The Dead of Night: Zuki's Choice

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Something has happened in Ordine Academy...
A trial story, with a twist on a common trope.

“Okay, I’m about to head out,” I called.

“No! No way, Zuki, don’t you dare,” Alissa shouted.

“It’s just a grocery run,” I replied. “We need some firecakes for the potluck tomorrow, remember?”

“Then… get them tomorrow morning.”

I turned to give Alissa an exasperated look. “Okay, what’s the deal?”

“Nothing. I just don’t think it’s safe.”

Safe? Safe?? “What kind of excuse is that?” I demanded. “We’re practically grown women! Almost.”

“Well…” Alissa took a breath. “There have been rumors going around.”

“Rumors?” I was dubious. “About what?”

“I… saw someone wandering the campus at night.”

“Alissa, students are out all the time after curfew. And most of them get caught before they can get any real work done.”

“But this person was… I dunno, different!”

“Different how?” I asked. “Do you know who it was?”

“No… But listen, Zuki, remember the security guard last week? He saw a strange person, too. And you know what happened to him…”

“Liss, it was a stroke. Everyone knows that!”

“Everyone was TOLD that. But other guys will tell you. Just yesterday Mason Trumbles landed in the hospital too, that’s what Fred told me.”

“Uh-huh,” I went.

I’m telling you, it’s this person that’s doing all of this! I saw the guy myself! And the weirdo gave off this vibe, you know? I felt actual chills.” She lowered her voice. “I’m pretty sure it’s a psychopath.”

“Look, we’re up late enough as is,” I told her. “If we put this off, we won’t wake up early enough to do anything before Meteorology. And we can’t afford to be late again.”

“Hmph,” she went. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I won’t even be walking,” I protested. “I always bike to the store; you know that!”

“Okay, okay. Just be careful.”

“Whatever.”

~

I rode to the store with no incident: just a few couples here and there, some guys riding dune buggies to the moonlit sands down south. No security guards were in sight when I exited campus.

There was a sale on firecakes that night, so I ended up buying some extra stuff.

Good haul today, I decided as I exited the store. I bet Liss just needs to get out more. In that case, I’ll help her fix her bike once I get back. Or… maybe tomorrow after classes.

As I pedaled back towards the university, I felt the resistance on my wheels increase.

Huh? The incline wasn’t that steep.

Then my bike became so sluggish, I had to stop on the sidewalk.

Now thoroughly irritated, I looked down at my tires. I was thinking that maybe the brakes had seized up, but nothing was wrong with them!

From how the drag felt, it wasn’t anything internal. Maybe I’m just tired, I thought, gazing into the forest beyond the sidewalk.

The pines were especially green in the moonlight this time of year.

Green pines...?

Isn’t this a desert?

I shook my head and looked away. There are no pine trees in this region, I thought. There isn’t any heavy foliage between here and college!

So why were the trees there??

“Y-yyou are… intuitive,” a girl’s voice moaned. “Mm… most intuitive… to conclude so… especially wwwith my… influence.”

It sounded like she was in horrible pain, like she was trying to speak after being hit by several cars in a row.

This is… strange, I thought. Maybe it’s a dream? I never went out after talking to Alissa. But if that were true, that meant we wouldn’t have our firecakes…

“You-ngh… doubt still,” the girl’s voice moaned.

“D-doubt what?” I stammered.

“Mgh… my power.”

I looked back at the trees. The forest was still there, I realized. That had to be where the voice was coming from. “I, ahh, have to get back,” I nervously laughed, getting back onto my bike. Man, my dreams have never been this vivid before…

“Nnngghh… dreams are a lie,” she grunted. “I dreamed once… look wh-here it got me!” Suddenly I was thrown off of my bike and onto the hard concrete.

“Ow!!” I knew for a fact my dreams didn’t hurt like this. Unless this was some kind of hallucination… maybe some sort of gas? This is stupid, I thought, getting up. I just want to get back before curfew.

I crept into the trees, keeping to the moonlit patches of greenery.

“Yyyou know… what they say,” the girl’s pained voice droned. “Curiosity… k-killed the cat.”

Such horrible pain. It sounded incredibly weak and frail, like she was dying.

The trees opened away into a clearing, where solitary figure stood in the center. Her skin looked sallow and pale in the moonlight, and her black hair was graying and tangled.

“Fffrail indeed,” she groaned.

