That's the new title for both Endemic and Spirit Cross. Just thought I'd start that here because of the characters we'll be seeing.

Case 2: Zatch (Brainwave Phase)

The craziest weekend in a while, possibly in my life, just passed by. Destiny was the only fortune teller of how insane things were about to get from here: Monday. I only wished that whatever was happening around Autumnridge would be finished. It was happening too... close. Already, it affected my closest friend, and another good buddy of mine. It was madly coincidental, or maybe not! Maybe the meteorites fell so close to one another for a good reason! I had yet, along with all the other residents, to figure this one out. I didn't think that the meteorites fell in my hometown alone. Maybe they were scattered all over the planet by now... The rest of us only heard of two cases with these meteorites, those being related to my friends. I hope Vince wasn't too down because of this hindrance. He was made into a sentinel by all of that excess physical labor, not to mention his father, who scared the s**t out of me. You'd have thought that guy has seen warfare. It made me feel sorry for Drew sometimes. That little guy was so much like my little sister in what he was interested in. Too bad the poor boy fell into a coma. They'd have gotten along marvelously, if they weren't still in that "boys/girls are yucky" phase. They were both tweens... I heard that the same thing--the coma issue--occurred with Cruce, who was a pretty good guy. He was a friend of mine, but we only ever hung out at lunch. It was sad to think that he wouldn't have been around today, and possibly for the rest of our high school career. Maybe longer.

My older brother Zack, a Senior, was driving me to school, though I didn't really need a ride. Our house was well within walking distance of Metedia. He always offered to drive because it was more convenient. With gas prices as high as they were these days, I had an argument for that. He never seemed to mind. Zack was a good guy. He was always that type of big brother who was better at everything than me. I really would not have been lying if I said he was: smarter, stronger, clearly better with girls... I couldn't have asked for a better big brother though. The guy always told me, "You've got more creativity and potential in you than I got in my 4.5 GPA." It flattered me, but it also bothered me. The thing about Zack was that he wasn't really capable of complimenting someone without talking about his own awesomeness. He wasn't particularly headstrong though. He was tall, for sure. At 6'5", he was as tall as my dad, and dwarfed me. I was a modest 5'9", which was still alright for my age. Zack and I shared the same brown eyes and the same blond hair. Mine was a bit shorter, while his was more surfer-esque. His shoulders were broad and separated well while mine were smaller and less--this is my self-esteem in a nutshell--developed. I often wore basketball shorts, but that didn't reflect on my hobbies or anything. I never really played any sports. I was considering joining cross-country with Vince, but I was never good at making up my mind.

My hobby seldom came as an ordinary thing to most people! I was a DJ. Yes, I performed live at places, which usually included high school dances and other minor shows. I didn't perform alone though. There were two others with me, originally one until we discovered a hidden prodigy. My first music partner--you may have guessed Vince--was actually Zack. Before we allowed the third member to join, people just called us the DJ Brothers. It stuck, at least until we let our little sister Zelda join. Zelda, unknown to us, had this freakishly wild talent for just generating good dance music. It has come more naturally to her than Zack and I, and, given her age, that might not have been apparent to some people. With her on the team, we adopted the name 3-DJ. It was a play on how Zelda added a third dimension to our music with her sporadic rhythms and fresh beats. Zack originally managed the beats and a bit of the singing, since he was amazing and played guitar like a professional. And was in choir. With Zelda tagging along, he shifted his attention to dubstep wubs, oscillations, and distortion. I have always managed the melodies; strings, bass, trance, and euro stuff. It felt strange to be considered famous around town, even in other places. We've been on tour before, but as the DJ Brothers only. Zelda was too young to travel, according to our parents.

I never really expected getting into music with my two siblings. I knew I loved to dance to techno, even though I couldn't because, based on Vince's remarks, I was white. That was him saying he couldn't dance either, but I disagreed. He had experience with running. I thought the two went hand in hand. I was so wrong...

"'Sup, Zatchers? You feeling fine?" Zack questioned me, but I suspected he knew what was wrong.

"Just kind of worried about Drew and stuff." I answered. I left it at that, rather than diving further into my concerns.

"Yeah, I get what you're sayin'. Crazy things happen though. 'Never seen anything like this."

"Do you think we'll see more of it?"

"More what? Crazy stuff?"

"I guess..." I paused. I wasn't really sure what I was going on about. "Crazy stuff" was particularly vague, as per the amount of how much of it exists in--and in this case out--of the world. "More meteorites..."

