Kevin was in the living room standing on his sofa when several strangers showed up. He knew it was inevitable to get party crashers, so he blew it off. "Aye, yo! Somebody get these ladies some drinks," he called out excitedly. "Yo Anthony! Pretty girl at the door!" he said pointing to Piper as he threw back a half cup of Bourbon.
The house was littered with guests, ranging up to about sixty people total. Variously scented smokes filled the air and mixed with the smell of food and alcohol. The stairs were packed, the living room was practically spilling over out onto the lawn, and the kitchen was covered with bodies. People were busy exchanging laughs and digging into a plentiful kitchen of alcohol and food. The DJ had left his set-up on auto-play to take a breather, so the music was constantly going. The house rocked with fun Kevin couldn't have been happier.
Anthony looked up from the lips of a black haired female with a blunt in her hands. She sat backward on his lap with her legs around his waist and blew smoke into the air. "I got mines," Anthony called back. "And get yo stupid ass off the sofa!"
"Fuck you!" Kevin replied as he jumped down and stomped over to his brother. "Let me get that, sweetheart," he requested, taking the large blunt from the black haired girl.
"Kev, your mans is fucked up. Can't handle his liquor," said a laughing Paul.
"He in the bathroom?" Kevin asked as he ripped one from the blunt.
"Yeah, he's over the toilet now with some girl holdin' his head," Paul said still laughing.
"Long as he doesn't puke on my floor, I don't care," Kevin laughed. "Lemee know if he kills over," Kevin joked.
"Yeah, aight," Paul replied, passing back toward the kitchen. He carefully stepped past a tall guy standing next to a redhead, taking shots. He grazed the back of the large guys' shoes, citing "my bad", as he eased into the kitchen.
Christina took the tequila down from her lips and threw her head back. She smiled as she slammed down her third shot. "Now I'm hungry," she giggled.
"Don't starve, bitch," said Hensley behind her. "The food's good."
"Yeah?" Christina said over her shoulder. "All of it?"
Jake grinned, taking a bite of an enchilada. "I don't really care for Mexican, but this is good shit."
Hensley took a piece of chicken from Jake's lip with the tip of her finger and put it in her mouth, tenderly sucking on her finger for an extended amount of time. Jake gulped and swallowed his food hard. "Yeah, it's pretty damn good," she teased. "At least the catering is good, because the music sucks," Hensley shrugged as she stole Christina's next shot.
"Hey!" Christina snapped.
"You can't drink and not eat," Hensley said as she wiped her lips. "And friends don't let friends drink tequila. Go get food. Tyler, don't stand there you big lug of rubber. Go dance with her or something."
Christina shrugged and marched over to the kitchen where she slid between an Asian young man who had removed his shirt and was showing his tattoos to a British girl about his age. She had long sleek black hair, and he was particularly fit as though he had serious physical training. "Kendo," he told her proudly as he flexed his back muscles to reveal a crescent moon at its center. "But that's not the only thing I work out," he said proudly. He began to whisper in the British girl's ear.
"Mari, you freak," she laughed as Amaris whispered to her. She whispered back to him to reply.
"Guess you could say it was destiny," he joked.
She groaned and shook her head. "You might've just ruined your night," Destiny shrugged.
"Don't be like that," Amaris said as he took a swig from a can of beer. He was suddenly bumped from behind and his beer splashed onto his chest. "Watch it!" he called over his shoulder.
A passing by Paul excused himself once more. "My bad bro. Lemee get by you."
"Yeah, yeah," Amaris sighed.
Paul made his way back to the living room and nearly tripped over someone's big feet. It was Jason Garrett's. "Fuckin' shit," he swore aloud. "Jason, you bigfoot bastard! Damn!" he said as he stood up. He shook Jason's hand and passed by him into the living room. He was making his way over to Amanda with a plate of finger foods and two drinks. "Havin' fun?"
Amanda was dancing when she turned around to see Paul behind her. She giggled and backed up a bit into the stairs and stole a seat. They both plopped down beside one another and she happily accepted the food. "Dude, I was starving. How'd you know?"
"Girl, please. I know you better than I know my own brother," Paul laughed, shoving a finger sandwich into his mouth.
"You're an animal, jeez," Amanda laughed, then took a similar finger sandwich and downed it in one bite.
"Oh, damn, you kinda good at that," Paul joked, slightly turning his head.
She flipped him off, laughing and trying to chew her food. "Fuck you, Paul," she laughed as she finished her sandwich. "Now I want something sweet," she said as she took a cup from Paul.
"How 'bout me?" Paul replied with a grin.
Amanda giggled again and took a sip from her cup. "Mm," she said as she took the cup from her lips. "What's this?"
"Strawberry Ciroc Vodka with cranberry," Paul said, taking a sip from his own cup.
