil. However, Serenity felt nothing but anxiety.
When she went over to the admissions office and received her locker number, a blonde girl approached.
“Hi, my name is Dove,” a blonde girl about her age softly introduced. “I’m here to walk you to your homeroom. Your name’s Serenity, right?”
The girl’s whisper was unsettling. Serenity wasn’t sure if she could keep up with this ‘whisper’ rule.
“Such a pretty name.” Dove smiled brightly. “What’s your first class?”
“Oh. I’m assuming you have Mrs. Gigi?”
Serenity looked down at the paper, then nodded.
“She’s amazing. You’ll love her!” Dove walked her to the classroom. "You’re going to love it here. I promise.”
Serenity hoped so.
Dove continued on. “I’ve been going here since kindergarten. All the kids are nice, so hopefully you’ll feel welcome here.”
Serenity nodded, not knowing what to say.
The two stopped at a door. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.” Serenity went into the room. She expected to see kids throwing paper balls and shouting at each other, but instead, everyone was sitting down, whispering amongst each other. Tingles ran down her back, but nervous ones.
Just like every other room in the school, blacklights were planted on the ceilings. It was hard for Serenity to navigate the dark room, especially since it was crowded. She decided to sit at the nearest front seat available.
A young woman entered the room. “Good morning, everyone,” Her voice had a quiet, yet cheerful tone to it. She had blonde hair on one side and brown on the other. She wore black, thin glasses. She didn’t look too much older than her students, but sophisticated enough. “Welcome to ASMR 101. My name is Mrs. Gigi and I will be your teacher.”
Serenity calmed down a bit. This lady looked nice enough.
“Would anyone like to introduce themselves? If not, you are not required to. Here at ASMR Academy, we want every student to feel as comfortable as possible.”
Serenity then realized she was sitting on a soft cushion. She found a switch on the side of her desk. Out of curiosity, she switched it on, making the top of the desk grow longer. She gasped out of puzzlement.
“Oh, yeah,” Mrs. Gigi said. “There’s a switch on the side of your desk if you want it long or short. So, who wants to go first?”
“Nobody? Okay. Moving on.”
She passed out copies of the syllabus and went over it. She then went over the rules.
Serenity was amazed that the blacklights made the papers glow in the dark.
“No eating or drinking in class. Even though we want you to feel at home, we don’t want this place to be a mess. The only exceptions are water. You can only have food here for a project. Next, no sleeping unless it’s for a project. No talking while the teacher is talking. No cellphones, especially when the screen is too bright and the ringer is on. However, we highly recommend you bring headphones to class. If you don’t have any, the school will provide them for you. Just return them when you’re done. And lastly, no yelling. Any questions?”
“No questions? Alright. Class dismissed.”
Mrs. Gibi smiled brightly as everyone left the room.
It was already lunch time. Serenity grabbed a bowl of vegetable soup with a banana on the side, a carton of milk as a drink and dark chocolate cake for dessert.
“Psst. Serenity,” a familiar voice whispered. “Over here.”
To Serenity’s relief, she spotted Dove waving ahand to her. She was sitting at a table with three more students.
“Want to sit with us?” Dove asked as Serenity approached them.
“Sure.” Serenity sat down next to Dove and gently placing her tray against the smooth table.
“Guys, this is Serenity,” Dove said.
“’Sup, Serene?” one guy with dreads greeted. “Name’s Shiloh.”
Serene, huh? Serenity thought to herself. I’ve only been here less than a day and I already got a nickname.
“Hi,” a girl with long black hair breathed. “I’m Galyna.”
“Hey,” one more girl with curls said. “I’m Lull.”
Serenity and her new fellow students hit it off quickly. She was already feeling at home.
“So, Serenity…” Dove leaned forward. “There’s a villain lurking in these streets and–”
“Yes, I know,” Serenity said. She felt guilty for cutting her off. She was so nervous about her new school she forgot about the villain, but she didn’t want to be reminded of it at the time. Yet, she continued the conversation. “I’ve heard of a girl being allegedly captured by him.”
“Yeah,” Dove said sadly. “Najwa, our old classmate. When I heard about the news, I didn’t know what to do.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Serenity said. “What’s the villain’s name again?”
“Professor Sneaky.” Dove handed her a pamphlet, which showed a shadowy figure with the delinquent’s name above in big orange and yellow letters. “He disguises himself as whatever you can think of. A doctor, a teacher…”
“A cashier,” Shiloh added.
‘A stepfather,” chimed Galyna.
“Or even a babysitter,” Lull said.
“There’s also stories in the news that Professor Sneaky has captured other people already,” Dove continued. “Civilians are disappearing left and right.”
Serenity started to panic. She looked around the cafeteria for any signs of the man. “So, what will he do if he captures you?”
“He will lock you into his lair and make sure you never speak again,” Dove explained, her eyes filled with seriousness.
“Or live,” Shiloh added.
Serenity’s eyes widened with fear. "Has he killed anyone?"
Dove looked to her friends, then back to Serenity. She lowered her voice more. "Oh, yes. About hundreds or thousands."
Serenity's heart started to thump. Hundreds or thousands?
“But don’t worry,” Dove said, giving her a reassuring smile. “As long as you’re here with us, we’ll make sure you’re protected. Okay?”
Serenity nodded, still not convinced she was safe here, anymore. And what did Dove mean she said that she and her friends would ensure Serenity would be protected? Were they undercover cops or something?
“How was school, sweetie?” Ms. Brooks asked her daughter on the way home. While Serenity and her sister Laqueta were in school, their mother had to buy a new car. This one was anti-gravity and self-driven. Every civilian must attain one. She didn’t trust it at first, but the salesman assured her that all of the cars were well-tested.
“Weird,” Serenity answered. “Mom. Aren’t you a little worried about the villain thing?“
“I am,” she said. “But if he ever tries anything, I’ll use my karate moves on him. The buddy will think twice before he tries to go after my children.”
Serenity couldn’t help but laugh. She loved how brave her mother was. But even though she’d spent years in karate classes, Serenity feared her mother’s moves may not stop the villain.
"I've heard he's killed thousands of people," Serenity informed her.
"Well, he's not going to get us," her mother said. "Trust me."
Serenity looked over at her six-year-old sister squirming in her seat. “Hey, you okay, Laqueta?” she asked her.
Barely glancing at her older sister, Laqueta nodded.
The family pulled into their new home and climbed out.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Mr. O’Brien said as he just left his apartment room. “How are you liking the town so far?”
“Great, Mr. O’Brien,” Ms. Brooks said. “Again, thank you for the cake yesterday.”
“No problem. And please call me Maxim.”
A week went by and it was already time for a project.
“Everyone pick a partner,” Mrs. Gigi said. “If you can’t find one, I’ll assign one for you.”
Serenity was glad she didn’t have to go around the room to find some random person. The teacher could do it for her.
“Please raise your hand if you would like to be assigned a partner.”
Less than ten hands were raised.
Serenity was assigned with Dart, a tall plump young man.
“Each person will have a tube on them to test whether a person can get tingles from a trigger. For example, you could tap on an object next to someone’s ear to see if they react with tingles. The words on the computer screen will show the words “Tingles Detected”. If the person doesn’t feel a thing, check no. If they do, check yes.”
The students shuffled to their temporary positions.
“So, what do you want to do?” Dart asked Serenity. His voice was rough, but he managed to whisper.
Serenity wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She didn’t have an exact favorite. She loved face touching, but she didn’t want her face touched by some random boy. Tapping sounds might be safe.
“How about tapping?”
“Ugh, I hate tapping,” he complained. “That stuff hurts my ears.”
“What do you like to do, then?” Serenity asked.
“How about kissing sounds?” He raised an eyebrow.
Serenity scrunched her face and shook her head.
“Fine. How about-ear eat-“
“No.” The last thing Serenity would want was having someone lick her ears, especially a guy.
“I don’t know, then. This is lame. ASMR is boring.”
“Then, why did you enroll here?”
“My parents made me come here because I was ‘too loud’.”
“I know what we can do. How about Play Doh?”
“Sure, let’s do that.”
Serenity was first to be experienced. Dart squeezed some play dough next to her ears. Serenity wasn’t sure if the squishy sounds did it for her. Until he broke the play dough apart.
“I knew you’d like that.” Dart smirked as he saw that the screen read: TINGLES DETECTED. “My turn."
Serenity got up from the chair and used the play dough.
“Come on. This is boring. Break it apart.”
Serenity did just that, but nothing was working. She sighed as she put a check mark next to the “no”. She grabbed a cup and started tapping on it.
“I told you I don’t like tapping!” His shrill voice made Serenity jump. Everyone looked at him and gasped.
Mrs. Gigi walked to the two. “Dart, that’s your first warning.”
Dart got up from the chair. “What?! But-“
“Second. Want the third? Keep your voice down. Thank you.”
Dart turned to glare at Serenity. “This is all your fault,” he snarled.
“How is it my fault?”
“I told you I hated tapping, you b-“
“Mrs. Gigi,” Galyna started, trying to whisper. “Dart is bullying Serenity.”
“That’s it, Dart. You have detention.”
“For the last time,” Mrs. Gigi’s voice grew angry, but still soft, “keep your voice down.”
“This isn’t fair.”
Mrs. Gigi shrugged. “Sorry, man. That’s just how it is.”
