Told You So
“C’mon, c’mon,” Hailey muttered, cell-phone at her ear.
A pause gave way to Elise groaning, “Nuhgh. Hello?”
“Are you okay? Did you get home alright? Did anyone follow you?”
Elise yawned, checked her clock. “Hailey, it’s four-thirty in the morning. What’re you–”
“Did anyone follow you home? Did anything seem out of place?”
“What? No. Why?”
Hailey sighed relief, but her voice sharpened. “Don’t go to school alone. Pick me up first.”
Elise groaned again.“Is this about the psychic thing?”
“I’ll explain later. Just promise you’ll pick me up before school.”
Elise sighed, “Fine. I promise. Can I go back to sleep now?”
Hailey swallowed her fears, “Yes. Sorry. Just… please be here.”
“I will be.”
The line cut out. Hailey suddenly realized she’d been pacing. She set her phone on the end-table, sank to her bed beside it. There was no way she’d sleep again, but resting wouldn’t hurt. She laid back on her bed, eyes closed and mind racing. A thousand different scenarios of what could happen raced past. All of them were changed. Being there ensured no-one took Elise by surprise. If Hailey had her way, they wouldn’t take her at all.
By the time her alarm went off, Hailey was wired. She shot out of bed, showered, dressed and ate in record time. Moments later, the front door sounded and Elise slipped inside from the rain. Hailey’s parents had already left for work, relinquishing the house to girls that tended toward mischief. Today, Hailey wasn’t in the mood for it. All she wanted was to get Elise to school safely.
“So, what happened exactly?” Elise asked, having heard the story twice already. She was still confused as to the dire urgency of a 4 AM phone call.
“You were driving to school and got hit. Someone kidnapped you, then started hurting you.”
Elise shook her head. “That doesn’t make sense. It was probably just a–”
“It wasn’t just a dream, Elise! It was the same thing that happened at school.”
“Except it hasn’t happened,” Elise reminded.
“Yet. Because you haven’t gotten there yet.”
“Who knows if I will?”
Hailey paced through her kitchen, hands rubbing her sore and tired eyes. She sank into a lean against a counter. Elise watched, more empathetic than anything, but Hailey’s dream was outlandish; something like that couldn’t happen, let alone to her. The fact that one vision had come true didn’t mean another would. Even now, there was no way of knowing if Hailey had made parts up.
She believed the mind-reading, but precognition? The last vision could’ve been a fluke, or the dream-vision just a dream. The only thing that really mattered was its obvious affect on Hailey. She was on-edge. Real or not, believing it had worked her up. Then again, if she was right, there was real danger. Elise couldn’t help feeling she deserved the benefit of doubt, for now at least.
“I get you’re worried. And I’m grateful you care and all. But what’re the chances it’ll still happen now that we know about it? I mean, you’ve directly interfered. Doesn’t that guarantee some change? And even then, does anything guarantee it will?”
Hailey’s arms fell to her sides, “I don’t know. I-I mean, I have no idea how any of this is supposed to work. I just… can’t let you go to school alone.”
“Then come with me. It is the reason I came over,” Elise said simply.
Hailey despaired. Elise’s tone was too naive, too innocent. She hadn’t felt the crack of bone, or the jolting whiplash of the car accident. She hadn’t heard the twist of steel and the shattering of glass, or felt hands grappling her limbs. Hailey had. She wasn’t sure she’d ever forget it. The memory made her finger hurt and upturned her stomach.
Elise sought confirmation of their ride together. Hailey breathed to calm her frustration: Elise clearly wasn’t getting the depth of things.
“I just don’t want to have to say I told you so, Elise,” she said finally. “This can’t be one of those situations.”
“Okay. If something happens, we’ll deal. Deal?” Hailey half-nodded. Elise eyed her phone, “We better go, we’re gonna’ be late.”
Hailey did her best to still her queasy stomach as she grabbed up her pack and led the way to Elise’s civic. Her head swiveled, searched their surroundings for anyone or anything out of place. To her dismay, the neighborhood was dull as ever– as if nary a blade of grass was out of place. Everything was all perfectly normal, save Hailey. She didn’t like it. It was the too-quiet silence before catastrophe.
She slipped into the car and locked the doors. Elise ignored it. They buckle up, then eased form the driveway and along Bacatta’s suburban streets. Morning traffic from students and workers grew to a near traffic jam along the main streets toward BHS.
“Don’t go down Armistice,” Hailey instructed.
“What? That’s the fastest way to Orwell.”
“Just don’t. You were hit on Armistice. Go around Elm. Cut through the alleys.”