"That's actually really good," Amanda said taking another sip. "I'm gonna run to the restroom," she said standing to her feet. Paul nodded as she disappeared toward the restrooms, past the kitchen. She lightly brushed into two young men holding hands and recognized one of them immediately. She said nothing but gave Quinn a quick, approving wave as her gaze landed on Riku.
On her way to the restroom, Amanda accidentally bumped into a girl she missed completely. She was rather bland and plain looking, but this girl was positively beautiful. "Wow, you're cute," Amanda commented to Avery. "Oh, uh, sorry!"
Haruka had been standing against the wall for most of the party when Paul suddenly came up to her with a glass of water and a small plate of finger sandwiches, fresh from the kitchen. "You look nervous," he commented.
Haruka begrudgingly accepted the food and water. "Do I, now?" she asked sarcastically. "Thanks," she mumbled.
"I'm sorry if you got pushed into this. I know you're new to the club and all."
Haruka hesitatingly took a bite of one of the sandwiches. It was savory and salty, but just right. She swallowed her food and shrugged. "I was locked out. Better than sitting out in the dark, I guess."
Paul nodded. "Well, you're with friends here. When you're ready to go, just say so and I'll ask Janet to bring you home."
"Okay. Thanks," Haruka said nonchalantly.
"Paul!" called a voice behind him. It was Anthony, waving him over.
"Scuse me," Paul said with a shrug. "Check this dude out," Anthony said with a grin, nodding toward the kitchen. A tall, well built young man was putting trash away and taking bags to and from the outside garbage can without a fuss. It was Reno.
"Oh yeah, I know that dude," Paul said. "He's in my physics class."
"He psycho or somethin'? He knows we're gonna clean up later, right?" Anthony asked, laughing.
Paul shook his head and jogged over to Reno, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Yo, dude," Paul said.
Reno put the last garbage bag into the outside can and turned around to face Paul. "Yes?"
"You don't have to do that. We'll do it later. It's nice and all, but you're a guest," Paul said.
"I'm aware," Reno acknowledge. "But, it needed to be done. Please excuse me."
Paul rubbed his head as Reno brushed past him and went back to the kitchen to wash his hands. "Weird ass guy," he thought to himself.
Kevin was drunk about two hours into the party. He was standing at the top of the staircase with his shirt tied around his waist and nothing but his shorts and socks on. "I will now attempt an Olympic swan dive," Kevin said drunkenly as he approached the balcony on the second floor of his home.
People had gathered outside near the pool and behind Kevin on the balcony, cheering him on.
"Ke-vin! Ke-vin! Ke-vin!" they cheered.
"This is gonna be good," Amanda said from the opposite side of the pool.
"This is gonna be stupid if he clips his leg," Paul shrugged.
Sure enough, Kevin dove and belly flopped into the pool, landing hard and causing a big splash. Cheers, oohs, and ahs filled rang out. Christina and several other guests got soaked by the big splash, quickly sobering up as they were struck with water.
Haruka could only laugh at the idiots who had been drenched with water as she watched quietly from inside. With a small plate of food, she shook her head, thinking, "dumbasses".
"My hair!" Christina cried out. "Argh!"
Hensley laughed as she pulled Christina back, away from the edge of the pool. "You drunken idiot," she slurred. "C'mon, let's--let's go clean up and get you dry and warm." Hensley and Christina began to walk away and leave Tyler by his lonesome in the backyard.
Jake waited quietly by the back fence, watching the dripping wet Christina walk away. Hensley waved him over and Jake froze in place. "Hmm?"
"Come--come help me dry her off," Hensley demanded.
"Wha--no, I can't. You can--you can do it," Jake replied as he threw his plate in a trashcan.
Christina took her top off and dropped it to the floor. "Freezing," she commented. Jake immediately ran behind them and picked up Christina's clothes.
"I changed my mind," Jake said as he followed them up the stairs.
Standing stoically in the backyard, Reno watched with an expression of fake interest as he took a swig of water. He put his cup down and assisted Kevin out of the pool while others stood laughing and staring at Kevin.
"Whoo! Thanks, big dude!" Kevin said, almost sober again.
"Think nothing of it," Reno replied.
Haruka, from the house, was mentally etching a lewd scene with a soaking wet Kevin and a strapping young Reno together. She giggled to herself as she took a bite of a piece of cake. It took her attention away from the couple for a moment because it was surprisingly good. "Wow," she mumbled to herself. "They might be idiots, but they can bake at least." The corner of Haruka's peripheral vision caught a flare of lights and she turned around with a mouthful of sweet yellow cake. "Cops," she whispered to herself at first.
She dropped her plate and immediately sprinted to the backyard. "Cops!" Haruka screamed with a sudden urgency. She was drowned out by the loud music before she did something completely uncharacteristic. She stood atop a patio chair and cupped her hands and yelled out to the disorderly crowd. "Cops!"