“W-wait a minute,” I went. “You…”

The girl’s lifeless, deeply bruised eyes narrowed. “I what?”

Say it.

“You’re-” I hesitated.

Say it! Look at me, and speak the truth.

My voice was hoarse as I drew the conclusion. “You’re…already dead…”

The girl’s head lolled to the side. “No one has… ssseen my face since the day… ngh, the day I was murdered.” Her empty eyes met mine. “And then… yyyou come…”

Oh my gosh, I thought, she’s going to eat my brains.

She made a weird sound – a laugh, maybe?

I stiffened at a sudden insight. “You HAVE been reading my thoughts,” I accused. “What are you??”

“The qq-question of… the universe, it seems.” She nodded slowly. “It… sseems that the wonderful talents I h… had in life contttributed to my… present state.”

Wonderful talents, I realized. Holy crap!

I wanted to run, but sheer morbid fascination ended up taking over, leaving me rooted in place.

“You are… the onne,” the girl murmured. “I choose y-you. Join me.”

“Th-the one? The one for what? What are you doing here?” I demanded.

“It seems… you are your… own worst enemy,” she sighed, and suddenly I was bombarded with mental images --

The strategy playoffs with Alissa and a shrimpy-looking girl with poofy hair… the girl dominating every round, despite Alissa cheating several times… the ‘grudge match’ Alissa challenged the girl to… Me and my entire group of friends watching as Alissa and that girl fought, with the girl falling under blow after blow…

“What’s… up with this?” I clutched my head in my hands. “What did you do?”

“Whhhat happened… to that student… I wonder?” The girl took a dragging step towards me, and I backed up so quickly, I fell on my bottom.

“D-don’t come any closer,” I squeeked. Immediately more images flooded my mind --

Alissa and I taking that shrimpy girl’s glasses and pretending to break them before crushing them underneath a rock… the pit I felt in my heart as I sat alone on my bed, wondering if maybe I should get her new ones as an apology… Alissa coming back to our dorm one day, saying she finally won…

Me, searching for that girl, but never finding her…

I scrambled to my feet. She’ll be easy to outrun, I made the mistake of thinking.

As I turned to bolt, my body suddenly became completely restricted: I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak or blink!

“Do nnnot… run,” she groaned.

I tried to struggle, but telekinesis was not like ropes or handcuffs. It was a matter of mental power…

I just have to out-think you, I thought. Anyone with a strong enough resolve can-

YOU ARE A FOOL, the girl’s voice screamed in my head. Your blind trust, your naïveté, your cowardice, all of it is just so sickening to behold…

Look at me.

LOOK AT ME!

The realization was worse than I could stand. It just didn’t feel real to me. But it was true, wasn’t it? This girl’s hair, her slight figure…

The fact that she was dead…

It hurts, the truth does. Doesn’t it, Zuki?

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to quell the flow of tears. “No way,” I whispered. “It can’t… Liss, why…?”

After a moment, I opened my eyes. The girl looked calm as she sat on the low grass.

“Mmmy name… is Alice. We are… allies now,” she stated.

“W-wait a second! If this is true, then… no! No, it can’t be,” I murmured. “The university, it runs full background checks on all of its applicants. They would have known if one of their students was a murderer. She would have been expelled!”

“Hmmh… true,” Alice mused. Was that a faint smile on her face?

“A cover up, maybe? Something’s not adding up here,” I grumbled, pacing in a circle. “Liss is bad, but not that bad! I think. Listen, Alice, I’m not going to believe you until I find some hard proof, you hear?”

A dude looked over at me, but didn’t say anything as he kept walking.

“Wha – Alice?” I quick looked back to where she had been sitting – a tiny alcove just off the sidewalk. Beyond it was the old familiar desert expanse.

“Erm…” I picked up my bike and quickly checked my backpack: it still had the firecakes and groceries in it. “Hmmm.”

I ended up walking my bike back to the dorms. Maybe once I got back, Liss would be asleep. Not that I was scared of her, or anything, but… maybe I’d keep an eye on her for a little bit.


Submitted: March 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 jraed6. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Ann Sepino

Amazing story! I love the slow exposition of Alice's past. That and the sudden shift from desert to forest in just one sentence adds so much suspense. This is really cool!

Thu, March 11th, 2021 2:54am

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Huh, thanks. I'm exploring styles like this in some of my other pending works.

Fri, March 12th, 2021 6:02pm

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