Chapter 6: An Unsettling Report
Alan panted heavily, glaring at Titus, fists raised as everyone continued to watch in stunned silence. Titus, with a hint of shock on his face, still held his hand over his cheek as he stared down at the traumatized boy.
“It’s okay Alan. Everything’s fine. It’s me.” Said Titus in a soft voice as he tried to bring Alan back to his senses, hands out in front of him.
“SHUT UP!!” Alan exclaimed, his expression twisting, appearing even angrier. “You’re going to pay for what you did!”
As Alan prepared to strike Titus once more, he paused as he heard his name called out by Jake.
“Like dad said, everything’s okay. You’re among your friends. It’s me. It’s Jake.” Said Jake in a voice that was as soft as Titus’s.
The angry look on Alan’s face looked as if it was slowly starting to fade. Slowly, very slowly the boy began to calm himself.
“Alan…Is it okay if I touch you?” Asked Sarah as she also approached.
Alan watched, taking a stance as if he preparing to attack. Sarah held her arms out in front of her in an attempt to show the terrified boy that she meant no harm. She walked up to him slowly, taking great care not to scare him. As soon as she was close enough, Sarah wrapped her arms around Alan and gave him a hug in an attempt to comfort him. The gentle hug was enough to bring Alan back to his senses as he hugged Sarah back and muttered “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” several times.
“Shh shh shh. It’s okay Alan. You’re fine. Have you calmed down?” Sarah asked in a softly sweet voice.
Alan looked at her and nodded. Sarah could tell by the look in his eyes that Alan was indeed back to normal. The wild, animalistic look Alan wore just a moment ago had completely vanished.
Watching his mom comfort Alan reminded Drake of how she used to comfort him the same way whenever something bad had happened to him. The half-dragon teen smiled, happy to have a mom that was just as loving and nurturing to others as she had been to him and Jake.
Releasing the boy from her warm embrace, Alan turned from Sarah to face Titus. He looked at Titus, a nervous expression on his face and took a moment before he apologized for punching Titus to which Titus assured Alan that everything was okay and that he had been simply a little surprised at what had happened. Alan smiled, relieved and thankful that Titus wasn’t mad at him.
“Drake, Jake, why don’t you and your friends take Alan into the house? I’m sure he could use a little rest after that. Right, Alan?” Suggested Sarah.
Alan didn’t respond. He looked down, embarrassed over what had happened. Titus took note of the look on the boy’s face and took a step towards him.
“Alan, don’t beat yourself up. You couldn’t control yourself at that moment, ok? I don’t hold it against you so don’t hold it against yourself.” Said Titus as he tried to cheer Alan up, placing a hand on Alan’s shoulder.
As Alan raised his head to look at Titus, he nodded in understanding, giving Titus a meek but grateful smile. Titus smiled back at Alan, happy to see that his words seemed to have gotten through to the troubled boy. Afterwards, Titus turned his attention to his sons and their friends.
“Go on, guys. Take Alan inside.” Titus instructed his sons and their friends.
“Okay.” Drake replied to his dad’s order.
“C’mon Alan. Let’s go inside.” Said Crystal as she placed her hand on Alan’s back.
Drake, Jake, Alan, Laurie, Tim, Sean, and Crystal made their way past the adults and into the house where they went upstairs, retiring to Alan’s bedroom. While they watched as Tim who was trailing behind the others disappear above the stairs, Sarah’s warm, happy expression changed to one of contemplation. She folded her arms and stared down, feeling troubled. Taking note of this, Jessie asked Sarah what was wrong, breaking her from her thoughts. Sarah looked up, unfolding her arms and turned to face her sister-in-law.
“Got something on your mind, Sarah?” Lucas asked as he went to stand beside her.
Sarah glanced over at Lucas then turned back to face the sliding glass door. Her eyes dotted around the yard as she returned to her thoughts. Discerning his wife’s unsettled body language, Titus asked her what was going on. Placing her left hand over her right arm and gripping it, Sarah let out a sigh.
“This is going to sound pretty weird…but…” Sarah paused. “…Well, ever since we brought Alan into our home, I’ve just had this nagging feeling that I’ve seen him somewhere before.” Sarah finally brought herself to explain to her friends and family.
Titus and the others were initially unsure of what to make of what Sarah had just told them. They entertained the idea that Sarah may have just passed Alan and his family while she was either heading home from Angela’s shop or to or that Alan may have, at one point, visited the shop and she just couldn’t remember.
“See, that’s what I thought at first too but…I dunno. So many people stop by to the shop every day and their faces do tend to blur together at times but…hmm…I AM pretty sure I’ve never seen him around the mall. I know it sounds crazy but I’ve just had this feeling ever since we brought him home.” Sarah tried her best to explain to everyone.
