Welcome to Greyhollow, a small town with a dark past and even darker secrets...
Sunlight poured into his room, dust motes drifting through the golden rays. He was sitting upright bed, rubbing sleep from burning eyes. Tristan looked around blearily as the strange dream faded away. Baset lay stretched beside him, whiskers twitching. "Must be nice." He muttered bitterly. Itching his chest, he felt something unfamiliar and remembered the amulet. It was warm to the touch. An alarm clock blared, rousing Baset who gave Tristan a disapproving glare. "I hate mornings too." He grumbled as he got dressed for the new day.
When he walked into the kitchen he spied a note lying on the table. 'Gone to see a friend, will be back later. Lunch is in the fridge. Love, Gran.'
Tristan smiled until he read the post script. 'P.S. You're grounded till further notice.' This further soured his grouchy demeanor. He stomped over to the fridge and stuffed the brown paper bag into his backpack. Brakes squealed outside, signaling that the school bus had arrived. After one last check for forgotten items the grouchy boy trudged outside, bemoaning the torture of public education.
The bus reeked of body odor and spoiled milk. Tristan wrinkled his nose as he maneuvered past sullen passengers into an empty seat. Avoiding eye contact with his fellow students, he popped headphones in while the yellow behemoth hissed and headed to its next destination. He skipped songs until one fit his mood, a metal ballad fueled with scorching rage.
Greyhollow passed by his window, which he scowled out of. The picturesque little town looked especially cheery this morning, making it even easier to detest. Trapped within those confines gave Tristan a yearning to travel the world beyond. Hate bubbled up from within, which he indulged spitefully. He hated the little post office that never delivered mail on time. He loathed the fat deli owner who had a habit of putting his finger on the scale. And Tristan especially despised the head of the historical society. Ever since he was a little boy, she fawned over him incessantly and pinched his cheeks too hard.
Fuming, he glared out at the world until the swirling cloud of contempt was interrupted by someone tapping his shoulder. "Uh, excuse me?" A brunette girl in the seat behind him said tentatively. "What?" He snapped, prickling at her touch. Flinching at the response, she sat back and hid behind thick curly brown hair. "N-never mind." Tears welled up in her emerald eyes as she avoided Tristan's baleful gaze.
Guilt weighed heavily on him. Pulling the earbuds out, he attempted a friendly smile. "Sorry, I'm just having a rough morning." Extending a hand, he introduced himself. The girl regarded the gesture warily, as if Tristan were some dangerous animal. Grasping his hand delicately, she shook it. "Mona."
"What were you going to say before?" Shaking her auburn locks, Mona frowned slightly. "I don't remember." "It's cool, I didn't mean to bite your head off." She nodded and played with a strand of hair absentmindedly as she stared out her window. An awkward silence pervaded the air between them. Turning away, Tristan shut out the sounds of the bus with music once again. It wasn't long before he felt Mona poking him once again. He took an earbud out and gave her an inquisitive look. "I remembered what I meant to ask you." She said brightly. Tristan raised an eyebrow while the girl continued. "Could you turn your music down? It's really loud." Lowering the volume, he sighed as his patience began to erode.
Arriving at school, Tristan was lost in a sea of students as they poured off the buses. Once inside, he was forced to fight his way through the human swarm, tuning out conversations and avoiding unnecessary interactions. The secret to surviving the unforgiving social games was not to play them. Better to be a nobody than a loser, he thought as he opened a door to the computer lab. Tristan was fortunate enough to have a study hall during first period. There were many times when he abused it for the sake of completing last minute assignments, but this time was different.
After logging into the computer, he typed in a proxy web address to circumvent the archaic school filter. This allowed him to access websites which would have been blocked otherwise. One such site was a certain forum he frequented of late, called Obscura.com.
Dedicated to all sorts of mysteries and unexplained phenomena, the forum was a veritable pool of speculation which lacked the knowledge to substantiate any claims. Topics ranged from UFO sightings, to ghostly hauntings, and even as far as discussing whether Atlantis actually existed. Normally when he came across a hotbed of outrageous conspiracies, Tristan would have rolled his eyes and moved on. But in his travels, he found a section of great interest. Moving the mouse, he clicked on a page entitled 'Cattle Mutilations'. Scrolling through the page showed little activity in the past few days. Time to change that.
10/23/16 @ 08:10
TotalCaffiend: >Found another one today.
LordPembelton: >Dude seriously gtfo
TotalCaffiend: >No pics yet but yeah
Fart_Knocker: >story time?
Keys clacked as Tristan typed furiously, detailing the nights' harrowing events. Taking care to leave out any names or places, he quickly read it through twice before pressing enter. Replies blinked within a few minutes.
BongtheRipper: >this is why I don't go outside. Thank you for my new paranoia
Fart_Knocker: PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN
TotalCaffiend: No such luck sadly
As an after thought, he spent a few minutes in Paint and attached a poorly scrawled version of the arrow symbol.
TotalCaffiend: >Did find this though, any ideas?
(.jpeg attached) (open Y/N?)
SexyGhostButt: >New gang sign maybe?
