Her name was Adriana Casellano and soon, everyone knew everything about her. Her age (15), where she lived (1761 Debra Castle, Esienhower Ave, Alexandria, VA), what school she went to (Woodcreek High). But they didn’t know her real name, or where she was now. Even I don’t know for sure. We never may find out. But I do know what happened to her. And what happened to another girl, whose fate may or may not have been worse than Adriana Casellano’s. But as the story goes on, you can decide this for yourself.
First of all, before we get any deeper than we already have into these girl’s life stories, let me tell you this; this is all based off of a true story. Whether you believe me or not is up to you. But I can say with a full heart, that somewhere, this is happening to someone. True, it only happens to one in one million every few years, but it happens all the same. Don’t try to stop it. It will only make them stronger. Enjoy.
Sun light streamed through windows three stories high. The Casellanos weren’t particularly rich. They didn’t have a limousine or hundreds of butlers and maids constantly running around, hurrying to find their mistress’ favorite dress because their lives depended on it-which it might as well have. But they were wealthy enough to make sure that their precious offspring, Adriana, was not touched by anyone who posed a threat. This included the crowd at school, Woodcreek High, which, ironically enough, happened to be one of the least recommended public schools in the county. Why? Why would two parents with plenty (but not too much, remember) of money and an oversupply of protection send there one and only precious offspring to a public school that, from a distance, could be identified as the county jail?
Because Manfredo and Bernal Casellano once promised their daughter, when she was only at age four, that if she did what she was told for the rest of her life, up until she turned thirteen, she could make a request of them and they would have to say yes. Now, Adriana, as pretty and open to multiple education resources as she is, is more what you would call “a few fries short of a Happy Meal”. But for some odd reason, instead of asking then and there for money to purchase the latest trends in fashion, or the newest Barbie doll that just had been released on the market, Adriana asked for a real life.
What this meant to her parents was a complete mystery when she first blurted out the words, but after explaining it a little further, Manfredo and Bernal’s faces went from confusion, to anger, to determination, and finally, to a sad state of appearance that I can only identify as: defeat. They pleaded and begged her, not to throw away these immense opportunities that were being forced upon her in her home-schooling sessions, but she was persistent, and they eventually gave in to her demands.
As she stretched and yawned as she always did as soon as she woke up at 7:45 am each morning (with the exception of winter) she gently placed her feet into the baby blue silk slippers that were awaiting her perfectly tanned, manicured toes cradled against the side of her bed. Getting up she scratched her head and walked onto the polished marble floor of her bathroom, silently pulling her glossy sheens on black hair from the loose ponytail that held it captive each night, and allowed it to flow over her shoulders until reached the two inch mark above her perfectly shrunken waist.
No matter how many times she got shoved into lockers for being too stupid and weak at school, or detentions for “being wise” when answering questions in class, there was always a feeling inside her that made her heart jump for joy whenever she thought about Woodcreek. As always, she wanted to look her best, because today was a new day, and as her father once told her on a sunny afternoon, new days always bring prosperity and hope, no matter how hard you try to paint it black.
Thank God we don’t have a dress code, she thought, as she pulled on one of her one-of-a-kind white button up shirts with the cut offs that included frills on the edges. Jeans had never been her favorite, but she forced a pair of tight blue ones on all the same. Beauty through pain, a CD cover once told her. Checking the mirror, this one near her door, one last time before she headed out into the wonderful, magnificent, never-gonna-kill-you world. But before she left she couldn’t help but glance over at the one lone bookshelf that still remained in her room. Stacked neatly, row by row, arc by arc, was one of the few series she had made it through without struggling too much; Warriors by Erin Hunter. All it took was the first page of Into the Wild and the characters seemed to come to life, popping out of the pages and into her life. More than she knew.
It had been two years since she had finished the books, but the night was still clear in her mind. It happened to be the night she had asked her parents to be allowed into places such as Woodcreek. Over joyed by her first victory in ages, she had literally danced her way gracefully to her extended windowsill, where she perched herself and turned her face towards the full moon.
Gathering tonight, she thought, as she looked down at The Last Hope. “I wish…” a spark seemed to emit from the sky, but disappeared as quickly as it came. She smiled to herself, willing it to be a sign from StarClan. StarClan was God, and God was StarClan. There was no Jesus, only Thunderstar. “Life is so perfect now,” she whispered, feeling the strength slowly begin to build up inside her, “If only I could come to you,” Adriana looked down at the book and brushed her fingers over the jacket, an idea popping into her head that made her laugh out loud, “Or you could come to me!”
Delayed reactions were a concept Adriana had never been able to quite grasp. Still in her day dreams of proms, first kisses, and C- report cards, she shut the window, not giving the words that had just emitted from her mouth a second thought. But none the less, it was only minutes later that a lone nerd, watching from his telescope across town, looked up to see what could only be described as the exploding of a black star. There was no logical explanation that he could come up with and, like Adriana (if she had seen it), never gave it a second thought. Until today, that was.