During lunch, Serenity decided to ask her new friends more questions about the villains. As she scooted in her chair, she started. “So, about Professor Sneaky, does he come here often?”
“Only every few decades.”
“Decades?” Serenity raised an eyebrow. “How old is he?”
Dove hunched her shoulders. “We don’t know. But we do know he’s immortal.”
“What does he even look like?”
“He usually is dressed in all black, making him look like a silhouette. But he changes his appearance every so often, so no one really knows what his original form looks like.”
Serenity leaned back.
“Then, what do we do?” she asked.
“We keep a lookout for any suspicious characters around. He could be any of the staff here.”
Serenity cautiously looked over at the janitor doing his duties.
A buzz vibrated against Serenity’s thigh. She peeked at her phone, one of her old friends’ faces lighting up the screen. She smiled. She missed her friends. Her super loud friends. She excused herself to the restroom, and while calling her friends, she made sure to keep her phone off speaker.
“OH MY GOSH, GIRL! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU! JAKE JUST ASKED ME OUT!” Louise screamed along with the other girl Simone.
Serenity wanted to scream along with them, but she couldn’t.
“SERENITY?!” Louise shouted. “YOU THERE?!”
“Yep,” Serenity managed to whisper.
“YOU GOT A SORE THROAT OR SOMETHING?!”
“Lou, she’s in Tinkle Town, or whatever it’s called,” Simone said.
Serenity giggled. “It’s Tingle Town.”
“That’s what I said!”
This time, Serenity screamed, making other people in the stalls shush her.
Serenity ignored them. “I can’t wait to see you guys!” She lowered her voice again.
“Me neither!”, Louise said. “Bye, bestie!”
After hanging up, Serenity did a little dance.
Then, a thought occurred to her. She had to warn them about this “villain” watching her every move. But she wasn’t sure whether they’d believe her or not.
After another relaxing day of school the next day, Serenity squealed as she hugged her friends outside of her apartment room.
“OH MY GOSH!" Louise exclaimed once again. "I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE HERE! BESTIE, IT’S BEEN SO LONG!”
“Shhh! Lou! You got to be quiet!” Simone hissed.
“Sorry,” Louise finally whispered.
A long pause.
“OH MY GOSH! THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST DAY EVER!” Simone shouted.
Serenity groaned. They were going to get her kicked out of the apartment if they didn’t shut up.
As Serenity led her friends inside, the two girls returned to their loud chatter.
Serenity flailed her arms, trying to get them to be quiet. Then, she stomped on their feet.
“OW!” they both exclaimed.
“Shh!” Serenity put a finger to her lips.
“Sorry,” the girls mumbled.
Serenity’s mom came out. “Oh, hello girls. I knew I heard you in here.”
The girls ran to hug the mother.
Laqueta came out nervously.
The girls squealed and hugged her. “You’ve gotten so big!” Louise gushed, squishing her cheeks.
“Lou, you’re acting like you haven’t seen us in forever,” Serenity reminded her. “We’ve only been gone for a few weeks.”
“You guys want to go out to eat?” Serenity asked her friends.
“Yes!” the girls yelled.
“Only if you promise to keep your voices down.”
“We promise,” they both whispered.
Tingle King had the best burgers and fries in town. Their popular soft drink, the Whisper Whirl, was a fan favorite.
“I can’t wait to try to that!” Louise sighed, keeping her voice down. “It sounds so delicious!”
“I know, right?” Simone said.
“So, guys,” Serenity whispered, leaning forward. “I’ve been told here that there’s a villain afoot and he’s out to kidnap anyone and silence them forever.”
“You mean Professor Sneaky?” Louise asked with a smirk. “Yeah, I heard of him from a pamphlet. Please. He’s as real as a leprechaun.”
“But I heard in the news that he kidnapped this girl.”
“How do we know it’s not just some regular dude playing around?” Louise asked.
“Louise, it’s dangerous to doubt his existence. That’s probably what he wants so he can snatch you like lightning!”
“Mm-hm,” Louise mumbled.
“What does he look like?” Simone asked.
“No one knows yet,” Serenity said. “All we know is that he disguises himself as a regular guy. So, try to keep on a lookout for him.”
Simone looked over to Louise, then to Serenity. “Are you sure you feel safe here after hearing about this?”
“Simone, come on,” Louise said. “He’s not real.”
“You don’t know that,” Simone said.
“Just keep a look out for anyone suspicious,” Serenity said.
“Sure thing,” Simone said the same time Louise said, “Whatever.”
Dart came out from the kitchen with a Tingle King uniform.
“Hello, my name is Dart. I will be your…wait. Aren’t you that girl in my class?”
Serenity pressed her lips. “Yeah,” she finally said.
“Hm. I figured.” He peered over at her two friends. “And who are these two hotties?”
“I’m not sure if it’s polite to flirt with customers, Dart,” Serenity said bitterly.
“Whatever.” He paused to touch his headset. His boss was talking to him. He heard that. “I mean, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“Thank you. And no worries.”
The girls took their orders and Dart left.
“He’s a little weird,” Simone said.
“I don’t know. He’s kind of cute,” Louise said, smiling.
“Ugh. I don’t think so,” Serenity said. “He’s too loud for my taste. I had to do a project with him.”
“But you just got here,” Simone said.
“I know. It’s not too hard or anything. The only hard part is dealing with him.”
She then told them all about the project.
“Why didn’t you choose ear eating?!” Louise hissed. “I would’ve liked that.”
“I’m so glad I’m not sitting next to you,” Simone said.
Dart returned with their beverages. Each girl ordered the Whirl.
Louise took no time in trying it out. “Mm. This Whirl is awesome! It tastes like blueberry with a pinch of kiwi.”
“Mm-hm,” Simone mumbled after drinking her own. She looked like she was dozing off.
“Simone? Simone!” Serenity knocked on the table as quietly as possible.
“Yeah, I just- “Suddenly, she leaned her head back and fell asleep, snoring loudly.
The girls both tried to shake her away, but Simone wouldn’t budge.
Sooner or later, all three girls fell asleep.
Serenity was sad to see her friends go Sunday night. She’d wished they could stay another day. Or another week. But now she had to focus on her project for school. She forgot she had to deal with her obnoxious partner all year.
The students in Mrs. Gigi’s class had to work on an ASMR video. Thirty minutes to an hour was the required length. The assignment allowed the class to do whatever they wanted in terms of triggers. The videos must be family friendly. The ones provided with the most tingles would not only receive an A but receive the Tinglez Awards.
“We’re gonna win!” Dart boasted, trying to whisper. “I can feel it! So, you better not screw this up.”
Serenity felt anger boiling inside her. He was the one that almost ruined the project with his loud voice. He was the one who should be worried about not screwing things up. Not her.
Every day, students had to do different triggers on each other. It looked like Dove and Galyna were doing each other’s makeup. Serenity ogled as she watched Dove lightly stroke Galyna’s cheeks with a brush. She desperately wished she was the one getting her makeup done.
“Okay, girlie! You ready?” Dart clapped his hands together, startling Serenity. Other students glanced their way but didn’t focus on the two for long.
“Um…sure.” Serenity sat down.
“Guess what I got here?” He brought up a big pouch. She assumed it wasn’t makeup.
“I-I don’t know.”
“Come on. Guess!”
“M…makeup?” she squeaked.
“Makeup?” He laughed almost loudly. “No, stupid. It’s face painting.”
“Remember what Ms. Gigi said?” Serenity finally warned. “We’re not supposed to be bullying each other in class.”
“Calling you stupid isn’t bullying. It’s just playful name-calling.”
“Well, I don’t like that. Can you please not do that?”
Dart initially scowled, then gave a teasing smirk. “Sure, princess.” He opened the pouch and took out the supplies. Serenity wasn’t sure if she liked her face painted. She didn’t like the coldness of it. Well, at least it was similar to makeup. Sort of.
“Alright, what do you want on your face and where?” he asked her.
Serenity pondered. She didn’t know why but she thought maybe a frog. She always loved Kermit the frog.
“A frog,” she said. “And on my right cheek.” She tapped on it lightly with her index finger.
“Into yucky, slimy things, huh?” Dart remarked. “Pretty weird for a girl. But hey, I like them too.”
Serenity wished for once that Dart didn’t comment on every little word she said or every decision she made. She wished she was with one of her new friends.
“Alright, hold still.”
Serenity held her breath as Dart grew closer. He dipped the brush into the green paint and lightly brushed her face. The paint wasn’t as cold as she expected. But cool. She closed her eyes.
“Are you relaxed?” he asked, his voice surprisingly soothing.
Dart’s light brush strokes made Serenity feel comfortable around him for the first time. Dart may have been obnoxious, but when it came to his art, he was as gentle as a swan.
“Done.” He put his tools aside and leaned back. “Wanna look for yourself?”
Serenity got up and examined herself in a handheld mirror Mrs. Gigi provided for them. Dart drew the frog perfectly with its green hind legs and bulging red eyes. It was no Kermit the Frog, but it was perfect, nonetheless.
“Wow,” she whispered, then turned to Dart who wore a proud smirk on his face. “How did you learn to paint so well?”
“I took some art classes over the summer.”
“By choice? Or-“
“Yeah, by choice. Well, once by force from my parents. But after my first art class, I started liking it. A lot.”
“Now, it’s your turn to trigger me.”
