I slid along the far side of the endless school hallway, hoping to go unnoticed. Maybe I wouldn't be seen, and nobody would glare at me, the awkward girl. Untidy dark brown hair, a milk chocolate complexion and deep brown eyes that stared at you in shock if you ever talked to me, I was a mess. Maybe I could survive these last one hundred twenty-seven days at this burdensome magical school. Witch? Sorceress? I didn’t even know which one I was. If I had even a drop of luck, I could go back home and forget this mistake had ever happened. But of course, that wasn’t the case.
“Hey, Olivia,” greeted a voice next to me.
I jumped. It was Nolan Bowman, notoriously known for his epic pranks conspired with his identical twin brother, Tyler. Honestly, why him? All snazzy with his messy black hair and mischievous green eyes that sparked with laughter. His silver and olive green school uniform complimented his slightly tanned complexion. I’d had a secret crush on him since I’d first arrived a week ago, and that wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“Swanky idea, sliding along the walls,” he commented. He liked using that word, swanky.
I blushed. “Um... hi...you...” I mumbled in reply.
“Forgotten my name already?” he inquired, flashing me one of his ‘special grins’ that always made my heart skip a beat. “Wow, although it’s no surprise since you arrived here last week,” Nolan leaned against the wall and looked at me. He raised his eyebrows, “It must be hot in here. Your cheeks are burning,”
“Yeah, must be,” I said hastily. Leave it to him to notice everything.
Without warning, the school shook violently, and a few students yelped, although the mysterious tremors were common.
Suddenly, Nolan clasped my hand and dragged me down the hallway. As we ran, kids stared at us like we were wild squirrels, too interested to intervene. We kept running when suddenly Nolan halted. I crashed into him.
“Hey, Ryan!” he called. “Get over here!”
A boy who looked about thirteen strolled over. He had smooth reddish-brown hair that he liked to slick back whenever it got frizzy, and pale skin. His brown eyes sparkled with ideas, and freckles dotted his face and arms, here and there like stars. I remembered him now. He was Ryan Sparrow, that one kid in class who had fun ‘modifying’ the teacher’s stuff, making everyone smile.
“What do you want me for?” Ryan asked. He had a slight country accent.
“No time to explain. Come with me,” Nolan answered.
We continued to race through the halls. By now, students had crowded around us, blocking our passage. The school began to quiver again as tremors passed through it.
Crack! A fissure began to spread through the wall.
“We’re not going to make it in time,” Nolan growled. “Ryan, you’re a sorcerer, make us fly.”
“Sure thing.” Ryan’s hands began to glow, and he pointed them both at us, “Volant,” he whispered.
“Why can’t you? You’re a sorcerer too,” I asked Nolan.
He sighed. “I’m a wizard. That’s different. There are wizards and witches. They channel their magic from a realm and their wands act as doors to release it. All their spells are in French. Sorcerers, like Ryan, channel their magic from within themselves. Their spells are in Latin. Warlocks... well, let’s talk later.”
We began to lift off the ground, up, up, and up until our heads were grazing the mosaic ceiling. I seemed to be standing on something invisible, something I could run on.
I could see everything from up here, and I’d never realized how high the ceilings actually were. The school was surprisingly beautiful on this level, and I couldn’t stop looking at the pearly white columns that stood proudly, along with the thin arches straining to hold up the ceiling.
“What are you waiting for?” Nolan called from up ahead. “Run!”
If we hadn’t been out of breath before, we definitely were as we reached the end of the hallway. It was completely deserted. I didn’t even know it went that far. Nolan’s twin brother Tyler was waiting for us with another girl I didn’t recognize. She had caramel hair with intelligent gray eyes that analyzed everything, and she looked no older than twelve. The girl had a tanned complexion like she’d just went to the beach.
“Addison Gellian, fancy meeting you,” she said.
The school rumbled and somewhere far down the hallway, glass shattered. Students began to scream in terror.
“Brother, we need to activate Delta,” Tyler said urgently.
“On it,” Nolan replied.
I noticed that there were strange markings along the wall. They looked pointless. The only thing that made me notice them was that they hadn’t been there before.
Both Nolan and Tyler pressed their hands to the wall and muttered a couple of inaudible words. The symbols on the wall began to shift, slowly merging to reveal a dark passageway.
