Carrie K Sorensen
She was back.
Such a strange feeling it was, to be back.
Kalli walked down the familiar, house lined streets. Old Victorians sat nestled against craftsman and 50's ranch-style homes. In this part of town, yards were manicured, bikes tucked into garages and swings or bistro sets set out on the porches. In this small town, it was the norm to look put together, inside and out.
Scabbed hands were shoved into the pockets of her low-rise jeans, tensing her arms to hug the scarred leather jacket closer to her body. Her left knee stretched a hole in the denim while the fingers of her right hand had to curl to keep from slipping through the torn seam of her pocket. Her shoes were amazing, though, double laced, steel toed and flat black, gripping the concrete sidewalk powerfully.
Each step she took came down hard and purposeful, echoing the beat of the music in her ears. The bass pounded through her head, drowning out the music of the track. Eyes half closed, she let the weight of her boots and the boom of the music carry her through the manicured street.
"Kalliope Elizabeth Johnson." Her earbuds were ripped from her ears, hitting her shoulders. Kalli spun on her standing leg, catching the escaping wires that slipped from the other's hand as the last syllable of her name was spoken.
Kalli's dark eyes stopped in surprise at the girl behind her. The girls were similar in size, both petite, both with brown hair, though Kalli's was darker, shorter and the other girl's was as manicured as the lawns on this street, as put together as her pristine, fashion-inspired outfit.
"Jenae," she recognized, a relieved and welcome smile blossoming on her lips. Jenae's make-up smoothed face was warm and familiar. Seeing her reminded Kalli of late night camp fires and smores, giggling together in the back of the movie theater, moaning about riding the bus to school, crying when they lost State volleyball finals. It reminded her of normal.
"What the heck are you wearing? Who butchered your hair? Are those combat boots?" Jenae demanded, eyes flashing against Kalli's changed appearance. Blinking away from memories, Kalli finally managed to see her old friend, hearing her heated words echoing through her mind. Why is she angry? "You know what? Never mind all that. What I really want to know is why the heck didn't you call?"
Ah, Kalli thought, her narrow shoulders rolling back with eased tension. "I'm sorry," she answered. "I couldn't call. I didn't know we were coming back until ..." Until last night. "There wasn't much time to do anything once I found out."
“So what? Did your dad have another crazy get-rich inspiration? Or did your mom finally put her foot down and demand to come home? Why did you even leave in the first place?”
Kalli looked down at her hand, slightly surprised to see the little stings she felt came from having started spinning her buds around. She curled the wires up and shoved them in her back pocket next to her phone. The bass could still be heard as a soft, far-away heartbeat.
Nicole Pyles @ World of My Imagination
Kalli shrugged, feeling a sudden resentment for the harsh words that Jenae delivered to her. She wanted to shove her headphones back in her ears and continue her march down the well kept street. She looked into the eyes of the girl she grew up with and realized then that her friend, Jenae, never knew what had happened. She never knew the reason why she left in the first place. Kalli knew it had to stay that way.
Kalli tried to laugh, but it came out as a gasp. “Anyways, how have you been?”
Jenae stared at Kalli, as if looking for answers in her face. “How have I been? One of our classmates died Kalli. Didn’t you hear about it?”
Kalli feigned surprise. “Are you kidding? How?” Kalli felt warm in her leather jacket, too warm. She wished for a breeze that would cool her down and take away the sweat that began to form on her forehead.
“You really don’t know?” Jenae softened. Kalli exhaled, knowing she had fooled her friend, but guilt rose to surface, taking the place of her nerves. “It was Claire who died. And you know that house down the road? The one that was boarded off ? She was found inside…” Jenae leaned forward as if revealing a deep secret to Kalli. Kalli could smell the Justin Bieber perfume that Jenae had saved up for just months before. “….and there were brand new boards nailed on the door. They were saying that she scared herself to death. It was part of something people in our class were planning.” Jenae pulled back and examined Kalli further, staring at the torn jeans and cut hair. An appearance that she would never have seen before on Kalli. “Do you know anything about a dare or something like that?”
