Jackson didn't know his life was about to change. Especially with his summer hook-up
Lifeline of the Phoenix
Written by Hannah Poston
Today, everything will change. Jackson walks into his senior year of high school, head held high, knowing that this year will be the best yet. He is standing tall with his shoulder-length blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and a smile that makes many girls' hearts drop. He walks up to his locker and put his combination in; 02-16-20. The locker door opens, and a note pops out from Victoria. She is the girl he has been hooking up with over the summer. No one knows. He wouldn't be caught dead being seen with her in public. Victoria is cute, with red hair and faded green eyes. She has these freckles that lay perfectly on her face. She is the richest girl in school, but everyone makes fun of her because she dresses like a homeless person.
Out of nowhere, Jackson's locker door slams shut, almost crushing his fingers. He is about to go off when he sees his best friend, Thomas. Thomas is Jackson's right-hand guy. He will do anything, and everything Jackson needs and wants him to do. Thomas yells, "What's up, my dude?" Jackson has an annoyed look on his face, "Do you always have to yell? I still have a huge hangover from last night." "Sorry, man," Thomas says. He seems kind of off today, but it may just be first day jitters.
Thomas looks over to Jane. She is the most popular girl in school, he says to Jackson, "Dude, if I could just get at that one time, she would fall in love with me," laughing, Jackson punches him in the arm, "Hey! That's my sister you're talking about." Thomas says, "I'll be right back." He starts to walk over to Jane. Jackson just stands there watching as she turns Thomas down, again. While that train wreck is happening, a group of the school's baseball teams walks through; they're heading for Jane. He has to look away, or he will try to pummel every single one of those douchebags in tights. When he turns back to his locker, he sees the note from Victoria and opens it. He starts to read:
This summer was amazing. I haven't been that happy in a long time. I wish we could continue. I knew that once the year started, I wouldn't be able to talk to you, so I wanted to say goodbye. I received an early acceptance letter from Stanford. I will be leaving at the end of this semester.
Thank you for everything!
Jackson feels a twinge in his heart. He thought, "Just because I can't be seen in school with her doesn't mean I don't like her." Just as that thought crossed his mind, Victoria walked by. Her red hair was up in a pony-tail, and the only make-up she had on her face was mascara to accentuate those green eyes that pierce a hole right through his heart. She looks at him and gives a small side smile. Jackson does the same. Just like that, the bell rings for homeroom. He thinks, "This morning has sucked; let's just get this day over with." Jackson sighs and walks to class.
Jackson walks out of his last class, "Finally," he thought, "This was a good day, but I am ready to get home. Maybe I'll see Victoria." As that thought popped in his head, a small smile crossed his lips. "Stop that!" he thought, "You know it was only a summer fling. THAT IS IT!" As he is walking towards the senior parking lot, he passes by Lyla. She's a petite blonde with a smokin' body, but she only dates college guys. He nods towards her and keeps walking. Jackson sees his truck from across the lot. It's not the prettiest, but he has had some good memories in that truck. As Jackson gets closer to the truck, he notices something is in the bed. He gets a little shaky, wondering if what he did this summer is coming back. All of a sudden, Thomas and Jane pop up, scaring the shit of out him. "Jesus, guys!" Jackson yells, "why do you always do this, shit?". Thomas and Jane are cackling. Jackson exclaims, "Get your asses in the truck, or I'm leaving you both here." Thomas looks at Jane, "Someone pissed in his cornflakes." Jackson shoots them both a look, and they hop out of the bed and get into his truck.
The drive home is like any other school day, but Jackson can't help but feel something is off. Jackson starts observing everything around him. The sky is clear, Jane and Thomas are flirting, as usual, the music is precisely the way he likes it, but he can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. As Jackson rounds the corner to his house, he notices the road lined with cars leading to his neighbor's house. He passes by their driveway and sees people scattered across the yard. Jackson's eyes can't help but focus on this lonely man standing in the middle of everyone. The man makes eye contact with Jackson. Jackson feels a shiver and looks away. He pulls into his parent's driveway and parks behind his mom's car. Thomas and Jane hop out and run inside. Jackson sits there, frozen, wondering what just happened. He opens his door and walks inside. Once he gets inside and settles down, he sees his mom walking out of the bathroom. Jackson looks at his mom and asks, "Hey mom, what's going on at The William's house?" His mom looks at him with sad eyes and says, "Mr. Williams passed away this morning. He had a heart attack." She wipes away a tear with her finger. Jackson is shocked. "Are you sure it was Mr. Williams? I thought I saw him standing in the yard as I was passing by." His mom chuckles," well, honey, if you did, you must've seen a ghost." She walks into the kitchen. As soon as those words came out of her mouth, Jackson felt the same chill he had in his truck. His mind is going crazy, "what is going on?!"
