That night…is a night I will never forget…
It was the winter of 2011. I was attending college at the age of twenty three and bored to hell with all those around me, I was continually wondering where my life would lead to. Until now, I had been an invisible ghost; no one knew who I actually was. Sitting at my desk, my blue eyes were staring into the void of space between me and my government instructor. He was going on another one of his rants about how efficient our justice system was, as usual I preceeded to slip into my own little world.
The room before me transformed into a vast barren field stained with the crimson color of blood. My hair had mutated into a startling silver braid. My purple eyes raged with the power I experienced coursing through my veins. I began to charge my enemy when in the blink of an eye; I was violently forced from my fantasy and thrown into what everyone else had inefficiently labeled “reality”. By the wood shavings on the floor realized that my impulsive professor had tossed his ruler at me, barely missing my ear and burst into the desk behind me. “Are we having a nice nap Mr. Phoenix?” asked the instructor with that egotistical gaze upon his face that he only seemed to don when I pissed him off. The slight tone of sarcasm in my voice I wish I could say was intended “I was having a nice dream…but unfortunately I was dragged back into this nightmare. No offense sir.” A few chuckles circulating among my fellow classmates seemed to abolish that smug disposition he carried. “Leon, have you learned nothing from the last time you popped off at me?” asked Mr. Tarley, the disdain in his voice evident. I could see that the little bastard wasn’t going to give it a rest. “No sir, I didn’t mean to irritate you by stating the obvious."
My professor’s face for a brief instant showed a feeling of rage towards the remark I had just uttered; in fact it was the reaction I was hoping for. “Mr. Phoenix”, said the aged instructor “I imagine that you have not learned your lesson from the last time you misbehaved in my classroom.” His old face cracked with a smile as he withdrew the disciplinary referrals from his desk drawer. I collected my things rose from my seat and proceeded down the steps that ventured to the front of the classroom “What?” I asked with the same underlying tone of sarcasm “would the lesson be this time that you had to pull me out of such a wonderful dream?” Mr. Tarley scoffed as he handed me the referral “This time you get to find that out for yourself…” The slip of paper was not as I had expected, I was to go to a local address not far from where I lived to talk to a counselor “Son of a b-” I muttered under my breath as I turned to walk out the door, the class nowhere near being completed.
The frigid breeze cut straight through my jacket and the snow decided it would greet me as I traversed the boundaries of the campus. The December weather in New York City really was unpredictable. It was rapidly approaching the New Years; what with three days from the thirty-first. I walked a short ways along the sidewalk before directing myself towards the apartment complex mentioned on the referral. I stopped at a coffee house nearby and purchased a vanilla cappuccino, the weather outside was unforgiving and I needed something to warm my bones. As I continued to advance along the street I took a few sips of my drink, the heat slightly scalding my tongue. I deposited some loose change into the awaiting instrument case of a local flute player. I believe his name is Eric; I never did incline to take the time to learn it. My feet arrived at the bottom step of the walkway to apartment complex. For a few moments I studied the structure, it was elegant, a little too much so for my tastes. My mind started to whisper something to me, there was something different about this place. Shaking off the chill that ran down my spine I rang the buzzer to what I believe to be apartment number six hundred and one, there was no response, I pressed the buzzer once again, waited for a moment, and then began to walk away. As I descended onto the bottom step of the building a woman’s voice came from the speaker “Come on up boy.” Or at least I think it was the speaker.
I heard the lock behind me make a sudden click, as I turned the door swung inward beckoning me inside. As I made my way across the lobby floor I took a quick look around, for an apartment building it was a little overdone. The floor was cascading marble polished to a mirror shine; Victorian décor surrounded me. “Figures…” I thought to myself as I stepped into the elevator before me “Tarley sent me to a rich prick for counseling.” My index finger pressed the button destined for the sixth floor and slowly I began to ascend. The ancient lift creaked and moaned as it made its way upwards towards my fate.
My thoughts upon entering the apartment complex had become scrambled if not scattered. For some reason I sensed something peculiar about this place, and yet my mind had become calm the instant I stepped foot into the lobby, the entire affair perplexed me. Why was I written a referral for a counselor when a notice of suspension would have been more appropriate? As the elevator creaked to a halt I decided that those questions had better not cross my mind. I exited the elevator and straightened my coat, took another sip of my cappuccino that was now becoming easier to drink, and proceeded to find the room that I was looking for.
I did not have to venture very far I looked to the right and not but ten feet down the hallway there it was, number six hundred and one. After taking another sip I approached the door and reached my hand up to knock, but before my hand even made contact with the cherry stained wood I heard a voice inside say, “Don’t bother boy it is unlocked.” I took caution for a brief moment before turning the knob clockwise and swinging the door inward. I entered a few steps into the living room before calling out, “Hello…is anyone in here?” A voice came up from behind me, “Of course someone is here, how else would I have told you that the door was unlocked?” I spun around shocked to face a woman that appeared to be my age not but six inches from my face. “Well” said the woman “You are Leon Phoenix I presume?” How the woman snuck behind me I did not know however there was something odd that I could not pinpoint, it seemed that she had a faint glow that I could not discern. After a second of collecting myself I finally answered the woman “I know who I am, but who are you?”
