Kati Skon

One. Waking up.


A ray of sun tapped gently on Madelyn’s shoulder, attempting to rouse her from her sleep. She groaned slightly and turned her face away from the large window beside her bed. She hadn’t stolen a glance at the clock, but she surmised that the time for her to tread into the sunlight was close at hand.


In her mind, Madelyn played with the fact that perhaps it was not as early as it seemed, and the sunrays were calling to her too soon. But then, as if to spectacularly shoot down her thoughts, the ray tapped her again. This time it accompanied its tap with a small whisper: “Get up, Miss Madelyn.”


Madelyn jumped up from her slumber, causing the long curls that had rested on her pillow to fall upon her shoulders. She suddenly realized she was very cold; through the course of the night her blanket had mostly retreated from her bed. Only a small section of the cloth remained covering her waist.

She mumbled, “I’m up, Mr. Sun Ray”, although she knew he had already faded deep into the morning sky. Madelyn stumbled out of bed still wearing the dress and high heels from the club she had attended the night before.


Looking in the mirror, she saw the same thing she saw every morning. Her make-up was smeared in just the right way to cause her to resemble a raccoon. She ran her fingers through her messy, untamable hair and tried to contrive a plan to rescue her appearance. Only ten minutes remained before the start of her class.



Kaden was up before his alarm clock went off. While keeping his eyes fixed on the mirror, he reached behind himself and smacked the button to silence his screeching alarm. Leaning forward into the mirror, he carefully crafted strands of his blond hair into chunky spikes.

The spikes did not, however, hold the entirety of his awareness. Inside Kaden’s head, many other random thoughts scrambled around trying the reach the forefront of the young student’s crowded mind. At the moment, no thought in particular could  remain in his consciousness any longer than minuscule seconds.


One thought did manage to highjack his thoughts eventually, as the thought’s keeper finished sculpting his hair to perfection and had begun to practice smiling for the ever-inviting mirror.

The thought dangling in front of Kaden’s awareness was not simply an ordinary thought. It was the kind of thought that Kaden had given much more power to; it was a goal. And this goal was not simply a goal. This goal’s terms had been repeated in his head numerous times before disappearing into sleep.


The young thought keeper smiled charismatically at the glossy clone of himself encased behind the mirror.

“By the end of this week, everyone will know my name.”



The most powerful light that shone in Rian’s room was the dim glow of a computer monitor. With one flustered hand, he reached up and touched one of the large speakers pumping music directly into his ears. He hated confining the music to dance only in his headphones. The rhythm pushed desperately on Rian’s ears, urgently begging to be released into the lifeless room imprisoning their frantically typing master.


Rian’s lips longed to sing or hum or even just whisper their melody to the enormous darkness for them, but he already owed a debt to the ungracious word document before him.

But the debt would soon have to be repaid. One glance stolen at the clock informed Rian that this engagement would have to be wrapped up in a matter of minutes. He increased his speed of typing and very quickly found himself triumphantly pressing down on the final key to unlock him from this digital prison.


After victoriously turning off the computer and grabbing his beat-up skateboard, Rian and his headphones shoved through the door into the world beyond.


Two. Messenger.

Before. Class one.


This was the word that Madelyn caught crawling from the teacher’s mouth as she glanced up from her internal conversation with the charming sunrays that had managed to squeeze into the classroom through the shades. Even if these sunrays had not distracted her, surely her friendly pencil or her enthusiastic binder would have drawn her attention away from the center of the classroom.


“…in the mist of many changes. Anomie is a state of normlessness for an individual or a group. Research has revealed…”


Why could she not focus today? Something was blocking her focus, oh if only she knew what it was! This all sounded very relevant. Madelyn herself had often felt consumed by an inability to discern how she should live up to the expectations of her new environment. Was she in a state of anomie? The way in which she was meant to live out her life did not seem clear at all, and quite naturally she often wished for it to be. She stole a glace across the room and spotted an extraordinarily beautiful girl focused intently on the lecture.


Oh, how Madelyn wished she could be like that girl! Why could she not be that startlingly lovely and majestically attentive? She longed to be just like the girl, and as she wished this, the magnificent girl looked over at her and smiled a knowing smile. Madelyn’s wish then changed. She simply wanted to speak with this brilliant girl.