“I don’t know. One thing’s for sure though: something really bad happened to that poor kid and whatever it was, it must have had something to do with why he hit me.” Titus mulled over while he rubbed his chin, scratching at the hairs of his goatee.
“Oh yeah! Speaking of which, Titus!” Lucas exclaimed.
“What’s up?” Asked Titus as he looked curiously towards his friend.
“Well, see I was wondering if you had any idea what Alan meant when he said ‘Give them back’ and ‘You’re going to pay for what you did’. Anything?” Inquired Lucas.
Titus shook his head and shrugged. He was just as unsure of the meaning behind Alan’s words as his family was. After a moment, Titus looked shocked at Lucas.
“Hey, wait!” Exclaimed Titus. “You don’t think I did anything to him, do you?!” Asked Titus offendedly at what he perceived was a possible accusation from his best friend, his right hand placed over his chest.
“No way, dude! Of course not. I know you’d never do anything like that to someone. We all do. It’s just that…this whole thing with Alan is getting stranger and stranger.” Lucas cleared up.
“It is.” Titus concurred.
A brief silence fell over everyone before it was broken by one of Titus’s neighbors, an older man appearing to be in his mid 50s to early 60s called out to Titus, asking if everything was okay and mentioning that he had been hearing a lot of noise coming from Titus’s house.
“Everything’s fine, Mr. Wilson! Sorry about the racket!” Titus hollered back to his neighbor.
“You sure? ‘Cause I could have sworn I just heard a kid over here screaming bloody murder.” Mr. Wilson continued to pry.
Titus assured his neighbor that everything was well and that the kid who screamed was the boy with amnesia who they were looking after. Titus went on to explain that Alan may have remembered something in that instant and that whatever it had been had freaked him out.
“Alright, dragon man. Well, I’ll let you get back to your business. Just take good care of that kid. Until he gets his memory back, he’s going to be counting on you and your family.” Advised Mr. Wilson.
“We know. And we’re going to do everything we can to help Alan get his memory back and find his family.” Promised Titus.
Following Titus and Drake’s battle with the Followers at the mall, some of the Flamel family’s neighbors had come to realize that they were living next to a dragon, his half-breed son, his adopted son who was also a half-breed, and his fully human wife. Others, however, remained skeptical and Titus was thankful for that. His only wish for his family following the defeat of Saulstrance was that they be allowed to live without disturbance or to be made into a spectacle.
So, if most of his neighbors didn’t believe that he was actually a dragon or that his sons had the blood of dragons running through their veins, then he was more than fine with allowing them to continue to live next to them, unaware of his and his family’s true identities.
A short time later, everyone began to return home one by one until eventually, it was down to only Laurie. As the sun began to set, Titus, along with his family and Alan, walked Laurie to the bus stop which was a short way from their house. The bus that Laurie needed to take would take her straight home back to Spring Heights, the lively yet town where Laurie lived with her adopted family. Just five miles from Spring Heights was another town which was just as bustling as Spring Heights known as Sidney’s Point. This was the town where Laurie and Alex lived during their days at A Piece of Home Orphanage and it was at this town that Sarah resided in and where she tended to the orphanage.
“Thanks so much for your help.” Sarah said, smiling at Laurie.
“You don’t need to thank me. I’m just sorry I couldn’t have been of more help.” Apologized Laurie.
“Don’t worry. You don’t need to say sorry. None of us had any real luck anyway so you’re good.” Titus said with a smile of his own.
“Have a safe trip home.” Drake said.
“Yeah. And come back anytime. We’ll be waiting.” Agreed Jake.
“I’m gonna hold you to that, Jake. Next time, all of us need to actually hang out together.” Laurie grinned at Jake, placing her fist on his chest.
“Deal!” Jake promised.
Just as the Flamel family was preparing to head back home, Sarah turned back to Laurie. She asked the teenage girl if she wouldn’t mind some company until her bus arrived. With a grateful smile on her face, Laurie assured Sarah that she’d be okay. Sarah, however, insisted, noting that it could take awhile for her bus to arrive. Not wanting to seem rude, Laurie took Sarah up on her offer.
Laurie watched as the sun slowly set over their Californian town. She looked over at Drake and Jake who were sitting next to each other right across from her, Drake’s hands cupped together and Jake’s arms rested over his legs. They too were watching the sky just as Laurie had been. She then turned around to face Titus who was standing behind his sons and then turned to Sarah who was standing behind her. Laurie pulled out her phone and checked the time. Only five minutes had passed since she got to the bus station. With a sigh, she decided now was as good a time as any to ask. It was something that she’d had on her mind for awhile ever since she had gotten the chance to know Drake and Jake a little better.