Elise’s eyes rolled stiffly. “This is getting ridiculous.”
Hailey wanted to snap, but Elise turned onto Elm’s asphalt and kept her fury at bay. Granted, she was right, it didn’t make Hailey wrong. Elm was a long, snaking road that cut a downward slope through a portion of isolated elevation. The civic rolled down through the ran, following the water along its sloping curves and stopping at a cross-street. The water continued on ahead, leveling out in an alley and rolling into its storm-water grates.
Elise gave Hailey a final look, sighed and followed the water. They entered the alleyway behind a set of strip-mall-like groupings sitting back to back. Hailey could see Orwell a quarter-mile ahead, at the alley’s end; the city’s main road and the same one the high-school was on. More and more, she wondered what had changed. Would someone still attempt to kidnap Elise? Or herself? Wouldn’t they have wanted fewer witnesses? And if Hailey was the eventual target, wouldn’t they attempt it doubly if–
The car rocked over a loud blast. Hailey’s nerves shed their sheathes. She was instantly shaking. Elise skidded to a stop in the middle of the alley, threw off her belt and rushed out. Hailey scrambled after her, mind still racing, and stomach rising. Elise fell to a crouch by the rear-left tire. Hailey stumbled over, terrified, found her beside it, coat in the light drizzle and knee wet from the alley.
“God damn it, Hailey,” she shouted. “Do you have any idea what this is gonna’ cost to get fixed!? This is all ‘cause of you’re paranoid b-s.”
Hailey deflated, however relieved she found herself. “I’m sorry, Elise. I didn’t mean–”
Elise huffed, leaned into the car to turn off the engine, and unlocked the trunk. She fished through it, tossed out a jack, a steel bar, and a dug for a spare tire.
Hailey hunched against the rain, “What’re you doing?”
Irritation bleed through her sarcasm as if a freshly opened vein. “Changing the tire, genius. What’s it look like?” She hesitated, dried her glasses, “Was this in your vision? Blowing a tire on the way to school?”
“No,” Hailey admitted quietly, eyeing the alleway’s ends as cars zoomed past.
A delivery van pulled up to the rear of a building far ahead. A pair of men stepped out in jumpsuits and ballcaps, and lingered near the van’s rear. Fear stabbed at Hailey’s chest, but dissipated when they began carrying boxes into the back of a building.
Hailey crouched beside Elise, watched her crank the jack, “Can I do anything to help?”
“No,” she snapped, panting. She apologized, “I don’t know what to make of all this. Yesterday, my biggest worry was–”
Ceramic brakes squeaked a few paces away, cut her off. Both girls stopped to see an identical delivery van now parked before them. Hailey stood up first. Another pair of men climbed out. Deja vu made Hailey’s head swim.
One of the men was older, grayer, and clad in a baseball cap he affixed as he climbed down, “Gotta’ flat, huh?”
Elise eased up beside Hailey, steel bar in-hand and hidden behind her back. As much as she’d doubted Hailey, she wasn’t about to risk it. The two men angled toward them and the girls inched closer together.
Hailey spoke, “Yeah. Nothing we can’t handle. Thanks though.”
The younger man glanced sideways with a smile. Time slowed. Hailey watched his head turn, something in his ear caught light; fleshy and brown, but too pastel-like to match his skin. It looked like an ear-piece from a spy shows. It was hard to see, but undoubtedly smooth plastic, not skin. She managed a quick swivel; the men who’d been moving boxes were now headed over.
Time resumed. Her body reacted on instinct.
She kneed the younger man’s groin. Fist-jabbed the other’s throat. Elise’s eyes bulged. She spun round, drug Elise down. Gunshots rang through the alley. The van’s windshield splintered. The girls dove for the Civic’s rear-bumper. The elder man gasped on the ground beside them. The other cradled his manhood with one hand, fished for his waist with the other.
He groaned, struggled, “Little… bitch.”
Hailey ripped the breaker-bar from Elise’s hand. Chrome flashed. Hailey’s black-bar smashed downward. The man’s temple caved inward with fleshy wetness. His body was instantly limp. Blood splattered upward, kept at-bay by the rain that gathered strength. The elder man choked for air, terropr and fury in his eyes. He struggled to fall forward, clutched at waistband. Elise’s body worked. Her leg pumped. Muffled screams sounded beneath a loose jaw. Gunfire echoed nearer by. Distant feet sprinted over dirty concrete, countering it.
Hailey peered over the trunk. A bullet shattered the window, whizzed past. She shrank with a squeak. Elise’s eyes were fixed on the man clutching his broken jaw. Her body was frozen again, but her mind seemed to be working.