Paul looked up first. His face was suddenly drained of color and he grabbed Amanda by the hand. He took her inside and to the kitchen. "You need to go. Take Janet and Leo and Haruka, and go home."
"What about you?" Amanda asked in a panic.
"I'll be fine. Just go," Paul urged her. Amanda did not reply but turned around and headed for the front door.
Haruka had become lost in the crowd, and her height was preventing her from getting much further. "Outta the way, you asshats!" she screamed, trying to get through the crowd. A giant appeared before her and scooped Haruka up, placing her back on the table where she could see the crowd. "Put me--! Grr! I am not a doll!" she barked at Reno.
"My apologies," Reno replied, taking a bow in the middle of the crowd.
"What are you--why are you bowing!? Shouldn't you be leaving!?" Haruka exclaimed.
"I must wait for my party before I can depart," Reno explained.
Unfortunately, Brad was nowhere to be seen and Lace had vanished among the crowd. Reno, however, did see a face he recognized. Avery was standing to the side of the home trying to squeeze past the crowd and escape. He approached her with caution and made himself visible as not to alarm her. "Club member. Are you lost as well?"
Avery frowned. "Yes. We should leave quickly," she replied.
Paul bumped past Reno and Avery and practically tackled Kevin as he got to the pool. "Bruh, you need to open the side gate and let people out! Right now!"
Kevin shrugged. "Better hop that fence like my boys!" Kevin joked, still completely wasted.
"Fuck!" Paul exclaimed. But then, Kevin wasn't wrong either.
Paul pushed past the rest of the crowd and went to the back fence. He saw a handful of people still standing around the backyard. "Climb the fence! There's a back way out!" he called to anyone who could hear him.
Tyler had frankly had enough of this shit. He had wanted to get out to his car, but Christina was upstairs with Hensley and Jake. He would have to leave her in their hands and explain it to Nathan later. "It's always somethin' fuckin' stupid," he swore aloud. He shoved past a few more drunken teens and reached the back fence.
Paul hopped over and began ushering people past him. Most others split off, but Jason, Haruka, Tyler, Reno, Avery, Quinn, and Piper had followed him over.
“This way,” Paul whispered to them, ushering them through the back gate. “Hurry up!” There was only one police car in front of Kevin’s home, but there were bound to be more if the cops discovered underage drinking. The main gate was blocked off by two more police cars, meaning driving away would have gotten them nowhere.
Paul had to leave his bike behind, but he could recover it anytime. Phone in his hands, Paul cut through Kevin’s backyard, climbed over the gate and made his way to the edge of the Eastover community with the others behind him. There was an empty construction site that Paul led the others through. Abandoned homes were being torn down and replaced by businesses, but there was no one here today.
Haruka begrudgingly climbed the gate, annoyed and outraged. “I was hoping not to engage in physical activity, thanks.”
“A-At least you don’t have a wrist you don’t want to put pressure on!” Jason grumbled towards Haruka, trying his best to climb the gate and hop it, without putting too much pressure on his left wrist...which was a bit hard to do.
Haruka blinked. “You must be that Jason person everyone keeps moaning about. Circumstances,” she sighed. She could only think what Jason would’ve looked like if he were bound and gagged by Tyler. Though, now wasn’t the best time to be visualizing these things.
Reno shook his head and began to scale the gate, a task that was easy enough. The complaints everyone had made him roll his eyes. Here they were trying to escape arrest and they were worried about physical activity and wrists. Glad their priorities were straight.
Lagging a bit behind, Avery took a deep breath before trying to hop over the gate. While she had cleared it, she fell flat on her back after she did, letting out a soft, “ow.” Seeing the others begin to take off, the girl said, “w-wait up guys,” taking off to keep up with them.
Paul cut through one of the old homes when he heard a jingle of a metal can. “Hey, man,” said a young, raspy voice. “Spare some change?”
“Oh God. Homeless people,” Quinn whispered.
It was a homeless teen, wearing nothing but rags. They couldn’t see his face in the dark. “Sorry bro, I ain’t got the money or the time to help you.”
“We don’t have time for this. Lead on,” Haruka demanded.
Paul took another step forward but was suddenly held at knifepoint as three others stepped out of the darkness. They were also wearing rags and tattered clothes, their skin covered in dirt and soot.
“You come through my house, you pay up. It’s that easy,” said a black male. This shocked Paul and caused him to drop his phone.
Haruka stepped back and Quinn shrieked. “This is bullshit!” Quinn cried out.
“Or you can be our next meal,” said a white female.
“Easy,” said the boy with the can. He had stepped forward enough that his scarred chest and dirty brown hair were visible. He had dark green eyes, and his skin was dry and cracked. “We just want a little money to get food. Nobody has to die tonight.”