“Y’know, I’ve been wondering something: what’s it like being half-dragons?” Laurie asked Drake and Jake.
Both half-dragon boys looked at Laurie with a hint of confusion in their eyes. Being part dragon was never something Drake or Jake truly thought too heavily on. For them, being hybrids was as normal as drinking, eating, and sleeping.
“Well…” Jake thought best how to answer Laurie’s question. “I’ve never really been anything else so for me, it’s always felt natural.” Jake tried to explain.
“Oh…that makes sense. Guess it would feel normal when that’s what you’ve always been accustomed to.” Stated Laurie, sounding as if she was expecting a more fantastical answer.
“I feel the same way. I’ve always been proud to be a half-dragon. My wings, my tail, my fins, and my claws. I’m sure a lot of kids would probably just look at them and think that they’re just extra parts of my body but to me they’re not. My dragon parts are just as much me as my fingers or toes or hair and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.” Said Drake confidently, flashing a proud smile as he spoke.
“Ditto to that.” Jake concurred. Then suddenly, a thought entered his mind.
“Ooh! Laurie!” Jake exclaimed as he bolted up from his seat.
“Ooh! What?” Laurie repeated back to Jake teasingly but also with a hint of surprise at Jake’s spontaneous exclamation.
“You want to see what a half-dragon’s powers are like? Now this, THIS is the coolest part of being a half-dragon!” Jake said excitedly with a very wide, eager smile on his face.
Jake quickly glanced around the area, making sure that no one was in sight. With a sigh, Jake removed his shirt, placing it on the bus seat he had been sitting on, then proceeded to pull the back of his shorts down slightly to allow his tail to grow without ripping the seams of his shorts apart. Laurie wasn’t sure if she liked where she thought this was going. She asked herself, feeling more than weirded out what Jake was going to do. Before she got the chance to ask, he closed his eyes and proceeded to change into his true form. Laurie watched Jake’s transformation in stunned silence, her eyes widened and mouth hanging slightly open. She had seen both Drake and Jake in their true forms before but this was the first time she was getting to truly witness a half-dragon’s transformation in real time.
“And that’s what a half-dragon’s transformation is like.” Said Jake who was now standing before the awestruck girl as the creature he truly was.
“Wow.” Laurie mouthed as she scanned Jake’s body. She watched as his tail moved around behind him and his wings hung out behind him, their full glory visible for everyone to see.
“Does it hurt when you transform? I mean, your ears get pulled out, you have a tail and wings growing from your back. I’d imagine that’s got to hurt pretty bad.” Asked Laurie.
Jake shook his head. He explained that whenever he’d transform, his body never really experienced any real pain from his transformation. He believed it was because as Drake said: their wings, tails, and finned ears were just parts of their body so maybe their bodies recognized this and, as a result, didn’t produce a pained sensation when they changed. While she definitely believed it could be possible, Laurie had to wonder if that was truly the case. She asked Jake if his body was similar to that of a lizard’s in that regard. Jake tilted his head at Laurie’s question, asking her what she meant.
“Well, when a lizard loses its tail, the tail regenerates afterward. It’s called ‘autotomy’ and lizards do it when they’re faced with a threat. I was thinking since you and Drake are part dragon and…well I guess dragons are sorta giant lizards, that maybe your bodies have some form of autotomy which is why when you transform, you don’t feel any pain. After all, when lizards regrow their limbs, the autotomy process is painless for them.” Laurie explained.
Not just Drake and Jake, but Titus and Sarah as well stared at Laurie with surprised looks on their faces, feeling as if they had just sat through a science class and impressed by how knowledgeable Laurie was. None of them had ever considered autotomy as a possibility before. Drake, Jake, and even Titus had transformed so many times and with the process always feeling natural to them, never truly gave it much thought. To them, this was all just part of who they were. Jake scooped his tail up into his hands and looked down at it. What Laurie said did make some sense to him. After all, his tail was that of a reptile’s, even if that reptile was a mythical one.
“I guess that makes some sense. Huh. So then…me and Jake are essentially part lizard, huh?” Drake wondered aloud.
Titus snickered at his son’s statement. “Y’know, as a full blooded dragon, I’m not sure if I should find being compared with lizards offensive or not.”
Laurie snickered as well. Never in her life would she have ever guessed that she would be discussing, let alone hypothesizing on how the bodies of people who had dragon DNA in them worked.
At that, two thoughts suddenly crossed the teenaged girl’s mind.