Before. Persuasion.

Kaden spotted a group of freshmen chatting enthusiastically when he reached the second floor. This was it. He had to do it. He took a deep breath and pressed forward towards to chipper group of his peers.


“Hello, I don’t know if any of you know me. I’m Kaden and I’m running for President of the student body.”


He flashed the group a spectacular smile and began handing out the fliers he had spent most of the morning printing out. He ignored their expressions as he could already surmise that they ranged from smirks to vacant glances. Instead, he used the inevitable silence that followed his introduction to press on with his prepared speech.

“I just want all of you to know that I am here for you. If you have any questions or want any more information, feel free to contact me. My e-mail and room number are on those fliers.”

The girl nearest to Kaden lifted her head and forced a pathetic smile.


“Okay, thanks.”


Kaden, wanting to end things on a hopeful note, spoke even as he backed away from the now quiet group.


“So… if there are no questions –“


“No,” interrupted a smirking male in the group. “There aren’t. Thanks.”


Before. Class two.

The girl was in Madelyn’s math class as well. How had she not noticed her before? Between working out the oppressing math problems that plagued the defenseless white board, Madelyn stole glances at the unmatched beauty. Right now the sunrays could wait. Madelyn had to force herself to understand this enigmatic concept the professor was forcing her to comprehend.

The professor, grey from head to toe, paced from one end of the dull, white classroom to the other watching his captives scribble notes frantically onto the unsuspecting, but always accepting, sheets of paper before them.


When it seemed that a bulk of the students’ had laid down their pencils, the professor addressed his class.


“Is there a Condorcet winner?”


Madelyn was not yet finished working out the problem, but she was far enough to muster a hypothesis. She lightly scribbled her answer, “No.” onto the exhausted paper before her.

When none of the students took it upon themselves to respond to the question, the professor answered in their place: “Yes, there is.”


Turning his back to the class to explain this conclusion on the board, the professor’s dialog suddenly became increasingly difficult to grasp. Madelyn’s world once again focused on the lovely paragon sitting two rows in front of her.


The Paragon.
Madelyn raced through the classroom, navigating carefully and forcefully through swarms of dispassionate students. The opportunity to speak with this beautiful girl would not slip through her fingers. She ignored the ‘hello’s and ‘how are you’s of friends as she forced open the stubborn, heavy door, she surveyed the vast sea of students beyond. It seemed highly unlikely that The Paragon had already left the human maze Madelyn faced. Her head flew left, right, behind, beside, above, below. No evidence of The Paragon’s presence met Madelyn’s desperate eyes.

Disappointed, Madelyn cast a glance up to the windows sparkling above her scrambling peers. A glare from the glass guided Madelyn’s vision to a murky hallway down which she had never journeyed. In fact, Madelyn was not even certain if she had ever noticed the existence of the gloomy hall before. Without hesitation, she threw herself into the human ocean and relied on her minimal strength to keep from being pulled off course by the powerful currents. When she finally arrived at the overlooked hallway, she was disoriented and panting.

Down the hallway she walked and stopped and walked and feared and walked. At the end of the gaping doorless hall The Paragon waited. Half of her body was obscured by shadows and just one of her glistening eyes was observable. In her right hand she clutched a faintly shimmering spear. To her guest, she spoke in a soft whisper.

“Madelyn. Welcome.”

Madelyn became overwhelmed with intimidation. Could she even find the energy to speak? Madelyn drank the tense air deep into her lungs and let out a weak stream of words to illustrate the desires of her heart.

“Please!” she begged. “Please tell me how to be like you!”

“As you are, you will never be like me.” Madelyn was paralyzed as she watched the observable half of The Paragon’s lips moved. “There are so many hideous traits you hide inside your soul. But of course, I can remove all the traits you try to hide and cleanse you of all your flaws.”
“Would you?” Madelyn requested.

Taking the spear in both hands, The Paragon thrust the glinting point directly into Madelyn’s heart. Her soul was shattered.


Three. Meetings.

The Soul.
The discarded pieces of Madelyn’s soul wandered aimlessly. They were helpless and invisible without a master. An hour of pacing brought them back to the dark corridor where the abandonment had occurred. They complained to each other about how their master had so quickly found them worthless. But they knew they were not worthless. Together they could be powerful…


Matt and Kaden.