“Are you trying to say you all are cannibals?” Reno asked dryly, forming the longest sentence he had said all night long. Their phrasing was horrendous, to say the least.
The black male with the weapon lowered it and backed away. “Not tonight, we’re not.” He slinked into the darkness with the other three and vanished from sight.
“You must’ve been at that party, right?” said the boy with the can.
Paul didn’t say anything. He leaned over and grabbed his phone, noticing the display was brightly lit. Apparently he had pocket dialed the resort number again. He shoved his phone back into his pocket, thinking nothing of it.
“Then you must be a friend of the Garcia’s.”
Paul took a step back, bumping into Quinn on accident. “Watch it, you big burly--”
“How do you--” Paul began.
“We hear everything man. You see four of us, but there are thousands of us. You should be more careful,” the boy said ominously.
“Whatever man. We don’t have time to deal with you,” Paul sneered. “We’ll go around.”
The boy with the can nodded. “Come see me again sometime.”
Haruka shook her head. “No, thank you.”
“Yeah. Hell no,” Quinn reiterated.
“Who knows?” Reno said simply.
Jason didn’t say anything but followed the others, just wanting to be out of this situation. “J-Jeez...how can this night possibly get any worse?” he muttered silently to himself.
Paul elected to take the long way around the abandoned homes, costing them ten minutes. Fortunately, they were out of range of the police by now. “Once we reach this corner, we go right. We can duck at my house for a few until the heat is gone. Kevin will let me know.”
Paul peered around the corner carefully before he assured everyone behind him that it was clear ahead. “Okay. Let’s go.”
Paul rounded the corner and immediately had to shield his eyes. There was a sudden bright light, and he couldn’t see a thing.
“Stop where you are!” called a heavy male voice. “Police! Show us your hands!”
Tyler swore. “I knew I shouldn’t have come to this dumb fucking party!” Reno just nodded in agreement to the punk’s statement.
“...I had to ask...” Jason muttered, before cursing under his breath. “Goddamnit...”
Paul began to panic. How did he miss them!? “Back! Go back!”
They all turned around in a hurry and sprinted back toward the abandoned homes. He, Tyler, Jason, Reno, Avery, Haruka, Quinn, and Piper all began to feel a pulsing in their heads, as though a headache had come and gone. Paul led the way but as fast he returned to the abandoned homes, he found himself confused and bewildered.
“Wha…” Paul stuttered.
Quinn stopped just short of running into Paul. “What the hell?”
“Is anyone else seeing this?” Paul said, looking around. Paul found himself staring at a shoreline, water stretching as far as he could see.
Quinn stepped past Paul and looked into the horizon, the moonlight dancing on the waves of the ocean. “Did I get a crazy contact high?”
Paul looked at Quinn then back to the water. “If I’m seeing it and you’re seeing it, we can’t both be that high. Can we?”
“Well. Surely I’m not a heathen like you two,” Haruka said with a gulp. She too was staring at the deep, dark waters before them. “But… when did New Orleans turn into a beach?”
Paul had turned around, examining his surroundings. Tyler, Jason, Piper, Avery, and Reno were right behind him. He wasn’t dreaming. He was really on a beach. Or, if his guess was correct, “an island. What the hell’s going on?”
“...does this mean we’re dead?” Jason asked with a hard swallow. That would definitely put a damper on the rest of this school year for him.
“We can’t all be dead. Can we? If this is heaven, it’s not what I was expecting,” Paul admitted.
“It looks too good for Hell, which I’m pretty sure most of us would really go to,” Reno muttered.
With a strangely giddy expression across her face, Avery said, “or maybe we were abducted and put in a strange new world!”
A violent clap of thunder shook Paul and confirmed that neither he nor the people around him were hallucinating. They were all experiencing the same thing. Paul looked to a thick jungle, and beyond it, he could see an array of lights. “That way!”
“What do you mean ‘that way’!? We’re fugitives! On an island! In the middle of the night! You just want to run into a jungle you don’t know!?” Haruka screeched.
“Then you can stay here in the rain,” Paul snapped back. “I’m gonna go figure out where the hell we are.”
As fast as Paul said this, rain began to pour down on them. He sprinted toward the thick greenery of the jungle and ducked under the trees.
The rain was unusually cold and made Paul shiver. After several minutes, he was approaching a clearing, and the lights he spotted from the shoreline had become much brighter. He stepped through the brush, over a fallen tree, and into the clearing. There, before his eyes was a fully functioning hotel.
Paul didn’t waste any time. He dashed to the door and yanked it open.