The woman chuckled “Just a rich prick..." she said as she circled around me, similar to a hungry vulture searching for a meal. My thoughts raced as those words left her mouth, my curiosity burning inside me, driving the fear that was clear in my eyes. She burst out in laughter “I read people well, no need to be scared.” I did not notice that my hand was shaking as I attempted to take another sip of my cappuccino, spilling a few drops on my shirt, the calming flavor was welcome to my lips even though by now it had become cold.
“No need to be nervous child, I am not going to kill you.” She said as she walked over to the brown leather couch in the far corner of the living room “Please take a seat” she motioned to the recliner across from her the black fabric inviting me to take a break. As I sat down I tried to comprehend what was real. I set my now empty cup on the glass of the coffee table inbetween the couch and recliner while trying to regain my composure. “So I guess you are wondering why you are here” She said with a small tone of sarcasm in her voice. For some reason as she uttered those words my mind settled “If I was wondering why I was here I would have asked. What is your name?” Her eyes stared at me for a moment before she sighed and took my cappuccino into the nearby kitchen tossing it into the trash. She returned with a cup of coffee that smelled mysteriously like grapes. ”Lana” I leaned forward to smell the awkward fragrance of her coffee “Excuse me?” I asked not quite hearing her the first time. “My name is Lana.” She said as she took a small sip of her coffee.
I was a little curious as to why I was really here. “What are you thinking of child?”She said as she tapped her fingers against the coffee mug. I chuckled as I looked her in the eyes “Please do not call me child again, it tends to irritate me.” She smiled as she took another sip of her coffee. “Does it now? I can see why Tarley has taken an interest in you.”I let out a loud laugh. She jumped a little as my laugh seemed to catch her off guard. “That old bastard hates me, what makes you think that he actually sent me here because he likes me?” Her eyes locked with mine, “Did he actually tell you why he sent you here?” I thought for a moment and pulled the disciplinary referral from my pocket, however to my surprise, it was blank. “So why would he send me here other than to piss me off?” I asked as I stuffed the slip of paper back into my pocket. She frowned as she walked into the next room and came back with a gun. I jumped to my feet as I saw her load a bullet and cock the hammer. I jumped up and turned to run towards the `door. I heard the gun fire, pain shot through my shoulder as I hit the ground. She walked up to me slowly, setting the gun on the glass coffee table. I froze. Her hand came down to my shoulder and patted it lightly. The pain subsided as she pulled her hand away with a bullet in between her fingers. I sat up as she chuckled looking at my fully healed shoulder. “To show you what you are truly capable of, child.”
I rose to my feet, checking my shoulder for any scarring or bleeding. How was it that I was not injured nor had any scars? Was I hallucinating? The blood stain setting into my shirt and the bullet hole torn through the fabric was most certainly not in my imagination. Suddenly what she had said registered in my mind, “To show you what you are truly capable of…” What I was capable of, what in the world was going through this woman’s mind? First she shoots me in the shoulder and then acts as if nothing ever happened.
The confusion continued to build as I staggered my way to the recliner, shock still keeping me silent. She took a quick look at me and set the bullet on the table in front of me before making her way into the kitchen. I plucked the metal slug off of the glass that covered the coffee table in front of me and made a quick examination of it between my fingers, the blood was still moist and the flesh was obviously blackened burned deep into the metal. As I returned the bullet to the table, she sat down on the couch across from me with two cups of coffee this in her hands, setting a silver mug in front of me before leaning back. “Are you at least going to try it?” she asked as she motioned towards the coffee. With the evident lack of grace I attempted to pick the cup off of the table in front of me, my hands trembling from the mental shock that was flooding my senses.
The mint fragrance of the caffeinated elixir brought me back to reality, the events of the evening saturating my mind. Short moments seemed like hours, after an eternity with no sense of thought or hesitation I spoke. “May I ask you something?” The woman calmly sitting on the couch in front of me raised her eyes to meet with mine. “I cannot guarantee an answer” she muttered, her smile quickly fading, fingernails tapping the side of her cup as if counting the seconds. “Why did Mr. Tarley send me here?” Her expression lightened a little as she took a sip of her drink. “He believes that you are capable of more than you realize.” For a moment it sounded like she was making fun of me, that old jackass never shows belief for any of his students…why should I be different? Before I could conjure up the next question from the stew churning in my skull the front door to her apartment shook, a loud, yet non-threatening knock echoed from the doorway. “That would be him.” There was little attempt to hide the excitement in her voice as she set her mug on the table before walking to the door. As she rose three letters left my lips “Who?”