Noticing the time, she dashed out the door, nearly tripping on the multiple rugs that covered the floor and the stairs, tearing through the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the other kitchen, and out into the sun light to catch a bus. On it kids were screaming and shouting, pulling at each other’s hair, throwing gum and wads of paper, plucking hairs from the bus driver’s balding head. Adriana was shoved roughly down into the isle, a few splotches of mud finding their way onto her jeans. Oh, what she wouldn’t give now to be back on this scene.
Getting back to her feet, Adriana let herself be jostled and turned around until she was finally in a seat that wasn’t already occupied. She always let people push her around, but it didn’t bother her. One day, she would be rich and famous for being the good Samaritan she was, and all these scumbags would be rotting away in a prison cell, committing the crime of not treating her right.
“They’re coming today, you know,” a small blond haired girl kneeled on her seat and flopped her arms over the side so she could look at Adriana.
“Who is?” She asked, as she gently pulled her fingers through her hair.
The blond girl rolled her eyes, “Duh,” the small gap in her teeth was showing as she spoke, “You know, those two reps from the gov of education to see how well each student is doing. Each year they choose someone to come with them to go live in a city of their choice and they get this HUGE sum of money and a REALLY nice apartment to live in-“
“Government of education?” She asked, looking up at the girl in mid-sentence. Her educator rolled her eyes and slumped back down in her seat. It was then that Adriana looked around noticing how exceptionally nice everyone had dressed, especially the girls. She heard the blond talking to her partner in the seat in front of her.
“I hear the male reps are always REALLY hot and the women ALWAYS look like total sluts that wanna gouge your eyes out if you look at them the wrong way!” Oh come on, no one actually believed that, did they? But now that it was brought up, Adriana forced herself to rack her brain of this “government of education” visiting any schools. She remembered reading it in the paper once last year about a boy her age’s school visited by these people. He was chosen for this “opportunity of a life time” and was never directly heard from again. A few weeks later he was discovered lying in the woods, not moving. They had pronounced him dead at the scene, but after bringing him to the hospital it turned out he was in a deep coma. He hadn’t woken from it since, as for as she knew. Some people had all the luck.
The bus pulled into the over-crowded parking lot of Woodcreek High minutes later, with kids pushing and shoving to get off well before the bus actually stopped. When the tires did screech to a halt everyone toppled out and ran inside the school, except for those who stayed behind to gaze at the glimmering car parked near the entrance. It must’ve been the “government of education”. The two reps that had been mentioned earlier were scanning the premises, searching for the one they would take back with them of their own free will.
It felt like decades before they finally walked in the classroom door. Adriana’s head shot up as she gazed at the two adults standing in front of her, one man and one woman. The man was slightly tanned, wearing a crisp black suit and nice black tie, his brown eyes seemed to flash red once in a while. He had what looked like a small scar across the bridge of his nose and pointed teeth that were more than worthy of a vampire.
The woman had darker hair that hung around her face like dead leaves, her eyes a scary yet alluring as her partner’s. Her skin was a shining sickly pale, but her sharp face and generous mid-section more than made up for it.
The man turned towards the teacher, Ms. Boyd, “My name is Tristan Exum, and this is my,” he cleared his throat a little, “co-worker, Elsie Larose.”
Elsie took a step towards Ms. Boyd with a stretched out hand and they shook each other’s. No one else could’ve detected it, but after years at starring at face after face on the streets, Adriana would’ve thought that Elsie Larose’s smile was too forced and strained to be real. Tirstan Exum was all smiles, of course, but his eyes said something else as he scanned the crowd hungrily. His eyes finally rested on the spoiled, Hispanic girl who sat staring at Ms. Larose with a strange fear.
He smiled at her, as if reassuring her of the events to come. Larose silently nodded to Exum, as he whispered something that Ms. Boyd couldn’t hear. She then turned to the teacher and asked a question that only members of the front row could hear- Adriana not being one of those members. Ms. Boyd looked hesitant for a split second, but then happily nodded and gestured towards the girl’s desk.
Ms. Larose went to pull up an extra chair and sat down beside Adriana, watching over her shoulder as the lesson went on. The classes fast pace was frustrating enough with having someone lurk over your shoulder every second of the time, “I’m sorry,” Adriana looked over her shoulder and whispered in a quiet voice to the woman, “But do you mind? I’m having problems as it is?” Ms. Larose’s face began to pull back into a scowl but with a warning glance from Mr. Exum, smiled politely and settled back in her chair.
She watched like a cat about to pounce on a squirrel, watching as Ms. Boyd came over to look over Adriana’s shoulder and pointed out what she got wrong. The teachers voice drawled on about why x = 7.6439 and not 59.341, Ms. Larose could see Adriana’s fist tighten harder and harder around the pencil, as she was secretly fuming, taking all of her strength not to burst out sarcastically about her horrific problem solving skills. She smiled a bit and nodded to Mr. Exum, who pulled who walked out of the classroom, answering his call from an old friend in the process.
“Are you Christian?” was the last question Adriana expected to come out of Ms. Larose’s mouth. She was being “interviewed” by her and Mr. Exum to see if she “qualified” for the GOE program, but we already knew the answer to that.
