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Two young children licked and slurped their ice cream while sitting on one of the many splintered wooden benches lining the breezeway of the antiquated strip mall, not seeming to mind the horrifying thing sprawled underneath their seat. A vertically slitted eye, ignoring the accidental kicks from the swinging feet above, stared through the large pane of glass and into the padded training room that was filled with at least twenty humans all dressed in black. Its attention was clearly on a teenager who was holding a wooden staff and calmly deflecting an onslaught of wooden sword blows from a much older and more powerful male. The front door to the martial arts studio had been left wide open on this warm spring day, allowing the intruder to hear everything that was happening inside.
“Come on. You aren’t even trying.” The man egged on the boy as he swung his sword overhead, expecting a block with the staff. Instead he felt himself being spun in the air as his sword was wrenched from his hands. He exhaled as his hit the mat, now staring up at the smiling boy who rested the lost sword on his neck.
“Just because I’m not straining, doesn’t mean I’m not trying,” replied the boy.
The man’s laugh was cut short by the country ring tone of a smartphone perched atop the desk near the front entrance. The man on his back pushed off the ground with his feet, and rolled backward to stand before turning to pick up the phone.
“Hello? Hi, Sensei. What can I do for you? Yes, Dillon is here. Really? Okay, I’ll try. Bye, Sensei.” Golden curls casually followed the man’s head as he turned to the senior instructor. “Dillon. Your dad has to work late tonight and wants you to run the class.”
“What? Nooo way Steve. It’s all yours.” Dillon had dropped the sword and squatted down to pick up his staff.
“Come on. He told me you need to do it.”
“We go through this every time he can’t make it, and every time you eventually give in. So why don’t you just run the class and save us all five minutes of useless banter.” Dillon’s light-hearted, wide smile was too powerful for Steve.
“Okay, but you will be running the meditation session today. I won’t take no for an answer.” Steve pointed a finger at Dillon and smiled back.
Dillon huffed but nodded in agreement.
After more than forty minutes of training, the class members all sat down facing the teenage boy at the front of the class.
“Today we are going to do the predator and prey meditation from last week, but this time we will be the prey.”
The creature watched and listened as the boy took the class through a meditation routine where they were rabbits being chased by a pack of coyotes. Its specially tuned ears could hear the increasing rhythm of heartbeats as the students became absorbed in the visualization.
Then it happened.
The boy started to sway as he led the group through the meditation. His face became flush. Hairs on the back of his neck rose up. His eyes snapped open and exposed his confusion.
“You make it to your hole and dive in just before the coyote’s teeth snap together. You made it. Now, slowly open your eyes to find yourself back in your own body.”
The class was over.
Dillon said a whimsical goodbye to Steve before slapping his skateboard to the cement and pushing off in the direction of his house, not even seeing the creature awkwardly scurrying after him.
The key grated inside the door’s lock, pushing the rusted tumblers aside. As the door opened, a voice inside called out.
“Hi Dillon, how was class?” His mom called out from another room.
He shut the door behind him before making his way to the kitchen. “Dad got tied up at work, so Steve ran things.”
“He just called me to say the experiment he is running won’t be done until well after you’re asleep, and that he is sorry he missed class.” His mom walked over and kissed him on the cheek before sitting down on a bar chair next to the island.
“No big deal, Mom,” replied Dillon as he grabbed an apple from the table.
“Sorry, but I have some work to do tonight myself, so you’ll have to make your own dinner.” She continued only after Dillon let out a slight gasp of exasperation. “When I got home I had a choice of cleaning your room or fixing you food. Turns out the President had declared your room a national disaster, so I decided that you wouldn’t be that hungry.”
“It’s clean? You’re the best mom ever.” Dillon replied as he winked and strolled out of the room. He made his way down the small brown-painted hallway and used his foot to push open his flimsy bedroom door. He carelessly dropped his skateboard and backpack before plopping down on the cheap plastic chair next to his Ikea desk.
A sigh escaped his lips as he unzipped his backpack, pulled out his English journal, and turned it to the first clean page. He grabbed a ballpoint pen and flipped it between his fingers for a few minutes before dropping it on the journal.
Looking up in frustration, his eyes caught the spine of his favorite book. Dillon reached up, grabbed the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, and his fingers found the right page.
His mind wasn’t focused on schoolwork so he might as well put together the next part of the adventure for his friends.
The hours ticked by until Dillon felt himself nodding off. He shut the book before kicking off his shoes and crawling into bed. He had completely forgotten the strange event that took place during his meditation class. But the two glowing, slitted eyes staring through his window had not.
He is the one. It is time to bring them together, the creature thought as one eye stayed focused on the boy and the other looked up toward the moon.