Kalli shook her head, reminding herself that the less she said, the more likely Jenae will never know that she was there that night. That she had been part of the group to press against the door and ignore Claire’s cries to get out. “I have to go.” Kalli whispered.
“You have to tell me what happened, Kalli. Why you look like this…”
Kalli turned, watching as a middle aged man in his boxers and stained white t-shirt come out of his garage, with a lawn mower following behind him. She watched as he put together the bag and started the mower. The noise of the mower ripped across Kalli’s ears and she jumped, remembering the night her parents found out what happened and how she took the scissors to her hair to disguise herself.
Instead of walking away like she planned, she reached out to Jenae, and looped her arm around her friend’s. When Kalli started walking, Jenae did too. Without saying a word, the two walked in the direction of the house – the one Kalli had just sworn she knew nothing about. Soon, Jenae’s walk matched Kalli’s, and they marched to the sounds of the lawn mower and to the bass pounding in Kalli’s pocket. “I’ll show you what happened.
Kalli knew what she had to do, and her heart ached at the thought.
Once people start asking questions, they start looking. And we can’t afford for them to go looking. There is too much at stake for secrets to be exposed, her father had told her the night they had left. She had disguised herself for this very reason, and her father had always been the one to do the dirty work – until now.
“Kalli, just come in here. I want to know what happened that night. Aside from the cobwebs it really isn’t too bad. Except it smells,” Jenae rambled.
“I’m sorry,” Kalli said, and she meant it with her whole heart. But she had to do what was necessary. Before Jenae could protest, Kalli pulled the door shut. Immediately she heard the distinct click of the door locking, and she backed away with tears in her eyes. Jenae had been her friend.
“Kalli, what are you doing? Let me out!” Jenae yelled from behind the closed doors. Kalli could hear her playing with the door knob, trying to get it to open. But it was already too late.
“I’m sorry, Jenae,” Kalli yelled. “But no one can know what happened to Claire. If people knew, they’d come. And unless you want us all to die, that can’t happen.”
Jenae banged on the door and again screamed for Kalli to let her out. “You’re messed up! I knew there was something wrong with you when you left. I told everybody you were on something and this proves it! You let me out right now, or I will sue your ass for every penny. This is harassment and kidnapping, and -- ”
The sudden silence sent chills down Kalli’s spine. She could almost hear the footsteps herself, having had to relive the nightmare over and over. It was part of the curse of being a Barrier. You knew what lurked in the beyond, and you were forced experience what the sacrifices felt. The trainers called it Empathy; it was really more like torture to get the Barriers to obey.
As if on cue, Jenae began to scream. Her fists pounded faster and harder against the door, her level of fear rising in her soul. “Kalli, there’s someone in here. You have to let me out. Please! I take back everything I said. I promise I won’t sue you. Just let me out!”
Dark figures began to snake past the windows in the house, all of them nothing more than wispy silhouettes, like the ones you see in horror movies. Except these were real, and they were deadly. Just seeing them from the outside gave Kalli the chills.
“Kalli, please! Help me! They’re…oh my god!” Jenae’s pounding ceased, but Kalli could still hear her screams. The windows of the house began to shake violently, just like it did with Claire. Kalli fell to her knees, the weight of the world seemingly on her shoulders.
The ruckus ceased, as did Jenae’s screams. Tears began to fall down Kalli’s cheeks. Her trainers said that the job was necessary, that it was glamorous and they would be justly awarded for their tireless efforts. But this job was not glamorous at all. In fact, it was utterly mortifying. Only the coldest of souls could stand here and listen as human beings – innocent human beings – died at the hands of the very creatures that they were supposed to be protecting them from.
This is not right.
Kalli had come back to prove that she was strong enough to be a Barrier. This was supposed to be her final test. But never again would she let an innocent person die for “the sake of the human race.” She had the power to protect all humans from evil. It was time someone took a stand.
“This ends now.”