“That's impossible,” Addison gasped. “It’s just writing!”
“Apparently, it is very possible,” Ryan whispered.
“Come inside. Just wait until you see this,” Tyler grinned.
We ventured through the narrow corridor. Without light to see, only the twins seemed to know where we were going, therefore we were entrusting our lives to a pair of devious pranksters. Not. Fun.
“Just a little further,” said either Nolan or Tyler.
“That’s what you’ve been saying for the past six minutes,” Addison retorted dryly.
“Well then, calm down, Add,” replied one of the twins. It was probably Tyler.
There was a quickening of steps from Addison as she squeezed past me. A sharp slap! followed.
“Hey! What was that for?” complained Tyler. “My hand hurts now.”
“I only give the warning once,” Addison replied calmly. “Don’t ever call me Add.”
“Okay, okay,” he muttered.
Suddenly we halted. I bumped into Ryan who was in front of me. “Why are we stopping?” I asked.
As if in answer, there was a faint click! and lights began to switch on, one by one. We were standing in a vast circular chamber. It was a library. Shelves with thousands of books loomed up toward the ceiling. All of the bookshelves seemed to be angled toward the middle of the room, in a wagon wheel formation.
“So cool,” Ryan murmured breathlessly. Addison couldn’t speak, but her eyes were like a child’s on Christmas morning.
“Follow us,” said Nolan. He flashed me his grin. My mind had to review the instructions on how to breathe.
We were guided through the immense sea of books and eventually reached the middle of the chamber. It was comfortable-looking, with a circle of white soft couches surrounding a wooden table with computers. It looked like like a place to negotiate terms of war.
“Welcome to Delta 74,” an electronic female voice resonated around the library.
“Thanks for the intro, Pi,” Tyler called up. He looked at a very confused Ryan. “She’s computer tech,” Tyler explained.
Nolan put his hands together in a loud clap, making us all jump. “Enough with introductions, my twin.” He rubbed his hands together and grinned. “Let’s get to the good stuff.”
“Now, I know you bunch have thousands of questions, but let us tell you our theory first,” Tyler announced once we were all seated.
“What theory?” I inquired.
Tyler raised his eyebrows at me. “Wow, Nolan, I can see why you--”
He was cut off by a quick kick in the shin from his brother.
“Okay, okay!” Tyler exclaimed. “You know I wasn’t actually going to--”
“Just get on with it already,” Addison sighed impatiently.
“Fine,” Tyler said. He looked at his brother and his lips twitched. “We’ll talk about that matter later.” He turned back to us. “But for now we’ll address the elephant in the room.”
“When my brother and I arrived at this school, we noticed there was something off-beat about the place. Everyone was supposed to stay in the main hallway so they wouldn’t get lost inside the large school.”
“But why was no place was overcrowded, even with the two thousand plus students attending?” Nolan put in.
“We started asking around to see if anything else was weird, but we didn’t get a lead. We almost felt like what we were doing was pointless and there wasn’t anything strange at all,” Tyler continued.
Nolan made eye-contact with me. “But then you came along and the first words you said to me sparked a thought.”
Our first conversation immediately popped into my head.
“This school is huge,” Nolan had commented next to me.
“Yeah,” I’d answered. “The hallways are endless.”
“The hallways are endless,” I murmured in shock, realization almost knocking me over in a giant wave.
“Exactly,” Nolan replied gravely.
Tyler continued to speak. “So we tested his theory. The main hallway did end, but only to split into many others. We decided to come back the next day to explore, but when we did, we found that the entire area had changed. There were only two passages, left and right, along with the wall leading to Delta 74.”
“Fast forward to us getting into the library,” Nolan said, taking up his brother’s story. “We began to read to learn as much info about the school as possible. But what we found wasn’t good. The school was built to have an ever-shifting, ever-changing outer layer as defense from warlock attacks.”
“What's a warlock?” I asked. Things just got really interesting.
“A warlock is someone who steals, well, more like devours, another person’s magic and uses it,” Addison explained, “Obviously not someone you would like to meet.”
“Continuing on,” Nolan said after my question had been answered. “The school’s graduates are sent out to fight in the war, instead of going home. Most of them never make it back. Basically, the boarding school is the world’s first line of defense.”
