The train came to a stop at the next station. Though none of the passengers were listening, the announcer lady said, “Arrived at Sable Heights. Next stop: Broad Street. Transfers at Broad Street for Yellow Line.”

The loud clatter of skateboard wheels startled the group. A tall, muscular young man boarded – jumping into the train, grabbing a pole, and swinging himself around as he kicked the skateboard up into his free hand. It took the passengers a few seconds to process the skater’s trick and just as long for the skater to realize he had an audience. Though once he did, surprise snapped across his face. “Woah! Are all of you heading to Coldessi Park?” the skater asked.

“Yep,” Sakari answered.

A younger, smaller girl boarded the train normally. She looked like she was related to the skater. They had similar faces and the same shade of pale blonde hair. Hers was straight and tied back in a ponytail. His curls peeked out from beneath his black beanie.

The skater said, “Huh. Thought it was just me and my sis who got it.” That answered the question of who the girl was.

Cara informed the skater, “Nope. We all got that text.”

“Now boarding Red Line to Nielsen Quay,” the recording announced. “Next stop: Broad Street. Transfers at Broad Street for Yellow Line.”

The skater’s little sister stepped forward, smiling sweetly. She waved and said, “Hello, everybody. I’m Rianne.”

Thumb on his chest, the skater said, “Name’s Bern.”

The other four introduced themselves to the newcomers in turn. “David… David…” Bern repeated, scratching his head.

David raised an eyebrow. He recognized Bern, but did Bern recognize him?

“Sorry, man. You just remind me of someone I met a long time ago.”

“Oh? Should I take that as a compliment?”

“Eh – no. That dude was a real jerk. Played my friend Nico like a fiddle.”

“I see.”

The recording announced, “Now departing for Nielsen Quay. Please stand clear of the doors.” Taking the hint, Bern sat beside Sakari. Rianne grabbed the pole beside Mia. The doors closed, and the train took off again. “Now headed toward Nielsen Quay. Next stop: Broad Street. Transfers at Broad Street for Yellow Line.”

Mia took out her phone again, searching for some way to distract herself from the increasingly weird circumstances. Rianne recognized the wallpaper. “Hey, is that the Maurani Sigil on your phone?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Mia answered. “You watch Arcane Pulsar?”


Mia recognized the necklace Rianne wore – a crystal pendant the same shade of amber as her eyes. “Wait. You’ve got an Arcane Crystal?”

“Bern gave it to me for my birthday.”

“Ooo! I want a purple one so bad!” Mia elbowed Cara, saying, “Nudge nudge wink wink.”

“For the twentieth time, note taken,” Cara said. She stood and moved to the pole where she started this subway trip, closer to the boys.

Rianne sat in the seat Cara just left. “Purple, huh? So you’re team royal?”

Mia answered, “Kinda. Elyse is my favorite, so…”

“She’s best girl. Hands down.”

“I know, right?”

“I’m a Paris fan myself, but I always ship him with Elyse.”

“Really? Not Naomi?”

“Too predictable. Too boring.”

“That’s what I always say!”

Mia and Rianne giggled. Cara turned to Bern and said, “Sounds like your sister and mine hit it off.”

“Yeah,” Bern said. “Figured you and Mia were sisters. You into that stuff?”

“How far are you?” Rianne asked Mia.

“I saw the end of the Astral Storm Trials,” she answered. “Internet says there’s a filler episode next. Should I skip it?”

“No, no, no. You can’t skip it. That’s where you see Zama again.”

Cara told Bern, “Nah. Not my cup of tea.”

“Rianne’s tried telling me about it several times, but I just can’t keep up, ya know?” Bern replied.

“So how’d you and Rianne wind up in this mess?”

He held up his skateboard and said, “I was practicing some tricks in this empty lot by our house. Rianne was there, cheering me on. Then all of a sudden – boom! Thunder. Then rain coming down in sheets, yo. Never been caught outside in something like that before. Soon as it stopped, Rianne noticed that there wasn’t anybody on our street. No cars. No subway trains till this one came.”

“Sounds spooky,” Sakari said.

“Sure was, man. That text came after and… Well, I got déjà vu.”

Cara didn’t expect to hear an answer like that. “You’ve been in this kind of situation before?” she asked, surprised.

“Not exactly the same, but yeah. Three years ago. It’s a long story.”

“It will take us a while to get to Coldessi Park.” Cara could tell that Bern had a juicy story to tell.

“Seriously, lady! I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Okay, okay. But tell me this – what about the text message reminded you of three years ago?”

“Being told to be somewhere by a certain time is familiar. Then there’s that ‘get removed’ threat.”

That last bit got Sakari’s attention. “It is a threat?” he asked Bern. “What does it mean?”

“Simple. If they remove you, ya dead.”

Sakari’s eyes widened in fear. “They – they are trying to kill us.”

Mia’s giggle cut the tense silence before it could settle. “Thanks, Rianne. I’m hyped for the next arc now.”

©2020 Joyce Lewis. All rights reserved.