Prompt: You run after someone who left a strange book on a bus and they go into a house. Through the window you see…
There are days that are simply great. Those are the days that I wish I could relive over and over again. Today was not one of those days. Today was simply horrible.
Anything that could have gone wrong did. I had a pop quiz in Geometry this morning, one that I undoubtedly failed. The cafeteria ran out of turkey sandwiches at lunch and I was stuck cold, lumpy potatoes and a gray looking slab of meatloaf. And as if the gray meatloaf wasn’t bad enough, the school bus I’m currently sitting on has started smoking and has shuttered to a startling halt.
“Everyone stay seated!” the bus driver barks as he proceeds out of the front door. There’s a heavy sigh and several dozens of kids slumping even further down in their seats. I plug my ears with my earbuds, jack up my music, and defeated lean my head against the glass window.
I wait for the engine to rumble back to life. I wait for the driver to take his seat behind the wheel. I wait for this yellow monstrosity of a bus to drive me back home. I wait, but absolutely nothing happens. My fellow schoolmates look just as anxious as I feel. Some are doing homework, some are chatting animatedly with their friends, and some are sleeping.
People start moving around, hopping from one seat to the next as if it’s musical chairs. There’s a group of beefy guys in the back tossing a football back and forth. And then there’s me and Wyatt Chase, the school loners. Wyatt’s sitting across from me with his nose stuck in a book. But not just any book, the same book he seems to always be reading: The Outsiders. As of lately, he’s taken on a Two-Bit Matthews look: slick-backed hair, popped collar of his faux leather jacket, and a sleeveless tee with Donald Duck emblazoned on the front.
“Hey,” I call over to Wyatt, not really sure what has possesses me to strike up a conversation. He looks up but doesn’t respond. He stares at me expectantly. “You know Two-Bit wears a Mickey shirt, right?” He smirks and returns to his book without a word. Without looking up, or skipping a beat he finally responds saying “That’s the movie Two-Bit, not the book.”
As quickly as our conversation started it has ended. Wyatt is definitely cute. But he’s also strange. Stranger than the average strange.
I go back to holding up the window. Bored, I close my eyes in an effort to sleep. My insomnia has been kicking my butt lately and I’ll catch any amount of zzz’s I can, no matter what time of day it is. But before long I feel someone position themselves on the seat next to me. Right next to me. So close that our thighs are pressing against each other. I side eye whoever it is and discover it’s Wyatt.
“Let me guess: you’re a Ponyboy fan?”
“Says every girl who’s read The Outsiders,” he says almost accusingly.
“You’re wrong,” I say.
“If not Ponyboy, then who?”
“Does it matter? Maybe I don’t have a favorite.”
“Everyone has a favorite outsider. And it does matter.”
“Fine, Darry’s my favorite,” I answer.
“I guess I see myself in him, well in his character.”
“Interesting,” he says nodding. “When did you first read it?”
“Freshman year. Don’t you remember, everyone in our class had to read it.”
“I wasn’t here freshman year,” he says reminding me that he transferred in halfway through sophomore year.
“When did you first read it?”
“When I was seven or eight. But technically I didn’t read it, my grandfather read it to me. Every night after dinner he read a chapter aloud.”
“Strange choice for storytime,” I comment.
“I only wanted to read it because my older brother was reading it. I thought I’d be cool, like him, if I read it.”
“And did it work?”
“No,” he says chuckling and shaking his head. “It didn’t make me cooler. In fact, I think it actually made me a bit stranger.”
“But it’s sweet that your grandfather read it to you.”
The conversation lags a bit. I notice Wyatt’s copy of The Outsiders. It’s old and beat up, but there’s something different about it. It’s not like any cover of the book I’ve ever seen. From my vantage point, it looks as if the cover is made from a strong, clear plastic. The artwork is faint, but from somewhere on the actual hardcover there’s an odd symbol.
I can’t seem to pull my eyes away from the book. Wyatt notices and shifts the book into his other hand, the hand that’s furthest from me.
“So why Donald?” I ask.
“He just seems … cooler.”
“Donald Duck is cooler than Mickey?!” I say with a snort.