My blood turned to ice in a small tingling sensation up my spine. That was terrible. People with high hopes of seeing their families never saw them again. I’d been so excited to be chosen to attend, but now I wasn’t so sure.
“So what had broken in through the ceiling when we went into this place?” Ryan asked, but I had a feeling none of us wanted to know the answer.
“Due to how violently the school shook, I think it's a warlock,” Tyler confirmed darkly. “And it’s probably already--”
“BREACH!” Pi blared, “BREACH!”
“--found us,” he finished. “Prepare for an attack,”
We all stood up, a knot of tension burning the air. Ryan’s fingertips glowed silver, while the twins, along with Addison, got out their wands. Each were a dark wood with two paper thin silver and gold strands spiraling around them.
But I had nothing to defend myself with. I didn’t even know who I was, sorceress or witch. My teachers had always told me that my magic would unlock when it needed to, but I had no time to wait for that. Without hesitation, I ran to the nearest bookshelf and snatched up a random book, then got back into the battle line.
Suddenly a gust with the strength of a thousand men blew through the entire library, knocking down one of the bookshelves, which knocked down another, and another, and another, all in a line of dominoes until we were surrounded by a sinister wall of literature with no means of escape.
Hissing echoed around the room, soft and menacing. The wind stung my eyes, or maybe it wasn’t wind, but it was the warlock, who was probably going to absorb our magic very soon. The warlock circled the outer edges of the room, like a shark ready to make it’s kill.
Addison flicked her wand. “Arrêtez!” she yelled, but her stopping spell seemed to get sucked into the wind, having no effect.
“Thank you, young lady,” the warlock hissed. “Your magic is strong, for such a young age, but ineffective. It’s very useful though. I think I’ll take you first.”
All the wind began to swirl towards her, it whirled around her, so strong that the air shimmered, and when it cleared, Addison was gone.
We all stared in shock. She’d just vanished without a trace.
“We can’t fight back,” Ryan murmured.
“We should try to find its weak point, even if it gets us killed,” Nolan contradicted, “There’s no point in waiting, and we’ll go down fighting.”
We all agreed. With a battle cry, we attacked, and what happened was horribly expected. The warlock picked us off one by one, first Ryan, then Tyler, and finally, much to my anger, Nolan. There was only me left, who didn’t even have magic.
“Why’d you absorb that…” I searched for the right word in my rage. “...swanky boy?”
The wind only hissed in reply.
I had a partial idea with just a sliver-sized chance of working. I’d work out the details and faults later.
“I want to see the face of the thing who has the great honor of killing me,” I called loudly, “After all, I haven’t figured out how to channel my magic yet.”
The wind swirled down in front of me. What stood in front of me was a spectral shadow of a human. The warlock didn’t have a physical form.
“What do you mean you haven’t unlocked your magic? It dances around you. You haven’t figured it out yet because it even fooled you.” it hissed, “That’s why I saved you for last.”
I thought about what it was saying and noticed one giant thing that I’d masked from myself. Nolan liked me back. Plain, awkward me. That was breathtaking, but useless information right now, seeing that he’d been absorbed by a warlock, and I might never see him again.
The ends of my fingertips glowed a soft pink. I split into thirty different me’s, each circling the warlock, each fighting for my lost friends.
“Try to find me,” I taunted from thirty different people, their voices resounding around the chamber.
We were too much for it, too many sorceresses attacking from all angles. It couldn’t attack without getting hit. Each blow made it weaker, and eventually it was just a tiny shadow, hissing inaudible curses.
I became one again and stalked up to the warlock. “I’d like my friends back,” I said coldly and spoke the spell for freedom, Libertas. I was a sorceress, one who channeled magic from within.
A screech echoed throughout the chamber as the warlock dissipated. Golden light sprayed in all directions, popping everyone back into existence, including my friends.
I ran up to Nolan and hugged him. Hesitantly, he put his arms around me and held me tight.
“I’m so glad you’re safe, swanky boy,” I murmured.
“Um, you too,” he said. I knew he was flashing me his grin, but I didn’t care. I finally felt like I was supposed to be here, and that was no mistake.
And it was the best feeling of all.