Serenity wrinkled her nose at the phrasing but brushed it off. “Okay.”
As Dart sat down, Serenity said, “I’m just going to let you know, Dart. I’m not a very good artist, so-“
“Don’t care. Just paint me a good picture of Spider-Man. Or Batman. No, wait. I–” He groaned silently. Sighing, he finally says, “Screw it. Just do Batman.”
Serenity frowned. She actually would prefer Spider-Man. Wouldn’t he be easier to paint? “Um, okay.” She grabbed her brush and dipped it into the black. She outlined the bat as best as she could. Instead of painting Batman himself, she painted the symbol. She hoped Dart didn’t care. Then, she applied the yellow into the icon. After she finished, she stepped back and looked at her creation. It looked like a jumbled up black and yellow swirl.
“Well, I tried my best.” She clasped her hands together and smiled weakly.
Dart got up to look in the mirror. His eyes briefly widened, then he wheezed in laughter.
“You done messed up, girl!” he yelled.
The students looked at him again, this time annoyed. Mrs. Gigi gave Dart a warning look.
“Sorry,” he whispered to his classmates. He looked back at Serenity.
“I’m…really sorry,” she said.
Instead of glaring at her, Dart gave her a smile. “That’s cool. You said you weren’t an artist, right? It’s obvious.”
Serenity rolled her eyes at the insult.
So once again, Serenity received tingles, but Dart didn’t.
“I don’t know what I was missing,” she said. “The strokes didn’t do anything either?.”
Dart shrugged. “Nope. Maybe you’re not good at this ASMR thing.”
She glared up at him. “And you are? You are a loud person!” She hissed as quietly as she could.
Dart shrugged. “That’s just my personality.”
“And you’re rude,” she added.
Dart started looking defensive. “Look. I don’t mean to be. That’s just my-“
“Yeah, I know. Your personality. But that’s not an excuse to be rude to people.”
“I’m sorry.” He finally looked remorseful.
The silent bell pinged.
Serenity grabbed her bag and started storming out.
“Hey, Serene.” Dart caught up to her. Don’t call me that! Serenity thought to herself. “How can I make it up to you?”
She turned to him with a tense stare. “Just be a nice person.” Then she left him behind.
“So, how was your project with Dart again?” Dove asked during lunch.
“Still exhausting.” Serenity sighed. “Is this his first year here?” She looked around the table.
“Nah,” Shiloh said. “His second. And the homie still doesn’t get the rules here.”
“That’s sad,” Serenity replied. "This is my first and I'm already getting caught up with the rules."
“Maybe it's because being quiet is your nature,” Dove said. “Besides dealing with Dart, do you like it here so far?”
“Yeah, I love it. It takes some getting used to, but I’m enjoying it so far.” She started thinking about the villain. She started scanning the cafeteria for any suspicious figures. “So…should we still be worrying about…you know who?”
“Who? Oh, Professor Sneaky,” Dove said. “Yeah, you don’t have to worry about him. Again, as long as you’re around us, we’ll protect you.”
“Okay, what does that mean? How are you going to protect me?”
“We have powers.”
Serenity looked around the table again and everyone smiled in agreement with Dove.
“What? What kinds of powers?”
“If you are born in Tingle Town, you will possess these powers. You can freeze people, you can help them fall asleep, and my favorite, you can lower the volume of any sound around you, or completely mute them. I can even calm them down.”
“Why didn’t you guys tell me this before?” Serenity switched her glance from Galyna to Lull.
“It’s the town’s secret,” Dove said. “No non-native can possess these powers. So, if you travel outside this town, please keep it a secret. No one outside of this town should know that Tingle Town is full of magic.”
“Why?” Serenity asked.
“Just promise to not tell anyone.”
“I promise. But can you maybe show me some of your powers?”
“Sure.” Dove aimed at the janitor and held her hand up to knock him out. He collapsed onto the floor and fell asleep.
“Oh, my gosh!” Serenity gasped quietly. “Is he okay?!”
“Yes, he is,” Dove reassured her. “I’ll get him up.” She rushed over to the man, woke him up and helped him off the floor. After the janitor gave her a dirty look, she returned to her seat. “See? He’s fine.”
Serenity frowned. “You shouldn’t abuse your powers like that.”
“Serenity, you asked me to show my powers. I did. Luckily, we don’t have to use them much unless a loud newcomer arrives.”
“You should use that on Dart,” Serenity joked. “Or my friends from home.”
Dove shrugged. “On Dart, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. So Serenity, my mom’s having a spa day at her house. Galyna and Lull will be there. Do you want to come? It might help you get your mind off of things for a bit.”
Serenity nodded excitedly.
At Dove’s house, everyone was there doing each other’s makeup, hair and nails. Serenity was amazed. She had never seen so many other women grooming each other before. Dove’s mother decided to hire a few beauty specialists to take care of their clients.
“Hello,” one lady greeted Serenity, a small nail station in front of her. “Would you like your nails done?”
Serenity raised an eyebrow. “I-is this free?”
“Yes, yes. It is free.”
“Sure, sure. What color?”
“Um…aquamarine.” To Serenity, the color had a cool and soothing vibe to it. She sat back as the lady took out the nail equipment and got to work. While being pampered, Serenity started thinking about her home and how loud and disruptive it was, compared to this town. Honestly, Serenity wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay here for long or not. She would soon want to go back to her old town someday and return to her old home. Her old friends.
She decided to shift her mind off things and into the present. She was being pampered right now and that was all that mattered. To be in the moment.
Next, Dove did her makeup. Serenity enjoyed the light brushing on her face. She believed that Dove should become a beautician. She even told her that.
“I do want to become one,” Dove said as she applied mascara on Serenity’s right eye. “I’m hoping to get into beauty school.”
“I’m sure they’ll accept you,” Serenity encouraged.
“You think so?”
“I know so.” Serenity smiled at her. She didn’t want to keep her new friend’s hopes up if all failed. But she believed she should get into beauty school.
After applying lipstick on her, Dove stood up and said, “Done.” She grabbed a handheld mirror and held it in front of Serenity.
Serenity gasped in delight. “Oh, I look beautiful!” She held it herself as she gawked at her reflection. Her cheeks were now filled with pink blush, her lips were colored with bright red, and her eyelashes were full. She stood up to embrace Dove. “Thank you!”
“No problem. And remember to keep your voice down.”
“Yeah, right. Sorry.” Serenity released Dove from the hug.
At night, Serenity decided to stay over with Dove and let her mom know.
“So, Serene,” Dove said. The girls laid in bed. “How do you really feel about Dart?”
“Why do you ask?”
“It seems like he’s into you.”
Serenity rolled her eyes to herself. “I doubt that. He called me stupid.”
“I know, but I think there’s a reason behind that. I see the way he smiles at you.”
“It’s just a mischievous smirk, Dove. It doesn't mean anything.”
Dove turned to face Serenity. “How do you know that?”
“I just know. And even if he did have a thing for me, I would never give him a chance.”
“Wow, okay. Playing hard-to-get, I see.”
“It’s not playing hard-to-get. I’m just not into him.”
“Okay,” Dove sang.
But was Dove right? Were she and Dart meant to be? Every time Serenity saw or thought of him, she couldn’t help but want to barf. She couldn’t stand the creepy grin on his obnoxious face. She didn’t want to be with a sleazeball like him. She wanted a guy that was calm and soft-spoken.
Like Shiloh. But she could only see him as a friend, so he wasn’t an option at the time.
“You know, Serenity?” Dove whispered. Serenity started getting used to how she whispered her name. “I always wondered what it would be like if we didn’t have to whisper all the time.”
“You’ve never gone to another town before?”
“No, well except for when visiting family. Their town does get a little hectic, but it’s not too bad. But when they come over to our town, we have to keep reminding them to be quiet.”
“Why exactly is that a rule?” Serenity asked.
“They want to keep the town calm and soothing. With all the chaos going on in the world, the founder of this town strived to keep it as calming as possible.”
“No offense, but that sounds a bit unnerving.”
Dove turned to her. “Then, why did you move here?”
“Honestly, I was ready to move from my old school, even though I’ll miss my friends, my mom hated her job, and my sister hated loud noises. That’s the main reason why we moved here though. Because of my sister's hearing.”
“She has sensitive ears?” Dove asked.
“That’s what makes me more grateful about this town. It’s perfect for those with sensitive hearing. As much as I love this town, I do want to move into a regular school someday. A school where I hear a lot of yelling and laughter. It’ll take some time getting used to, but I can manage.”
“I’m surprised. Maybe we can go to my old school next year. But I’ll warn you, it’s brutal.”
“I’ll be okay,” Dove said softly as her eyes began to droop. “Good night, Serenity.”
“Good night, Dove.”
As weeks passed by, the more the students worked with each other on their projects, the more they bonded well.
Serenity wasn’t sure whether or not she and Dart were going to get along, but they finally did by October. The last segment they did was a slime video and Dart finally received tingles from Serenity. Since then, they decided to hit it off. They even went to Tingle King together on Dart’s day off to get to know each other more. That made Serenity feel more at ease doing the project with him. Dart himself was finally getting the hang of the soft-speaking thing. He tried his best to practice keeping his voice quiet. Not exactly for the town, but for Serenity’s comfortability.
The two were sitting at a table in the study hall discussing their project plans.