The topmost floor of school library was a perpetually unpopular location. As Kaden perused the lifeless aisles he expected to remain entirely alone. It was to his surprise that as he searched for books he began to hear footsteps behind each shelf he scoured. He did not catch sight of the individual responsible for the sound and thus began to wonder if his stressful day had adversely affected his grasp on reality. He frowned and strolled over to an obscurely located chair. It was then that the dim lights revealed the shadow of another person. Kaden was among company; an anonymous company that had been betrayed by illumination.


He turned on impulse, his nerves begged to know this stranger’s identity. The student he found himself in the presence of was someone he had never seen.  Kaden did not expect this – he had made it a point to recognize most of the faces on campus. Perhaps this student was an antisocial bookworm?


Beyond the unknown identity of the student, Kaden found himself unable to discern the gender of this fresh face. He/she had a petite build and delicate features partnered with the dress and mannerisms of a male. Kaden estimated the kid a man, but needed a name for assurance. He forced himself to revert to his smiley politician persona.


“Hello,” he said amicably, extending his right hand. “I don't believe we've met. I'm Kaden.”

The mysterious student, wearing a smirk beneath his intense eyes, grabbed Kaden's hand.  Rather than fulfilling societal expectations by shaking it, the student lifted Kaden's hand to his/her lips and planted a soft kiss.


“Nice to meet you, Kaden.” The voice was rough and sounded masculine. His most-likely male peer continued, “I was kinda wondering if you could help me.”


Kaden forced himself to stay composed but his glowing smile refused to continue accompanying him. What was happening? What was wrong with this socially inept freak? He gently, but deliberately, tugged his hand back to safety.


“What's wrong?” Kaden asked, attempting to revive his smile and simulate kindness.


“Oh, I'm fine.” the strange student responded. “You just caught my attention.”


“But... but you wanted something.”


The kid laughed. What was so funny? Kaden began grinding his teeth together.


Clearly observing Kaden's disgust, the boy began his vaguely unsettling explanation, “At lunch, you sat with some brats at the table next to mine. Some of the shit you said inspired me, even if it was a little fucked up. The world's a crappy place, but you still wanna clean it up. That's good stuff. I was wondering if you could teach me how to be like you.”


With enormous effort, Kaden forced himself to laugh and make a joke. “So you've been following me?”


“Yeah,” the boy answered in earnest. “Since lunch.”


Matt and Madelyn.

In her room, Madelyn housed posters depicting video game characters from her childhood. Her favorite virtual hero, Link, had earned a special spot directly beside her bedpost. The first thing she remembered subsequent to the shattering of her heart was tumbling out of bed. From the spot where she landed, she had a splendid view of Link, the handsome champion in green. Her heart shivered inside her chest, and she felt and overpowering sensation that she was missing something precious. She longed to search for whatever she had lost. All passion had drained from her. Her muscles refused to move.


Link’s heroic stance inspired her, eventually. Staring at the glossy print gave her a spark of self-control that she was able to strategically move throughout her body, until much of the apathy hindering her has been neutralized. She stood up feebly and stumbled to her mirror. To her shock, instead of giving Madelyn the usual image of herself, today the mirror revealed another person behind the glass. A boy with terrifying green eyes was hunched over the wood dresser before him, staring at Madelyn through the glass expectantly with a cocky smile.

“Who are you?” Madelyn whispered.


Without answering her question, the boy vanished. In his place, Madelyn faced her own reflection. She let out a distressed squeak. Never before had she noticed just how ugly she was. She despised the curls in her hair, the shape of her eyes, the size of her face, and the tone of her skin. There was nothing remotely beautiful in the shiny glass before her. Looking this horrendous how could she even exit her room again? How had she ever let herself leave before?


Rian and Madelyn.

 Rhythm pulsed through Rian's hands onto the yellow keys. The piano was out of tune, but this did not bother him. All he sought was slight functionality. Study breaks always called for musical celebrations. He longed to unleash the sounds of his soul; to express the woes of studying by sending affectionate quarter notes soaring through the dingy dorm lobby.

A clicking sound approaching distasted his sonic meditation. He opened his eyes in time to spot a co-worker of his striding past the piano.


