Bradley Carlisle was a bully but it wasn’t emotional or physical abuse that had made him this way. To the contrary, he’d been pampered and idolized all his life.
After all, he was a Carlisle.
It was said that his ancestors were among the elites of the elite who sailed over on the Mayflower from the old country. Whether this was true, Bradley cared not one whit. He didn’t depend on ancient history to grasp his social value. His chiseled features, wavy blonde hair, and already muscular build were evidence of his superior genetics and, as the only Carlisle offspring, the substantial family fortune would one day belong to him. Amongst his peers, his alpha status had never once been challenged.
Shannon Cook was a witch. She knew it in her heart and, though she’d never cast a spell that worked, she felt the magic within. She had discovered the Craft in a library book back in her hometown. Spells, Enchantments, and High Incantations the tome was called and she read it cover to cover, memorizing as she went.
Gangly and flat-chested, Shannon wore thick, heavy glasses that were in continual need of adjustment as they slid down her nose. She had thin, stringy hair that hung limply to the sides of her face in long, brown ponytails held by pink rubber bands.
Her intelligence, she had come to discover, was a blessing and a curse. It afforded her the chance to skip a grade and landed her in this highly touted prep school but, in doing so, it also put her in league with children who were older, savvier, and more physically developed than she.
The students at this new school wore uniforms and for that she was grateful because it spared her the effort of trying to conjure up some sort of style. Still, she spoke with the distinct non-accent of the upper Midwest and it was quickly apparent to anyone who conversed with her that she was nothing more than a scrub from flyover country.
It was the first hour of the first day of eighth grade and, as fate would have it, she found herself sitting directly in front of Bradley Carlisle. He marked her as a target instantly and since they were both there a full ten minutes before the bell, he was free to begin his inquisition. Students began filing in, in chattering groups of twos and threes. Often, they would stop mid-sentence to eyeball her as they made their way to their seats.
“Are you new?” he demanded.
She turned around and was momentarily speechless, he was a beautiful boy.
“I…uh…yes. We…just moved here…in the summer. I’m Shannon,” she said. “Shannon Cook.”
He sat back and didn’t bother replying. After a few seconds, he deliberately ogled her chest until she turned away, flushed and humiliated. A couple rows back, a girl tittered.
When the bell rang after class, he breezed by her joining the crush of kids pouring from the classroom into the hall. All eyes fixated on him but he seemed to ignore everyone. She found herself gawking along with the others until he vanished from sight. He was so beautiful even if he was mean.
That was the last time he spoke to her for months. As the school year went on she almost hoped he’d torment her again but she may as well have been a houseplant for all the attention he paid her.
Then, late one Friday afternoon as she was rearranging her locker, she saw someone approach peripherally. When she turned to see who it was, there he stood right beside her. Bradley Carlisle was standing at her locker!
Her heart raced.
“Hey Shannon,” he said warmly and immediately her eyes darted about to see who was watching. This had to be some sort of set up. But there was no one around, just the two of them. Everyone else, it seemed, was gone for the weekend.
“Uh….hi,” she said nervously. What do you want?
“So…a few of us are going to the beach Saturday and I thought maybe you’d like to come?” he said.
She shut her locker but didn’t turn to face him focusing her gaze on her closed locker door instead. “I don’t really like the beach…thanks though,” she replied softly.
She began to turn away from him but he caught her arm and said, “well, maybe we could go downtown or to a…museum or…the library or something.” He was trying to think. “What do you like to do?”
Now, she knew it was a trap but like every other kid in school, she lacked the courage to challenge him.
“I like all of those things. I…I just don’t really like the beach.”
He seemed to mull that over and she hazarded a glance at him.
He could be a model.
“Well…” he said, “maybe I could call you or text you or something and we can figure something out. Do you think I could get your number?”
Here it was. His goal was to get her number.
She briefly considered giving him a fake but decided against it and he punched her number into his phone as she recited the digits.
“Thanks!” he said, “We’ll see you this weekend.”
With that, he walked away and she was left standing at her locker suspicious and confused and giddy in spite of herself.
That night her phone rang and her heart leapt in her chest.
She waited and answered on the third ring. “Hello?” she said.
“Yeah…is this Shannon?” asked a male voice. “Shannon Cook?”
“Yes,” she said.
There was a pause and then, “I’d like The Special.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “The what?”
“The Special. Can I get The Special?” asked the voice.
“The…Special?” Shannon asked.
“Yeah, you know…The Special,” the voice said. He emphasized the word.
“I…think you must have the wrong number,” Shannon told him.
“But,” said the voice, “this is Shannon Cook, right?”
“You don’t know what The Special is?” he asked.
There was a pause and the line went dead.
She sat staring at the phone in her hand for a few seconds when it rang again.
“Yeah, hey…” a different man’s voice this time, “is this Shannon Cook…?”
“I’d like to order The Special,” he said.
By the third call, she had disabled her ringer and, when she checked on Sunday night, she had received 37 voice messages and twice as many texts. All of them referenced The Special but one. In the midst of the texts was a message that simply read: CLICK ME in blue font.
Under normal circumstances, she’d never click a link to anything from a random text but these were decidedly not normal circumstances and she thought she had a pretty good idea whose phone it had come from.
The site was repulsive. A dark internet page for sickos who were into kiddie porn. The pictures were so graphic and awful it took a second to process what she was seeing.
As she was about to close the page in disgust she saw her name. It was next to a photo of a young girl who was clearly not her performing an act she had never even heard of before. Under the photo were the words: “Ask for The Special” and beneath that, was her phone number.
Bradley Carlisle was bored in his room when his phone vibrated.
He answered eagerly.
“Hey, Shannon!” he said happily, “How’s it going?”
“Magick powers, I summon thee!” she exclaimed. “Dark sorceries beyond…!”
He listened confused as she yammered on nonsensically. He couldn’t understand the words and, by the time the phone went dead, he had forgotten all about it.
And all about Shannon.
In fact, the only thing on his mind as he hopped across the bedroom floor was finding some nice, tasty mosquitoes for supper.
Now try this: The Red Pyramid – Friday Fictioneers