Crak_iz_whak: >Maybe its a sign... to gtfo
TurdNuggit: >Never seen it before. Might be a sigil but those look sorta different.
animalsRtasty: >its clearly a thank you for the meal
CleanMeUpScotty: >Gotta be an alien marking of some kind
TurdNuggit: >probable but not likely
Er3nJeagerB0mb: >find any crop circles, OP?
Tristan winced as the thread began to derail into jokes and heated discussions on the likelihood of extraterrestrials. Typical, really. Most conversations on this forum ended in this manner, but a rare few were actually helpful. Abandoning the site in despair, he searched online for 'strange arrow symbol' but had no luck finding anything remotely close as he scrolled past varied pointy images.
The bell rang shrilly, signaling that second period was about to commence.
Frustrated, he logged off and stormed out of the computer lab.
Navigating through a gaggle of giggling girls, he shouldered his way to classroom 2B. Here, the mind numbing agony of Calculus reigned with impunity. At least he didn't have to suffer alone. Aiden was already at his desk, doodling in a notebook. He looked up when Tristan dumped his backpack on the ground. "Sup man. How's the leg?" "Eh, I'll live. Just way too tired for this crap." Nodding in agreement, Aiden yawned and put his head on the desk.
"Let's put nap time to a vote." His voice was muffled through the notebook.
"Drawing a new tattoo?" Tristan caught sight of a sketch, partially obscured by the artist's face. Lifting his head, Aiden rubbed his bleary eyes. "Nah, just something from this weird dream I had." It was slightly smudged, but it appeared to be a stone church wreathed in flame. "That looks vaguely familiar... Like from a movie or something?" The artist shrugged.
With a bang the door burst open and a short balding man rushed to the desk, trailing papers. "One moment, class!" Mr. Harrison called out as he scrambled about in disarray. The math teacher was nearly always late and the running joke among students was that he could calculate the answer to any problem but somehow couldn't solve for traffic.
Piling all the papers on the desk, Mr. Harrison clapped his hands and smiled brightly. "Now let's recap what we went over yesterday, because we will be having a quiz." A collective groan arose. "Thought I would forget, eh?" Cackled the teacher as he began scribbling an equation on the board. Tristan put his head in his hands and prayed the next hour would pass by quickly.
Once again, he found himself pushing through a stream of awkward teenagers. Second period had dragged on for what felt like a century, and to add insult to injury the pop quiz was a utter disaster. Tristan glared at the paper in his hand. C minus was emblazoned in red ink above a little frowny face, Mr. Harrison's way of showing his opinion. Aiden quietly showed Tristan his own failure, a D with a weeping face. "He's twisted, man."
"Not like we had much of a chance, my brain's completely fried." The bell rang out, warning that the next period was about to start. A mad rush broke out as students shoved each other out of the way for fear of being tardy. "Every man for himself!" Aiden shouted over the masses. "They should really give us more time!" Tristan grumbled as he darted past a freshman who was frantically consulting his class schedule.
"Peace out man, see you at English Lit!" With that, the bulky teen lowered his shoulder and charged off. Tristan turned his head to watch him go. Someone behind growled. "Move it!" While simultaneously shoving him. Losing his footing, Tristan knocked into a girl with a blue backpack. "Hey, watch it!" She protested as they both fell to the floor, books scattered and kicked by an army of anxious feet. And then the wave of people ended, leaving the two alone in an empty hallway.
"Really sorry! Some idiot pushed me." Babbled Tristan while he set about collecting the fallen textbooks. She brushed the hair out of her face and his spirits fell as recognition sank in.
"Are you like my personal bully or something?" Mona said irritably, brushing herself off. "N-no... I just-" She yanked her books from his hands and put them in the pastel blue bag. "First you yell at me, then you treat me like bowling pin..." Flustered, Tristan retrieved his fallen items as he attempted to apologize. "That's not wha-" Chuckling, Mona put her hand on his arm. "Relax, I'm just messing with you. It's fine, really." "So... you aren't mad?" Shaking her wavy brown head, she picked up some trampled papers. "Not really, but you can make it up by helping this girl out."
Relieved, Tristan grinned broadly. "Anything at all, I'm your man." Straightening her outfit, Mona then sorted through the papers. "Just not when it comes to math, apparently." She handed him back the morning's quiz. Embarrassed, he shoved it into his backpack and zipped it up. "It's been a rough morning." Tristan grimaced. "Where's 4D? I have Biology next." Her green eyes met his and he found himself zoning out.
"Uh... Oh 4D? That's what I have too! It's right around the corner..."
Tristan knew exactly who it was before he even turned around. That nasal voice belonged to Blake, the hall monitor. Blake was under the delusion that his badge made him God of the Hallways, responsible for prowling corridors in search of victims. Those unlucky enough to run afoul of him were charged a demerit, indelible charges which one accumulated over the school year. In fact, the only way a student could remove a demerit was to either volunteer for after school duties, or sit in detention.
