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Saturday, August 3, 2013

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Citry of Keys Chapter Three



Charlie whispered, "What happened?"

The girl with the curly hair tightened her lips, then said, "Nothing happened. When we thought there was no possibility that the leopards could be patrolling upper Bronx, we get outnumbered."

The tall kid added, "At least these weren't the normal leopards. We were lucky. They were playing with us, not killing us."

"Great point, Jinx," she mocked. "So lucky she’ll be hideous forever." She cursed. "What are we supposed to do?"

Seven's face darkened. "Why are you all just standing there, then? Especially you, Vivian! She's my sister, and you're letting her down! Forget about having an ugly face. What if Twelve dies?"

"She's not going to die that easily. She survived so many messed up nightmares, so many messed up fights, she won't die now." Vivian stared at Seven angrily. "And why do you always blame me about everything? What about you? Don't you realize you screw up a lot too?"

"I don't screw up as much as you," he yelled. "Look, she needs bandages! We're all supposed to carry them! If her cut gets infected she'll really die. And you better help me carry her, Jinx. I can’t carry her all day

Jinx spat, “Oh, now you want me to carry her? Back there you said you would knock me out if I even touched her."

"Yeah, what's the big deal, Sir?" the girl with the curly hair said. "You're telling us to do stuff but you don't even know how. Don’t forget that I kind of want to help her, too, you know. She's my friend."

While Charlie was just subconsciously listening to the heated argument, he got the most peculiar feeling that he could somehow fix Twelve. He tirelessly repeated mentally, like a chant, She will be healed, She will be healed, She will be healed... Meanwhile he also tried to the best of his ability to picture the girl with an unblemished face. He continued thinking positive thoughts, over and over again, until his vision darkened and he felt sick from exhaustion, but that only implied that it was working.

When Charlie finally couldn't do it anymore, he reached over and lightly touched Twelve's wound. Seven didn't notice because he was looking away, releasing his rage onto Vivian and Jinx, but Charlie knew Vivian did. All the psychic energy he guessed he built up was transferred to Twelve, and he got a splitting headache as a result. When Charlie's vision receded under darkness he still managed to see the wound vanish, and catch the shocked expression on Vivian's face as she prodded Seven desperately to look.
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For some reason Charlie found himself sprawled on the floor. How did he get here? He was standing up just a moment ago.

"Uh, are you okay?" Jinx asked him. He seemed awkward as he helped him up. “You… fainted.”

"I guess," Charlie said, but cried out loud when he felt something slice his cheek, bursting in unbearable pain, but it disappeared a second later.

"What was that?" one of the twins giggled from behind. With a flash of embarrassment Charlie completely forgot that they were there.

"Nothing, I just -" Charlie cut himself off when he noticed Twelve was standing on her own. Seven stood protectively near her but she pushed him away. "Are you alright now?" He expected her to thank him, but he hoped she wouldn’t appreciate him too much, because otherwise he would feel extremely uncomfortable.

"Get away from me, you freak!" She screamed at him, and rushed away far down the platform.

"Wait, Twelve! Wait!" Charlie felt foolish as he began to chase after her, but his confused emotions turned to anger when the others weren't even trying to help him. Why did they have to despise him so much? He killed a leopard! If this was about being admitted into their group by the way of honor, it sure wasn't working.

He pounded away, furious at Twelve and himself. He distantly heard Seven ask someone, "So, he really just touched her?" Their whispers died away as he strained to understand where in world was Twelve running. He finally noticed a figure running up the stairs, up to the world above. "What are you doing?" He yelled angrily. "I just helped you! Don't you understand that?"

In daylight he could finally perceive that perhaps it was his old neighborhood, but it looked so different he had to be mistaken. To begin with, there weren't that many stores. The buildings loomed over him, cold and unfriendly, as the silence prevailed even in the fresh morning. Cars began streaming down the streets and so he assumed it was seven.

Most of all, Charlie was afraid that he had lost Twelve. He really didn't grasp why she was running away from him. But that was fine. Girls didn't make much sense anyway. He walked around the block, searching for a girl wearing a black blouse and leggings, but there wasn't one.

In the early hours of dawn there weren't that many people walking around. The only sound was the cooing of the gray pigeons, which trotted freely down the sidewalk. One glanced at him with a red beady eye as he passed by. The sun made the sky pale with colors, and soft clouds passed overhead. Beyond the apartment buildings there was a small playground, where he caught a glimpse of someone in black.

Charlie crossed the street briskly and his chest tightened when he realized that Twelve was sitting on one of the swings. Now that he had found her, he didn’t want to talk to her. Her back was to him and he noticed that she was wearing a small Hello Kitty backpack. It had a bow made of red rhinestones and a cute white-furred face. Not sure what to do, he sat on one of the swings as well.

"Hi," he said, but when she didn't verbalize anything he lost his patience. "Look, I don't know why you ran away like that. Now your friends will be worrying where you are. And I didn't even mean anything. I just healed you! What's so bad about that?"

There was an awkward pause after he finished. Charlie jumped off the swing, about to leave since Twelve wasn't going to respond.

"They're not my friends."

Charlie stopped and looked back, startled. "Then what are they? Why are you with them, anyway?"

"Because I have to."

"Well, like it or not, I can tell they care about you. I think… I think  Seven was scared that you were going to die."

"Really?" Now she left the swing, her clear eyes looking steadily at him.

