Chapter 1: Summer Begins
I hate her. I hate her with all my heart. All I need is one wish, and it’ll be for a new sister. A sister that won’t annoy me everyday. A sister that won’t sneak into my room and steal all my stuff. A sister that won’t bother me every chance she gets...a sister that won’t break my eleven year old all star baseball trophy that I had treasured for years now.
“Emily!” I shout at my annoying twelve year old sister as I see her standing next to the broken trophy. What used to be the baseball player’s head is now rolling a few feet away from his body.
The she-devil gives me her usual innocent grin, showing off her bright white teeth.
“What, Ben?” Emily playfully asks me. “It was accident.”
The smile immediately goes away after she sees the anger on my face. Before I can even think about doing anything, she shouts the famous two words that always get her our of trouble.
I groan as I hear my parents’ footsteps run up the wooden stairs. Even though Emily had broken the last thing I had left of our old town, I knew they would side with her. They always did, since everyone loved my sister.
All the adults wanted her as their own kid. All the sixth grade boys watched her as she walked past, all the girls wanted to be her. I obviously understood why she was so loved. Despite my hatred for her, I had to admit that my sister was pretty.
She had wavy brown hair that went down to the middle of her back, and bright green eyes that she inherited from our father. She was almost as tall as I was, despite her only being twelve. Plus, she had perfected her fake innocence. It sucks that she can get out of any trouble that she caused, but I don’t blame her victims. I would fall for it too if I didn’t know any better.
“What’s wrong?” My mother runs in with my father, a worried expression on her face.
Her eyes immediately fall to my headless prized possession that lies by Emily’s feet. Looking up, she gives a disappointed expression towards my sister. I soak in the moment and enjoy the fact that my parents knew my sister did something wrong before it all goes away.
“Em, I-” Mom begins, but is interrupted by blubbering coming from my sister.
Emily starts to bring fake tears to her eyes. “I didn’t mean to!” She cries out. “I accidentally knocked it over and Ben said he was going to do the same thing to me as I did to it! Even after I apologized!”
The stern eyes go from Emily to me. Was it really beginning to get that easy for her to turn things around? I was starting to feel like my parents enjoy punishing me instead of her. “She’s lying!” I shout at my parents while looking at the witch next to me.
“Ben Alexander Simmons!” My mom practically shrieks at me. “How dare you use that tone of voice with me? And threatening your sister? You’re fifteen, you should know better than that!”
“Barely. My birthday was three weeks ago.” I mutter.
If my mom was a bomb, she would have exploded by now. Her face is completely red and I could already tell she was trying hard not to slap me in the face on the spot. She was usually a nice and gentle woman...but oh boy, did she have a temper.
Before she can say anything, my dad puts an arm on her shoulder. “Calm down, Margaret.”
My mother’s eyes turn to my dad and I felt that any second they would burn through his soul, but he keeps a calm face. He gently tells her, “Why don’t we just forget about this? Emily accidentally knocked down something of Ben’s, so he got mad and spit out the first thing that came to his mind. It’s not like he was actually going to hurt the girl.”
Mom still seemed like she was going to rip someone’s throat out, but she was calming down the more that dad talked. He was always good at this type of stuff. He continues talking to her in a soothing voice. “Go ahead and go back downstairs. Start making lunch, I’ll even help you out a bit...but I can’t promise that I won’t set the kitchen on fire.”
Mom’s tomato face begins to go back to it’s regular color as she looks back to her daughter to see that she’s still sobbing. Finally deciding that it was best to leave, she does so by going down the stairs.
Dad pats my back and whispers in my ear, “You’re okay, kiddo,” before following my mom...I think I had a new favorite parent.
I enjoy my slight victory for a second before my sister snaps me out of it.
“I’m guessing you’re not going to rip my head off now?” She taunts while wiping away her fake tears.
I show her a finger that my parents most likely wouldn’t have wanted me to show a twelve year old girl before walking out of my own room. I needed to let some steam out, and I knew exactly where I needed to go.
There was only one person in the entire town that had talked to me when I had first moved here. I only arrived a few weeks ago, meaning that school had already been almost over. I had been grateful for that because I had close to no friends. A few outgoing people had said a couple kind words to me, but at the end of the day, they would rather hang out with their cliques than the new kid.
I was sitting alone at a cafeteria table during lunch when he came. A short blonde boy had decided to talk to me, the new quiet kid. He introduced himself as Jason and asked if the seat next to me was taken, as if he didn’t know the answer to that already.
We began to hang out more and eventually became best friends. When girls started randomly talking to me, I realized that they were trying to get closer to Jason. Apparently everyone in the high school loved him. Even the seniors, who hated freshman, loved the guy.
Despite his young looking face, even I had to admit that the blonde was handsome. He had a smile that could make any girl want to date him on the spot. His athleticism made up for his height, he was a great soccer player with a personality that nobody could hate.
Almost passing his house finally snaps me out of my day dream. I couldn’t miss his bright yellow two story home with my eyes closed. I walk up the steps, but the door opens before I can even knock.
“Ben!” Jason’s mom shouts happily. She had always been fond of me. “You look so handsome today!”