Victoria gets to her parents' house and walks inside. Her mom is at the dining room table, typing away. "She is probably working on another case," she thinks. Her dad isn't home yet, but that's not unusual. She heads to her room and closes her door. She opens her laptop and looks at the e-mail Stanford sent her.
Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that I offer you admission to the Stanford University Class of 2024.
Your thoughtful application and remarkable accomplishments convinced us that you have the intellectual energy, imagination, and talent to flourish at Stanford. Among the over 20,000 applications we read, your distinguished record of academic excellence and personal achievement stood out. We are thrilled to welcome you to the Stanford community and look forward to the unique and extraordinary contributions we know you will make to the intellectual and extracurricular life of our campus.
The exciting next step is now yours. As Stanford is probably only one of several options you will consider in the coming weeks, I hope you will use the time to learn more about us. We invite you to participate in Admit Weekend 2020, a three-day program that will introduce you to the intellectual vibrancy and dynamic campus life that define Stanford. Information about that event is enclosed. Whatever decision you make, we ask that you complete the attached enrollment response card and return it to us by the postmark deadline of November 9, 2020. Should you decide to enroll at Stanford -- and we sincerely hope you do -- we will send enrollment information to you in late May.
While we have every reason to believe you will complete this school year successfully, remember that your admission is contingent upon your continued strong academic performance in the program you presented to us in your application.
Once again, I extend my congratulations on your admission to Stanford and welcome you to the Stanford family.
She smiles as she reads this letter, knowing that her future is about to change. As quick as that feeling came, it went. She has this eerily notion that someone is watching her. Victoria gets up and looks out her window towards the woods behind her house. She sees a figure creep into the trees as she looks in that direction. "Oh, no. Not again," she thinks as she closes her curtains and backs away. She knew this day would come, but she never thought it would be this soon.
Victoria picks up her phone and looks at the messages between her and Jackson. She starts typing a text, but quickly deletes, knowing that things are different now that school has started. Her dog starts scratching at her door, so she gets up to let him in. Apollo is a pit-bull. He is all black but with one spot on his chest that is white. Apollo is her protector. He showed up at their door when she was five and has been her dog ever since. Apollo barks at Victoria, and she knows he wants to go outside. "Come on. I'll take you out." They head downstairs and out the screen door that leads to the back yard. Victoria remembers where that man was and decides to stay clear. She puts Apollo on his lead and tells him to use the bathroom. "I'll be back in a minute, boy," she says. Victoria walks back inside to grab a drink. She grabs a cup, puts ice in, and fills it up with water. When Victoria finishes, she hears Apollo barking. Curious as to what he is barking at, she heads back out. Victoria takes one step outside, and she sees him.
Jackson is in his room playing Call Of Duty when his phone vibrates. He pauses his game to look at the message. It's from Thomas.
Hey, do you want to hop on a party with me and kick some ass?
Jackson is about to reply when he feels the familiar chill from earlier today. All of a sudden, he hears a tap on his window. When he looked up, Jackson didn't see anyone, so he got up and walked over. Opening the window, Jackson looks outside and doesn't see anything. Closing the window, something catches, preventing it from closing. Jackson looks back, and there's Victoria. He's wondering what she is doing here but tells her to come in. "You can't be here right now," he says. "My mom and Jane are right downstairs." Victoria looks at him with scared eyes, "Jackson, I need your help. Come find me." As she says this, she turns and goes back out the window. "What do you mean come find you? You're right here?" Jackson goes for the window to pull her back inside, and she's gone.
