As soon as the bell rang for school to be out Keera took off like a flash. Her parents hadn’t answered the phone and she was eager to ask them about the private lessons in weapon training. She flew in the door and floated into the kitchen. Her parents weren’t there but she did find a note taped to the fridge. "Went shopping for Graduation Ceremony tonight. Suppers in the oven, don’t let it burn. Love ya always, Mom."
Great, she had forgotten that was tonight. All the eighteen year old students would be sorted into the positions that best suited their magical abilities. Some would be joining the Mintacerra, others would become healers at the hospital and so on. There were some occupations she didn’t even know about. Her brother, Leon, would be graduating tonight.
“I wonder where he will be put,” Keera thought aloud. Shrugging, she grabbed an apple out of the bowl on the table and headed upstairs to her room. Collapsing on her bed, she pulled out her essay and started writing. Somewhere in the middle of a sentence her head started feeling heavy and her eyelids began drooping. “Come on Keera, got to get this done,” she chided herself firmly.
“Unisaris and unicorns,” she murmured. Flipping through her textbook she found the pages on them. Alternating between reading and writing she kept working. Her eyes grew heavier. She felt the pencil drop and her head droop.
She was dreaming. At least she was pretty sure she was, she had never seen anything like this before. She was in a forest. Looking around, she saw nothing but enormous trees in every direction. They towered above her, their leaves dancing slightly in a breeze causing spots of light and shadow to dance on her arms. The gentle wind caught her hair and rustled it playfully. She could hear the scurrying of tiny animals as they chattered to each other from the trees. It all felt so real.
Where am I?
Slowly, Keera realized the trees around her were moving. Glancing down at her feet, she saw that they were already heading in a determined direction. They propelled her unwilling body north, expertly weaving around fallen branches and over small creeks. As if they’ve been here before.
Keera shuddered at the thought, as the forest grew darker with the setting sun. She had never been her, that she knew for sure. And yet... she kept walking confidently along.
Rounding a particularly large trunk she stopped, jaw gaping. Before her stood a pure white unicorn. Keera snapped her jaw shut and eyed it carefully. The coat was white, not grayish. The horn spiraled to the right, not the left and it was standing in a direct patch of light. Definitely a unicorn then. Keera's reason spoke up calmly. This irrelevant thought faded with the overwhelming urge Keera felt to touch this majestic creature. Taking a deep breath, she slowly crept forward. Her steps faltered slightly when the creature didn’t move away. Rather it’s intelligent, black gaze met hers calmly, its eyes watched her expectantly. She knew, somehow, that it had been waiting for her. Perplexed, Keera paused and stared at it. She admired the way the fading light filtering through the leaves above still managed to make its silver horn gleam magnificently. Its strong haunches rippled slightly as it took a step towards her.
Startled, Keera’s right foot involuntarily slid back. The unicorn stopped and continued to eye her peacefully. When Keera didn’t move, it stepped forward again. It was a mere foot away from her. Swallowing hard, Keera reached out to touch it. Before her fingertips could even graze its silky fur, a flash of black magic seared through the trees. Keera cried out and raised her hands to shield her eyes. A spot of silver danced across her vision as a high, piercing laugh burned her ears.
“No!” Keera cried, her eyes flying open. Slowly she realized she was lying on her back next to her bed. As she stared dazedly at the white ceiling above her, her brain processed the information it received. She had been studying, she must have fallen asleep. She had been dreaming. Sitting up gingerly and biting back a groan, Keera became aware of a dull throbbing on her forehead that was bringing itself quite painfully to her attention. She looked at the skewed covers above her and her large textbook at her side. She must have grabbed the covers when she rolled off the bed. The book slid off and hit her in the head. Okay, simple, logical.
That all makes sense, Keera told herself as she eased herself to her feet. She straightened her covers and placed the book back on the bed, the disturbing dream darting across her mind. She saw the unicorn perfectly in her mind’s eye. Was it just a dream?