For some odd reason, middle aged woman seemed to love me. Apparently my face seems attractive to them. My mom always told me that with the brown eyes she gave me and my short and dark brown hair, I was the cutest boy alive...not something a teenager wants to hear from an older lady.
“Thank you, Mrs. Parker.” I reply, trying not to sound annoyed. “Is Jason home?”
“Yes, yes! Let me get him! Wait here!” She turns around and runs into the house.
Not even a minute later, Jason appears in front of me, wearing his black sweater. He wouldn’t be seen without it even if it was ninety degree weather. At least he didn’t have his hood on today.
He gives me his usual charming smile. “Hey, Ben. Sorry about mom, come on in.”
I follow him inside and we walk into his room. It was just as I remembered it, there were posters of soccer players everywhere. He had an unhealthy obsession with that sport.
“You must really be bored to want to hang out on the first day of summer, huh?” Jason asks.
Before I can respond, he laughs. “I’m kidding.”
“I came because my sister was annoying me.” I tell him, taking slight offense to his earlier comment.
He only nods at what I say. I’m sure I’ve complained to him about Emily long enough for him to know when she’s hit a nerve.
Jason sits down on his bed and we stay there in silence for a bit. Whenever I attempt to break it, the blonde only finds a way to make it awkward again. This wasn’t how our usual hang outs went, why was he acting like this all of a sudden?
As I stand there quietly, Jason turns to look at me. I begin to feel uncomfortable as he looks me up and down. Eventually, he sighs loudly and speaks. “Can I trust you, Ben?”
“With what?” I ask.
He looks me in the eyes and repeats his question. “Can I trust you, Ben?”
I was beginning to get nervous. Was Jason planning on killing me or something? He was certainly acting like it. After putting much thought into it, I finally decide to nod my head.
Jason smiles. “Good.”
He stands up and walks over to me. Despite me being taller than him, he still intimidated me somehow. He was the only guy I knew that could look tough while being so short. After a while, he talks again. “Do you want to join a group that my friends and I are in?”
It takes all the willpower I have not to punch my friend in the face right then and there. After all of that, all he was going to ask me was if I wanted to be in his play group? “Uh...sure?”
“Don’t take this lightly.” He pleads. “This is serious. If you join, you can’t tell anybody about it.”
I’m seconds away from bolting out of this house. Of course, the one friend I make in this stupid town is a psychopath!
Before I can respond, I hear a voice that causes me to shiver.
“Ben! Get down here, I need to talk to you!” Emily shouts from outside.
Ignoring Jason, I run to the window to see my little sister on the sidewalk with another girl. “If you come, I won’t get you in trouble for the rest of the day!” She sings.
“I’ll be right back.” I mutter to Jason as I storm out of his room.
When I reach my sister, she has a big smile on her face as she stands next to the girl. “Hey, bro!”
“What are you doing here?” I growl.
“I came because Jessica wants you to kiss her.”
“What? No I don’t!” The tan girl next to Emily screams with a blush on her face.
I don’t know what caused me to do this, but I did it. I pushed Emily to the ground as hard as I could.
“Will you screw off for five minutes?!” I shout at her, angrily.
She lands on her butt and it’s as if everything goes in slow motion. I instantly regret my outburst the second after I did it.
Before I can convince her not to tell our parents, tears roll out of her eyes and she sprints towards our house. I wasn’t sure whether the tears were real or not, but I knew one thing was for sure. I was in big trouble.
Later that night, I was laying down on my bed while imagining different ways I could strangle Emily. I couldn’t believe she had gotten me grounded for an entire month! Plus, the wonderful yelling from my mother that lasted for who knows how long.
After laying in bed for hours, I finally couldn’t fight the urge to get up and move. I walked over to my window and opened it. I wasn’t going to run away or do anything extreme, but I needed some fresh air.
I make sure I’m a good distance away from my house before I start heading to my destination, the woods. I didn’t go too far because wild animal lived in there, but I enjoyed leaning against the oak tree that was at the entrance.
When I finally make it there, I plop on the floor and stare the night sky. If there was anything good about this town, it was the stars. I had to admit, they were beautiful, even for a guy that doesn’t think too much about those things, like me.
As I lay there in peace, I begin to hear footsteps getting closer to where I was laying. Looking up, I see Emily standing above me. Just as I was about to regrettably start yelling at her again, she speaks.
“Look, I know you probably hate me right now.” My sister begins. “But I wanted to apologize.”
I raise my eyebrow, my way of telling her that I’m listening.
She nods and tries to collect her thoughts. “I know I annoy you all the time and I really do find it enjoyable, but...today I could tell I crossed a line. I’m not sure what I did, but if it was because you didn’t like Jessica, I swear I won’t hang out with her when you’re by me ever again.”
I say nothing.
“Well...” she begins. “Do you forgive me?”
I’m quiet for a second before saying, “I really hate you for this.”
Her face shows confusion, but I know she’s just trying to trick me. The thing was, I wasn’t as gullible as everybody else.