Our first victim shook her head in a way that made it look like she was looking at a rotting fish. “No,” she finally answered verbally, “I don’t really follow any religion…” her voice trailed off as she looked at the ground. A sudden thought crossed through her head that made her smile, “But I am Star-Clanian!” She giggled, not seeing the look of hatred/interest that crossed her companions’ faces.
“Star-Clanian?” Mr. Exum asked, as if he had never heard the words “Star” and “Clan” put together in his life, which, considering the circumstances you and I will soon discover, he might as well hadn’t. But he sure as hell knew what it meant. “Care to explain?”
Adriana smiled, glad to tell someone about her childish dreams and memories, “Star Clan are like the gods of the warriors of the four clans that rule the wild. It’s from a book series I used to read as a child. I used to want to be just like them,” Mr. Exum leaned back in his chair in satisfaction, while Ms. Larose leaned forward.
“Thank you for your time,” she said curtly, as she motioned for Adriana to get up and leave. As she shut the door she could hear the two reps begin to talk quickly, as if they had been trying to solve a mystery for years and finally got a lead. But our protagonist couldn’t be less interested in them. After all, after saying something like “Star-Clanian” to people like them, there was no chance of them ever taking her seriously ever again. Which was also true.
Why is it that we pine to impress our enemies, needing them to know that we are much better than them and always will be? Why do we make up stories to get attention, even when we are the most dull, poor-excuses for humans who ever walked upon on our perfect little planet Earth? It is because of creatures like Exum and Larose, who represent the demon in all of us, the demon we try to please to no avail.
Adriana was never one for camping and definitely not one for the woods at night, no matter how many Warriors books she read. But it was camping that was the test, and it was camping she would have to beat.
Wouldn’t you know it, Adriana was the student from Woodcreek High that got selected to come out on the final test of their knowledge with Exum, Larose, and three others from the GOE. With them they had brought the other student that made the cut, a thirteen year old girl, Zena?, who looked as tired and miserable as her wish-buddy felt. But wanting to impress this girl, to show her who was going to be the better one, the leader, the winner, around here, Adriana pulled herself up to her full height and stared straight ahead.
One of the men that came with Zena, a bit younger but broader, his light brown hair pulled back into a loose pony tail, saw this and snickered. The other two looked back down at their hostage, who seemed to be rigid with shock, fear, amazement, and anger. You could smell her fear from miles away, although her face was stony hard and unblinking, staring down into the grass and now and then glancing up at the young, black haired man that had helped bring her here. His skin was as pale as hers.
Mr. Exum had the two girls stand up next to each other so that he could compare them in weight, height, looks, and whatever else a psychotic tyrant could look for. “Do you know why you’re here?” He finally broke the silence. Neither girl spoke. He smiled and shook his head, “Let me start with this question, then,” he began, “Do you know who I am?”
All that could be heard was the crickets chirping and the unnaturally cold breeze rustling the victims’ hair. Adriana starred straight into her captor’s eyes, which had turned completely red now, and knew the name was on the tip of her tongue, but she just couldn’t place it. Zena, on the other hand, tightened her fists even more and looked away.
“You will soon,” Mr. Exum smiled and stepped to the side, revealing another man a little taller than him with long, dark chocolate hair and a smile that highly resembled a snake that welcomed its prey into prey into its nest and then went in for the kill without another thought.
“There’s only one thing you have to do,” He walked closer until he was but two inches away from them, his breath coming out in clouds, despite the fact that he didn’t seem cold at all, “There is something you must find in the middle of these woods. You’ll know when you see it. Once you get to it, you won’t have to do anything else,” he laughed a little as he said this last part.
“What the fuck does this have to do with education?” Zena mumbled under her breath, although it came out more like a statement rather than a question.
Two hands were placed on my shoulders and I looked up to see Ms. Larose leading me away from the group. It seemed like decades before she finally let go and turned me to the direction of the dark forest. “This is where you begin,” she stated roughly, completely unlike her character at Woodcreek, “Run until you find it. Walk and you die.”
A loud ringing was set off in the air. Adriana clasped her hands over her ears and fell to the ground, but Larose kicked her until she got back to her feet, “Run, you little bitch!” she screamed and the girl took off.
The ringing wouldn’t stop and seemed to get louder as she ran faster. She tried to cover her ears with her hands, but that only allowed her to smack her face into the ground as she tripped over a tree root. She screamed in agony as the ringing took over and her nose began to bleed, knowing it was broken. She finally got up and began to run, faster this time, until she spotted a light ahead.
There was a clearing, empty of debris, only consisting of two small orbs of light softly pulsing in midair. She didn’t know what it was, only that it would offer comfort and sweet relief. Clutching her nose with one hand, Adriana raced towards them until something barreled into her from the side, knocking the breath out of her and sending her tumbling into the bracken. The light slowly faded away, but it didn’t matter who had gotten there first. That was only a test to alert the Kurai Mori nekos of who would be more fun. They were both in with no way out, and that’s they’d always wanted it.