“I’m starting to like this place more,” Dart told her.
Serenity smiled. “That's good.”
“And you know what the best part is?”
“Doing ASMR triggers?”
“Not just doing them.” He raised a sly thick eyebrow. “But doing them with you.”
Serenity frowned. Since when was he into her? Sure, he did flirt with her at the beginning of the semester, but other than that, it was just him picking on her.
Dart started to regret his words. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-“
“No, that’s okay. You have a thing for me or something?”
“Nah, nah. It’s just that…you’re cool.”
“I’m getting a feeling that I’m more than just ‘cool’ to you.”
“Fine. I like you, okay? You’re hot.”
Serenity blushed, but she didn’t know why. She wasn’t even into Dart that way. “Thanks, I guess?” she said.
“What about me?” Dart leaned forward. “Do you think I’m…hot?” He paused for dramatic effect with a sly eyebrow.
Serenity hesitated. “You’re…somethin’ alright.”
Dart frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re not into me, are you?”
Serenity just smiled at him shyly.
“It’s okay if you aren’t. We could stay friends.” He looked down at his papers in disappointed.
Guilt overwhelmed her. She reached out her hand to touch Dart’s. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s cool.” He released her hand, got up and left.
Serenity wished she didn’t have to hurt Dart’s feelings. She wished he didn’t have to have feelings for her.
Oh well, Serenity thought. He’ll get over it.
But as she tried to focus back on her project, she couldn’t help but feel guilty. She looked after Dart who walked out of the room slumped. She should’ve gone after him, but she needed to concentrate on her project, with or without him.
Next semester, Dove decided to move down to Nixledgeford, Serenity’s hometown, to go to school with her. Since the town had such a complicated name for many to pronounce, the civilians decided to shorten it to Nix instead. Or Nixel. This sprawling town was known for its noisy environments and the music festivals. Every occasion, the city would hold these festivals.
Dove had been outside her town once, but she still wasn’t used to the noisy environment. All she heard so far in this town were dogs barking and birds chirping in the distance. Frankly, she couldn’t imagine it getting worse. Another thing was the sunlight. She was so used to the dimness in her old town that she let the sunshine here blind her eyes.
When her mom dropped her off from school, Dove carefully stepped into the school grounds. Serenity spotted her and ran to her.
“Hey! Welcome to West Bridge High!” Her voice was so loud and chirpy compared to it being soft and light back in Tingle Town. Dove was appalled that Serenity would talk so loudly. “Come on! It’ll be fun!” She grabbed her arm and dragged her inside.
Even though Dove was no longer in Tingle Town, she still spoke softly. “Serenity, just remember it might take me some adjusting to this whole env-“
“I know, I know. Don’t worry. You’ll fit right in!”
Dove didn’t believe that. She felt like she was going to be an outcast amongst her peers. She’d hoped that Serenity’s school was going to be just as accepting as her old one.
Serenity introduced her friends to Dove.
“OH MY GOSH! I LOVE YOUR HAIR!” Louise shouted. “IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” She aggressively ruffled her hair.
Dove shifted nervously. “Th-thanks.”
“I love your bracelet!” Simone said, grabbing Dove’s arm. “Where’d you get it? Can I try it on?” She slid the jewelry off her arm and tried it on her.
“Guys, guys,” Serenity said. “Take it easy on her. This is her first day. And Simone. Give the girl her bracelet back.”
“Fine.” Simone slid it back on Dove’s arm.
“Let’s get to class before the teacher gets on us,” Serenity said as she led the way.
Dove wanted to go back home. She couldn’t be part of this school. She just couldn’t. Almost every student was loud. Many of the boys were yelling and cussing each other out, the girls were gossiping and laughing and other boys and girls were throwing paper balls at each other.
Dove squirmed in her seat, hoping that one of the paper balls wouldn’t hit her.
“Alright, class, sit!” Mr. Liddell said. “We have a new student and we are to make her feel welcome. Young lady, why don’t you introduce us to the class?”
Dove looked around her. A few kids were already snickering. Others were staring at her blankly, probably waiting impatiently for her introduction.
She remembered back at her old school, she wasn’t required to introduce herself to the class. Even though she was never too shy, she’d preferred to introduce herself to a small group of students outside of class.
Dove hesitantly stood up and spoke. “H-hi, I’m Dove and I-“
“We can’t hear you, hon,” the teacher interrupted.
“Hi, I’m Dove,” she attempted to raise her voice.
“Still can’t hear you.”
Dove slumped her shoulders. She never had to raise her voice before. “I-I-“ She looked down.
Noticing her struggle, Serenity stood up. “Is it okay if I introduce her myself?”
“Sit down, Serenity. She’s a big girl. No need to-“
“Please. I want to help.”
The teacher reclined. “Fine. Go ahead.”
“Thank you, Mister. Her name is Dove and she is from Tingle Town.” After Serenity said that, the students immediately mumbled to each other.
“She’s from Tinkle Town?” one boy mumbled.
“No way,” another whispered.
“What a freak,” one girl laughed.
“Why did you say that?” Dove hissed at her.
“Isn’t that what you wanted me to say?”
“I’m-I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was a big secret that you live in the coolest town ever.”
Dove sighed as she slowly sat down. Even though she loved her hometown, she felt a bit embarrassed living in the quietest city in the world.
This is going to be a tough year, she thought.
So far, the students who have heard of such town as Tingle Town have either wrinkled their noses at the concept or gasped in delight. Most of the responses Dove received were disgusted ones. The only ones that seemed to enjoy it during their visit were Serenity’s friends.
“Did you make any new friends, yet, Dove?” Simone asked. “You know, besides Serenity?”
Dove shook her head.
“Well, don't worry. We’ll be your friends,” Louise said. “You know, if you want us to.”
“And we can try to be as quiet as you need us to,” Simone added, lowering her voice.
“That’s okay, girls,” Dove said. “I’m glad to be your friend but you don’t have to lower your voice to accommodate me.”
“We don’t mind,” Louise replied.
Dove shrugged. “You can if you want. I’m fine.” But to them, Dove didn’t look fine. She still felt uncomfortable being here.
“Dove, how about we-" Serenity’s sentence was interrupted by a student shouting “Food fight!”
Suddenly, classmates from left to right flung varieties of food at each other. Serenity used her tray as her shield, Louise just sat there and watched, and Simone took her phone out to film the chaos. As for Dove, she hid underneath the table. Then, she realized something. She had powers! She came out from the table and held her hand up to one kid and one second later, the kid froze. After she dropped her hand down, she noticed that when the boy’s lips were moving, he couldn’t make a sound. He tried to scream, but no words came out.
“Dude, what are you doing?” another kid wearing a beanie said. “You’re freakin’ us out!”
Dove put her hand up again and aimed at the same kid, allowing him to talk again.
“What just happened?!” the kid shouted, looking around frantically.
The kids started to mumble loudly about the crazy incident.
Serenity looked over at Dove. "I forgot you have those super cool powers."
"Yeah," Dove chuckled. "Me, too."
“Hmm. With your powers, you can silence everyone in this school.” Serenity smirked at the idea.
“Like you said, I’m not going to abuse my power. You must have self-control while using it. Not like...you know who.”
Dove nodded slowly.
"He returned to Tingle Town?"
"He never left. I hope he didn't capture any more of our friends."
"How do we find out about more missing people?"
"My friends and I use a news update to alert us on anything about the town. I'd suggest you do the same just in case."
The next class was just as noisy as the last ones. Hiding behind the hallway wall, Dove positioned her hand and pointed at a student named Clyde who was standing up from his chair about to toss a paper ball at another student. She freezes him, then mutes him. She then calms him down. She unmutes him.
The boy got down from the chair and placed the crumpled-up paper on the desk. The room grew quiet.
“Let’s stop fighting, guys,” he said calmly.
“Dude, what just happened?” Finneas asked.
“I think we should stop with the paper throwing. It’s not professional.”
“Clyde, since when did you become a goody-two shoes?” a girl named Shandy asked.
“Why don’t we all just relax?” He looked around the other students. “Our teachers won’t be happy about this.”
“Clyde’s high,” another kid said.
“Let’s sit, shall we?” Dove interrupted her thoughts as she slid inside the room. Serenity, still dazed, followed after and sat next to her in the front.
“Hello, class!” Ms. Lirienne bellowed boldly. “For the new student, I am Ms. Lirienne! We are all going to read aloud a Shakespeare play. I’ll start first.” As she read, Dove couldn’t help but cringe. The teacher’s voice was boisterous and filled the room. She decided to lower the teacher’s volume. As she lowered it, Ms. Lirienne’s voice was much calmer and natural. She didn’t seem to notice it until she finished a section of the play.
She looked up at the students. “Is it me or did my voice get softer?”
The children exchanged glances.
Dove sat back and smirked. Maybe this year won’t be so bad after all.
Back in Tingle Town, Dart dozed when listening to Mrs. Gigi’s lecture. For a moment, a firm, yet gentle hand shook him awake.
“Dart. No sleeping in my class, please.” She returned to the front.
But this is Tingle Town, Dart wanted to protest. You’re supposed to want to fall asleep here.
Dart took out a piece of bubble gum to keep him energized. He had missed Serenity. Even if he had only known her for a semester, he still missed her timidity.
