About three hours later, Juni finally fell asleep, she was curled up in her bed, her hands clasped and a faint frown on her face. I left her alone knowing that sleep is what she needed. She still hadn’t told me what exactly she had seen. It frightened me, knowing that she had been scared so badly. I sat on my bed holding the stuffed panther in my hands, thinking.
When the sun finally went down, I tried to get sleep of my own. But I could find no solace in closing my eyes against what I did not know. Like Juni, I was becoming afraid. even if I knew it would happen in the future, there might never be a possibility of changing it.
My world had changed in a matter of days. The change has been for good and now I wanted to do something for Juni, but what was I able to do? I could not think of anything that would be able to help her. As I sat there, I became more lost in my thoughts, thinking that the only thing I could do was stay by her side.
It took me awhile to notice that the room had become darker than it should have been. My eyes could not adjust because the darkness seemed abnormal. Instantly, I became worried for Juni and looked over to make sure she was alright. When I looked over, there was no one on the bed. Now completely wary, I squeezed the panther toy in my hands. It felt reassuring but at the same time it reminded me of my dream so many weeks ago.
I expected the monster bugs from my dream to appear, but luckily they never did. Instead, from the shadows against where the door should have been, a form of a man begin to pull itself away. His entire being was pitch black, his hair, his eyes, even all the way to his skin. It was not a normal black, it was the black of looking into a wormhole, fathomless, and more frightening than most everything the human race knew. When the man finally stepped away from the shadows, he turned toward me, taking a slight step.
“Get away from me,” I told the man, he did not appear to listen to me, just took another step. I scurried back against my bed, the small panther still within my hands. I could not tell what made the man stop but he paused, still almost blending in with the darkness behind him.
“Do not be afraid of me.” The man’s voice was deep, rich and vaguely familiar. As the man took another step, all of the shadows seemed to fall off of him. It was like he had stepped through fog and that fog had erased all evidence of the shadows. Where shadows had once stood, the man from my dreams with the tattoos appeared, staring at me from the end of my bed. I realized then that the tattoos that I had seen before we’re actually the pinpoints where the shadows came from. Even the one beneath his eye, it had yet returned, probably still enveloped in the darkness behind him. I could not move from where I sat, my mind blank.
“Echo,” my name was whispered so softly, I almost didn’t even hear it. “They’re trying to find you, I cannot do anything, I am still weak, lost in between worlds. All I can do is hope my powers are still within you like they were so long ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are a part of me, you are my son.” He reached my side, this entity, and reached out a hand towards my face. I flinched back, but had nowhere to go. His hand touched my face, but his hand was warm; it was unexpected.
Those luminous blue eyes that I had been afraid of my first few days at the academy, stared into mine, my reflection casting away all darkness. My eyes were his. The exact shade.
He blinked once, and smiled. “You look so like your mother, I wish I could see her.” He sighed, it was sorrowful, and lonely. “I’m sorry this is all I can do.” With the final smile on his face, I felt his Tama flow into my skull. It was a fierce power. It felt like everything was beginning and ending at the same time.
“Who are you?” I stammered through the sudden pain.
“My name is Janus.” His smile was fatherly as he took his hand away. He took a step back and the shadows began to take over him again. Those blue eyes, I didn’t think I would be afraid of them any longer. He took another step back, darkness consumed him.
I blinked, struggled to find him to no avail. The pain lessened and with a sigh, I closed my eyes to control it. When I opened them, there was absolutely no darkness in the room, the full moon’s rays touched every part and Juni slept soundly on her bed beside me.
Who was I really? I felt like I needed to find out.
I left Juni in our room and went to go do some research in the library. The library was located on the sixth floor of the main building, it took up the entire floor. At all times, there were students who worked to restock shelves and help find certain books. When one of the students, a bright and cheery female from my English class asked me if I needed help, I shook my head and went into the Ancient History section. Surprisingly, I saw Jaxon in one of the alcoves, his head buried in a book. I let him be and began my own search for clues.
He had said his name was Janus. When I asked the girls at the front desk about the name, they told me that Janus was a name similar to the Roman goddess Juno. So I decided to begin my search with the Roman deities.
The first book I grabbed was a book by someone named Ovid. It detailed all the accomplishments of the Roman gods. I was beginning to lose hope in the book when I got to a passage about Saturn. It depicted Saturn as having given an anonymous man half of his kingdom for parting his knowledge on agriculture. The anonymous man had mysterious black markings etched into his skin.
Knowing I had found a link to Janus, I found a book about Saturn, in this book the story was almost the same, except it told of the man giving his powers to Saturn to help the crops begin to grow. They called him the man of all beginnings. In this book, it said after he helped grow the crops, the mysterious man went away with Apollo.
The third book I grabbed told of a man who knew of every end that would come to pass before it even began. In its final passage, the book stated that a god with black tattoo like markings all over his body was called Janus.
Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions and most importantly, time. He is a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. One face is that of a normal human and the other is where his entire form changes to that of a black panther. Due to his ability, Janus was unable to stay in any of the worlds the gods called home. He opened space itself and disappeared between the worlds, never to be seen again.
Now I knew what Dr. Holloway had meant when she said I was filled with darkness all that time ago. I gripped the satchel in my hand. This man, this god had claimed to be my father.
I was the son of a god. If he was actually, truly my father, then who was my mother? Why had I been abandoned when I was three? I sat there, staring at the book, shell shocked. How come he was able to be around me even though I had the satchel always on me?
“Echo.” I knew it was my name, but I kind of stared up dumbly at the person who called my name. Jaxon stood there, his book underneath his arm, a curious look on his face. He was wearing a dark teal shirt and those ever present dark wash jeans. He quirked an eyebrow at me.
“What?” I asked blankly. He waved the hand with the black band on it around the library. Everyone was gone.
“It is curfew, little mouse.” I still kind of stared at him until it finally processed. The library closed two hours before curfew, why had no one told me that I needed to leave? I jumped out of my seat.
“Crap, crap, crap,” I repeated to myself like a mantra, gathering the three books I had read. I ran to put them away when Jaxon called out to me.
“No need to hurry.” I glanced over at him, from within his pocket he pulled out a key. “I lock up the library every night, I told them to leave you be.”
“You should have just told me to go back to my room.”
“I believe it is a rude thing to pull someone away from a book if they are enraptured within it.”
“Well, thank you.” He just smiled and sat down in the seat I had just vacated, opening up his book to read it while I returned the books. He was still sitting in the same spot when I returned. He stood up without putting the book down, pushed the chair in and then closed the book. If Sam could be described like silk with the way he always flirted and smiled, then Jax was like a rasp, rough around the edges. However, there are things that would have to be scrape off and someone would use a rasp to make them shine. So maybe a rasp was of better use than silk because it had the ability to show the beauty beyond the surface.
Jax locked the library door behind us and he walked me all the way through the silent academy and to the entrance to my dorm. The both of us were silent, fine being just in the company of each other. When we reached the door, Jax nodded his head toward me.
“Sweet dreams, little mouse.” He turned his back, walking back to his dorm, the book still under his arm, and his hands in his pockets. He looked like a content cat coming back from a long night stroll. Thinking that put a smile on my face and I turned around and walked into the dorm. Everything was becoming so much more than I had ever dreamed it could be.
As Juni had predicted, everything began to fall down hill three days later. The day started out normal, all classes the same. When Juni and I reached our Cognitive Reasoning class, I noticed that Ethan, the fey who smelled like flowers, was not in his seat. When I asked everyone where he was, no one had seen him. Apparently, Ethan was one of the Tama users that could not have a roommate due to his powers. At night, his powers came out the most, he was able to speed up the growth of any object. When he fell asleep, his powers could even potentially age any roommate of his.
I asked Sam at the end of class to check on Ethan in his room, just to make sure he was alright. I pulled my shoulder length black hair up into a small ponytail to help keep my bangs out of my eyes. Both Juni and I were wearing jeans and hoodies. While my hoodie was a bright teal, hers was a light green. Juni and I waited by the entrance to the other dorm. We were talking nonchalantly about all of our classes, when Sam came running out of the door.
“Go get the Mad Hatter.” Juni and I shared a look and took off running as fast as we could. We found the Hatter teaching a class. The moment he saw us, he knew it was what we had been waiting for. Everything was going to change.
Because Juni had seen the vision in the first place, we were allowed to go into the other dorms. The moment we stepped over the threshold, I could feel the Tama all over the room. It was like a blast of cold air to the entire system. The room was destroyed. There were clothes everywhere, and the faint smell of lemons lingered in the air. Among the scattered clothes, I saw what appeared to be the paw prints from a panther.
I remembered Janus’ words about them trying to find me. Who were they? And was Ethan being taken because of me? If it was because of me, then I had to try to find a way to do something. From all the signs within the room, we knew that Ethan had been taken. There were signs of a struggle from mystery marks on the wall. Juni had said that we would find something similar. She just did not know who had taken him. I felt that it was our job to keep an eye out. Sam stood beside us watching our reactions, he looked worried. The Hatter’s eyes jumped to Sam, widened then his face became a mask. We got shooed out of the room.
“I don’t like this Echo,” Juni was saying to me as we walked across the now busy courtyard. “It feels as if someone is controlling everything that is happening to us.” I had yet to tell her about my dreams with Janus and that I believed I was truly a god’s son. If what my father said was true, then these people were after me and not anyone else. I looked over at Juni, the only friend that I had made since I began my life at the Academy.
“I’ve got something to tell you.”