HIs cheeks turn a deep shade of pink and he looks down at his lap. Nervously he shifts the book back and forth in his hands. I start to reach for it, wanting to get a closer look at it. But I stop and ask, “may I?”
He looks at me, confused.
“May I look at it? You’re book?”
“Oh. Um … “ He’s hesitant. He’s looking at the book as if it’s his most prized possession. Biting his lip, I can see the fear of letting this book slip into unfamiliar hands. But he takes a chance and passes it to me tentatively.
I don’t reach for it.
“You wanted to see it, right?”
“Not if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“I’m not. Uncomfortable that is.”
“You are, and it’s okay. I shouldn’t have been so forward. I’m sorry.”
“Forward isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Before I have the chance to take the book from Wyatt, the engine rumbles back to life. The driver trudges up the steps and takes his seat behind the wheel. A group of kids from somewhere in the middle let out a loud cheer. Internally I cheer too.
The driver continues on his normal route. After the first stop, Wyatt starts to gather his things. His jacket. His hoodie. His hipster hat that he left on the seat across from the aisle. He rearranges a few books in his messenger bag, placing the old copy of The Outsiders down. I’m tempted to pick it up. I resist the strange urge to hold this book in my own hands.
Just like Wyatt, there’s something strange about this book. I (literally) can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that makes it so, but I just can’t help but feel drawn to this book.
“Catch you later,” Wyatt says as he starts to move toward the front of the bus.
“Hurry it up back there! We haven’t got all day!” The driver yells.
“Sorry,” Wyatt calls back. He starts to run up the center aisle. I realize just as the bus door’s open that he’s completely forgotten about his book. I know I should run after him, and that I should give it back to him, but something stops me.
Unable to control myself I flip open the cover. And instead of discovering the familiar opening lines of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel, I find what appears to be … I’m not actually sure what I’m looking at. There are strange symbols, and the text seems to be written in a foreign language. One that I cannot read.
I flip through the pages and come across a few pages that have English writing on it. I don’t know what it means, but it looks like a spell of some sort. Yes, a spell as in a witch’s spell. I’m baffled and lost in thought, so much so that I miss my stop.
When I finally get off the bus I decide to backtrack to Wyatt’s house. I don’t exactly know where he lives, but with the help of my school’s student directory I can easily find out. It’s not as close as I want it to be, but it’s walkable.
It’s a bright and sunny day, but Wyatt’s house is shrouded in shadow. A chill runs up my back. I take a few hesitant steps towards his front door. I pause and take a few more steps. Before I know it I’m at the door, ringing his doorbell. I can hear footsteps on the opposite side. I hear muffled voices. And from the corner of my eye, I see movement by the front window.
“Wyatt, I have your book!” I call, hoping it will entice him out.
Maybe the doorbell doesn’t work. I knock hard on the door, and cross my fingers, hoping someone will let me in. No one does. There are high shrubs in front of the window. It will be tight, but if I can shimmy my way in I can peek in through the window.
Before resorting to that, I ring and knock impatiently. When no one answers I resort to the only plan I have. I make my way down the few steps and step over the small rock garden. I start to shimmy through the shrubs, but they’re pointy and they hurt.
Before long I break through and am crouching just below the window. I pick a stray leaf or two out from the nest that now is my hair. I wipe at my cheek, checking for blood from the small scratches I have. And when all seems good, I start to stand. Not at my full height, but just enough to peer into the living room.
And when I peer in, I’m horrified by the sight in front of me. Wyatt is standing in the middle of a chalk-drawn star. There are four blonde girls surrounding him. They are wearing dark cloaks in varying colors. Each is standing at one point of the star. I can’t see their faces well, but I can tell they are all related to Wyatt, maybe sisters. The girls are holding hands, and while I can’t tell exactly what they are saying I know they are talking.
I stare wide-eyed as Wyatt joins in. He appears to be talking as well.
The lights inside the house flicker. There’s a boom of thunder from somewhere behind me. And then it happens. I see Wyatt … levitate. I scream in horror. Wyatt and the four sisters look up, and the spell is broken. I run, run as fast as I can, and I never look back.