“Madelyn! Hey!” he called.


The girl stopped abruptly and whirled around to face him. Realizing it was Rian that had called to her, her intense glare gave way to a smile.


“Oh, hi! I liked your song.”


“No you didn't.” Rian chuckled and shook his head.


“Oh, well, I would have liked it if your instrument... er, keyboard... er, piano had been in tune.” Madelyn defended.


Another laugh sprang from Rian's lips. Madelyn was looking particularly adorable today. He wanted to keep her with him.


“You should play me something.” he offered.


“I don't play – I don't play piano.” Madelyn replied.


“For the kinda thing I'm doing, you don't need to know anything about piano.” coached Rian. “I just feel the music. Anybody can do that. Even the ghost in 207. In fact, you should play a song about haunted 207.”


Madelyn giggled. “Maybe some other time. I have to go. Tell Leah I said hi.” Madelyn's heels commenced their conspicuous clicking as she hurried off.


Rian, feeling sore from Madelyn's intentional acknowledgement of his fiancé, lowered his head to the piano keys.  “You hear that?” he whispered. “Her shoes are singing to us now. Let's make it a duet.” But the keys did not respond to Rian. The rhythm inside him weakened. There was an intense darkness that lingered in his crush's wake. The corner behind the stairwell from which Madelyn had entered seemed especially bleak. Without his inspiration, he transformed from a musician into a hopelessly lovesick boy with a busted piano.


Four. Fear.


The boy's name was Matt, and he was astonishingly persistent. Though Kaden had attempted to imply that he had no time to be a mentor, Matt tagged along with him constantly. One plus of having a self-proclaimed sidekick was the eagerness the boy showed towards helping Kaden in every minute endeavor.


One day, after several hours of unsuccessful attempts to print table tents in the computer lab, it was clear that Matt's ambition was thinning. He slumped so far down that his chin rested on the desk next to Kaden's keyboard.


“There is no reason for this to be so complicated.” muttered Kaden, hands furiously flying across the keys.

“Let's take a break now. I need to smoke.” offered his disenchanted comrade.

“You can go. I'm just gonna take a few more -”

“That's what you said twenty minutes ago.” Matt stated.

Kaden scoffed. “It hasn't been twenty minutes. Stop being melodramatic.” 

“Yes, it has! I've been watching the fucking clock this entire time!” growled Matt.

Annoyed, but unable to argue, Kaden promptly locked his computer and rose from his seat.

“Okay. Fine. Let's go take a break.” he grumbled.

Matt leaped up from his seat and followed Kaden out of the lab. Once the two found themselves seated on a bench beneath the warm sun, Matt pulled out his cigarettes. His lighter sparkled in the consuming light.

“It's a pretty nice day.” noted Kaden as he watched students pass. It was far too bright to look directly at the sky.

Matt didn't reply right away. He instead breathed out a long strand of smoke that slowly transformed into a dragon. “Nature is much better company than humans.” he finally stated, tilting his head and watching the dragon sore elegantly into the sun.

Kaden turned to his companion, perplexed. “How's that?”

“Well, nature doesn't trick ya like people do.” Matt let out another puff of smoke. This puff fell to the ground and transformed itself into a lucent gray tree. “People fake everything, especially compassion. No one really gives a shit about anyone else – they're too scared to.”

Kaden was indignant. “People are better than you think. You're just jaded.”

“Even you, you're just faking it. Like everyone else.” Matt smirked. “You don't care about me at all. And if you had any balls, you'd say it.”

Rage swelled inside of Kaden. What was Matt's problem? What right did he have to assume he could comprehend the minds of other people? He wanted to punch the punk. Instead, he responded,

“Well, then, brat, if you're so honest, prove it.”

“I never said I was honest, but I'll prove that I can be.” Matt replied.

He stood up and strutted over to a stocky blond boy approaching the computer lab.

Matt, noticeably shorter even than the boy before him, got as close to his victim's face as he could. “Jack Martin, you are an asshole and a manwhore.” he declared. Without waiting for a response, Matt turned to march triumphantly towards Kaden.

Kaden was still cackling when Matt rejoined him.

“Well?” smirked Matt.

“It was something that needed to be said.” Kaden replied. “Let’s go back in now.”

