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Authors: Kenneth Toles Jr.

Keepers: Blood of The Fallen

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KEEPERS

Blood of The Fallen

Kenneth Toles Jr.

 

I

We spent seven years in peace. We didn’t have to worry about anybody or anything. We spent the first (about) eight months training. The four after that, we spent those trying to do as much research as possible. We came across a few names, but we didn’t contact them; it wasn’t really a priority to find more people involved in our…situation. The next year, we didn’t really do anything. We were still pretty confident in our abilities, and we hadn’t heard anything, so we didn’t see the need to worry. We didn’t really feel like there was a constant need to be ready for something bad to happen. We decided, as a group, not to harp on the negatives, and the battle with the Navariums was a huge negative. We were determined to live and most definitely
not
in paranoia.

For two whole years, we heard nothing. Three years, still nothing. We managed to go seven years, seven freaking years, before our peace was disturbed. By that time, we had almost forgotten why we were living together. I had almost forgotten what happened seven years prior, and why I had dreamless nights. Oh yeah, I could control what kind of dream I had at night, a lot easier than most people; I guess that was just another perk. I just chose to not dream at all. The day that our peace was disturbed was the first day I felt my chest get warm in four years. The last time it happened, we were driving, and we almost wrecked.

It was a long trip from Mississippi to Oklahoma, especially because I was so tired, but I had to go check on my parents. The ladies rode with me, of course, since they were the ones who nagged me about going in the first place. For some reason, they loved to travel, but they hated to drive. I was exhausted. My hands were gripping the wheel at ten and two, but my eyelids were dropping to six repeatedly. I tried to shake off the cobwebs but to no avail. I was forced to pull over several times, so I could wake myself. Eventually, I pulled over right outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, in a town called Pocahontas.  I couldn’t believe the temperature difference between Taylor, Mississippi and Little Rock; they’re only a few hours apart.

It was amazingly cold there that day. In Taylor, it was around seventy degrees, but in Little Rock, it was around forty. Most northerners would say, “Eh, forty is nothing.” It
was
something, though. It was something, because it was August. That’s why I can’t forget that day. I remember stepping out of the car and getting hit with that chill immediately. My whole body jerked as I felt the chill rush up my spine. I was dressed in some shorts and a tee shirt. I even wore slippers that day. I reached up to the sky to stretch my arms out and get some good oxygen in my lungs.

As I was staring at my fingertips, trying to make my eyes focus, I realized that there was an owl in the tree right next to us. It was just sitting there, staring at me. I saw it was mostly white, with a few darker feathers here and there (it was too dark to see the actual color). I noticed that it was standing on one foot. I couldn’t even see another leg. While I was staring at the owl, I tapped on my window, in an attempt to wake somebody up. I would’ve asked one of them to bring the owl down, with their telekinesis that they loved so much, but, unfortunately, they were lightweights when it came to staying up during a long ride. To make matters worse, the owl couldn’t even fly. Someone had tied a string around the poor thing’s left wing.

I couldn’t just leave it there, so I went over to the tree and started climbing. There was barely any light at all, so I turned on my flashlight app, on my phone, and put the phone in my mouth. For some reason, I had to get to that owl—no matter how silly I looked chewing on my phone—I had to see it up close. I climbed the tree slowly. By the time I got to the owl, I was surprised that it didn’t try to fly away, only to fall and hurt itself even more. I grabbed onto a branch on the right side of the tree with my right hand and put my feet on a branch on the left side, while I reached with the left hand to grab the owl. I managed to touch it, before it jumped from the tree and into the brush.

There I was, standing on a tree branch and casually sort of hanging from another one, at the same time. I was almost lying on the trunk of the tree, diagonally. I noticed that I lost a slipper at some point, probably, on the way up. The other one was partially ripped. I had bark crumbs stuck to my shirt. That messed up moment woke me up, because I was fuming. I changed into my new Puma’s, that I didn’t plan to wear until I got to Oklahoma, and I even decided that maybe it was for the best if I put on some sweat pants as well (not smart). Due to my unspoken friendship—friendzone—agreement, I just put the sweatpants on over my shorts.