“Say…Mr. Flamel.” Laurie began.
“You can call me Titus.” Said Titus.
“Okay. Titus, what’s it like being a dragon? I…man, I’m sorry. I just have so many questions I want to ask you guys. Like Drake and Jake, what’s school like for you guys and Sarah, what’s it like being married to a dragon? I know I’m asking a lot of questions but I—“
Laurie was cut off by Sarah who assured her it was okay and that they didn’t mind answering her questions. Sarah went first in answering Laurie’s questions. She explained to Laurie that she loved every bit about her life and that she wouldn’t trade it for anything. Getting to be the wife of not just an amazing dragon but an amazing person in general and getting to be the mother of two half-dragon boys was, in Sarah’s own words, “Like living my own personal fantasy story”.
Titus answered next. He explained to Laurie how, for the first thirteen years of his life, he never even knew he was a dragon, recounting the events that had happened in the dragon realm which led to his being sent to the human realm and being discovered by his adoptive brother, Ben. He went on to explain how, when he found out the truth about his past, he felt devastated, believing that everything about his life up to that point was nothing more than a lie.
“However, there was someone there who helped me see that both my human and dragon sides are as real as the other and that who I was and who I wanted to be was dependent on me.” Said Titus, smiling at Sarah as he rested his head on her right shoulder. In response, Sarah placed a hand on the side of Titus’s head, her fingers rubbing through his hair and rested her head on top of his.
“Aww!” Exclaimed Laurie, smiling at the last part of the answer Titus had given her as well as seeing the affection between him and Sarah.
For the final question, Drake answered first. He told Laurie that being a half-dragon who was going to school with humans had never truly been that bad for him. Sure he had gotten picked on in the past but aside from a few bullies who used to mess with him and his friends, Drake had never really been treated poorly for being a half-dragon.
“In fact, when I was in fifth grade, my classmates discovered I was a half-dragon after me and my dad were sent to the hospital from fighting the dragons who destroyed the mall. When I showed them my real form, they actually thought it was pretty cool and since then, my life at school’s been pretty much normal. I guess that aside from Sean and Crystal and the kids who were in fifth grade with me, the other humans I go to school with didn’t believe what they saw on tv four years ago.” Drake explained.
“Well, at least there was one half-dragon who got to live a decent life.” Laurie smiled sadly as she thought back to how poorly treated Alex was back at the orphanage. “How about you, Jake? How have kids treated you at school?” The girl asked.
Jake looked uneasy. Laurie could tell from the look on Jake’s face that whatever he was about to tell her couldn’t be good. Despite his feelings on his past, however, Drake and his parents had told Laurie how they’ve felt and what happened in their pasts so Jake figured it only fair that he tell her too. Jake told Laurie how, like Drake, he too was proud to be a half-dragon yet had a difficult time getting kids to accept him as a half-dragon. While he had only revealed his true form to a select few kids, he always feared that kids friends would think he was a freak if the only thing he showed them were his draconic appendages. So, to try and make himself appear cool to them, he would try and show them his powers: the ability to breathe fire and manipulate elements. Every time he did this, however, things ended badly.
“Back then, I didn’t have a good grasp of my powers and because of this, I ended up hurting more friends than I wanted to. Because of that, kids used to make fun of me. They’d call me names like ‘Fire Boy’ and claim that I was going to burn the school down one day.” Said Jake, a dour look on his face.
“God…they were actually saying that about you?” Laurie asked, a look of disbelief on her face.
“Yeah…yeah, they did. Eventually I came to fear my own powers, even hate them to an extent and I thought I’d never be able to learn to control them so, for awhile, I chose to keep my powers a secret. I didn’t want them to end up hurting anyone else. But that changed shortly after my eleventh birthday. I met two kids my age. A boy and his twin sister named Jericho and Cassie. Me, Jericho, Alex, and two dragons who used to work with my dad, Theian and Z’haer, went on a camping trip and during that trip, Jericho was almost attacked by a bear. To my surprise, Alex helped protect Jericho and, with no other choice left, I used my fire and my ability to control elements to trap the bear in a prisonlike box of fire.” Jake finished explaining.
Laurie repeated Jericho and Cassie’s names. She then asked Jake where they were now, if they went to another school or moved. Jake’s face became even further sullen. With a long, drawn out sigh, Jake told Laurie about what had happened to the twins. It was one of many things that Jake was never able to forgive himself for, even if Jericho, Cassie, and their family had. Jake would always tell himself that what happened to their house was his fault and if he had just kept his distance from them after being told to, they would never had lost their home or any of their belongings.