A foggy spider crawled from Matt's lips as he leaned back. “Naw, I kinda wanna throw stray cats at that crazy street preacher downtown.”

“Yeah, we're not going to do that.” Kaden responded as he watched Jack angrily converse with his posse. “Maybe the student workers in the lab have figured out how to print our tents by now.”

Matt smirked at his mentor. “They hate you in there, man. You always manage to gum up their printers with your absurdly complex paper needs. Let's do something else.”


Madelyn seated herself on the tattered wooden bench and placed her fingers on the filthy keys. Rian had convinced her to play him a song on the old piano living in their lobby. She gazed at the grime, terrified. How was this going to work? Inevitably, the notes that left her fingers would be chaotic and harsh on her listener’s ears. Why was Rian doing this to her?

Rian slipped onto the bench beside her and positioned his chin atop her shoulder. “Just close your eyes and play what’s on your heart.” he whispered.

Madelyn hated when Rian got like this. A part of her wanted to shove the pesky musician off the bench. She refrained from doing so because there certainly was a song on her heart. Closing her eyes, as instructed, she allowed herself to disappear into what remained of her soul. Her fingers tapped the keys they felt drawn too. The song must have sounded dreadful to Rian, but Madeyln continued trying to express her feelings in a melody of sorrow and storms. She felt Rian's head pull away from her and her eyes shot open. She threw her gaze towards him and saw his mouth set agape.


“W-what?” inquired Madelyn. “Was it that awful?”


Rian shook his head, “Oh no, I thought it would probably suck. But those last notes sounded almost like a real song.”


Madelyn nodded. “The rain's song.”


Matt ran his hand across the top of the lobby's beat-up piano as he headed for the stairwell. Just as he lifted his right foot above the first step, he realized how uncharacteristically dark the space around him was. For behind the stairs emanated daunting intensity, indicating that there loomed an enemy invisible to the naked eye.

“Who are you?” hissed Matt, whipping his head around to scan for the perpetrator. “Show yourself.”

At Matt's command the deepest of the shadows rearranged themselves until they materialized into a fierce, dusky canine. The beast snarled at Matt and leaped towards him. Matt dove against the nearest wall to avoid the attack and began to laugh.

“Oh it’s you! Pitiful monster.” he retaliated. “Go back to your stupid master. I won't let you do anything to Kaden.”

The beast turned its back to its current adversary and sniffed and snarled at the ground. It darted away from Matt, following its nose. The monster paced around the piano and bench twice before pouncing on the piano. Its translucent claws tore through the worn wood, crashing its hind legs against the keys. His destruction resulted in a horrific melody illustrated with shards of tarnished wood.

With the monster now engrossed in other activities, Matt allowed himself to tremble. Though he had laughed, Fear had terrified him. He staggered up the stairs, dropping a copper key labeled “207”.

Down the deep puddle Madelyn plunged. She was tugged, twisted, and twirled around in the liquid abyss as bubbles cascaded around her. The brutal tumbling subsided quickly, and she subsequently drifted hopelessly into the vast pool. She recalled story of how she had found herself beneath the water…

The skies had heard Madelyn’s rain song and wasted no time in composing a countermelody of raindrops. After escaping her menacing math class, Madelyn had discovered that the clouds had poured water on her campus the entire day. Ordinarily, she would have stood in the rain and let the cool water drench her curls. But The Paragon had not deemed her love of nature a necessary trait to sustain. Today she waited patiently inside the glass doors and glared at the water threatening to destroy her carefully styled hair. She remained stationed by the exit until she discovered a student willing to share an umbrella.

Madelyn and her aid were headed back to the dormitory when Madelyn caught sight of Fear. At first, she assumed the bulky black dog in the distance a trick of the eyes. But neither blinking nor looking away could rid her vision of the lucent fiend before her. The canine howled and scrambled towards the two students. Madelyn’s companion paid no notice to the creature, continuing to walk as though no imminent threat endangered them. Conversely, Madelyn screamed, dropping her books. It was when she took a frightened step backwards that she found herself plummeting into the watery void disguised as a tiny puddle.
Down she drifted, her heart aching more the further she fell from the sun. She wished she had never shattered her soul. How disgusting she was now. She felt so empty. She had lost an utterly irreplaceable part of her to The Paragon. Oh, how she hated the deceptive glare of light that had directed her down that fateful hallway.