They didn’t stop snoring until I almost hit a truck. The energy I gained from being ticked off, lost the battle to my exhaustion, and I had completely fallen asleep. My head was down, my eyes were closed, and we were doing sixty miles per hour. My chest warmed up and tightened, I gasped, and I woke up just in time to smash the brakes and swerve to the other lane. The guy in the truck looked over at us, through his window, and flipped me off. I didn’t really care. I was just glad that I wasn’t going to be paying for his car repairs, because we did not have money, outside of Tana’s will money. After that, I had two sets of eyes glaring at me, furiously. They had crust around their mouths, from the sleepy drool, and I had to fight back my laughter. Their hair was matted to the back of their heads. The only thing that looked normal about them were their eyes. Needless to say, I stayed awake the rest of the way. That particular incident happened in Greenbrier, Arkansas, about nine hours away from our destination, Boise City, OK. Originally, my parents lived in Oklahoma City, but for some reason, they didn’t discuss with me, we had to move to Boise City. They still kept the house in OKC, though, so I figured I would have somewhere to retire to when I was ready.

Driving the rest of the way was nothing short of entertaining since the girls thought I needed help staying awake. I did, so I couldn’t object. They were singing children’s songs, and it was hilarious. I could see Asia’s face in the rearview mirror as they sung
The Wheels on The Bus
. She had her head leaned all the way back, her eyes squinted, and her mouth wide open as she screamed the words. They both had horrible singing voices, and they knew I thought they sounded awful. I honestly think Asia was more into the song than she should’ve been, but I didn’t say anything. Up to that point, we hadn’t really had any kind of real fun. It was only three years after the battle, and we weren’t really into doing anything in public, until after that trip.

I couldn’t really remember why I hadn’t been to see my parents since all the craziness started. When I called them… Well, they actually called me, the day after the battle. They seemed surprisingly well. My dad told me he was ok, and I didn’t ask him about the hybrid situation. I felt it was better to leave that alone, until I completely understood it. The trip we were taking was only for visiting purposes and to show off a little. We didn’t have anything else to do with our abilities. When we arrived in Boise City, my dad was outside working on an old car. He was bent over the hood, with his head buried in the engine. A sawed-off branch was holding up the hood of the car. He had a really bright light standing beside him, even though it was broad day. I didn’t really think he needed the light, but maybe to see the deeper parts of the engine, he did.

When we got out of the car, the girls started snickering, because they were checking my dad out. That was a gross moment, but I understood. He was a good-looking man. I assume he looked so good, because he was a Guardian and technically, according to the guidelines, he was still young. I couldn’t let them get too into the moment, so I whispered to them to knock it off, before we walked up to him. He didn’t even have a clue we were there, yet.

We got up to him; I could see the massive sweat stain on his back. His white tee shirt had turned yellow on the back, and it was stuck to him. The sun was basically baking him. I walked up right behind him and said “Dad,” as calmly as I could. He turned around. His cap’s brim hit the stick, and his cap fell off of his head, revealing a full head of dark hair. No grays at all. He turned and looked at me, his shirt was even more stained in the front, and you could even see his chest hair through the shirt. He had shaved the goatee that I had become accustomed to, and he didn’t smell like Burberry cologne anymore either. Usually, no matter when it was, he smelled like Burberry cologne. He could sweat like nobody’s business, but you would not be able to smell the sweat on him.

“Hey Son,” he said with a smile.

“Hey Pop,” I said, returning the smile. I stretched my arms out and gave him a bear hug, just like the ones he used to give me. He was surprised at how strong I had gotten, but I was curious why he wasn’t surprised to see me. “I thought you would’ve been surprised to me.”

“Actually, I would’ve been, but your mom told me you were coming.”