I stand up while trying to look and sound as angry as I possibly could. I’ve been getting less voice cracks lately, but every once in a while they liked to sneak up on me. “Are you serious, Emily? Are you really trying to get me in trouble again after I’m already punished for a month? I’ve never done anything to deserve this kind of torture everyday! So will you just get out of here and leave me alone so that I can be happy for one second?”
I can see the fear on her face. I could instantly tell that she was genuinely scared. I was about to apologize to her, but then I notice that she wasn’t looking at me, but instead she was looking behind me.
“Ben, watch out!” She shouts to me, but I don’t have time to react. I feel a sharp pain in my neck and everything goes black.
Chapter 2: Another Universe
My eyes open to see that I’m in the middle of nowhere in the dark. To my left, there were trees. To my right, there were trees. Ahead of me, there were even more trees. How did I get so deep into the forest?
That’s when the memory of a sharp pain in my neck and the argument with my sister starts coming back to me.
“Emily!” I shout, trying to get up. My attempts to move are futile because a thick rope has my hands tied around a tree. I begin to try and fight the restraints when I feel a breeze on my body.
Looking down, I see I’m completely nude except for a small blanket that covers me from the waist down. Was I robbed and drugged? I had to admit, I wasn’t expecting robbers to come from the woods and kidnap me.
As I look around for a possible way to escape, I see a black haired girl not too far away from where I was at, facing away from me. She seemed to be about the same age as Emily, but I wasn’t picky about who was going to save my life. I couldn’t have been more lucky to not be alone out here!
After I make sure the blanket is covering everything, I call out to the girl. “Hey! Help me!”
She doesn’t move a muscle, so I try to be louder. “HEY! PLEASE HELP ME! I LOST MY SISTER, EMILY!”
After hearing my sister’s name, I can see the young girl fidget just enough for me to notice. She was ignoring me on purpose!
I continue shouting at her, begging to be let free. I had to admit, it was very humiliating to be in this position in front of a little kid, but I was starting to get desperate.
After what feels like forever, the girl finally turns around with a worried expression her face. I sigh from relief and relax a little bit as she starts walking towards me.
When she finally arrives, I expect her to start untying the rope, but instead she kneels down in front of me and whispers, “Be quiet, I don’t want anybody to hear us. Lilly said that if you start screaming I’d have to drug you again.”
I don’t bother asking who Lilly was, but instead I decide to bring my voice level down to hers before asking my next few questions. “Who are you? Where am I? Where’s my sister? What are you going to do with me?”
I could tell she was overwhelmed by my vocal attack, but they all have one answer to them. “I can’t tell you. I shouldn’t have even moved from my post. If I don’t drug you, do you promise to be quiet?”
“If you aren’t going to let me go, at least tell me whether my sister is okay or not. Please.” I beg.
We keep eye contact for a bit before she breaks it and takes a deep breath. “Okay, I can’t handle this anymore. I’ll tell you everything as long as you stay quiet and listen.” I nod my head and she continues. “You’ve been unconscious for two days now and-”
“Two days?” I interrupt without a second thought.
She glares at me.
“Anyways,” She continues. “Our group has been watching your sister for a while now. You see, we’re an all girls team and we’ve been looking for members lately since our old ones...decided to leave. So, we met up with Emily three days ago and explained to her everything about our group and how everything works. She called us crazy and left.”
I think back to when Jason had brought something up about joining his group. I didn’t blame my sister for not wanting to be a part of it.
“Our leader, Lilly, wasn’t too happy about Emily’s attitude. So we watched her most of the next day and waited until she was alone. The only time she was remotely close to being by herself was when she was by the woods with you, so we just took you both.”
“Wait, why would you go as far as kidnapping just for a little girl?” I question.
“Hey, our entire group are girls ages twelve to seventeen.” She tells me with frustration in her voice. I must have hit a nerve since she didn’t yell at me for interrupting. “I mean, I was the one that captured you and I’m only fourteen.”
“Fourteen?” I ask the girl in surprise. There was no way she was only one year younger than me.
As she nods angrily, I begin to actually pay attention to her facial features. Her dark hair is tied up in a pony tail that goes down her back. She has long eyelashes and blue eyes that could light up the entire forest. She also has freckles that cover her cheeks. If I wasn’t in such a dire situation, I may have thought of this girl as cute.
“So where’s my sister?” I ask.
“She’s with the rest of The Goddesses.” The girl tells me.
I figured that her group was named The Goddesses and decided to keep questioning her. “Where are the rest of them at?”
“They’re in-.” She stops herself. “I already told you too much.”
“No, please. I need to know where she’s at.” I plead.
I was lucky they had sent this girl to guard me because I could already see the guilt appearing on her face. I could tell she was having trouble deciding what to do.
Words then begin spilling out of her mouth. “There’s another universe besides ours that we can travel to through battery packs. I don’t have time to explain everything, so you’re going to have to deal with only knowing that. It’s where your sister is. You can go ahead and not believe me, but I don’t think you have much choice right about now.”
Despite me thinking that this girl was an absolute nut case, she was right. I didn’t have many other options than to believe her.