“Welcome!” said a gargly, bubbly voice. A creature in a red and white vest and black slacks and shoes called to Paul from the front desk. It had only eyes, and it was completely made of darkness. It was a darkness that was so deep and disturbing that looking at the creature for too long made Paul uneasy. He wanted to step back outside to be sure once more that he wasn’t dreaming, but as his hand touched the cold metal of the hotel handle doors, he was sure it was real.
Paul swallowed hard but turned to face the shadow, who still patiently waited for him at the front desk.
Paul elected not to approach the front desk but instead waited in the lobby. Slowly, everyone else entered behind him.
“You all must be exhausted. We had been expecting you!” said the shadow from the front desk.
Haruka had to make an active effort not to gag at the sight of the shadow, and Quinn had to hold himself up against a wall.
“H-Holy shit...” Jason stared at the shadow, obviously saying what everyone else was thinking.
“C-Can you tell us where we are?” Paul asked, loudly.
“Or better yet, what in the hell is going on?” Tyler demanded.
“Or why it’s going on,” Reno added.
“Sir, could you please approach the front desk? We could speak more privately. I assure you, I mean you no harm,” the shadow said calmly.
Paul approached cautiously, ready to double back if this thing tried to harm him. “Y-yeah. Can you explain to us where we are? And how we got here?” Paul inquired.
The shadow nodded. “Of course, sir. My name is Georaldo, and I’ll be your guide. Your arrival here has been anticipated since you scheduled your vacation, of course.”
Paul blinked. “Vacation?”
Georaldo nodded. “Of course. You called us a few days ago, and we booked your rooms throughout the hotel. Mind you, there was limited space. We haven’t gotten visitors in ten years!” Georaldo said with a chuckle.
“Ten yea--wait, wait. I don’t understand. You just booked rooms for us? As in, not me, but everyone?” Paul asked.
“Well, of course, you would be sharing a room, but there’s plenty of space, I assure you,” Georaldo clarified.
“I still don’t get it. How did you just assume we would show up here? How did we get here? And what exactly is this place?”
“Well, this is Origin Island of course! Home to the Legendary Orpheus Storm! And of course when we got your call today, we knew you must have been ready to check in,” Georaldo explained.
“Origin Island? Is that like, part of the Virgin Islands or--”
“Get to the point!” demanded a panting Haruka. “There is no reasonable explanation that we would arrive on an island from New Orleans in under a minute! How. Did. We. Get. Here!?”
“Well, when our guests call, we simply dial them in. You arrived at an access point and made your way to the hotel, did you not?” Georaldo asked.
“Y--what? No. I did not call you. Maybe this blundering idiot called you by mistake, but I did not. And I want to leave. How do I get home from here?” Haruka asked.
“You simply have to make your way back to the access point and dial out. But, I would advise against going out in the storm. It attracts all kinds of nasty, dangerous creatures, you see. And Lord Orpheus would be devastated if you left without seeing him first.” Georaldo’s ‘smile’ could be heard in his voice. This creature was surely insane.
“So we just have to go back where we came from and...what? Call the same number again?” Paul asked, ignoring Haruka’s remarks.
“That is correct. Again, however, I strongly advise against--”
“We’ll be going now,” Paul interrupted. “Sorry, and thanks but no thanks.”
Paul didn’t bother asking everyone to follow him. He opened the door to the hotel and Georaldo called behind them. “Safe travels! We’ll be open for ten more days! We hope to see you again!”
Paul ignored the shadow and stepped back into the freezing rain. He began sprinting toward the jungle and climbed back over the tree he crossed to get to the hotel. He pulled his phone from his pocket, but he had no signal. He had to get clear of the trees.
He followed the crushed foliage on the ground; it was clear that this was where everyone walked. This path led him to the edge of the forest and allowed a look at the beach. As Paul drew nearer to the shore, he felt the rain stop above him; yet, he could see it falling in front of him.
Paul stopped and looked up into the trees where a much larger, more dense shadow stared down at him and caused him to stumble back onto the ground.
Haruka ducked beneath trees and stepped past Paul. “What’s your problem? Let’s go,” she demanded.
But as the words left her lips, Haruka was silenced. What could only be described as a twelve-foot tall gorilla shaped shadow crashed down in front of them. It raised its large hands and beat its chest, blocking the path ahead.
Paul began to scramble backward, trying desperately to get to his feet. “What the fuck!?” he heard himself yell.
Quinn pulled Paul up and everyone began to run back to the hotel. The shadow chased them down, crushing trees with ease and shaking the ground with its every footstep. As the clearing came closer, they would feel more rumbling on the ground.
This time, it was very close by and not behind them. The gorilla shadow leaped forward and landed in front of its prey, nearly crushing Tyler and Jason. But as it prepared to smash them beneath its fists, it was tackled by a larger, more dangerous shadow which took on the shape and appearance of a rhino.
“Holy shit,” Tyler breathed.
“W-What the hell ARE these things?!” Jason asked as he tried to catch his breath. They looked almost like some sort of colossi from a game he watched.
