It was the beginning of September, and the beginning of a new school year. A proud fourteen-year-old boy, no longer among the ranks of simple Middle school kids, smiled as he stepped past the open doors of Fort Nor High School.
The skinny sun-tanned boy was slightly shorter than average. His most distinguishing feature was a single strand of golden hair amid his otherwise raven-black hair.
“Ah, my class is this way. I’ll see you after school, Arnold.” The soft, sweet voice came from the girl walking next to him. Tall, and lean, the girl’s long blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail.
Arnold waved goodbye as his childhood friend disappeared into her classroom. Now alone, Arnold dug into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. Upon reading it, he found the nearest flight of stairs and climbed to the next floor.
After a few minutes of searching the second floor, Arnold found his destination. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door to room 2-08. Well, at least he tried to. Arnold frowned, as the door wouldn’t budge. Confused, he looked into the window covering the top half of the door. To Arnold’s surprise there was a boy pushing against the door on the other side. The boy grinned as their eyes locked, and he pulled open the door a second later.
“Just messing with you.” The boy emerged from the classroom, and extended out his hand. “I’m Carl.”
Slightly taken aback, Arnold shook hands with Carl, and realized they were standing eye to eye; they were exactly the same height.
“Nice tan by the way,” Carl said, still grinning. “I wish my skin was like yours.”
Carl raised his left arm and pointed to his face. Indeed, Carl’s skin was light and pearly. However, in stark contrast, Carl’s messy bed-hair was a bright red color. Arnold noticed that Carl was wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt, despite it still being summer.
“Uh- thanks,” Arnold replied. “I went to the beach a lot this summer.”
“My cousin loves the beach.” Carl’s smile disappeared as he said those words. He turned to the side, stared blankly into the distance, and softly whispered, almost inaudibly, “…And I love my cousin.”
Arnold frowned, and leaned closer. “What?”
Carl abruptly turned back to face Arnold, and smiled. “Nothing. Hey, let’s sit down. We’re actually the first ones to get here.”
“Right…” Shrugging off the slightly creepy vibe that Arnold was getting from his new red-haired acquaintance, Arnold followed Carl into the room.
Looking around, Arnold noticed that the classroom had six big wooden square tables, with chairs on each side of the table. Carl sat down at a table on the opposite side of the room, where a window was located.
Arnold went over and peeked outside the window, but was disappointed when he realized there was an apartment building adjacent to the school, and it filled up the entirety of the view.
Arnold was about to look away, when a slight movement caught his eye. He focused on one of the apartment’s windows and, behind a pale curtain, was able to make out the silhouette of a woman taking off her shirt. Arnold’s young mind blasted into full gear; the focus of his eyes became so mentally intense that had they been lasers instead of mere sight organs they would have melted away those annoying curtains blocking his view.
“You see that, too?” Arnold’s little fantasy was interrupted when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Carl’s grinning face next to him.
Realizing he was caught, blood rushed to Arnold’s face, but due to his tanned skin only a tinge of dark red could be seen.
“It’s all right, I used to spy on my cousin all the time,” Carl said reassuringly, trying to relieve Arnold of his embarrassment.
…That doesn’t make me feel better at all, Arnold thought. And what the hell was that about your cousin? “…You spied on your cousin…?”
Carl scratched his chin. “Well, I still do. But I used to, too.”
Arnold gave Carl a puzzled look. “What’s up with you and cousins-” Upon hearing the word, Carl jumped up from his seat in a frenzy and leaned his face towards Arnold’s. The sudden movement surprised the dark-tanned boy, causing him to jump backwards as well, such that he was now stuck between Carl and the window.
“I thought you’d never ask!” Carl said enthusiastically. “Cousins are magical creatures, Arnold. Their magnificence is unmatched, and my love for them is unmatched!”
Arnold backed up against the window, as he tried to figure out a way to escape.
“Hey, Arnold. You have a cousin, right?” Carl said, still smiling.
Carl’s face was now inches from Arnold’s. Arnold frantically looked around the room but no other students had came in yet. What the hell? It’s the first day of school Arnold thought. Where the hell are all of you?
“No…?” Arnold uttered.
Carl's face turned dark. "Don't lie to me, Arnold."
"Okay, okay, I have a cousin. Happy?" Arnold was beginning to panic now.
Carl’s face absolutely lit up upon hearing those words. “Hey,” He said. “Let me get a picture of her.”
“What? No!” Arnold yelled, as he contemplated making a run for the classroom door. “You’re creeping me out, dude.”
Carl’s smile disappeared and he forcefully grabbed Arnold’s shirt collar. “Give me a picture of her, Arnold.”
What. The. Fuck. Arnold screamed and pushed Carl away from him. Carl gave out a surprised yell as he fell backwards. Carl’s head hit the edge of the table behind him with a dull thud, and he collapsed to the ground.
Arnold's breaths came in heavy rasps. Holy Shit. Arnold was now panicking for an entirely different reason.
As Arnold went to help Carl, he froze. The blood drained out of Arnold’s face and his already intense level of panic skyrocketed even higher, as he realized there was a girl standing at the doorway with a horrified look on her face.
“N-no,” Arnold stuttered. “This isn’t what it looks like.”
The girl rushed over to Carl, who was now lying sprawled on floor, motionless.
“Are you alright? Can you hear me?” she asked, as she kneeled down next to Carl.
Carl opened one eye wearily and nodded. Shaking, he sat up, and touched the back of his head. “Shit…it hurts.” Carl raised his left arm and shakily pointed to Arnold. "H-he did this to me."
“Come on, I’ll take you to the nurse,” the girl said, helping Carl get up. She turned to Arnold and glared at him. “Do you feel good about yourself now?"
“Wait, you don’t understand,” Arnold cried out. “This guy was talking about cousins. He-” Arnold stopped as he quickly realized how utterly bat-shit crazy that explanation was.
The girl gave Arnold a “what’re you talking about?” face before the she led Carl out of the room.
Left alone, Arnold slumped down into a chair as he tried to make sense of what had just happened.