Usually, Dart sat by himself because he didn’t feel like dealing with whispering with other students. He missed his pals who would shout about everything. He remembered one of his friends announcing that he got a girl to go out with him, and the other guys would respond with,
“Ayeeeeeee!” But instead of sitting by himself this time, he decided to sit with Serenity’s old friends. It was only Shiloh, Galyna and Lull.
“Can I sit here?” Dart asked.
“Sure, man,” Shiloh said, patting a seat next to him.
As Dart sat down, Lull said, “You okay, Dart? You’re feeling down.”
“I just miss-“ He stopped himself. He didn’t want to admit to missing Serenity.
“Miss who?” Shiloh asked.
“Serenity?” Galyna had a teasing smirk on her face.
“Don’t say her name,” Dart snarled.
“Why?” Shiloh asked, about to laugh. “You like her?”
“No, man!” Dart snapped. “I don’t.”
“Dart,” Shiloh started to warn. “Remember. We’re in Tingle Town.”
Dart rolled his eyes. “I just think it’s weird here without her.” He had a thought. “Wait a minute. You guys miss Dove, don’t you?”
“We do,” Shiloh said, shrugging.
“Every day,” Galyna said.
All three looked gloomy.
“She was one of the kindest souls in this school,” Lull said.
“She would always volunteer to help those in need,” Galyna added. “She makes sure no one feels left out. She’s a great friend.”
“Maybe we could all visit them sometime,” Dart suggested.
“Dart, we’ve never left the city before,” Lull said.
“Oh, come on. How bad can leaving your precious city be?”
“We’re just not used to loud environments,” Galyna said.
“Hey, you can always bring headphones with you.”
The trio exchanged satisfied looks.
Before anyone else spoke, Shiloh’s phone buzzed. He took it out of his pocket to check it.
“Shiloh, you know about the phone rule,” Galyna reminded him.
“Hush, girl,” he said. “I got another news update about the villain. Apparently, another citizen had gone missing.”
“It’s been almost a year now,” Lull hissed. “And no one has been able to stop him!”
“There has to be a way to stop him,” Galyna said, "or one of us will be next.”
“I mean, you guys have superpowers, right?” Dart said. “So, why don’t you all fight him yourselves?”
“Because he’s the most powerful Tingle dweller in this town,” Lull said. “So, we have to think of a way to find his lair and stop him.”
“Here. It says that he captured the victim in a city named” Shiloh scrunched his brows… “Nix- Nix- How the heck do you pronounce this word?” He showed the phone to his friends so they could figure out the pronunciation.
Each took turns attempting to annunciate it until Dart finally said, “Beats us, bro.”
“That’s Serenity’s hometown, right?” Galyna asked.
“I think so,” Shiloh said.
“But why would he capture someone over there?” Lull asked.
“I think he’s starting to capture those who’ve previously visited this town once,” Shiloh said. “If that’s the case, we need to go over there and warn the others. We’re leaving Friday after school.”
Serenity decided to take Dove to the quietest restaurant in town. She wanted to make her new friend feel as comfortable here as possible.
The lights were dim and faint music was playing.
“I appreciate you trying to make me feel welcome here,” Dove said. “But I’m fine. I’d prefer this over the loud noise, but you could’ve taken me somewhere you’d feel comfortable with. Besides, I like your friends. Yes, they can be a handful, but they’re kind. I like them.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that. But this place seems to fit you perfectly. And it has awesome food.”
“Hello!” A waiter approached their table. “Serenity, welcome back. How are you?”
“Hey, Nguyen! I’m doing great. This is my friend, Dove.”
Nguyen smiled over to Dove. “Ah, Dove. Beautiful name.” He looked from Dove to Serenity. “What would you girls like to drink?”
Dove frowned at her menu.
“I would like a strawberry lemonade,” Serenity said.
“Do you guys have the Whisper Whirl?” Dove looked up at the waiter.
“The what?” Nguyen leaned his ear toward her.
“The Whisper Whirl,” she repeated.
“Dove, they don’t have that,” Serenity said.
“Oh.” Dove slumped her shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” Nguyen said. “What does this ‘whirl’ taste like?”
“Like heaven,” Dove sighed.
“And what does heaven taste like?” Nguyen asked.
“Do you, like, have any kiwi flavored drinks?” Serenity asked.
“That’s okay. She’ll get what I ordered. That okay with you?” She looked over to her friend.
Dove nodded, still disappointed.
After Nguyen left, Serenity leaned forward and said, “It’ll be okay. You’ll love the strawberry lemonade.”
That still didn’t make Dove feel any better. She missed the Whisper Whirl. That sweet, relaxing beverage soothing her every time she let that cool feeling enter her esophagus. She felt sleepy just thinking about it.
“Dove?” Serenity asked, noticing her friend starting to drowse. “You okay?”
“Huh?” Dove lurched upward. “Oh, yeah. I was just thinking about my favorite beverage.”
“I understand you miss your hometown. But you can always go back if you don’t feel safe here.”
“I know. I just wanted to explore the ‘louder’ side of this country, you know what I mean?”
Serenity nodded. “Yeah. Totally. When I moved to your town, I felt uncomfortable myself. I wasn’t used to the soft voices and things like that.
So, it’s okay to feel how you feel.”
"But you said you enjoyed it."
"Once the nerves went away, I started getting used to it quickly, especially when meeting you guys."
When Nguyen returned with their drinks, he asked for their meals.
“You know what? I like him,” Dove said. “He seems to really want to please his customers.”
“I do, too,” Serenity said. She took a sip of her drink before continuing to talk. “So, our town is known for its music festivals and they’re having one tonight. Do you want to come?”
“Gee, Serenity. I don’t know. Don’t you have homework or something?”
“Sure, but I only have a couple I can finish in no time. So, yes?”
Dove squirmed. Back at home, during concerts, bands would sing lightly as musical instruments such as guitars and harps were played softly. Instead of going to these concerts to rock on, the guests go there for sleep. They would have sleeping mats and everything.
She looked at her phone to check the time. To her misfortune, the phone was dead.
“Hey, do you know the time?” Dove asked.
Serenity shrugged. “I left my phone at home.”
Just my luck, Dove thought to herself as she leaned back.
Friday afternoon, Dart and the gang visited Nixledgeford. They all took turns trying to get a hold of both Serenity and Dove, but neither of them answered their phones.
“Dang it!” Dart snarled. “They have to be here somewhere. Why won’t they pick up?”
“Maybe we should drive around,” Shiloh said.
“Shi, we don’t have time for that,” Lull told him. “We have to find them now.”
“But how can we do that if we don’t know where they are?” Galyna asked.
The sky neared sunset. The festival was held outside with thousands of people standing, raising their hands in adrenaline. Confetti and cigarettes scattered everywhere. The smell of beer and vodka lingered.
The British band, L.O.U.D. were currently performing their hit song “This Love is Loud But It's Rock”. Their lead Nigel screamed his heart out into the microphone, his eyes squeezed shut.
Dove shook with fear as she looked around. People near her were jumping up and down, pumping their fists and doing any other wild movement.
“Relax, you’ll have fun!” Serenity assured her. She then started joining the crowd in dancing to the music.
A few minutes after enduring the painful noise, Dove had enough. She would aim her hand to the band and lower the band’s sound, making the crowd mumble in confusion.
While Serenity dropped her arms, she looked to Dove. “What happened?”
“I’m sorry, Serenity. I can’t take this noise anymore. I’m going home.”
Serenity frowned. She looked over to the band. Nigel huddled with his mates to discuss this strange phenomenon. She looked back to Dove. “Well, can you unmute the band? I’ll call you a cab if you need me too.”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll just walk home.”
Dove pushed through the crowd and stumbled her way out of the festival. As she strolled through the sidewalk, she noticed four familiar figures approaching her. She squinted then gasped with delight.
“Could it be?” she asked herself.
She ran over to her friends and hugged each of them, including Dart.
“What are you guys doing here?” she asked, maintaining her whisper.
“We’re here to warn you,” Galyna told you.
“The professor is not only kidnapping Tingle dwellers,” Shiloh warned, “but anyone who has visited the town in the past.”
“That’s terrible!” Dove gasped. “Are you all sure?”
“More than sure,” Galyna said. "It says so in the article."
“Where’s Serenity?” Lull panicked, looking around the neighborhood for her.
Dove slightly frowned. “She’s at this music festival the town holds every so often. It’s really loud.”
“Well, we need to warn her,” Galyna said. “Dart. Go over to the festival to warn Serenity.”
“Why me?” Dart asked.
“You’re the only one in this group that can tolerate loud noises,” she explained.
“You can say that again,” Dart said as he rushed toward the festival.
When Dart spotted Serenity into the crowd, he tapped on her shoulder. She turned around, slung her arms around his shoulders and exclaimed, "hey!"
"Surprise!" he shouted over the music.
"What are you doing here?"
"To warn you about Professor Sneaky. He also captures people outside of Tingle Town that’s visited before.”
Serenity looked around, afraid. “Are Dove, Shiloh, Galyna and Lull with you?”
"They were. They’re outside the festival."
"We need to find them!" Serenity urged.
As much as the duo wanted to stay for the festival, they needed to find their friends.
Serenity and Dart looked around outside the festival. The muffled sound of another band playing followed with crowds cheering boomed in Serenity’s ears, and the smell of food tempted her. She noticed a young man wearing a white T-shirt with a tray of funnel cakes. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be distracted, but she couldn’t resist that sweet fragrance of cinnamon goodness.