She takes out a metal container that has a red button on it and holds it out for me to grab. “Here, just press the button on the top and it should take you there.”
“Wait a second.” I say. “Where are my clothes?”
The girl’s face turns tomato red. “Oh, right. They should be on top of one of these trees.”
“Why are they on top of a tree?”
“Well...” She seemed to be having trouble getting this next part out. “It’s kind of tradition for the group to take the clothes of the prisoners to add to their humiliation.”
“Hold on a second.” My face begins to turn the same color as her own. “You-.”
She stands up and interrupts me. “Give me a second, I’ll go get them.”
Before I can say anything, she leaves me alone.
A couple minutes later, she arrives with my clothing neatly folded in her hands. She unties me, then looks away so that I can change into my clothes again. Once I’m done, she turns back around and tells me to tie her up.
“Why?” I ask.
“If they figure out that I let you go by choice, they’d kick me out of the group and I don’t think I’d be able to live without them. They’re like family.” She replies.
I tie her up against the tree and then pick up the metal object that she gave me. “Uh, do I need to-”
“No!” She shouts as if she could read my mind. It was worth a shot. “Just press the button and it should bring you there.”
I slowly look down at the button. It was either going to do absolutely nothing, or bring me to who knows where. I take a deep breathe and press it.
The woods and the girl vanish.
The next thing I know, I’m in a village filled with wooden houses. In normal circumstances, I would be freaking out right about now. I had teleported to some random place just by the press of a button. Instead, I was a bit distracted by all the screaming coming from the villagers running through the streets as fire was quickly spreading from house to house.
Men and woman push me out of the way as they run for their lives. I force myself to get my legs moving before I burn along with the rest of this place. I start to sprint towards wherever the rest of these civilians are going, when the crowd comes to a sudden stop.
I’m about to start shoving people out of my when I realize what had caused everyone to stay still. They weren’t running from the fire, they were running from what had caused the fire. Perched on one of the houses is a giant red dragon with shiny scales that’s staring at the frightened villagers with it’s large ember colored eyes.
I mutter a few words under my breath that my mother wouldn’t be too happy about me saying when I see the giant creature slowly open it’s mouth.
“Get out of the-!” An old man begins to holler, but it was too late. The dragon had already sent a burst of flames towards all of us standing in the open road.
All I see is red as heat engulfs my entire body. I expect to be in ashes by the time I’m able to see again, but when the fire and smoke clear, I’m alive. All of the other villagers that were by me had vanished and I feel like I have sunburn all over my body, but I was alive.
“Ben’s health dropped to 70 percent.” A robotic voice bellows out from what seems like nowhere.
I jump at the sudden noise. I didn’t know who had said that or what they had meant by seventy percent, but I figured that I didn’t want it going to zero.
A growl and what sounds like something taking a deep breath interrupts my thoughts. Looking back up, I remember the deadly dragon trying to kill me and see that it was ready for another burning session.
“Shoot!” I shout, somehow being able to hold in my curse words this time.
I dive to the left as I hear flames hit the spot where I was at not so long ago. I start sliding across the cement floor for a bit before I’m able to slow down enough, get up, and run.
Thanks to my great luck so far, I see that I’m running towards an eerie jungle that tells me this dragon won’t be my biggest problem if I survive. Despite that, I knew that it was my only hope if I planned on getting out of here with my skin intact. I force my legs to go faster and I sprint like my life depends on it...because it does.
Seconds after I try to reach my goal, I hear wings behind me. The next thing I know, the red monster lands in between me and the jungle with a loud thud. I’m forced to stop as it looks down on me with it’s sadistic eyes.
I wasn’t sure whether it was luck, or if God was watching over me, but what sounds like yelling comes from behind me. “You will not attack our village!”
Turning, I see dozens of knights charging towards me and my new friend with swords out and ready to strike. They push past me and swing their weapons against the dragon’s hard skin. It spits fire at the men, taking a few of them out, but the rest don’t give up despite their obvious disadvantages.
I accept this distraction willingly as I run around the fight and into the jungle where I can only hope I’m safe.
Two hours after the incident, I’m walking aimlessly past a bunch of trees with slight burns all over my body and aching legs. I wanted to take a break and rest, but I knew that I had to look for Emily. Every second longer could be a second closer to her death in a dangerous place like this.
It takes me many more hours and a growling stomach to will myself to stop moving. I needed to take one second to stop worrying about my sister’s health and think more about my own. How would I save her life if I starve to death?
I’m about to start looking for something edible when I begin to hear footsteps and voices. One irritated female voice overcomes the others.
“I can’t believe you ended up losing him!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see quite a few people heading towards my direction, so I jump in a large bush while hoping they had missed me.
“Hey, I saw you! Show yourself!” I hear the same irritated voice yell as the footsteps get louder. I suppose them not seeing me was too good to be true.
I’m about to make a run for it when I hear a familiar voice.
“Ben? Is that you?” I couldn’t have been happier to hear my sister’s voice again.
I immediately step out of my hiding place and see Emily standing next to a tall red headed girl, who seemed about sixteen...and more girls than I can count standing behind them. They all wear ponytails, but they couldn’t have looked more menacing.