A second round of gunshots sounded, quieter and higher than the others. A sudden scream prompted them to peer through the broken window. A hooded figure was charging the last jumpsuited man. He clutched his arm on the ground beside his dead comrade. Thin steel flashed, and arterial blood joined the rain in a fountain. The figure didn’t hesitate, didn’t miss a beat. Its blood-soaked Katana drew back, its body focused its sprint on the girls.
Elise bolted. Hailey was a half-second behind. They reached the alley’s end. Elise continued onward, gripped by terror and flight. She knew of no other path but forward, through traffic. Horns blared. Brakes squealed. Still they ran. Hailey glanced back, the figure still after them. It hurled itself into the air, cleared a car and half the road, came down to land with a roll, and was up and running again as unaffected as before.
Hailey’s terror mounted, fueling her forward. Elise’s break-neck pace was almost impossible to keep up with, but she managed to keep close. They got far enough along the sidewalk that they were about to leave the figure behind when another van skidded to a stop across the road. Bodies piled out. Elise diverted back into the road. Automatic weapons-fire echoed behind them. Each round was a stab of adrenaline and dose of fear. The sounds were silenced by the same, singular, high-pitch as before.
Hailey caught up at last, pointed them down another alley. They disappeared from sight, wheezing and panting, stumbling and nearly falling mid-run. Hailey chose a door at random, and burst into the darkened backroom of an empty shop. They shut the door and hid, huddled in a nearby corner with their hearts racing and breath ragged.
Before they could think to speak, the door burst open. The hooded figure appeared, cast in black silhouette. Its pistol rose on the corner where they huddled, the deadly blade gleaming like a bloody beacon at its side. Adrenaline surged through Hailey. The pistol sank to the figure’s side. Before she knew what was happening, she found herself charging. The figure side-stepped. Hailey missed her tackle, dove for a wall and fell to the floor instead.
The figure holstered its pistol beneath its cloak and stepped toward Hailey. It shook off its hood, revealing a cascade of golden-flax hair and brown feline eyes. Hailey rolled to the side, stared up at the face of a girl no older than herself. From a distance, she might have looked much younger. Her skin was fairer than Hailey expected, and she was petite, short.
Her eyes surveyed Hailey with a hardened disappointment, “Seers are usually smarter. And better trained. But just finding out will do that.”
She offered Hailey a hand. Hailey remained still, frozen in place. Her eyes darted between the girl and Elise behind her. “Wh-who are you?”
“Yasmine Roma. Most people call me Yaz,” she said stiffly, eyeing her own hand.
Hailey hesitated, then took it. The girl pulled her up; young, but immensely strong.
“Does that mean … you’re a Seer?” Hailey asked.
“No,” she deadpanned.
Elise slowly inched to her feet. She stepped over as if the floor might give way at any second.
Hailey watched her, “Why are you here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” She asked with a rising brow. Hailey squinted in reply. “I was sent to retrieve you and your friend before… well, they got here. I was almost too late. You got lucky. Sorry.” Distant sirens bled in from outside. Yasmine’s ears perked up. She swept the pair with her eyes, “We need to go. I cut down what was here, but others will be looking for you.”
“Why?” Elise finally asked.
Yasmine’s gaze danced between them, “Because she is a Seer, and you know too much.”
“How do you know?”
Her eyes fell to Hailey explicitly, “It doesn’t matter right now. What does is that you come with me. Otherwise, you’ll be hunted down for experimentation and dissection.” They eyed her with equal measures incredulity and horror. She ignored both. “Now or never. Or would you rather I leave you here for them?”
“We’ll go,” they chorused together.
“Good.” She headed outside, pressed a finger at her ear, “Off Jackson. Behind the bar.”
Hailey and Elise followed, however apprehensively. In the distance, emergency lights flashed red and blue, or red and white across buildings and roads. A large pick-up with a bed-cap roared down the alley from the far-side spraying water in puddles. Yasmine directed them to its tailgate, dropped it and raised the cap’s blacked out rear-window. A load of electronics and other gear was fitted inside at the bed’s front. The small windows were covered but accessible and holes had been cut in the inner-liner to blow air from conduits channeled from the cab for climate control.
Yaz climbed in and offered Hailey her hand again. She hesitated, “How do I know we can trust you?”
“I’ll give you a good reason when I think of one.”
The remark was oddly reassuring. Enough that Hailey climbed in and help Elise up after her. Yaz pulled the tailgate up with a length of rope, used another to shut the cap window. The truck began to roll forward as Hailey found herself wondering what the hell she was getting into.