It had all felt so real, especially the heat of that menacing black magic and the laughter. Keera’s eyes fell on her half-finished report that lay on the floor at her feet. Bending, she grimaced at the pain that shot through the bump on her forehead. She placed her hand to her head and scowled at the torn paper.
“I just fell asleep and had unicorns on the brain, nothing more,” she told herself impatiently. Throwing the torn report on the bed she walked out of her room in search of some ice for her head. Halfway down the stairs the doorbell rang. Her brow furrowing in puzzlement, Keera slowly walked towards it. Who on earth was that? Her parents and brother had keys and she wasn’t expecting anyone else. She figured it was probably Liann and smiling she opened the door. Her jaw dropped. Josh stood on her front doorstep.
Josh gave a smug smile at the stunned look on Keera’s face. Her eyes were wide and her mouth open. “You look like a fish,” he told her as he brushed past her and stepped into the house.
“I do not!” Keera snapped behind him as she shook herself from her stupor.
Josh smiled and shrugged. His eyebrows slightly drawn together, he casually looked around. He felt Keera about to launch into an angry tirade about his unwanted presence, but he forestalled her by suddenly leaping up the stairs.
“Hey!” Keera shouted in surprise and displeasure. Her reaction was a little late as Josh was already at the top of the stairs. He strode purposefully into her room despite her furious splutters as she raced up the stairs behind him. He stopped at the entrance to her room, his lazy gaze not missing the wrinkled covers and the rumpled paper.
“What do you think you are doing?” Keera demanded as she came up behind him.
Keera bit back an angry remark as Josh, completely ignoring her, went to her bed. He picked up her textbook. “Excuse me mister. You better put that down and get out of here right now!” Keera glared at him.
Josh surprised her by putting the book down. She opened her mouth to berate him further when, instead of leaving, he walked to her window. His soft voice cut her off. “Are you alright?”
Keera snapped her mouth shut on her words in astonishment. “What?” She asked dimly, as her mind whirled. Had she just detected a hint of concern in Josh’s voice? She shook her head to rid it of such foolish notions. “You had better leave before my parents get home,” Keera growled at the still calm Josh.
As if on cue, she heard a car pull into the driveway. Keera looked at Josh in triumph, but he just shrugged completely unfazed. Instead of pulling his disappearing spell, he walked towards her. Keera backed up nervously, feeling the doorjamb in her back.
Josh stopped in front of her, way too close for comfort. His eyes went to the bump on her forehead, then slid around the room again. “Well everything seems to be in order,” Josh murmured. He ignored Keera’s surprised, curious look. He looked back at her and gave a mocking smirk. “You know you are supposed to read the books, not smack yourself with them.”
Keera glared. “Next time I will smack you with it. That’s the only way anything gets in your thick head.”
Josh answered her threat with an amused quirk of his eyebrow. “Well I will be leaving since everything is alr…” His words were interrupted by a deafening boom and a blinding flash of bright light.
As the spots of light cleared from Keera’s vision she became aware of two things. She was on the floor again and Josh was on top of her. Keera found herself feeling oddly numb as her brain quickly filed away information. This was how she dealt with most stressful or shocking experiences. Josh hovering over her, his arms curled protectively around her head, and cursing definitely counted as shocking.
As the sensations of her body slowly caught up with her brain, she became aware of a shocking experience on yet another level. She felt all the tiny hairs on her arms stand on end. She could almost see the electrical crackle of energy in the air around them. She felt Josh roll away from her and for a moment she just lay still trying to comprehend what had happened.
When Josh stood up and moved to inspect something where Keera had just been standing, Keera’s brain finally decided that she could move. Feeling as if her whole body was one big bruise, she pushed herself to her feet awkwardly. Limping she made her way to where Josh was staring with an expression almost like concern. Seeing the imperturbable Josh looking shaken, only made Keera’s already racing heart kick into high gear.
“What it is?” she whispered as she came up behind him. He didn’t have to answer as Keera’s jaw dropped for the hundredth time that day. There-right where she had been standing moments ago- was a large, black scorch mark.