No! Serenity thought to herself. Stay focused, Serenity.
She turned to Dart. “You sure you’ve seen them over here, Dart?”
Dart faced her. “Yes. They must’ve gone somewhere.”
“I’ll call them.” Serenity dialed Dove’s number. She didn’t pick up, making Serenity’s anxiety start to rise up. She tried calling the other three but they wouldn’t pick up either. She looked over to Dart who started walking away.
“Dart, where are you going? We have to stick together!”
“I’m going to go find the guys. We should split up.”
“No, Dart, I-” Serenity sighed.
Serenity jumped, then faced the young salesman before her.
“Would you like some free samples?” He held the tray up to her, the smell of the funnel cakes inviting her in.
Serenity gave up. I guess eating one funnel cake wouldn’t hurt anything.
She grabbed a piece and popped it in her mouth. She suddenly felt relaxed, no longer worried for the others. She was sure they’d be fine. All of a sudden, she collapsed onto the ground, falling asleep.
As Serenity awoke, she looked around. It seemed like she was inside a lair. A lair! As soon as she looked down, noticing she was tied in ropes, she struggled through them. How did she get herself into this mess? She was just in her hometown and the next thing she knew, she was captured inside a lair. But she knew who took her: Professor Sneaky.
She started to hear a noise. A loud door slam. It was coming from outside of the lair.
“Hello?” Serenity called out. “Anybody out there? Please help me!” She had forgotten about the quiet rule in this town. But that didn’t matter now. She was trapped and she needed to be rescued.
The lair’s door slowly opened, revealing two young figures, a female and a male. The female had straight dark brown hair and the male, who looked oddly familiar, was short with shaggy dark hair. They both had masks over their eyes. The woman was carrying a sackcloth.
“Wh-who are you guys? Will you help me?”
The duo laughed softly, but cruelly as if what she said was ridiculous.
“Silly girl. We won’t help you.” The young woman stepped forward.
“Yeah. We’re with Professor Sneaky so you’re stuck here,” the man said. He had a bit of an Australian accent in his tone.
Serenity then realized that the young man was the same one who offered her a sample of a funnel cake. That had to have knocked her out.
“Why are you all doing this?” Serenity demanded.
“It’s not us, babe,” the woman said, twisting her hair. “You’re going to have to ask Professor Sneaky that.”
“But why are you working for him?”
The two exchanged looks, then looked back to her. “That’s enough questions for you.” The woman approached Serenity with a sackcloth.
Serenity wrestled against the ropes with grunts.
“You’ll never escape, little girl!” The woman laughed evilly along with the man as she covered Serenity’s face with the cloth.
Serenity felt hopeless. She wished she could escape here and be with her loved ones again.
“There you guys are!” Dart spotted the gang outside a library. “Why did you leave?”
“Sorry, Dart,” Dove started, “but we were trying to find Professor Sneaky’s lair. So far, no luck.
“Well, duh! He’s in Tingle Town, isn’t he?”
“I meant online. We’ve tried everything. We’ve played detective by using Google. We looked up “hidden lairs in Tingle Town”. Nothing. Then we looked up “hidden places in Tingle Town”. Still nothing. Then, we tried calling random Tingle dwellers and asking them for any info, and even tried using the brochure for clues.”
“And let me guess. Nothing.” Dart frowned.
Dove nodded sadly.
“Dart,” Lull said. “Where’s Serenity? Again.”
“We split up so we could find you guys.”
“You idiot!” Dove hissed loudly, startling her friends. This was the first time anyone had heard her raise her voice. She looked around, embarrassed. “Sorry.” She glared at Dart. “Serenity could be captured by now.”
“Okay, Dove, calm down. I’m sure she can take down that guy in seconds. She’s a strong girl. But I’ll call her.” Dart dialed her number and awaited a response. No answer. “Okay, not a good sign.”
“Do you really think she’s captured?” Lull asked, looking at Dove.
“I don’t know,” Dove said. “But just in case she is, we’re going to have to go back to Tingle Town and find her ourselves. Tonight.”
“But shouldn’t we talk to Serenity’s mom first?” Lull asked.
With realization in her eyes, Dove nodded.
Serenity silently cried through the sackcloth. She felt like she was going to die in here, that she would never see her loved ones again. But she couldn’t keep thinking that. She had to stay strong!
She heard another door slam from the other door and once again, the lair’s door slowly opened.
“Hello? Hello?!” Serenity called out. She kept screaming until the sackcloth was quickly removed from her.
She noticed a man in his fifties. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and tan skin, wrinkles all over his forehead.
“Well, hello Serenity,” the man said in a low voice. “How are you today, darling?”
Serenity squinted, making out the face. It was Mr. O’Brien! Maxim O’Brien! He was the villain?
“O’Brien,” he finished for her with a malicious grin on his face.
“W-why are you doing this?”
“Oh, why? This town isn’t quiet enough. The people around me whisper too loudly. The children giggle too noisily. Others would play their music too high. All the tapping and breathing grinds my gears.I’m tired of it all! So, I decided to capture as people many people as I can and keep them silent forever!”
“But why? What is the purpose?”
“I want peace, my dear. Don’t you want that? I want complete and utter silence. Nothing to distract me.”
“But why utter silence?”
Anger started to creep in on Professor Sneaky’s face. “Stop asking why,” he growled. “Just listen. Silence happens to help with brain growth and it reduces stress. I’m actually doing this town a favor.”
“But you can’t forcefully silence people forever,” Serenity said.
Professor Sneaky smiled evilly. “Can I?”
“There can be other ways around this. You can put on headphones.”
“They don’t work. I can still hear the noises.”
Serenity thought back to her psychology class in this town. She learned about misophonia, which this man seemed to be suffering. The treatments of this disorder popped into her head, headphones included.
“What about hearing aids?” she suggested. “They might help.”
He leaned towards her with a scowl. “Are you implying that I’m old?”
“No,” she said, panicking slightly. “I mean, they might help.”
“I don’t need them.”
She thought of one more treatment. “You can go to sound therapy. They might-”
“I don’t need therapy!” he snarled. “I’ve been to billions of them. None of them can help cure my hatred for noises.”
Serenity racked her brain for another plan, but her thoughts were cut off by his words.
“Now, I’m going to go ahead and silence you, alright?” He grabbed a giant black tube and attempted to put it over her mouth, but Serenity turned her head away.
“Hold still, you little runt!”
“Please,” Serenity cried weakly. “Don’t do this to me. I’ll do anything.”
Professor Sneaky put down the tube and kneeled before her, stroking her face. “Oh, my sweet Serenity. You mean that?”
Serenity swallowed. She regretted her words. She felt disgusted by the man’s fingers on her face, but at the same time, she couldn't help how soothing they felt. She hoped that whatever she did for this man would get her out of here with no tricks.
“Y-yes,” Serenity finally said. “Anything.” What other choices did she have?
“Excellent,” the man whispered, his fingers rubbed together.
Serenity mentally prepared herself for what came next.
“Hmm…let’s see,” the professor pondered. “What shall I have you do?”
Serenity looked around the lair for any possible ideas of escape. To her left, she found multiple monitors showing different areas of Tingle Town. On her right, she found different equipment. But none of them were of any use. They were all far from her. If only I were some secret agent, she thought to herself, I would get out of here and kick this guy’s butt in no time! She looked down at her legs. They were roped tight. She had to find a way to let them loose at least.
Professor Sneaky peered down at her with an evil grin. “I’ll be right back. Don’t even try to escape.” He grabbed a small music box and brought it down before Serenity’s feet. “Until then, I’ll just leave this here. It might keep you a little company.” He opened the box and faint music started to play.
For a psycho who hates music, I’m surprised he has a music box here, Serenity thought.
Before she could further brainstorm an escape, the music started to soothe her to sleep.
As soon as the teens arrived at Serenity's mom’s house, they noticed that she was in a panic pacing back and forth in the living room.
“Any of you kids seen Serenity anywhere?” she asked with little hope. “I tried calling her but she wouldn’t pick up.”
“We were hoping she was with you, ma’am,” Dove said calmly. “We haven’t seen her.”
“The last time I saw her, we were outside of the music festival,” Dart said. “Then, I decided that we should split up to find these guys.” He looked to the other four teens.
Ms. Brooks tried to take deep breaths as she continued pacing. “Okay. I need to calm down. I need to calm down.” She slumped down on a chair, still panting.
Dove crouched next to her with an arm around her shoulders. “Just take a few deep breaths, Ms. B. In and out.”
Ms. Brooks complied, then finally, but slightly calmed down.
“Everything will be fine. Where do you think Serenity could be right now?”
“I don’t know. The park maybe?” Ms. Brooks looked at Dove with small hope.
“Or…and I don’t want to alarm you by saying this, but captured?” Dove said calmly.
“No!” Ms. Brooks stood up, staring the girl in the eye. “She is not captured! She can’t be! She’s not even in Tingle Town!”
“What I discovered, ma’am is that even if you’ve visited the town once,” Shiloh started, “you could still be captured no matter where you are.”
“So, Tingle Town was never a safe city to begin with.” Ms. Brooks crossed her arms. “And my other daughter and I could be kidnapped as well.”