The second I reveal myself, I see all the girls excluding Em and red head pull out bows and arrows, aiming them at me.
“Whoa!” I stick my hands in the air. “I just want my sister.”
Emily looks like she wants to run towards me, but red head sticks her hand in front of my baby sister as if ordering her not to. The biggest surprise of the entire day is the fact that my annoying younger sibling stands still and listens.
The red head steps in front of the girls and ask me, “Did you escape your restraints and tie up Victoria?”
I see the black haired girl that helped me get into this world behind the group’s apparent leader. She must be Victoria.
I nod my head, finding it pointless to rat Victoria out and ruin her life.
“Look, all I want is-” I begin, but red head instantly interrupts me.
“Your sister, I get it. Well, she isn’t coming with you. She’d rather stay here with us girls.” She tells me with a hint of pride in her voice.
I must have looked confused because she repeats herself, except slower.
“You sister. Wants to stay. With us. Not you.” She laughs. “I mean, you were screaming your head off at her when she was trying to apologize before we got there and put a stop to it!”
For some reason, her bringing up Emily and my argument earlier had ticked me off. What right did she have to bring up what was our business and act like I was the bad guy? “Look, I don’t want to have to beat up a bunch of little girls, but I’ll do it.”
The next thing I know, an arrow is lodged into my shoulder and I shout from pain.
“Ben’s health dropped to 65 percent,” says the mysterious voice.
Red head looks back to see that a girl who looked even younger than Emily had shot me.
“Sorry, Lilly.” The young girl mutters with a smile on her face.
Lilly scolds her, but is unable to hide her own smirk forming before turning back to me.
“Here’s the deal, kid.” She gives a quick sigh as if she’s said this to people many times before. “Either get out of here or we’ll kill you.”
Fear begins to appear on my face as I get a feeling that this chick wasn’t kidding. She seemed like the crazy type of person who would commit a murder.
“Don’t worry, you can’t actually die here!” Victoria reassures me, most likely having seen my worry. “You’ll just go back to the real world and won’t be able to come back here again.”
Seeing that I calm down a bit, Lilly glares at Victoria. “Well, that takes the fun out of it.” Looking back to me, she continues. “Either way, you’re going to feel pain. It’s really your choice on whether you want to get shot with a billion arrows or leave willingly.”
There was no happy ending in this. They were going to force me to leave my sister either way, who hasn’t even been willing to look at me yet. I didn’t have time to worry about her, because I knew they weren’t going to wait too long for their answer. I puff my chest out and say, “I’m not leaving my sister without a fight.”
I expect to be shot on the spot, but nothing happens. Lilly only rolls her eyes.
“Boys are all the same. They think they’re all brave, but it’s really just stupidity. That’s why we don’t allow them to join The Goddesses.”
“I don’t know many guys who would want to join a group called The Goddesses anyways.” I mutter under my breath.
“That’s it. Girls, shoot!” Lilly commands before I can even blink.
Just as it looks like I’m going to be target practice, Emily jumps in front of them while shouting, “Wait!”
“Get out of the way!” Lilly orders. Her loud and firm voice makes my blood go cold and I could tell Em was reacting the same exact way.
“I’ll go home with him.” My sister manages to say, much to my surprise.
“What? You made an oath-”
Emily gives Lilly a look and repeats what she said. “I’ll go with him.”
They stare in each others eyes for a bit before Lilly nods her head. “Very well.”
I should have been suspicious about the sign language, but I was too relieved to do anything but walk up to my sister and hug her, getting a few gags in response from the girls. A couple weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead hugging Emily, but after all this...I realized that I loved my sister despite her being possibly the most annoying person on planet Earth.
Em stiffens and looks up at me with her green eyes in surprise as I wrap my arms around her body. We awkwardly stay in that position for a little bit before I break it. I wasn’t really a hugging type of person, but I felt this was a special occasion.
My relationship with Emily was definitely rocky, but I thought that after two days of not being sure whether we were going to see each other ever again, she’d at least hug me back.
Instead, she acts like it had never happened. “Okay, Ben. Just press the button you stole from Victoria again and you’ll be back in the woods.”
Before I can comment, she finishes. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Something was going on and it was obvious. The look that Emily gave Lilly, and the fact that the crazy red head is just going to let her go. There was a high possibility that I would be going home alone right now, but I had a feeling that she wouldn’t do that to me, despite our supposed hatred for each other. She wouldn’t just leave her family for some random sorority.
Every part of my body is telling me not to trust her, but I press the button anyways. If this horrible experience had taught me anything, it was that I cared for my sis more than I ever thought I did. That’s why when I’m back in the creepy forest with Emily by my side, I smile.
It feels like forever before we finally make it to our house, but we eventually do. When we’re inside the house, our parents practically smother us with hugs. Our mother immediately bursts into tears while barely being able to audibly say, “I was so worried!”
I wasn’t surprised to see Emily crying also while she hugs our parents in a tight grip as if she’s expecting them to vanish any second. What does surprise me is seeing Emily walk into my room in the middle of the night as I lay in bed.