The gorilla shadow burst into darkness and dissipated into nothing, while the rhino turned and bared its massive head at the humans. It was just as tall as the previous shadow, but it looked much more intimidating. And as it bared down on them threatening their lives, Paul began to feel his chest burn.
He stared up at the rhino-shadow, and then back down to his chest. There it was: the crystal orb. The burning in his chest was extreme, to the point, it caused Paul great pain. He screamed in agony, and this enraged the shadow. It reared back on its hind legs and threatened to crush everyone beneath it at once.
Paul desperately scratched his chest until he had a tight grip on the orb and pulled it from his body. He bled profusely, but the relief from having removed the crystal orb was enough to keep him awake.
There was a bright flare of light when Paul removed the orb, and it temporarily blinded and stunned the shadow. It stumbled backward onto its rear and shook the ground. Paul panted, staring down into the orb.
“You made it angry with your stupid crying!” Haruka screamed, panicking as the rhino snorted and got to its feet.
Paul, however, couldn’t get a grip on reality. As he stared down into the orb, his dreams came flooding back to him all at once. The rhino roared at them all, but Paul somehow drowned it out. Paul stared down at the orb and began to squeeze it with his right hand. A crack formed immediately, and Paul could feel the fire inside of the orb teasing his fingertips.
He squeezed until the orb shattered in his hand, and the fire began to spread. It instantly cauterized his wound and covered him in brilliant blue flames.
Paul gasped at the cold flames, now reliving his dream once more. This was the fire he had been seeking. He had finally acquired it.
In that same instance, Paul felt a little piece of him, deep within his very soul, become cold. And then a voice called out to him. Something, someone, was trying to get free.
“I see you’ve awakened to your power,” boomed a deep voice. “You have recognized the threat before you and seen the dangers that lie ahead. Keeper of Oaths, there are many dangers ahead that only you can lay to rest. Let us put the world at ease, and form a contract. I am thou…”
And it wasn’t until Paul breathed the words that he could finally be free.
“Thou art I. Persona.”
The flames were doused and steam filled the jungle. The shadow was blinded once more, rampaging recklessly around the jungle. As the steam cleared, a dark-skinned man wielding a hammer floated above Paul. The man’s eyes were ghostly white, and a lightning-shaped scar was atop his forehead.
Paul stared up at the dark-skinned man, and the man returned Paul’s glare. “So,” he began.
Paul remained silently flabbergasted.
“Are you going to kill that thing? Or will you let it kill you?” the man asked.
Paul raised his hands, confused. The rhino had stopped rampaging and was staring at Paul.
“Ready or not, here it comes,” the dark man said.
Paul raised his hands to shield himself from the charging shadow, hearing its footsteps suddenly stop. Paul lowered his arms to see the dark-skinned man holding the shadow at bay with a single hand. He whipped his hammer around thrice and struck the shadow rapidly. It burst into three smaller shadows, each of them gorillas.
“I am Shango, god of storms. I am the piece of your soul. I am the fire which rages within you. Your soul, which would give itself away, is part of a greater collection of souls which protects your world.”
Shango held up his hammer and brought it down with a violent clap against the ground. “Makougaon,” he whispered. Three enormous pillars of light erupted beneath the gorillas and erased them from the night.
“And you, Paul,” Shango said, raising his hammer again. “Are destined to complete this story. With their help, perhaps you will save the lost.”
Paul said nothing, still completely clueless as to why Shango had appeared. Yet, every word Shango spoke coincided with Igor’s. “Henceforth, wherever you may go, so shall I go also. I am forever a part of you, Paul. I am your strength. You must learn to trust and use me.”
Shango vanished in a burst of bright light, and Paul nearly collapsed against a tree. He slumped down against it and breathed slow, deep breaths. It was still raining out, but Paul could no longer feel the effects of the weather.
“What the hell was that?” Haruka began. “There’s a logical explanation for everything, so far. Everything! So I demand to know who this Shango person is and how he just killed--”
“I don’t know! I don’t know, okay?” Paul said quickly. “I’m just as confused as you are.”
Tyler closed the distance between them until he was standing literal inches from Paul. “Bullshit. You know somethin’ the rest of us obviously fuckin’ don’t, so talk!”
Paul scratched his head furiously, trying to get a grip. He sighed, standing up again. “Let’s get out of the rain first.”
“Y-Yeah… out of the rain… and the place where there are things trying to kill us!!” Jason added, shaking his head. “At this point… I’d rather take my chances with the police...”
They pushed back to the hotel and into the lobby, where Paul snatched off his shoes and socks and plopped down on an empty sofa.
“Disclaimer,” he started. “I don’t know why this started happening. I just know it happened. And it all began with my dreams. The crystal ball I broke, I saw it before. Then, a few days ago, it appeared in my room.”