Though the sun could not hear its distressed friend’s voice, it was not blind. A sunray meandered through the water and wrapped Madelyn in warmth. She fought to stay conscious as her loyal companion dried up the water around her and dragged her upward until she was lying on damp concrete. She coughed desperately and attempted to sit up. She longed to thank the sunray for what he had done for her, but in her current state Madelyn could not speak to the sun’s messenger.

Five. Failure.
Madelyn’s eyes shot open. She abruptly sat up in bed to face the boy slouched on her futon.
“Where have you been?” she inquired urgently.
“Y’know… around.” responded Matt halfheartedly as he deconstructed her computer mouse.
“Please come back!” Madelyn begged. “The world is bleak with half a soul.”
Matt scoffed. “Yeah right. Even before you abandoned me you were ignoring me. I’m sick of being locked in the dark.”
“Can’t you see how dreadful I’ve become?” Madelyn let out a pathetic whimper.
“Well, yeah. Duh. But that’s not my problem anymore.” Matt retorted.
Madelyn snatched her alarm clock and jerked its plug from the wall. Angrily, she thrust it at Matt.
Matt barely dodged the clock.
“Fine, bitch. I’ll get the fuck out of here.” 


Kaden and Madelyn.

As the election day grew nearer, Kaden found himself inclined to rush everywhere even if he had no reason to. The day he was scheduled to give his pre-election speech (which he was panicking over), he shot through the doors of the computer lab, clenching a folder filled with his presentation notes. The moment he existed the cumbersome wood doors, his broad shoulder bumped into someone. This someone tumbled pathetically her knees, losing her grip on the books in her hand.


“Oh, drat.” Her mumble was barely audible. As she leaned to gather her belongings, her long curls obscured her expression.


Kaden's heart picked up pace. He was internally smothered with the demanding desire to progress his day, but it would have been rude, not to mention bad for his campaign, if he ditched a fallen girl. He hopped to the floor and attempted to look into the girl's face as he declared, “I'm so sorry, let me help you!”


The girl looked up at Kaden and smiled. Kaden froze, and his desire to hurry melted away. Her fierce eyes seemed so familiar.


“Do I, uh, do I know-” Kaden was interrupted by his vibrating cell phone and. “Stay where you are!” he requested as he flipped opened his phone and scurried outside to answer his caller.

Jogging into the piercing sunlight, Kaden was slightly irked to hear that it was Matt's voice on the other end.


“Dude. Come to the auditorium right now. We need to talk.” Matt demanded.


“Okay, well, can you hold on? I'm by the library right now.” Kaden remarked. He did not want to go to the auditorium, because he was – quite frankly – terrified of giving speeches. This speech had caused him tremendous stress. As Kaden let these daunting ideas take control of his mind, the rainwater around him accumulated into one mighty wave behind him. He heard a girl yelp, and turned around to see someone collapse on the covered bridge. Unsure of what to expect, he raced for the bridge, but as he advanced, it seemed the shadows shoved him back among the vigorous wave of rain water following behind him. The gigantic wave wasted no time in swallowing up Kaden.


Music notes.

Madelyn had no reason to believe Kaden Christoper, of all people, would seriously return with vital information. Besides, she had a paper to print before her ten o'clock class. Inside the computer lab, she spotted Rian and waved.

Rian torn off his headphones as Madelyn approached. “Listen to this new song I wrote!” he commanded.


Madelyn smiled in spite of herself, “I don't know if I should. I have to be in class in 10 minutes.”

“And it's a three minute song. Chillax.” reassured Rian. Without asking, he placed his headphones on top of her ears and jumped to the computer to restart his song.

Rian's song started out with a soft piano part, clearly not recorded on the piano in their dormitory. The soothing rhythm swept through Madelyn. She closed her eyes to drink in the calming sounds. The piano then gave way to techno beats. Madelyn reopened her eyes and found that the computer lab had been replaced by endless blackness. The only light radiated from glowing music notes that floated from above to dance with her. Rian was there with her and the music. They were free to dance and leap and somersault to their heart's content. Madelyn nearly forgot her soul was incomplete.