The children nodded.
“Oh, we shouldn’t have moved to that town! Serenity knew there was something weird about it from the start and I didn’t listen to her!”
“It’s not your fault, Ms. Brooks,” Dove said. “You knew nothing about the villain before. But we’re going to make sure to stop him. Are you willing to travel with us to the town tonight?”
“I don’t know. I find it strange to travel to a town three hours away from-”
“Ma’am,” Dove interrupted her. “Your daughter could be inside that lair and she could be in danger. It’s now or never.”
Ms. Brooks pondered for a bit, then rose. “Let’s go find my baby!”
So, she took her youngest daughter from her room and went along with the teens.
“Hey, wake up!” a female voice demanded.
Serenity blinked her eyes open and saw the two minions standing before her.
“Had a good nap?” the woman cooed.
“Please,” Serenity replied weakly. “Get me out of here.”
“Oh, sweetheart, we can’t do that,” the woman said with a smile. “We’ll get in trouble.”
“I won’t tell anyone. I know you aren’t really bad guys. Just please let me out.” The duo didn’t look cut out to be the villain’s minions. They looked like regular people doing regular-people things. Even though looks could be deceiving, Serenity knew in her heart they had something good in them. She couldn’t say the same about Professor Sneaky.
The woman and the man exchange looks again.
The woman leaned towards the man. Serenity could make out what she was whispering. “I’m going to go to the restroom. You keep her company.”
The man nodded as his female companion headed out. He kneeled down before Serenity. “Don’t worry. I’m gonna get you out of here. Trust me on this.”
Serenity felt a gleam of hope. She knew she could trust her instinct.
“Thank you,” Serenity said. “Just curious. What are your names?”
“My name is JayJay and that woman is Luna. Trust me. Neither of us wants to help Professor Sneaky, or at least I don’t. He captured us once. We pleaded for him to spare our lives and he agreed to it on one condition: we had to be his slaves.”
Serenity gulped. “Will the same thing happen to me?”
“Possibly. But don’t worry. We’ll get you out of here.”
Professor Sneaky returned with an outfit. The same outfit his minions were both wearing. He looked over to JayJay with a sneer. “You may leave us,” he said as politely as possible.
“Yes, sir.” JayJay gave her one last reassuring look, then left.
“Hello, my Serenity,” he said softly. “If you really want your life spared, you will join me in the evil forces.”
“Please,” Serenity whimpered. “There has to be another choice.”
The man leaned toward her with a sneer. “It’s either you join me or you die. Choose one, my dear.”
It was about 8pm Nixel’s time, but the near late hour did not stop the gang from searching for Serenity. Dove called both Louise and Simone to see if they had seen or heard from their friend. Unfortunately, neither of them had seen sight of her. So, they decided to join the team in traveling back to the peaceful city.
On the way back to the town, while Ms. Brooks drove, the teens spent nearly the whole car ride searching for clues of the villain and his whereabouts.
“Okay, so far, according to the clues,” Dove started, holding up Galyna’s laptop. “The lair must be somewhere inside or around a house. But the question is whose house is it?”
“Ms. Brooks?” Shiloh asked her. “Do you have any clue who the villain may be?”
The woman looked over her shoulder with a frown. “No idea.”
Dove noticed little Laqueta squirming in her seat. “Laqueta, sweetie?” she cooed. “Do you have any idea who the villain could be?”
The girl shook her head.
Dove sighed, then said, “Okay, we’ll have to come up with-“
Laqueta interrupted. “Wait, maybe…maybe it’s my P.E. teacher back from the town. Or my math teacher.”
“Or maybe-” Lull started.
“Or maybe it’s Mr. O’Brien!” Laqueta finally blurted out.
“Our next door neighbor?” Mom asked, looking back again. “Why would he be the villain?”
Her daughter briefly hunched her shoulders. “I don’t know. He scares me a little bit.”
“Maybe once we arrive in town, we could give your neighbor a little visit?” Dove suggested.
“I don’t want to bother him—”
“Ma’am. Please trust me on this.”
"But what if he's not the villain?"
"Then, we find other clues. Don't worry. We'll help find your daughter in no time."
Once Ms. Brooks parked in front of her old apartment, everyone hopped out and went straight to Mr. O’Brien’s door. They knocked but no answer.
"Okay, maybe it's not him," Lull said.
"Let's find somewhere else to-"
Dove's words were interrupted by a girl's scream.
"Was that Serenity?" Galyna gasped.
"That sounds just like my baby!" Ms. Brooks exclaimed. "We need to get in there!"
"But what if it's another girl?" Shiloh asked.
The scream sounded again.
"That's definitely her. We have to get in there. But how?"
Since the door was locked, Dove decided to come up with a method that always seemed to work for her.
Tears soaked Serenity’s eyes as she looked down at the costume. She wondered why she was the one captured. She even wondered that besides Luna and JayJay if anyone else was captured.
“Psst!” she heard. “Up here.” She looked up and saw JayJay from an air vent.
“How do I get up there?”
“Easy. I’ll just pull you up.”
“How are you gonna—” Before she could finish her sentence, she felt a gravitational force lifting her off of her feet and up into the air in front of JayJay. They crawled inside and looked through the vents. Professor Sneaky was plotting another plot. Who knew what it was this time?
“Let’s keep crawling,” JayJay urged as they reached a turn.
“Where will this lead?” Serenity asked.
She wondered where the other minion went. Luna, was it?
“Where’s Luna?” Serenity asked. “Is she also going to help us?”
“I don’t know, but what I do know is that she tries her best to please Professor Sneaky, and not just to not get killed, but because she started to slowly admire him.”
Serenity silently gagged. How could anyone ever admire anyone like this man? He was disgusting!
“Ugh,” she thought out loud.
“My thoughts exactly,” JayJay said.
Serenity gasped as she looked through one vent. But how did they know she was captured here?
“What?” JayJay asked.
“My friends are here. They came to rescue me!” She smiled then thought for a second. “Wait. How did they know I was here?” She looked to JayJay.
He shrugged. “No idea. There is no way anyone could know this location. Just keep crawling.”
Serenity sighed as she kept pushing through.
“Here,” JayJay said, pointing at a vent ahead.
Serenity pushed the vent down and looked at the room. She saw that there were other people captured as well! But instead of with ropes, they were inside tanks.
Serenity tried to jump down, but JayJay stopped her.
“Hold on, I’ll pull you down.”
Serenity was gently pulled down into the room and JayJay floated down after her.
“I didn’t know you guys had telekinesis,” Serenity told him.
“Some of us have different powers from the others.”
Serenity looked over at the tanks again. Many people were in each one. The girl from the news channel, the school janitor and Nguyen.
But how was that possible? Nguyen was never a Tingle dweller. Unless he visited here once.
“H-how did he capture all these people?” Serenity gasped.
“He makes sure they’re in a secluded area then he swoops them away.”
“Swoops?” Serenity asked.
“He disguises himself as a shadow and snatches you like lightning.”
“But I wasn’t secluded,” Serenity said. “You were there offering me free funnel cakes.” She started getting mad at the thought. She glared at him. “Which knocked me out. How could you do that without guilt?”
“As I’ve said, I’ve been doing this for years. Professor Sneaky has made many attempts to put people to sleep with his food and drinks. Honeycomb cakes, the Whisper Whirl, the funnel cakes you ate and so on.”
The Whisper Whirl, Serenity thought to herself. No wonder she and her friends dozed off after tasting them. But there was one thing she couldn’t understand.
“When my family and I moved here last year,” Serenity started, “Mr. O’Brien, I mean Professor Sneaky, offered us some honeycomb cake but none of us fell asleep.”
“That was a fail,” JayJay said. “And it’s not the first time he’s failed trying to capture people. You guys were lucky then.”
“So, I guess this place isn’t as safe as people claim it to be,” Serenity said. “You can’t eat or drink anything without fear of being knocked out.”
“Yeah, but it can be safe again if we stop this man.”
“How do we stop him?” Serenity asked.
“Don’t worry. I’ll think of something. You just…hide somewhere.”
Serenity looked around the room and hid under the table, which was the only hiding spot she could find at the time.
Dove and the gang looked around the place. Dove picked the lock with the strand of her hair, which always came in handy. She hated breaking into people’s houses, but this was an emergency.
Somehow, the place didn’t look suspicious at all. It just looked like a normal looking house. Dove eyed a partly eaten honeycomb cake on the dining room table.
“Mm, that looks good,” Dart said.
“Dart, we need to focus,” Dove said.
The team moved forward.
“So, here’s the plan,” Dove started, facing her team. “We find the lair, but make sure we stay hidden. We find a way to knock Professor Sneaky out without him seeing us, then we free all of the captives and put the villain behind bars once and for all.”
“But where do we find the lair?” Serenity’s mom asked.
“We walk around the house.”
So, the gang did. Some of them walked around the living room while the others around the kitchen. Some even dared going into the man’s bedroom.
“Guys!” Dove whisper-yelled. “I think I found something.” She was by the refrigerator. Everyone gathered around her. “There’s some type of passcode thing on here. I think you’re supposed to say a special word or something.”
“It’s called a voice authentication system, Dove,” Lull informed. “It’s where the person-”
“Yeah, yeah, I know what it is,” Dove said. “But how do we access it if Professor Sneaky’s not here to unlock it?”