I sit up as she whispers, “Ben. I need to ask you something.”
“Sure, anything.” I respond nervously.
“Do you hate me?”
“No.” I answer without a second thought. “I know I’ve said I hated you so many times already, but I don’t. You’re my sister and I love you. Don’t ever forget that.” It was crazy how an experience like the one I had can change the way you see a person.
She looks down at the floor, avoiding my gaze. “That makes this so much harder to say.”
I know what she’s going to tell me before she even says it.
“I’m going to go back to live with Lilly’s group.”
I jump out of my bed, feeling as mad at Emily as the night in the woods. “Don’t you dare. How could you even think of leaving your family again like that?”
It’s a shock to see my tween sister look up at me with anger instead of guilt. “I only came back to see mom and dad one more time. Why would I want to stay here so you could yell at me everyday?”
“Maybe because I went through all of that crap just to see you again! You have people that love you, Em. That Lilly girl only wants another member for her dumb team!”
“Lilly and the others care about me. They’d never let me get hurt and I’m actually happy with them. Isn’t that enough reason to leave?”
There were so many ways I could have responded to that. So many ways I could prove to her how dumb she was being, but only eight words come out my mouth. “If you leave, I’m not going after you.”
My sister looks at me with sad eyes. “I wish that were true.”
She turns and walks back to her own room.
I’m not surprised when I see Emily and Victoria’s button gone the next morning.
Chapter 3: Who Let the Dogs Out?
I shouldn’t have expected much from my little sister. She had put herself above others her entire life. I couldn’t get myself to blame her for not wanting to stay home for me, but I wasn’t the only one in her life. She had her friends, our parents, she even had all our neighbors loving her. How could she do this to them?
It was difficult to see my mom and dad’s reaction to my sister being gone again. There were a lot of tears, but I didn’t blame them. How else would someone react to losing their kid, getting them back, then losing them again the very next day? I obviously didn’t tell them about where she went, they’d never believe me and I had no way of getting there anyways.
That’s when the memory of Jason asking me to join his group pops back into my head. He couldn’t have been acting so weird because he wanted me to go into that other universe with him, could he have? I had to ask him to make sure, even if I was wrong and my only friend in this town thought I was crazy. Despite Emily ditching me, I still couldn’t leave her alone with those psycho girls.
After consoling my parents and talking to the police about my missing sister, I run out the door and head to my best friend’s house.
Much to my surprise, his mom opens the door to tell me he’s not home.
“He went to a summer camp yesterday. He won’t come back until school starts again.” She says, looking like it was taking every ounce of her strength not to pinch my cheeks.
After hearing that, I knew it was over. Jason was my last hope of ever finding Emily again. The walk back to my house was definitely a long one. Looking to the left of me, I see the woods. Those trees, not too far away from the sidewalk I’m standing on, was where I had been drugged and kidnapped. I felt like puking on the spot.
What grabs my attention is a deep and threatening voice coming from behind me.
“Hey, kid. Stop walking for a moment.”
As a teenager, I don’t listen to everything my mom tells me. Still, I am smart enough to take her advice on the whole, “Stranger Danger” rule. I begin to run away from the voice the second after I hear it.
I don’t go two feet before a giant hand grabs my shoulder and pushes me to the ground. I use my hands to stop my head from slamming into the cement, but that gives my palms many bloody scratches.
“Come on, boy! I won’t hurt you unless you run away again.” The menacingly deep voice speaks to me once again.
I realize that there was no getting out of this, so I turn around and face my pursuer. I see a large, muscular, dark skinned man practically standing on top of me. He has both his arms around two pale, also muscular, woman standing on each side of him.
A smile forms on his face, revealing his yellow teeth. “Want to start walking with me, kid? I have a lot to tell you.”
I get up, figuring that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I think about pulling out my phone, but I already know there’s no way I was going to be able to press three buttons before I get thrown to the ground again.
The burly man orders the two woman to take a hike before motioning me to walk next to him.
“I’m Brick.” He sticks his meaty hand out for me to shake. “You are?”
I extend my hand and he grabs it. “Charlie.”
Brick squeezes my hand tightly. “It’s not nice to lie, Charlie. What’s your real name?”
I let out a squeak of pain. It feels as if he’s breaking every bone in my hand. I can’t stop myself from crying out, “Ben! My name’s Ben!”
He smiles before letting go of my hand and patting me on the back. “See, Ben? That’s your first lesson if you want to live with us. No lying to your family.”
I ignore the family part and instead ask, “How did you know I was lying?”
Brick looks straight ahead. “I’ve been watching you for a little while now. Those little girls aren’t the only ones who are looking for new members.”
He couldn’t have been talking about who I thought he was talking about, could he have? I ask just to make sure. “Do you mean The Goddesses?”
The buff man chuckles. “They call themselves that now? I figured they would call themselves the ponies, or the fairies.”
The joke wasn’t funny, but I laugh anyways. I despised the people that took Em from me.
Remembering my sister, I move onto my next question. “Can you get to that other world? I need to find Emily..again.”
“Getting straight to the point, are we? I like that. If you join the group that I lead, I’ll take you there myself.”