Madelyn twirled among the beat until she fell onto the invisible ground, exhausted. She gazed at a quarter note floating overhead and smiled.


“I was a little too ambitious before, wasn't I?”she murmured to the luminous note, feeling strangely relaxed. “I should have just been content with how I was.”


To the girl's surprise, she heard the note respond. It whispered, “How is it wrong to strive to be better? Why would you not wish to be inspired by the positive actions of others?”


Madelyn giggled. “I thought I was asking the questions.”


But the quarter note had brought to light important traits Madelyn had forgotten she once had possession of. She had been so loyal and honest before her soul was damaged. Why had the Paragon sent away those traits? The song ended, and Madelyn and Rian faded back to the computer lab.


Madelyn signed blissfully. The notes within a song, she realized, were often far more important than the note on which a song ends. Couldn’t life be lived this way as well? She stood by Rian’s computer in contentment for a moment, unaware that a giant beast had entered the lab and was now lurking behind her.



“Okay, well, can you hold on? I'm by the library right now.”


That was the statement that preceded the dreadful sound of gushing water. Then there was silence. Phones did tend to short out when in contact with massive amounts of water.

Terrified, Matt grabbed his jacket and dashed for the library. He sprinted so fast that by the time he reached the covered bridge in front of the library he was dripping with sweat. At the entrance of the bridge, he stopped for a moment, slumping against a tree to catch his breath. Grimacing and grasping his right knee, he looked up intending to search for a sign of Kaden.


To his horror, on the bridge he spotted Madelyn. She lay unconscious, surrounded by a murky haze. It was the same haze that had plagued his dormitory's stairwell days before. He rushed to her side, yanking off the headphones binding her ears. His anger at her partially subsided. Against Fear, she stood no chance. While she had been able to retain the reason and passion of her soul, her spirit (and with it courage) had been sent away by The Paragon.


Glancing over the edge the bridge for any sign of help, Matt this time spotted Kaden drifting among the river's brown waves. Leaving Madelyn, he darted off the bridge, shaking the clamorous wet wood with his feet. Down the muddy river bank he tore, slipping and stumbling in his attempts to reach his mentor quicker. He screamed Kaden's name over and over, in hopes that the zealous student would awaken.


He dove into the water and splashed through the waves until he reached Kaden.  Grabbing his mentor's pale, clammy palms, Matt jerked him from the harshest section of current. Once Matt had tugged Kaden to calmer waters, he heaved his comrade onto his shoulders and struggled to lug him towards shore.


Arriving at the water's end, Matt tossed Kaden to the ground and sunk his fingers into the mud, gasping for air. He continued to wheeze as he leaned over Kaden, staring at his damp face. He pressed hands against Kaden's chest and tried to perform an amateur version of CPR compressions. After a minute had passed he resorted to an attempt at breathing life back into Kaden. He wished he had more experience with this human world! If Madelyn had not been a lifeguard in high school he would have known nothing at all. Despite his inexperience, his efforts proved worthwhile. After several minutes, Kaden began to cough as he spit a stream of water.

Kaden gaped at his savior and uttered words Matt imaged only someone who had just been rescued from a river would speak, “What's going on?! What time is it?”


 Matt gently placed his hand on Kaden’s shoulder, wanting to calm him, “It’s like 10:30 or something. Just relax.”


“10:30?! My speech is at -” Kaden’s yells caused him to choke. He coughed seven times before he was able to finish his sentence. This time he whispered his panicked words,

“My speech is at 11:00.”


“I just found you unconscious in the river!” Matt exclaimed. “You shouldn’t be worrying about your dumb speech!”


Kaden laid his head back on the slimy riverbank, gawking vacantly at Matt. Matt figured he must have been taking in the alarming news. Finally, he spoke.


“I have to go. I can’t give up now.” He paused.  “This is why you’ll never be like me. I know I need to make it to that speech. When things get just a little bit hard for you, you just give up and go do something fun and relaxing.”


Matt squinted at his mentor. Seriously? “You do realize you almost fucking died, right?” he hissed.


Kaden’s face shone with pride and triumph as he addressed his friend, “And what better trait for Student Body President than one who would address them directly after escaping the claws of death.”


“You mean they want a delirious psychopath?” Matt asked with a spark of sarcasm. “Because if you went to your speech like this, that’s basically what they’d think you were.”