“Another one of the perks, huh?”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s what we call our non-battle abilities. The perks.”

“Oh, ok. Well, yeah. It’s a perk of hers, but I wouldn’t consider anything we can do a
non-battle ability
.”

He started to wipe the oil and sweat from his hands, with the towel that was hanging from his back pocket. I didn’t care about the oil, but the ladies probably didn’t want to clean oil from their hands. My dad was a real gentleman; one of the last ones. Even though chivalry had been dead for many years, my dad would always be the perfect gentleman, so there was no way he would shake their hands, while his hands were filthy. After an awkward silence, and then an even more awkward chuckle from my dad, he got his hands clean enough to deem them worthy of a handshake. First Asia, then Santana. They both snickered, as he introduced himself to both of them, one by one.

“So dad, where’s mom,” I asked.

“She’s inside, in the kitchen. She said if we’re going to eat, we’re going to get this car out of the garage first. This old baby isn’t giving me any kind of leeway either.”

We stood there staring at the motor for a minute, when Asia walked up and said, “You need to take the alternator out, so you can see what’s going on behind it. Your problem is back there, under the carburetor.”

“Wait, what,” I asked confusedly.

“Yeah, I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s leaking. And that’s the only way to fix it. The alternator is in the way.”

“Wait…how do you know that?”

“My dad used to work on cars, and when I was growing up, I would read some of his manuals. I didn’t have much else to read. Plus, I can see it.”

“Oh, that’s how you did it.”

“What? I can see it. Right there.”

“She knows what the problem is, because she has the perk to see it.”

“Um…no. It’s leaking. The fluid is under the car. I could see it when we were walking up. And I know it’s behind the alternator, because I can see it dripping from here.”

“Oh,” my dad and I said, simultaneously.

“Boys…” Tana said, in a loud whisper, as she chuckled.

We fixed the car in no time. It was a very easy fix, because he had the parts, but somehow my dad had been missing that leak for a couple of days. He pulled the car out of the garage and parked it in the back yard. Afterwards, we went inside to see my mom. She was in the kitchen, cooking. She knew what I liked: potatoes, broccoli and cheese, and tuna pasta. I thought I was going to pass out from the joy. I could smell the deliciousness grabbing my nose and pulling me in. “Ma,” I said, as we walked through the house.

“In the kitchen,” she called back.

“Ok, I brought friends. Hope you made enough.”

“Oh, you know me! Of course I did,” she responded as she wiped her hands off. She took her apron off and tossed it across one of the bar stools. She walked up to me with her arms stretched and gave me a hug. She then hugged the ladies. “Why haven’t we heard or seen you in so long, Son?”

“We had so much going on. When you called and said everything was fine, I decided to leave well enough alone.”

“Three years, though?”

“I know it’s been a while, but I was sure you would let me know if you needed me.”

“Well, we’re your parents first and protectors second. We would like to hear from you from time to time.”

“The phone works both ways, Mama.”

“True, but still…”

“How about we leave that be, and we focus on now, hm?”

I didn’t really want to argue with her about why I didn’t call them. I didn’t feel like it was that important. I thought the most important thing was just spending some time with them and catching up. Unfortunately, that trip didn’t bring about much catching up. My dad was more interested in who was playing in the baseball game on TV; baseball was entirely too boring for me to enjoy. Mom was too busy showing Tana and Asia what she could do. They seemed uneasy by her eagerness to show them her powers, even though they wanted to do the same thing. I couldn’t blame them for feeling that way though; it was a little too much for me as well. The whole trip was overwhelming. I didn’t remember her being so cocky. So, after a day of visiting with them, we went back home. They didn’t even put up a fight when I told them on short notice, the next morning. They just told us to be safe and gave us a ton of food. “You may have enough now, but you’ll probably need it later, so take it,” my mom said. “And take these seeds. It’s some of everything in there so plant the winter ones now, and the spring ones in the spring.”

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