Unanswered Questions

Written in response to: Write about a student reporter uncovering a university scandal.... view prompt


Mystery Friendship

“Okay, know what we’re gonna do today?” Hazel towers above me, her long figure casting shadows over the dewy grass. Her hair, which usually falls beneath her shoulders in messy brown ringlets, has been straightened and pinned back. Her lips are toned a deeper red than usual. She must be wearing lipstick. “We’re going to tap into those powers of yours. Put them to good use.” I groan. Here I was thinking we were going to spend the afternoon frolicking in the forest, picking daffodils, just like we used to. But no. Ever since Hazel joined the council, she’s been Ms. Uptight. I don’t know how she’s even capable of walking with that stick so far up her butt. “Come on, Hazel, let’s do something fun! Wanna go swimming in that lake or something?” I plead, pointing to a body of water in the distance. Hazel rolls her eyes. “Be serious, Ada. We have no time for swimming. Not that we could, anyway. That lake you’re pointing to? Not a lake at all. It’s a toxic swamp.” My arm falls to my side. “Ugh. Fine.” “Now, come along,” Hazel says, trodding deeper into the forest. Begrudgingly, I follow her. 

“You used to be fun,” I say to Hazel. Looking down, I notice that the gravel trail has faded. We’re on an unmarked path. Hazel better know where we’re going. “What do you mean?” She says, stepping over a mud puddle, “I am fun.” “No, you’re not,” I sigh, plowing straight through the mud, which makes Hazel downright scoff, “Not like you used to be, anyway. You know, before that stupid council crowned you Queen Bossypants.” “You’re so childish, Ada,” Hazel says, slicking her hair back. She pauses. “I’ve…I’ve wanted to be a council member since I was eight years old. You, of all people, should know that.” “Yeah, yeah,” I say, shuffling my feet, “I’m not trying to bash your dreams or whatever, it’s just…you’re never around anymore.” “I’ve been busy,” Hazel says, aghast, “With my job, with my life. I’ve grown up, Ada. When will you?” She walks a few paces faster. Her ears are pouring smoke. Literally. A low-hanging tree branch gets caught in her hair. I watch in awe as a flickering yellow flame leaps from her hand and onto the branch, obliterating it. The flame returns to her hand, dancing at her fingertips. She clenches her fist, snuffing it out. Hazel is a firechild. All children born in winter are. Ironic, isn’t it? I was born in the summer, so my abilities should be ice-related. But for some reason, they aren’t. I’m a special case. At least, that’s what the council tells me. For months now, I’ve been their guinea pig. Test after test, examination after examination. They just can’t seem to get to the bottom of why I’m not an icechild. But what really seems to be stumping them is where my other powers came from. So far, what they’ve observed is this; I (allegedly) have the ability to go as far back in time as I please. All I need to do is concentrate, avoid distractions. That’s why Hazel is taking me deep into the forest, I assume. “Here we are.” I follow her voice into a clearing. I hadn’t noticed how dense the woods were getting. Stepping into a sunny, open area is almost like a breath of fresh air. “Here’s the deal,” Hazel turns to me, a tinge of apathy in her voice. She must still be ticked off. “Last week, a girl named Kate Burke was killed in her dorm room.” Kate Burke. The name sounds familiar, but I don’t think I know her. “What the council is trying to figure out is why, exactly, this happened. Will you help us?” “Um, okay.” “Good, since you legally can’t refuse. Sit.” I plop down on the grass. Hazel crouches beside me, digging through her coat. She hands me a pocketwatch, stained red in some areas. “This was found in Kate’s breastpocket the night of the killing. The council believes that, with concentration, you’ll be able to go back and see the world through her eyes.” I giggle. “What is it?” “You said breast.” “Ugh! This is serious, Ada! You are so immature sometimes.” Hazel rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling. Sort of. “Anyway, whenever you’re ready, we’ll begin.” “‘Kay. Guess I’m ready.” Hazel pulls some sage out of her pocket, lighting it with the tip of her finger. “Woah, this is kinda ritualistic, don’t you think?” Her voice drops to a whisper as she speaks. “It’s meant to ward off evil spirits, okay? Just…focus.” I sit there for a minute or two, trying not to choke on the stench of the sage, Kate’s watch resting in my palm. “Uh, Hazel? Nothing’s happening. What exactly am I supposed to be doing here?” “Nothing! Just sitting there. Not talking. Understood?” I give her a thumbs up, making a zipping motion over my lips. “Just relax, Ada. Focus. Your powers will front eventually.” I shut my eyes tight. Deep breaths, Ada. Focus. Concentrate. I try to conjure up an image of Kate. The only thing I can remember about her are her eyes. Emerald green, with flecks of brown. Those eyes are closed now, forever. Okay, enough thinking about death. Focus. I run my thumb over the smooth base of the pocket watch, waiting for something to happen. Nothing does. “Hazel, I don’t think–” I turn to her, but she’s gone. The forest is gone. In its place is a wall. I’m on the floor, my face pressed against the carpet. I can’t move anything except my eyes. Looking down, I see my body, sprawled out, maimed. But it’s not my body. It’s Kate’s. Some guy wearing dress shoes steps into my view. I can’t see his face. “Thank you, Kathryn,” He says, “You’ve been a big help.” He kicks Kate’s lifeless body, his shoe digging into my (I mean, her) side. Ow, I felt that. I can hear someone screaming in the hallway. It can’t be me (I mean, Kate). Is someone else getting killed now? The noise keeps getting louder. I tighten my grip on the pocket watch. I can move again. “Wake up, Ada!” Hazel says, shaking me lightly. I’m back in the forest, sitting cross-legged, Hazel at my side. “Ada! Ada, it’s okay! It’s over now. You’re safe, you’re okay.” The screaming in my throat dies down. Oh God, that was me? “Did I…pass out?” I ask, my throat scratchy. “Something like that,” Hazel says. There’s genuine worry in her eyes, something I didn’t think she was capable of. “I’m okay,” I try to assure her, “Really, I’m fine.” “We’ll take you to the healer, just to be safe. Time travel can cause dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, I could go on!” She helps me up off the ground. “In the meantime, you’d better tell me everything. What did you see?” I explain it to the best of my ability as we make our way back to civilization. The voice, the fancy dress shoes, what the body looked like. And as Hazel walks me through the woods, her arm around me, she seems…almost like her old self again. One thing is clear, though; this mystery is far from over. 

November 04, 2023 15:35

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