“They’d think I was a hero.” whispered Kaden.


“We need to get you to a hospital.” Matt declared. He frantically tried to recall the closet phone and remembered that Madelyn remained captivated by Fear.


Slowly, a plan formed in his head. He could save both of them. The computer lab contained a phone. He looked down at Kaden, who was examining the mud on his formerly white t-shirt.

He strained a smile and bid his companion farewell, “See ya, Kaden. Thanks for everything.”

Kaden looked confused, “You’re leaving? You need to help me get to the auditorium!”

“I’m gonna call for help.” Matt soothed. “Don’t worry. Say ‘hi’ to Madelyn for me.”

He winked and strung up to advance towards the library.



Matt tossed his final match to the ground, completing his fiery grave. He had sent for ambulance to pick up Kaden and now prepared to save Madelyn. Madelyn was him, after all. And he was her.  He could no longer avoid forgiving her, as they were both doomed if they did not reunite. Matt supposed that humans were meant to have complete souls, with traits undesirable and admirable and neutral all coexisting as one.


So, for Madelyn’s and his own sake he must die. That way, he would be able to return to her. He lay down on the cool tiles of his dorm room, watching the flames spark and swirl. A sad chuckle spilled from his lips. He’d miss Kaden.


Six. Ending.


He lost the election. All his hard work had amounted to nothing, and his speech (which the school allowed him to perform a day late) turned out to be quite disgraceful. A few jokes about his poor public speaking abilities were bouncing around campus, but for the most part his fellow students had been merciful, as he had almost drowned beforehand.


Grabbing one of his homemade table tents from a pile in the center of his room, he flicked open his lighter to illuminate the masterpiece with flames. In honor of his glorious failure, he flung the burning paper out the window and watched it drift to the damp ground below.


He felt as though he had lost more than the election, but he could not comprehend what was missing from his life. Other than almost dying and failing to achieve his biggest goal of the year, nothing else in his life had changed remotely. He supposed that his sensation of loss could just be a manifestation of his longing to know who rescued him from the rugged river.


Madelyn and Rian.

I was still dark when Madelyn was awakened. Not knowing what had roused her, Madelyn glanced around her room for some sign of a culprit for her disturbance. Ordinarily she would have been aggravated by the fact that her precious sleep had been disturbed, but Madelyn felt fabulous. She let out a joyous giggle as she realized what had happened to her during her slumber. She was fresh, renewed, and… complete.


“Thank you.” She murmured internally, as she sprung from her bed in excitement.

The clunk of an object hitting her window startled the jovial Madelyn into a high-pitched squeal. Silence followed, and she froze and gawked at the window until another object pestered the glass.

Madelyn gradually lowered herself to the ground before crawling over to the window. Cautiously, she slid her body against the wall. Upon glimpsing warily outside, Madelyn discovered the rock thrower to be a guitar-welding Rian. She threw open the window and yelled down to her visitor,

“Rian! Why did you wake me up?”

Rian lowered his head bashfully. “I didn’t mean to wake you,” he assured her. “I just wanted to play you a song I wrote for you.”

Madelyn gaped downward, not knowing how to respond. Inside, her soul numbed. No one had ever written her a song before. She had secretly wished someone would, but she was mortified by the fact that it was Rian that had done so. Rian, keeping his eyes on his guitar continued,

“Uhm, yeah, so I’ll just play it for you then.”

He strummed his guitar and sang his gift to Madelyn. She could barely listen to the words because of the intense emotion throbbing into her ears. She did manage to decipher rather quickly that the lyrics were a confession of love.


From Madelyn’s soul swelled emotions she had held in for far too long. She fumed with annoyance and even anger at the boy as he proceeded with his wretched love song. For the first time in several weeks she tasted confidence. With a smirk, she interrupted Rian’s song,

“Yeah, that sounds great. I bet Leah will love it.” She slammed her window shut and giggled.

Wanting to leave the room in order to more aptly make a statement, Madelyn abandoned Rian at the window and strutted into the hallway for a drink of water. On her journey down the hallway, she bumped shoulders with a student removing a flier from the wall.


When she turned to apologize, she found herself facing Kaden Christopher. She smiled deviously for him before returning to her quest for liquid.



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