Paul explained to the others the dreams he had. The Velvet Room. Igor. The fire consuming him. He relayed Igor’s words about how Paul was meant to “stop the coming ruin” with the help of his friends. He also cautiously suggested that the people with him now were meant to be the ones he counted on.
Tyler slammed his fist into the wall. “God damn it!” he yelled, and then rested his head against the wall, breathing heavily.
“Oh, I am not doing this. Not with you, not with them. I don’t know you! I only met you at this stupid party because you ‘knew a back way out’. I didn’t want to get caught up with police again,” Quinn exclaimed.
“You think I want to be here right now? I almost got stabbed by a homeless guy and then arrested. But yeah, sure, this is my fault,” Paul said, rolling his eyes.
“Unbelievable,” Haruka said, shaking her head. “So the magic man who appeared in the pretty blue room and threw you in jail. What did he say about us being friends?”
“He said we were supposed to save the world, or whatever,” Paul shrugged.
“Save the--save the world? Okay, there had better be cameras somewhere, because this is the worst prank ever.” Haruka threw up her hands in disgust.
Jason looked over at Haruka. “W-Well, you could always think of it less as a prank...and more of just a level from a video g-...yeah that analogy is going nowhere.” he sighed. “I got nothing...”
“... I’m okay with this,” Reno muttered.
“If I may,” Georaldo spoke from the front desk.
Paul looked at the shadow, then sighed and threw his face into his hands.
“There may be someone who can help you,” Georaldo said.
Paul lifted his hands from his face. “Who? Tell me. Tell me right now,” Paul ordered, getting to his feet.
Georaldo held up his hands. “The island has a guardian. Someone who ensures the safe passage of travelers. He--”
“Where the hell was he tonight then!?” Quinn yelled.
“Apologies. He’s been sleeping for ten years. As I said before, we don’t get guests often,” Georaldo continued. “I believe your presence may have awoken him. As an Anomaly Shadow, I can sense a lot of changes among the islands. And I’m certain that he is awake.”
“Wait. Islands? As in more than one?” Paul asked.
Georaldo nodded. “There are seven to be precise. But, they are only reachable for a certain period of time. In just ten days, this island will sink, for example.”
Paul’s eyes opened wide. “Sink!? Then we need to get off the island and stay off! How long is that storm gonna last!?” Paul barked.
“Until sunrise, I’m afraid. You would do best to rest here until then,” Georaldo said.
“What are these islands?” Tyler asked, holding his busted up hand close to his chest.
“Well, the islands themselves are a bit of a mystery. But, from what master told me, they are held together by a very powerful, very sinister connection. And each island has a storm over it that can be quelled ‘by the guardian’s howl’. If the storm is quelled, the island is purified, and the master must answer to those who quelled it. However, I’ve only met one master. And that is Lord Orpheus. Hence, the Orpheus Storm. Of course, he may explain better than I,” Georaldo answered.
Tyler slumped back against the wall. “Great… more fairytale bullshit…”
Paul leaned in toward Georaldo. “How many hours until dawn?” Paul asked.
Georaldo checked the large analog clock behind him, on the wall. “Ten.”
“Ten!?” Paul exclaimed.
“Again, you may as well rest here. You’re more likely to run into shadows again if you go out during the storm.”
Paul shook his head and sighed. “If we’re stuck here, I might as well get some Zs. Where’s our room?”
Georaldo pointed down a dark, black corridor with no lighting. “If you make your way to the end of the hall there, on your right, you’ll find a large room with two purple doors and accented gold handles. You’ll be safe there.”
Paul sighed. “You uh, got a torch or something we can carry so we can see?”
Georaldo chuckled and flipped a switch beneath his desk. Lights snapped on in the once dark corridor, lighting the way to the room. “Thanks,” Paul said.
“Do you actually expect me to sleep here?” Haruka said, following Paul. “Please tell me you’re not serious.”
“What choice do we have, Haruka? You wanna go out there and get killed, or you wanna stay in this shitty hotel and live one more night?” Paul asked, not raising his head.
“I’ll take staying in a shitty hotel for 200...” Jason said, trying to lighten the mood.
Haruka rolled her eyes. “At least someone can keep a sense of humor.”
In the corridor as Paul passed, there were eight portraits hanging on the eastern wall. One of them was his, drawn in black and white. In the background, Shango stood above Paul. It was like a snapshot of their meeting in the forest. Paul stopped and examined it, shaking his head. “There’s no way.”
There were seven more portraits, and beneath each portrait was a name framed in gold, written in black. Every portrait beside Paul’s was empty.
The second portrait was Jason’s. Then, Haruka. Avery came fourth. Tyler was fifth. In sixth was Piper. The seventh portrait was Quinn’s. The eight and last portrait belong to Reno.