Jackson runs downstairs and throws his shoes on. His mom calls out to him, "Jax, where are you rushing off to?" "I have to go helps a friend," he yells are he runs out the door. Once in his truck, Jackson takes his phone out and calls Victoria. No answer. He calls again, straight to voicemail. "Something is wrong," he thought as he put his truck in reverse and peeled out of his neighborhood. "Victoria lives ten minutes away," he thought. "I can get there faster through the back roads." Jackson hit the gas pedal and heads to her house. He pulls up to her house, and everything looks normal. Victoria's car is in the driveway, so she must be home. Jackson gets out of his truck and heads for the front door. He is about to ring the doorbell when he hears Apollo barking in the backyard. Stopping to think, he decides to head towards Apollo. Rounding the corner of the house, he feels scared. Jackson sees Apollo barking towards the woods but no sign of Victoria. He approaches Apollo and says, "What's wrong, boy? Where's your mama?" Apollo stops barking and looks up to Jackson, then turns back towards the woods and starts whining.
At the edge of the woods, Jackson tries to look through the trees, but all he sees is darkness. He turns back to get Apollo and starts heading into the woods. Once inside, he gets an eerily feeling. "Apollo," he says, "can you smell her?" Apollo puts his nose to the ground and starts sniffing. He goes a little ways ahead and stops, turns toward Jackson, and starts barking. Jackson catches up to Apollo and follows him. The further he goes into the woods, the more he feels like something is there that shouldn't be. Up ahead, he hears a faint cry. He and Apollo look at each other and start running. When they get to where the noise came from, they see her. Victoria is lying there with a hole through her chest. Jackson and Apollo run forward to her. "Oh, God! What happened?!" Jackson starts to cry when Apollo nudges him to look up. Jackson lifts his head and sees a figure standing there, looking over them. He stands up, "What did you do to her?!" he yells. The figure jumps down from the trees and lands on the other side of Victoria's body. "I am Draven Mortem," he says, "I have been tasked with destroying the phoenix. She isn't supposed to be here. It's time for her to go. The phoenix must never rise again." Jackson has no idea what is going on. "Phoenix? What the hell? This can't be real," his head is spinning. Draven takes a closer step to Victoria, and Apollo jumps in front, protecting her body. Jackson kneels down to her and touches her softly, wishing she was here to tell him what to do. His palm lights up on her skin and feels something surging through his body. Jackson tries to pull away but cannot. Draven screams angrily, "No! She must not rise!" He lunges towards Jackson and Apollo bites his legs. He falls back screaming in pain. Victoria's color is coming back. "How the hell is this happening? Is she alive?" As those words cross his mind, Victoria's eyes begin to open. "Jax! You found me. Thank you. I will explain everything later," she says as she regains her strength. Draven is tending to his wound when he looks up to see Victoria. "No! You must die," he says. Victoria calls Apollo to her and tell him to guard. Draven lunges for Victoria. She is prepared to face him again but something happens. Jackson steps in front and out his hands against Draven's forehead. Jackson's palm light up again as the life is draining from Draven's body.
Victoria, Jackson, and Apollo head back to the house. Victoria steps in her house, but Jackson doesn't follow. She turns around to him, "What's wrong?" Jackson just looks at her. He can't believe what just happened. "What did I do back there Victoria?" "Jackson, you saved me. That's what happened," she says and she reaches for his hand. Jackson pulls away and just stares at his hands, "But how?" She grabs them and pulls them to her heart, "You were meant to save me. You will always save me. I am a Phoenix, but you are my lifeline." Jackson takes a step back, "who was that guy? Why was he trying to kill you?" Victoria sighs, "the phoenix has been hunted for many years. Passed down from generation to generation once they die naturally. We are meant to stop the unstoppable. Draven was sent to kill me before you found out your purpose." Jackson laughs, "so you're trying to tell me that I have powers, and I am meant to save you while you save the world?" Victoria steps closer, "Well, when you put it that way," she smiles, "yes, we are meant for each other." Just as they lean in to kiss, they hear rustling from the woods. Looking at each other, Victoria says to Jackson, "They're not gonna stop." Jackson takes her hand, "let's do this."
Jackson finally makes it back home and relaxes. Once he sits on his bed, he replays everything that has happened tonight. It is hard for him to wrap his head around everything. Many thoughts are running through his head. He gets ready for bed and goes to close the curtain. He notices a handprint on the glass but figured it was from Victoria. He closes the curtain and gets in bed. In the middle of the night, he hears squeaking coming from his window. "What now," he thinks as he gets up. Once at his window, he opens up his curtain to find a message under the handprint:
"Save us, and we can help you save her."
He reaches out and touches the glass. A surge envelopes him. He falls to the floor as a voice says, "Today will change everything."