“Okay, I’ll join.” I say without a second thought. There was a small part of me that believed Brick was actually trying to help me.
“Well, I could force the others to let you into the group.” He begins. “But let’s just say they’re not very friendly to who they think are weak members. They’d probably kill you before you even think about finding that girl. You need to go through initiation first to gain their respect.”
“Initiation?” I ask. “What’s initiation?”
Brick stops walking and points in front of us.
I follow his finger to see he’s pointing at a giant barn that’s not even a foot away from us. I must have been extremely distracted by the conversation to miss something this noticeable.
The doors open almost immediately after Brick knocks on it. The man smiles and walks inside while I follow nervously behind.
I have no time to react to the dozens of heavily muscled men and woman fighting each other inside the barn because right when we go inside, Brick shouts at the top of his lungs, “Ben...welcome to The Bulldog’s hideout!”
I don’t think too much about why these muscular giants decided to name themselves after a breed of dog because music is blaring from speakers located in the corners of the room, making it impossible to think clearly. They must have spent trillions of dollars to sound proof this place because I’m positive this would have snapped me out of my earlier trance if I had heard it outside.
I find myself standing closer to my kidnapper as we begin to walk to the other side of the barn, passing buff guys who are trying to beat each other to a pulp. It’s a fighting arena in here. Once one buff guy knocks another one unconscious, they move on to the next person and keep fighting.
After pushing through a bunch of sweaty and bloody people, Brick and I finally make it to the other side of the room. He walks up to both speakers and unplugs them from a power strip.
After hearing the loud music stop, the fighting comes to a halt as everyone redirects their attention to Brick.
It’s completely silent when he starts talking. “As you can see, I brought a new member here for initiation.”
“Seriously? This kid is as skinny as a twig. He can’t handle The Bulldogs!” a woman shouts from the back.
Everyone in the room besides Brick and me cheer and holler at the woman’s comment. I think about countering with a smart comeback, but her bulging biceps encourage me to stay quiet.
“I knew you wouldn’t respect this little kid easily.” Bricks sighs. “Which is why I’m going to be fighting him myself. If he knocks me unconscious or causes me to yield, he passes the initiation. If not, he’s out of here.”
I couldn’t say I wasn’t shocked at his words as cheers fill the room once again.
“Fight you?” I ask him as he takes his shirt off, revealing his six pack. “I can’t do that!”
Brick smiles, showing his rotten teeth once again, while whispering to me. “Just take the beating. As long as you don’t yield, they won’t mind you staying here.”
He must see me eyeing the door because he makes sure to say the one think that would convince me to fight him. “Don’t you want to find your sister?”
I can’t stop myself from sweating profusely as Brick leads me to the center of the room while The Bulldogs form a circle around us. I try to convince myself that there was no way he would hurt a kid too much...but I know that isn’t true.
The crowd slowly begins to cheer Brick’s name as he flexes his muscles for them. I quickly try to think of some possible way I can get out of this without fighting a six foot monster one on one. Nothing comes to mind as he focuses his attention back to me.
He sneers. “Get ready, kid. You’re about to get pounded.”
Brick begins walking towards me at a painfully slow pace. I stick my hands up, ready to somehow defend myself from this giant man. Right as he’s about to throw his first punch, we both turns our heads to the sound of a stranger’s voice.
“Just stop, Brick. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
The circle opens up just enough to reveal my best friend, Jason, with his hands in his Jean pockets while his black hood covers his face.
He takes his time walking over to us while he continues to talk. “I expected better from you, man. Fighting an innocent kid? That’s pretty lame.”
I try to figure out how he knew where I was, or why he would be dumb enough to follow me here. My best friend stops walking when he’s inches away from Brick.
Jason takes his hood off, revealing his blonde hair. The behemoth glares at the teen with pure hatred in his eyes. “I thought you had learned your lesson after The Bulldogs beat the crap out of your puny team.”
Jason laughs, showing off his sparkling teeth. “Come on! Let’s keep the past in the past, Bricky.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Of course, Brickles.” Jason continues. “Now, are you going to keep on torturing this poor guy, or are you going to let me have a shot?”
My eyes go wide. Did one of the shortest guys I know just challenge the man whose pecks most likely weigh more than both him and me combined?
Much to my surprise, Brick mumbles, “Fine.”
I had no idea how these two met before, but it didn’t seem like it was at a tea party.
Jason gives me a smile before pushing me into the crowd and taking my spot in front of Brick. He then takes off his sweater, revealing his white and sleeveless T-shirt underneath. He throws it at me to hold.
I wasn’t expecting my skinny friend’s arms to have a good amount of muscle on them. He didn’t seem like the type that worked out every week. Then again, I haven’t known him for too long.
The Bulldogs begin chanting Brick’s name again as he charges at Jason with a battle cry.
“AAAGGH!” Brick swings his giant fist at the blonde, but Jason easily dodges it.
“You have to be faster than that, buddy.” My friend taunts. He earns himself another swing, but dodges it with no effort once again.
Brick was a big dude, but he was far from smart. He continues to try and punch Jason, failing miserably every time. The fact that Jason was too fast for his fists don’t seem to process.