“I was told that I couldn’t see them again but I didn’t listen. They were my best friends and I didn’t want to lose them. So, because I didn’t listen, Alex and I got into a fight and because of that, Jericho and Cassie lost their home. Afterward, they left for San Francisco. I think they might still be living out there.” Jake finished, a heavy feeling making itself known in his gut as he looked towards the ground.
Exhaling through his nose, Jake grabbed his shirt and sat down on the bus seat, cupping his hands and sitting them in his lap. Laurie, feeling guilty for upsetting Jake, apologized for bringing those memories back up, assuring him that she wasn’t trying to make him sad or anything of the sort. Jake, turning his attention from the ground, looked at her, smiling a somewhat sad smile, and told her he knew that she wasn’t trying to hurt him and that it was okay.
To try and take his mind off of the past, Jake reminded Laurie that he promised to show her something cool, something which Laurie, who had gotten so caught up in learning about her new friends, had almost completely forgotten about. Laurie smiled, her guilt fading away somewhat as she noticed how genuinely happy and excited Jake looked at the moment.
Backing up a ways to try and make sure he didn’t hurt his new friend or his family, Jake promised Laurie that now he had far better control of his powers and that he wouldn’t let them hurt her. Taking in a deep breath and then exhaling, Jake took in another deep breath, this time clenching his mouth tightly shut after doing so, and then exhaled once more only this time, instead of just air, a flame was expelled from Jake’s mouth. Laurie yelped, taking by surprise at the sight of her new friend breathing fire. She watched as Jake held his hand out and ceased breathing fire. The flame stream had formed into a ball the size of a coconut.
“Wh-Whoa!” Laurie stuttered at a loss for words, eyes grown wide at what she was witnessing.
“Oh, just wait! You haven’t even seen the best part, Laurie!” Said Jake, smiling proudly and confidently.
With his hand still held out in front of him, Jake took the hand he had that was still free and moved it in front of the fire. Laurie watched, eyes still as wide as ever as the ball of fire stretched out, becoming thinner. Once it was at a sufficient length, Jake moved his hand back once more, this time focusing on the center of the flame. He pulled his right hand back, once to the right, then moving it around to the left side and pulled his right hand back once more. Nearly finished, he moved his right hand under his left, placed his index and middle fingers slightly under his palm, and pulled the last part of the flame closer to him. To conclude, he raised his right hand slightly above his newly changed flame and swiped his hand downwards in a quick motion, thinning out the flame. Once Jake had finished, not just Laurie and Alan, but Titus, Sarah, and Drake as well gaped in astonishment at what they were seeing: hovering right above the palm of Jake’s hand was a sword made of fire. Jake moved his hand up, the sword following with it. He swiped his hand down as his newly created sword followed his movements, a few small embers being released in the process.
“Jake…When did you learn to do that?” Asked Sarah, staring awestruck at her adopted son’s homemade, or rather lung made weapon.
“Hmmm…” Jake tried to think how long it had been since he had learned to manipulate his fire into different forms.
“Maybe a month or two ago? It’s something I had been trying to learn to do since seventh grade. Until recently, however, I couldn’t get my fire or any other elements I tried to control to work the way I wanted them to. Even now, the only forms I can manage are my flame sword and I can also turn my fire into flame gauntlets.” Explained Jake.
“Flame gauntlets?” Titus repeated questioningly.
“Yeah! Let me show you.” Jake said.
But before he could get the chance to, Sarah ordered Jake to put his flame sword out and change back into his human form, claiming that it seemed as though Laurie’s bus was coming. The bus read 46 and the destination read Spring Heights. Indeed this was Laurie’s bus. The girl stood up and walked to the edge of the sidewalk as Jake flapped his wings in fast succession to put his sword out. He then closed his eyes, changed back into his regular form, and grabbed his shirt, hurriedly putting it back on, then finally pulled the back of his shorts up.
The bus pulled up and opened its doors as three people stepped out. Once everyone who was getting off of the bus had done so, Laurie climbed aboard, saying goodbye to her new friends and promising that she’d be back to visit soon. Drake told her they’ll be looking forward to it. Afterward, Laurie paid her bus fare and went to take her seat. The Flamel family and Alan watched as the bus drove past them, its next destination: Spring Heights.
A short time after dinner, Titus called Ben and Rick, informing them on what they missed and what had happened involving him and Alan. Both Ben and Rick reacted to this with shock, asking Titus if they knew anything else about what prompted Alan to attack him other than that he saw Titus’s dragon form. Titus explained to both his brother and brother-in-law that during the time in which Alan had his episode, he said to “Give them back” and that Titus was “Going to pay”. This just served to give Ben and Rick more questions than answers. However, with how little Titus knew about Alan, they knew they wouldn’t be able to get anymore answers from him just yet. They figured that they would have to wait until Alan was able to recover his memory. With nothing else left to discuss, Rick and Ben thanked Titus for filling them in on what they had missed and promised him that if he and his family needed any help taking care of Alan, they shouldn’t hesitate to give them a call. Titus thanked the two of them then wished them a good night.