“Try whispering a word, I guess,” Lull suggested.
Dove leaned in and stated,“Professor.”
“Access denied,” the voice whispered.
Dove tried again. “Sneaky.” Denied. “Tingles.” Denied. “Silence.” Denied. After a few more tries, the system still wouldn’t budge.
“How about I try something?” Ms. Brooks said as she moved forward. She leaned toward the machine herself then whispered, “ Maxim.” Denied. “O’Brien.” Still nothing. She looked back at the kids. “Maybe if I lower my voice, it would work?”
“Give it a shot, Ms. B,” Dove said, shrugging.
Ms. Brooks turned back to the machine and whispered in a deeper voice, “Maxim O’Brien.” The doors of the fridge slid open, revealing a dark room.
Ms. Brooks looked back at the kids again, confused.
“W-wow,” Dove said. “It worked.”
“Let’s waste no time,” Ms. Brooks urged. “Come on!”
The gang tiptoed inside. The place was dark, but had little blue light. They then spotted someone. A young man. While his back was towards them, he seemed to be looking at stacks of paper.
“What do we do?” Serenity’s mom asked, keeping her voice low.
“We knock him out,” Dove said. “Galyna, my sleep spray, please.”
Galyna complied, then Dove aimed the spray at the back of the man’s head. Before she could spritz it, the man turned around. Startled, he put his hands up in front of him.
“Whoa, whoa! Don’t-”
“Put your hands up,” Dove snarled.
The man did as told.
“Where’s Serenity?” Dove hissed slowly as she continued holding up the spray.
“She-she’s…I’ll show you where she is. J-just don’t hurt me.”
Dove carefully brought down her spray, but held it firmly in her hands. She motioned everyone else behind her to come along as the man led them.
“Just keep quiet so my boss doesn’t hear you,” he urged.
Serenity looked around the area. She tried to brainstorm a way to free all of the captives inside the tanks. Was there a hammer around where she could break all the glass? Or some type of button to press?
As she got out from under the table, she heard a door open. Before she could hide, she was met with Luna.
“You again!” she growled. “How did you escape?”
“I know my ways,” Serenity tried to say with confidence.
“What were you planning on doing back here?”
“That’s none of your concern.” Serenity shocked herself with her boldness. On the inside, she was still trembling.
Luna approached her. “When I get Professor Sneaky over here, you will get it. Don’t go anywhere.” She stormed out and after she left, Serenity heard the door lock.
JayJay reached the outside of the room and then he saw Luna.
“JayJay?” she asked. She looked over his shoulder to see other people behind him. “Who are all these people?”
“Listen, Luna,” JayJay said sternly. “We have to free all these people. Aren’t you tired of being Professor Sneaky’s slave?”
“No.” She crossed her arms. “Like i said, he inspires me.”
“Come on, Luna. This isn’t like you. What happened to the girl who always liked helping people out? Who would never hurt a fly? That’s the Luna I know. This…this isn’t like you. You know that.”
Luna’s expression softened a bit. She tried to fight the feeling of regret but couldn’t. Her eyes started to well up with tears. “Okay,” she said, choking a soft sob.
“Come on, let’s free all these people and defeat Professor Sneaky once and for all.” He grabbed her hand and she nodded.
Everyone went in and saw Serenity.
Serenity gasped, then ran to her friends. She hugged her mom first.
“Oh, my baby!” her mom cried, holding her daughter tight and stroking her hair. “I’m so glad you’re alright!”
She then hugged her sister. Then the rest of your friends.
“Oh, my gosh bestie!” Louise said, finally whispering. “I’m so glad you’re okay!”
“Did he hurt you?” Simone asked.
Serenity teared up. “He-he tried to make me his slave.”
“That fiend!” Simone exclaimed.
“I’m gonna make sure he pays!” Dart growled. “Trust me.”
“Now, let’s free these captives,” Dove said. She looked up and down at the tanks. Then she looked to JayJay. “How do we free the captives?”
JayJay looked back at the door, then at her. “Okay, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but the only way you can break the glass is to scream.”
Dove narrowed her eyebrows. “Scream?”
“So, why haven’t you done it?” Serenity asked with hands on her hips.
“I didn’t want to get in trouble with the boss.”
“Okay, back up. I’ll try.” Dove backed up herself and attempted to scream, but all that could come out was a squeak.
“Let me try,” Dart said. He screamed, but the glass wouldn’t budge. “Dang it! Why won’t it break?”
“You have to have a very high-pitched voice to do so,” JayJay informed.
Before anyone could attempt a scream themselves, another scream sounded inside the room. It was high and shrill.
It was Laqueta’s. She discovered a rat on her shoe.
“Mommy! A rat!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down.
“Hold still, sweetie. I got it.” Ms. Brooks bent down and swatted the rat away, making the tiny creature run inside a wall’s hole.
Finally, the glass of the tanks broke open, allowing everyone in them to be freed. They all scattered to the group of heroes and thanked them for freeing them.
Najwa Issawi ran over to her friends and huddled them into a group hug. “Thank you guys so much for saving me,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
“We’re just glad you’re safe,” Dove said.
“Ahem!” Professor Sneaky stood there with an infuriated look on his face. “No one is going anywhere until I-”
Dove tried to spritz the evildoer with her sleep spray, but unfortunately she ran out. She shook it violently then tried again.
The professor laughed. “Silly little girl. You really think that a small bottle of perfume is going to stop me? Think again.” He slapped the bottle out of her hands and stepped closer to her, making Dove step back in fear.
Serenity stepped in front of her. “Mr. O’Brien, please leave her alone. And please stop this. I know deep down inside you’re not like this.”
Professor Sneaky grabbed the girl by the neck and pulled her close to his face. “Listen here, you brat! You will rerfer to me as Professor Sneaky, or Professor! Got it?”
All of a sudden, BAM!
Dart hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat, making the evil man slowly collapse onto the floor.
Everyone gasped, then cheered.
Serenity rushed to Dart. “Dart, you saved us!”
“Sure, why not? The dude tried to kill you.”
“Where did you get the bat?”
“It was behind one of the tank thingies. Dude’s not good at hiding stuff.”
Serenity wondered what a baseball bat would be doing in a lair.
“Well, thanks.” Serenity leaned in to hug him and he returned the favor.
“Come on you two,” Dove said. “Let’s get the police and get out of here.”
The police arrived and took Professor Sneaky in. They took away all of his powers and made sure he was in maximum security. As for the minions, Luna and JayJay were also sentenced to jail because they were an accomplice to a murder.
While JayJay was getting handcuffed, Serenity approached him.
“Hey, I’m sorry you had to deal with this. I’ll find a way to get you out of jail.” She looked over at Luna. “You too Luna.”
Without a word, Luna looked at her with hopeless eyes.
“That’s okay, Serenity,” JayJay said. “We deserve it.”
As the officers escorted the criminals away, Dove started, “Now that all that’s over. let’s get some ice cream.”
The next day, Dart asked Serenity out. After considering it for a while, Serenity finally decided to say yes.
That afternoon, Dove invited her back to her house and offered to spruce her up for the date. Serenity was more than eager for that.
While applying her lipstick, Dove said, “See? I knew that you two would be together. I don’t know why, but I just see some odd chemistry between you.”
Serenity didn’t respond. Instead, she let her best friend finish painting her lips.
Serenity stood up and gasped as she looked at her reflection in the handheld mirror. “Oh, my gosh!” she squealed. She turned to Dove with a smile. “You did it again, bestie!” She pulled her friend into a tight hug.
“Now, go out there and have fun on your date.”
“Oh, I will!”
Dart met her outside and offered his arm. “M’lady?”
Serenity hooked her arm to his and he drove her to a nice restaurant. Serenity was disappointed that the Whisper Whirl was out of the menu, but she tried to get that out of her mind. The drink poisoned many people and they didn’t even know it. So, Dart ordered her an iced tea instead.
“Thanks for saving me, Dart,” she said softly.
“No problem. But it wasn’t just me. It was all of us. We all care about you and we’re glad you’re safe.”
Serenity swooned to herself. She couldn’t believe that the same guy that bullied her the first time they met turned into this lovable sweetheart.
“Thanks,” Serenity said again. “I just can’t believe this man wanted me to be his slave. What a nut.”
“I know, right?” Dart said.
“And the fact that his misophonia caused his extreme desire to want to silence people is insane.”
“Right. But other than that, this all sounds kind of cool. It kind of felt like we came out of a comic book.”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t cool to me. I got kidnapped and could’ve been killed.”
Dart’s enthusiastic expression turned into a sad one. He reached out to hold her hand. “I know and I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re safe.”
Serenity smiled. “Thanks to you.”
“Not just me, though.”
“I know, but you were the first to warn me about the villain finding me in my hometown.”
“Yeah,” Dart blushed and averted his eyes for a moment before sneaking a shy smile at her.
“You know, Dart, we may be polar opposites,” Serenity started. “But now I’m starting to see why they say opposites attract.”
Dart smiled back. He rubbed his finger against her knuckles.
The two started to lean in for a kiss.To Serenity’s surprise, Dart’s lips tasted amazing. She’d imagined at one point that he tasted like onion rings, but he really tasted like honey. Feeling euphoria and bliss, she noticed tingles running all over her back as they continued.
Serenity once feared regretting her first kiss, but this one she did not regret\ at all.
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