It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth miss when Jason suddenly grabs Brick’s buff arm and throws him to the ground, face first.
The chanting stops and everything goes quiet. Looking around the room, I see everyone’s eyes go wide as they watch Jason put his foot on Brick’s back. They must have never seen their leader be in a fight where there was even a chance of him losing.
The grown man’s face turns into a tomato. I’m sure even Emily can hear his cry of outrage as he easily throws the teen off of him and stands up.
“I’m going to kill you!” Brick screams, charging at Jason, who is sitting on the ground after being chucked across the room.
I can hear Jason audibly curse as Brick grabs the front of his shirt and slams him to the ground.
My friend has a look of pain on his face as Brick laughs like a crazy person. “You idiot! You think you could beat me? I’m the strongest person in this dump!”
After seeing Brick pull out a sharp knife, I’m unable to stop myself from shouting, “No, Don’t!”
All eyes turn to me as I force my shaking legs to walk closer to Brick as I continue to talk. “We were fighting, right? He doesn’t need to be a part of this.”
Brick continues to keep eye contact with Jason, but a smile forms on his lips. “I’m guessing you know this kid?”
I can see a hint of fear forming on Jason’s face. “Leave him out of this. Kill me, just let him go. He didn’t do anything to you.”
“I could let him go.” Brick stands up. “But I’m liking the idea of hurting him first.”
I fight the urge to run as he begins to walk towards me. Even if I wanted to leave Jason to die, I doubt the crowd would let me leave.
Before I can even think of defending myself, Brick wraps his hand around my neck. He slowly brings the knife in his other hand right in front of my eyes.
I see Jason get up, but two random Bulldogs each grab one of his arms, forcing him to watch my inevitable death.
“Any last words, boy?” Brick asks me while slowly dragging the blade across my cheek. If I ever see my mom again, I’d have no idea how to explain the cut I most likely have on my face.
Despite the pain, I force myself to talk. “Why won’t you let someone else fight me? Doesn’t your group ever get a chance to beat up your enemies?”
I can tell he doesn’t have a clue what I was up to by the smile on his face. The thing was, he wasn't paying attention to the faces of his group.
Brick brings the knife up, ready to stab me as I hold my breathe. I’m surprised to hear a voice stop him.
“Wait! Why don’t we ever get to fight or kill? I mean...you’re not our king!” I turn to see that the woman who had called me a twig was talking.
I see their leader’s smile go away as he turns towards her, knife still in the air. “Want to know why none of you fight? It’s because you’re all idiots. I’d bet my life that you’d somehow mess it up. So how about you go back to chanting my name like the good little puppies you are?”
“I’m not your puppy!” The woman shouts at Brick. “And I never will be!”
The entire room is silent as they stare at each other. It seems like Brick is about to say something, but another voice interrupts him.
“I’m not your puppy!” Another Bulldog shouts. Brick’s eyes go wide as everyone in the room, besides Jason and me, begin chanting.
“We’re not your puppies! We’re not your puppies!” The circle slowly begins to enclose us as their chanting gets louder.
Brick lets go of me. “I- I order you to stop!”
Nobody listens as The Bulldogs run towards their former leader. They push past me and I’m unable to see what they’re doing as they surround their Brick. All I hear is his screams.
I sit on the floor while trying to catch my breath. I had never been that close to dying in my entire life. I don’t blame myself for freaking out when a hand grabs my arm.
“Calm down, it’s me!” Jason whispers. Those guys must have let go of him so that they could join in the group beating of Brick. My best friend helps me up and pulls me towards the doors of the barn.
Jason and I walk back towards our town through the woods in complete silence for a few minutes before he breaks it. “What were you thinking? Why would you try and join them?”
“It’s not like they gave me much of a choice.” I mutter.
Jason sighs, but his anger quickly changes to relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”
I hand him his sweater as I try and figure out which one of my thousands of questions I was going to ask first. I finally decide on, “Can you bring me to Emily?”
Jason puts on his hood as the wind attempts to push us. The sun was out, but the breeze overpowered it’s heat today. Jason looks like he’s thinking of the right words to use before he finally asks me, “Did you decide whether you’re going to join my group or not?”
“As long as you can bring me to Emily.”
He turns to me. “Look, Ben. The Bulldogs are the only group that has adults in it, the rest of them are kids. Deadly kids. There are plenty of different people in that place that’ll do anything to kill you. You need to think of that before you agree to join us.”
I ignore his warning to think about it, knowing my answer before he finishes talking. “If you can bring me to my sister...I’ll do anything.”
Jason nods his head. “Okay. Let’s go to TGU.”
It only takes a second to realize that was the name of the other universe. “What? Right now? What about my parents? They’ll be worried sick.”
I feel as if the Jason I befriended comes back as he gives me a warm smile. “You didn’t really think I went to summer camp, did you? The councilors already sent your parents a note that you’re going for the rest of the Summer.”
I have no time to react as he places a button on my hand.
“Let’s go find your sister.”
After hearing that, I force myself not to ask anymore questions and press the button.