After hanging up the phone, Titus exhaled, then went over to the couch and sat down. He leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, and cupped his hands as he tried to make sense of everything that had transpired earlier. Alan’s words rang through Titus’s mind, repeatedly screaming at him to “Give them back” and that he’ll “Make Titus pay”. Titus knew that the trigger for Alan’s PTSD episode earlier seemed to be Alan’s seeing him in his true form yet he couldn’t figure out why that was. He asked himself if Alan’s attacker truly had been a dragon and if so, why? As far as Titus could tell, Alan seemed to be a normal teenager. What would a dragon want with him? Titus was sure there had to be another reason for it, he just wasn’t sure what that reason was. As he ran over several different possibilities in his head, he didn’t notice as Alan walked down the steps and hid around the corner, watching intently as Titus sat and thought to himself.
The next day, Sean and Crystal had gone over to Drake and Jake’s house to hang out with the half-dragons and Alan. There, the five of them spent their time in Drake’s room playing video games together and occasionally taking a break to either talk or watch shows and videos online on Drake’s laptop.
Drake was in his bed, laying on his stomach, controller in hand as he faced his TV. Crystal, Sean, Jake, and Alan sat leaned against the foot of Drake’s bed with Sean, Alan, Jake, and Crystal wielding controllers of their own. The friends had just booted up their favorite game to play for whenever they were together: Super Smash Brothers. Sean and Crystal brought their own controllers from home, Sean having brought an extra one for Alan to play with them.
“Hey Alan, can you remember if you played this game before?” Asked Sean.
Alan tried to recall if he had ever played Super Smash Brothers before. He was sure that before his memory loss he played a lot of games but he couldn’t be sure if he had ever played this particular one. With a shrug of his shoulders, Alan simply informed Sean that he wasn’t sure if he had or not.
“That’s okay. In that case, why don’t we quick let Alan do training mode before we play for real?” Suggested Sean as a way to let Alan become accustomed to the game.
After pushing the start button, the menu screen came up. Sean went through the menus, coming upon the training mode. As he selected it, he instructed Alan to pick a character for him to practice with and then to pick a character to be used by the computer. Sean suggested Mario, citing him as a good all-around character for beginners. At Sean’s suggestion, Alan browsed around the character select screen for Mario for ten seconds, unsure of who Mario was.
“Move the cursor to the upper left. He’s the guy with the red hat.” Sean pointed out to Alan.
“Oh! Oops, sorry!” Alan said embarrassedly. He hovered the cursor over the avatar of Mario’s face and pressed the A button.
“Now who should I pick to fight me?” Asked Alan, looking at the roster.
“It doesn’t really matter. You can pretty much tell the computer what to do in the pause menu so if you don’t make them do anything, they’ll just stand there while you wail on them.” Jake explained.
“Huh. Really…” Alan said curiously in response.
Moving the cursor around the screen once more, Alan decided to go with Marth for his opponent. Afterwards, he was brought to the stage select screen. After choosing the stage, the training match began. Drake, Jake, Crystal, and Sean watched as Alan experimented with the controls, at first simply tapping A which resulted in Mario simply executing a standard array of punches. He then pushed forward and then back on the control stick making Mario dash back and forth around the stage.
“Alan, try pushing the control stick towards your opponent then pressing A.” Instructed Drake.
Doing as Drake suggested, Alan pushed the control stick in the direction of Marth who had remained idle in the same spot since the match began. Once close enough, Alan pressed A causing Mario to do a sliding tackle damaging Marth.
“Yeah! There you go! Now you’re starting to get it Alan!” Complimented Crystal.
“Thanks. I’m just gonna keep practicing until I’ve gotten the hang of it.” Said Alan.
“That’s fine, go for it. We’ll give you any pointers if you need any.” Said Sean as he placed his controller in his lap.
Time quickly trickled down as Alan continued to practice. Drake checked his laptop’s clock to see just how long Alan had been practicing. Ten minutes had passed. The four friends continued to watch as Alan kept practicing different move sets but never trying anything else such as choosing the computer’s actions or using different items. While at first they were happy to help Alan get into the game, they eventually found themselves becoming bored as they sat for what felt like hours doing nothing except watching Alan practice.