"What do we have here..." Blake gloated, pushing up his glasses. His pimply face leered at Mona, who smiled back innocently. Crossing his skinny arms, the hall monitor turned towards Tristan. "You of all people should know what happens to tardies."
"I was just helping her pick up the mess I made, it's my fault. You can give me her demerit too." Tristan pleaded. "How honorable of you." Sneered Blake. Pulling out a pink notepad from his shirt pocket, he waved it tantalizingly. "But the lady can speak for herself." Licking a pen, he held it poised over the paper. Mona frowned in confusion. "I'm sorry, what exactly did we do?"
"Since it's now..." Blake checked his watch. "... third period and neither of you have a hall pass, rules dictate a demerit for you both. Unless..." He paused to look at Mona and licked his lips. "You give me a kiss and I'll pretend I didn't see you both."
Furious, Tristan interrupted. "Nobody in their right mind would kiss a slimy little toad like you. Come on Mona, let's go." Shaking her head she stood her ground, beaming at Blake. "I dunno, maybe he'll turn into a prince?" Face darkening with anger, Blake began to scribble on the notepad. "Have it your way." He hissed.
Mona stepped forward until she was face to face with the irate monitor. Looking up at her, he started to say something but his mouth hung slack jawed as the brunette locked eyes with him. "You didn't see us. In fact, you didn't see anyone doing anything wrong all day. Capiche?"
Nodding, Blake's arms sank to his sides as a line of drool dribbled onto his starched button up shirt. Satisfied, Mona backed up and grabbed Tristan's arm. "Come on, we'd better hurry before someone else comes!"
"Is he going to be alright...?" He gestured towards, Blake who continued to stare off into space. "He's fine, let's go!" Reluctantly, Tristan let Mona pull him away. Looking back, he saw Blake shake his head as if waking from sleep. Then they rounded the corner and ran into classroom 4D.
A sea of faces stared back at them as the two rushed in. Mona dropped Tristan's arm as the students whispered amongst themselves. At the head of the room, the teacher was putting the finishing touches on a diagram.
".... And so the animal kingdom is separated into forty different phylum such as-" Mrs. Edwards turned from the blackboard and glowered at the late arrivals. "You would do well to avoid disrupting class, Mr. Mathers and Ms...."
Mona graciously took charge and smiled radiantly. "It's Mona, Mona Addams. I'm transferring in from Richmond High. Sorry for being disruptive, I was lost and asked Tristan to help me find my way around."
Disarmed, Ms. Edwards apologized for the confusion. "I had no idea you were arriving today, please pick out a desk. We are going over different classifications of the animal kingdom."
Every seat was taken except in the front row. Tristan sank into his desk, feeling everybody staring at the back of his head. If Mona felt uncomfortable, she didn't show it. Plopping herself next to him, she pulled her text book out of her bag and examined it. "I think you have mine, this one is yours." She whispered. "It's the same damn book, we'll switch after class." He shot back, trying to avoid any extra attention. Mona poked him with a pencil.
"I like to highlight, just gimme it." Ms. Edwards looked at Tristan and cocked an eyebrow. "Do I need to separate you two?" He sank further in his desk. Mona once again turned up the charm. "I was just asking for my textbook, Tristan and I swapped ours on accident."
From the back, he heard someone mutter. "Bet that's not the only thing they've swapped." Laughter broke out as Tristan hid his head in shame. He glared at Mona who was hiding a smile behind her hand. She mouthed sorry at him as Ms. Edwards brought the class back to order.
As soon as the lesson resumed, the loudspeaker beeped and a gravelly voice announced that Tristan Mathers was to report to the principle's office. "Oooo you're gonna get it." A kid next to him snickered. He felt Mona looking at him concernedly, but he refused to meet her eye as he grabbed his bag and stormed out.
As he walked into Administrative Services, Tristan discovered that he wasn't the only one who'd been summoned. Clara, Aiden and Dylan sat on the bench outside Principal Hartness's office, various degrees of worry playing across their faces.
Clara was gripping the seat so hard her knuckles were white, next to her Aiden was trying his best to look nonchalant but his right leg kept bouncing. Dylan was holding his head in his hands, looking as though the world was coming to an end. He raised it once Tristan walked in. "Looks like the gang's all here." Aiden grinned.
"Any idea what this is about?" Tristan asked as he squeezed next to Dylan. The heavy set teen shrugged and went back to moping. Clara narrowed her blue eyes in thought. "Maybe they found out we broke curfew?" She said in a low voice. "I did just get a demerit like five minutes ago." Tristan confessed. "But why would you guys be here?"
Aiden rubbed his face. "Hey, who's to say this is even a bad thing? Maybe we're getting a commendation." Everyone looked at him incredulously. Finally Dylan spoke up. "All I know is if I get in anymore trouble, I'll be grounded until next summer." Patting him on the back, Tristan shook his head. "It's not gonna come to that man."
The door to the principal's office swung open silently. Mr. Hartness loomed in the door frame. The four youths felt menace emanating from him as he stared at each of them. His next words put fear into them, its icy tendrils dripping down their spines. "There is an issue we need to discuss. And there will be consequences."