"Of course!” He said irritated. “And now if you don't mind, I'm leaving now. If you don't want me here, fine. But you should at least tell them that you're at the park. Give them a call or something."

He walked away, but couldn't believe it when Twelve joined him.

"Don't worry about them. Why not explore the rest of the park? It's boring and filthy in subway tunnels." She walked past him deeper in the playground. Charlie followed her, startled by the change of events.

Twelve climbed up the ladder to one of the smaller playground sets. Charlie glanced around and walked in a circle instead. "Why don't you go down the slide?" she announced from the top.

He rolled his eyes. "That’s for little kids."

"Are you sure?" She slid down and leapt off the bottom.

"I'm sure." He stamped his foot over one of the flowery weeds poking out of the cracked concrete floor. "But first, you have to tell me why you ran away."

She had moved to the monkey bars now, and alternated her arms as she swung over. She didn't speak until she reached the end. "Well," Twelve stated, before jumping down. "We all have talents."

"Wait. What?" said Charlie.

"Talents," Twelve repeated while leaving the monkey bars. "Some people are born with them, but most aren't." She stopped. "But I thought you already knew that."

"Well, I don't. Because like I said before, I came from a different world that I now don't know how to get back to." Charlie tried desperately to decipher her expression. "You do believe me, right?"

"Of course I do," Twelve answered. "It just means the situation has gotten more out of hand than I thought."

"Why?"

"Because of the City. It's all because of the City."

"What's the City? Do you mean, New York City?" Charlie puzzled.

"I don't have a clue about what you just said. What's York?"

"Oh, never mind." Charlie couldn't believe it. These kids didn't know what New York was? "Just tell me."

"Well, consider yourself lucky that you never heard about it," Twelve began. "It's basically an island to the left of Bronx and Brooklyn, and has lots of skyscrapers."

"Manhattan!" Charlie proclaimed.

"Don't say it out loud!" Twelve hushed him. "It's against the law!"

"What, to say Manhattan?" Charlie quickly said. "Funniest thing I heard all day."

"What did I just tell you?" Twelve scolded. "Yes, it's against the law! And don't you ever say that in front their officers, because then they'll really arrest you, or even kill you. Having your memory wiped is a small punishment compared to what the City does to people who disobey."

"But why doesn't it... the City... not like its real name?" Charlie pondered.

"I don't know. I just know they think they're superior to everyone else, so they didn't want a Kingdom name like Brooklyn."

"Kingdom? It's supposed to be Borough! You people are changing everything. But go on," Charlie said as he sat on a green ladder. The metal was slippery under his jeans.

"Well, now I think they're experimenting with portals." She leaned on the playground. Charlie noticed that she had black boots on too.

"Wait, who? And portals? This is starting to sound like a science fiction movie."

Twelve looked back at him, annoyed that she was being interrupted again. "The City. Who else? And what's even a movie?"

"You guys don't even have -" Charlie broke off. "Never mind. Keep going."

She narrowed her eyes. "And so it's using portals, because they allow you to travel in a single second. Brilliant idea, right?" Twelve brushed some wavy hair from her face. "But the problem is that they're pretty unstable. When you create one it will destroy itself once you finish using it, but you've already opened up more possibilies. I never understood what that meant. But now I do. The portal must open up in your world at the same time."

"Well, I guess that makes sense... Wait, no, that doesn't!  That must mean someone had to travel to my apartment, which no one in their right minds would do."

"Hey, I didn't figure portals out myself. Someone had to explain it to me, and so I'm telling you." Her eyes sparkled with accusation.

"Well, that's great. Thank this person for their amazing theory. Just, how do I get back?" His voice broke on the last sentence.

"I have no idea," Twelve whispered. "I never knew there were more worlds to begin with."

For a moment despair swallowed him, but he pushed it away. "So, you're saying I'm stuck here forever? No offense, but I don't like this world so far. Who knew I could be attacked by cats just by going to the subway?" To take his mind of the worry, Charlie observed his surroundings. Behind Twelve the sun was rising, laminating the playground in a shimmering sheen. A few sparrows hopped around in the distance.

"I never said that! It just might take a while to figure out, okay?" Her eyes blazed. Charlie couldn't help but be scared of this girl whose moods changed faster than a chameleon. "Now, what else do you want to know?"

"Uh, weren't you talking about the talents before?" Charlie stammered.

"Yes, I forgot. You wanted to know what the problem was with your talent. Nothing's wrong, if that's all you're capable of doing."

"Are you saying my talent's stupid?" Charlie accused her. "Remember I fixed your face."

Twelve ignored him. "Here's the problem: You're not supposed to be able to affect another human. It just shouldn't happen."

"And so what if it does happen?"

"I'm not really sure, but you get bad luck for the rest of your life." A pause stretched in the morning air.

"Well, that just made my day!" Charlie remarked sarcastically. "And exactly how do you know this?"

"I just do! You don't have to ask!" Twelve snarled.

So touchy. It was impossible to have a normal conversation with her. "And... Am I allowed to ask if you have a special talent?" He was almost afraid to speak. At any moment she could practically turn into a leopard and scratch him.

"Maybe." But he noticed her lips had stiffened.

"What is it then?"

"I don't have to tell you, Charlie! Don't talk to me!" He watched with raised eyebrows as she exited the gated park and went back onto the street. With a sigh he followed her. This was the second incident that day that Twelve was refusing to talk to him. However, this time he didn't care because it was her problem and not his.

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