“This… is highly disturbing,” Haruka said.
“Tell me about it,” Quinn added.
“Really startin’ to feel like I’m in a horror movie…” Tyler grumbled.
Jason nodded. “I’m not feelin’ this myself...”
Avery curiously poked her own portrait, not saying anything on the matter.
Reno stared at the portrait, a neutral expression on his face. He had been unusually calm this whole time, and here it was no different.
Paul stepped back from his portrait and noticed the detail on Shango’s face and his own expression. “How is this possible?” Paul shook his head for the millionth time. “Never mind. I’ve seen enough shit I can’t explain.”
Paul stepped away from the picture at last and pressed on to the room that was prepared for them. He slowly pushed open the doors, hoping nothing was going to jump out and take his life.
To his extreme surprise, this room was decorated from head to toe, stock full of amenities, and it was extraordinarily spacious. There was no way it should have fit in the hotel at all, because the room was at least two thousand square feet.
There were eight king sized beds, eight separate bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen, a nursing station with its own Anomaly Nurse Shadow. It was decorated with bright red curtains and plush gold carpet. It smelled of lavender and it was warm.
“I… Well, besides almost dying, this isn’t so bad,” Paul thought to himself. “Though, I’m starving all of a sudden.”
“Yeah, well don’t eat the food. If the shadows almost killed you, who knows if the food is toxic or not,” Haruka said quickly.
“I just survived getting my ass handed to me by a twelve-foot rhino who was blacker than I am. I’ll take my chances,” Paul said, making his way to the kitchen.
He started small and picked up an apple from a bundle of fruit. He bit into it, crossing his fingers. It was sweet and juicy, and every bite felt real. Paul tossed an apple to Jason whether he was ready for it or not.
Jason saw the apple heading in his direction, immediately fumbling to catch the apple. Nevertheless, he made sure to hold onto it after Paul threw it. “Bit of a warning next time, Paul...” he chuckled nervously.
Paul took another bite before looking over to the beds. He sprang over to the first bed in sight and flopped down on it. The bed was fit to his exact preferences, creepily so. It wasn’t too firm, and the sheets and comforter were soft but breathable. Paul put his head against one of the pillows and almost instantly fell asleep. He jolted upright and shook his head, a strange sensation of peace and calm slowly left him.
“What the--” he touched the pillow with his head again and felt his eyes get heavy. He forced himself upright once more. “Guess we should only sleep if we really wanna sleep,” he thought aloud.
“That is correct,” said the nurse shadow.
“Eep!” Quinn squealed, having neglected to notice her.
“These beds will put you into a natural, deep sleep. They will restore your stamina and recover your wounds. If you choose to awake early, you may not fully recover. However, the effects of the restoration will last for a short period of time after you leave your room,” the nurse explained.
“This is some serious shit. Wish I had a bed like this at home. I’d never be tired,” Paul laughed.
“I’m glad this is a joke to you,” Haruka snapped. “We almost got arrested. We almost died. I want to go home. So can we please just sleep and get the hell off this island? I don’t ever wanna see this place again.”
Paul nodded. Haruka was right. The room was nice, but nearly dying for it wasn’t worth it. They had to get home.
“Wait. We need to do something first,” Paul said, sitting on the edge of his bed. “We should exchange contact info.”
Haruka rolled her eyes. “You already have mine. And why would we do that?”
“Because this is going to come up again. I just know it,” Paul said.
“What makes you so sure of that?” Quinn asked.
“We’re teenagers. These kinds of things don’t just happen and then everybody goes their separate ways. Those portraits, the monsters, the dude floating over my head, the fire that appeared in my dream and in my life--you’re not just gonna forget about this. And we can’t go telling anyone about it. They’ll throw us in an insane asylum,” Paul stood up and took out his phone. “We need to keep each other quiet about this. Even if it means the rest of our lives.”
“I barely know you now, and you think I’m going to want to have a therapy session with you for the rest of my life? Ugh,” Haruka groaned.
“It’s a safety net,” Paul said. “We keep each other in check, and if anyone has questions, we can reassure one another. Plus, I…” Paul paused, thinking about what he was going to say.
“You what?” Quinn asked.
“I’m probably going to come back,” Paul said finally.
“Are you completely out of your mind?” Haruka asked. “You want to come back? You’re on your own.”
“I have to, damn it. This didn’t happen to me for no reason. I’ve begun to question a lot of shit, and now, I need answers. So whether or not you come back with me is completely up to you. But I am coming back,” Paul decided.
“I’m sending my number to each of you, assuming your Bluetooth is enabled. Now let’s get some sleep. Sunday is gonna be weird," Paul said softly.
- Add any wanted character interactions and have fun at the party.
- Individually reflect on your new circumstance with Origin Island.