Drake checked his computer once more. This time, fifteen more minutes had passed. He asked Alan if he needed any help but Alan assured him that he was doing fine and that he felt that he was getting the hang of it. Not wanting to seem rude, Drake said nothing else other than “Okay” and allowed Alan to get back to his training.
The four friends were becoming ever more bored and impatient. Sean groaned in annoyance, his head slouched over his right shoulder as he stared at the wall, mouth hanging open. Crystal was laying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, trying to imagine it as something else like the sky or a beautiful endless sea. Anything else so long as it was enough to keep her mind occupied. Jake had changed into his true form and was busy playing with his tail watching as he twirled it around in his hands and it flopped from left to right with each movement of his hands. Drake had rolled over onto his back and was watching his TV screen upside down. He yawned and rubbed his eyes as he tried to determine just how long they had been sitting and watching Alan practice. He took another look at his computer’s clock and noticed that another five minutes had passed. It was at this point that Drake had decided he couldn’t take it any longer. He and his friends were becoming bored out of their skulls. Initially he didn’t want to come off as mean or rude to Alan but he felt that this was truly beginning to push it.
“Hey Alan, you’ve been practicing for a long time. I think you’re good enough now that we can play for real, y’know?” Drake said, trying to sound as nice as he could as a way to mask how impatient he had become.
“I think you’re right. Okay. I guess that’s enough practicing. Now how do I exit out?” Asked Alan as he looked down at his controller.
Sean told Alan to press the start button to pause the game and was about to tell him how to exit out of a match but before he was able to, Sean was interrupted by Sarah who was calling for the kids from the stairs.
“Hang on, Alan. Don’t unpause just yet.” Said Drake as he leapt out of bed and hurried over to the steps.
“Yeah mom?” Drake hollered back as he peeked over the railing to see his mom standing at the foot of the stairs.
“Drake, could you and your friends come down for a moment? There’s something we need you all to see.” Asked Sarah, a sense of urgency and unease in her voice.
Drake took notice of the unsettlement in the tone of his mom’s voice. With this, he told his mom that they’d be down in a second and returned to his room.
“Is everything okay, Drake?” Asked Sean.
“I’m not sure. All my mom said was that there was something we all needed to see. It sounded urgent.” Drake explained.
“Urgent, huh? I wonder what it could be?” Crystal thought out loud as she stood up.
Everyone stood up and made their way downstairs where they found Titus and Sarah seated on the couch, looking worriedly at the TV. As Drake, Jake, and their friends approached, Drake asked his parents if something was wrong.
“Just watch the TV.” Answered Sarah in a cryptic manner.
The teens turned their gaze to the TV. A commercial was playing for a mattress sale. The friends shot each other confused looks as they pondered if this was what Sarah wanted them to see.
“You wanted to show us a commercial for mattresses?” Asked Drake quizzingly.
“What? No, you goof! Just wait. It should be right after this commercial.” Answered Sarah.
After one more commercial played, the channel switched back to the news. The news anchor announced that they were reporting in with reporter Trisha McCarthy on site at Sidney’s Point where the entire population of the town seemed to have just disappeared over night. This rattled Jake as a shiver ran through his body.
“Tom, just behind me is a town that, just last night was full of people. I now stand in a ghost town without the slightest hint of life to it. Men and women, their pets and their children, their neighbors and friends have all disappeared leaving only numerous destroyed and burnt down buildings remaining. If we go down this block, you will see the Piece of Home Orphanage. Here there lived more than forty orphaned children along with the nuns who took care of them but just like the rest of Sidney’s Point, this building sits without a single occupant residing within it. Tom, this situation is reminiscent of the disappearance of the population of the small town of Whiteridge which had happened four years ago and, to this day, Whiteridge’s people still remain missing. Tom.” Trisha McCarthy reported.
As the news cut back to the anchorman, Titus, Sarah, and everyone else either sat or stood with their eyes glued to the TV, perturbed looks plastered on their faces as they slowly came to realize what this recent turn of events meant.
“Titus…?” Sarah asked in a nervous, shaky voice, looking at her husband with a disquieted look in her eyes.
A serious yet troubled expression appeared on Titus’s face. He faced Sarah and nodded, knowing right away what she was about to ask. Titus then turned back to face the TV as he lowered his head slightly and cupped his right hand over his eyes and sighed.
Just then, Jake’s cellphone went off from within the kitchen.
“I got it.” Announced Jake as he headed for the kitchen.
Grabbing his phone from the counter, Jake discovered that the number calling him registered as 619-727-6416 and the name above the phone number read Laurie Strong. With a swipe of his finger, Jake accepted Laurie’s call.
“Hello?” Jake answered.
“Oh, God! Jake, it’s Laurie. Are you guys watching channel 9 right now?!” Asked Laurie, her voice frantic.
“Well we are watching the news right now but I don’t know if it’s channel 9. Let me go check.” Jake responded.
With his phone still to his ear, Jake went back to the living room and asked Titus if they were watching channel nine to which Titus answered that they were. Jake then confirmed that they were with Laurie.
“We have just received an update on the situation in Sidney’s Point: twelve bodies have just been discovered around the town with five of them confirmed to be those of children. We are told that the wounds sustained to the victims appear as if something similar to a wild animal had slashed them open. Strangely enough, we have also been informed that at least three of the bodies have been horribly burned and are unable to be identified.” The reporter said, a subtle yet slightly disturbed look on his face as he spoke.
“Oh, God!” Laurie gasped, sounding as though she was about to be sick. “Jake, Sister Sarah lives there! I tried calling her before I called you but…You don’t think she or the orphans were…no…no…” Laurie repeated, not wanting it to be true but fearing the worst for her former guardian and the children who were under her care.
“Laurie, listen, I don’t think she or the kids are among the victims.” Jake said, hoping that his words would help to calm Laurie.
“But, then where are they?! How can a town’s entire population just vanish with only a few peoples’ bodies left over?!” Laurie asked excitedly.
Jake paused for a moment as he thought carefully about what to say to Laurie. She was panicking quite a lot and Jake worried that if he said the wrong thing, it would just make matters worse for her. With a sigh, Jake proceeded to speak.
“I don’t know where they are. See, my dad…my birth dad…he was the one that started this whole thing. We were the ones who attacked Whiteridge, me, my dad, Alex, and a group of other dragons who worked under my dad. Only my dad knew where they were sent and…he’s dead.” Explained Jake, fearing that what he said may have just poured gas onto the fire.
Laurie paused this time. Jake awaited her response with a tense feeling in his stomach. After a few seconds, Laurie finally responded to what Jake had told her.
“And how do you know that Sarah and everyone else who was taken are still alive?” Asked Laurie skeptically.
“Because…the point of our capturing people was to turn Earth into my father’s kingdom. He always talked about how he wanted to keep as many humans as possible alive so that they could be his subjects. That’s why, wherever Sarah and the other people who’ve been taken are, I’m sure they’re still alive.” Jake explained, feeling confident in his belief.
“Okay Jake. I do trust you.” Laurie said, the tone in her voice less hectic and more solemn.
“Thanks. I promise you, we will bring her and everyone else back home.” Assured Jake, a serious and determined look on his face.
“I have one last question, Jake.” Said Laurie.
“What’s up?” Asked Jake.
“Do…you regret what you’ve done?” Laurie asked almost accusingly.
Laurie’s words took Jake by surprise. He began to wonder if what he told Laurie about his past might have changed her opinion on him. From what he could gauge from the sound of Laurie’s voice, she sounded crestfallen with him. The thought of this depressed Jake but, even then he had felt much worse for having a hand in not just killing but also destroying the lives of people who had never done anything to him. Releasing a deep sigh, Jake answered Laurie’s question.
“Every day. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel guilty about what I did.” Jake answered regretfully, little tone reflecting in his voice.
“I see…” Was all Laurie said in a similar toneless voice to Jake.
“Do you think I’m a bad person?” Jake asked as he walked away from his family and friends and back into the kitchen.
“I think good people can make bad choices but I don’t think that one bad choice suddenly means they’re bad. I still think you’re a nice guy, Jake but will the people you captured before think that when you finally find them?” Laurie replied.
“That’s true. It scares me to think of how they’ll react when they learn that I was one of the ones who took them from their homes…but, I know if I want to make this right, then I have to do it. Thanks, Laurie. And thanks for not giving up on me just yet.” Said Jake, still sounding a little sad but also more optimistic.
As Jake concluded his conversation with Laurie, Titus, Sarah, Drake, Crystal, and Sean looked over to the kitchen, watching as Jake walked back and forth a little. Jake’s question on whether or not Laurie found him to be a bad person had made Titus and the others feel horrible. They knew that Jake wasn’t a bad person and they didn’t want him to think he was one. They believed that even if he did have a hand in kidnapping the people from Whiteridge that he still had a chance to make up for it and see to it that all of the people who were taken were returned home safely.
Just as the report came to an end, Drake noticed Alan who had a twisted, almost pained look on his face. He stared at the TV trembling, teeth gritted and muscles tightened as small gasps escaped from his clenched teeth.
“Alan?” Drake asked softly, a confused look on his face as he gestured closer towards Alan.