"I don't think we have to worry. They said that shower ended, yeah? 'S what I heard." I didn't respond to this, partially because I knew it was true. I couldn't think straight today regardless. Something in my mind was bothering me, and it went without saying that whatever it may have been was almost too difficult to explain. I wouldn't have been able to formulate any words anyway. Zatch was in the process of parking the car. I grasped the shoulder straps of my backpack, which I usually placed between my legs in the front seat for convenience. As the car stopped, I opened the door and, right then, knew that the air over Metedia was different. It was almost grim. The parking lot was less rowdy than usual. Students walking around were silent amongst each other. It didn't feel right at all, and I had a sinking feeling that I knew why it was so glum here. Now, Metedia wasn't a very large school. It was probably around intermediate when it came to public high school sizes. There were just under fifteen hundred students here, so it wasn't like the place was tiny. The point is, word spread pretty fast. Seeing as how Vince was on the news yesterday, he'd probably be getting a lot of attention today. I met up with the guy near the locker rooms every morning and usually for lunch as well. Weight training was his first class. I had the same class at a different period. My first class was nearby though, so it worked out fine.

Yeah, when I got there I didn't see Vince. He must've been late, but if I knew the guy well, and I did, he was always an early riser. He got here an hour before me once. That dude was really tough on himself sometimes, if not, all the time. It was like he intended on being perfect in the areas that mattered to him most. While there's nothing wrong with trying hard, I wish I could have made him realize that he's got limits. I hate to even think it, but maybe this whole thing with Drew already had an effect on Vince. Relating, of course, to limits. I wasn't too sure what it would have done to his physical limits. He cared less about his brain than his brawn...

So I didn't really know what I was talking about here.

The day started, and Vince wasn't anywhere to be seen. That worried me. The dude probably skipped out on school today because he was too depressed. Actually, to me, that's a perfectly valid reason for not showing up. I wasn't so sure about how Vince's dad felt about that. He was diabolical when it came to Vince's attendance. As weird a way as that was of putting it, it was the only appropriate adjective that crossed my mind.

My first class was Geometry. There weren't really any buddies of mine in that class, so it really went without saying that it was probably my least favorite class this year. The teacher was alright, and I didn't struggle in the subject. It was just pretty boring. 'Guess that was typical if you didn't care for it. The next class I had was only mildly boring. It was 3-D art, which I think my older brother had at a different period. I had a few acquaintances taking it, so it was cool. Break was after that, and after break was P.E. for me. Cruce and a couple of his buddies were in that class! I quite enjoyed it, to be honest. We always ended up on the same team for whatever sport we were playing. Sadly, and surely enough, Cruce wasn't there. I had heard he slipped into the same coma Drew did. Really, he was such a neat guy. I hoped like hell he was going to be alright. I mean, it was inevitable that he'd wake up sometime, yeah? ...

Leaning against the chain link fence in the basketball courts, I watched as a few of the other kids shot hoops in what free time we had left. The surround area was pretty grassy, considering Autumnridge used to be a large forest. It was all very sylvan and full of nature. A lot of people considered the place to be a landmark. I took it for granted, and knew I shouldn't have. There were always plenty of environmental awareness pep talks to keep my mind on the matter. In any case, I was finished playing basketball. The shower bell sounded, and we all slowly made our way to the locker rooms. My locker was located next to a friend of Cruce's. His name was Al; an athletic enthusiast and straight-A genius, not to mention one heck of a guitar player. He kinda reminded me of Zack. We liked to talk about the plays made in the games at P.E.. As we had our laugh about the guy who stood under the hoop and got bonked in the nose with the ball, he retrieved his cellphone from his pocket, having already changed back into his casual denims... Man, I couldn't even describe the look of horror on his face when he read a text he'd gotten during the class. His eyes widened. I couldn't tell if he was breathing...

"...Oh, s**t..." He cursed, his eyes fixed on the text message. I bit my lip, curious to see what had caused this frightened reaction. Did his girlfriend break up with him? It was that sort of reaction, if I could even have compared it to anything. I left him along for a period of time long enough to assume that he had finished reading the message.

"What's up, man? You look freakin' terrified." I informed him with a chuckle. He glanced at me as though I were insane for laughing at all. Well I didn't know what was going on, so, at the moment, I was pretty innocent.

"My dad found Vince's stuff at the Obsidian Circle. And one of those meteorites from the news."

My heart sank.

"Wha--...?" I felt dense as all I could have done was whimper. I froze, having just removed my P.E. shirt. Despite the warmth of the day, I felt a chill run through my body... "What are you saying?"

"Dad walks the dog around there a lot in the morning. He was barking at something, and they found Vince's crap. Vince wasn't there though." He paused, taking a quick look at his phone again. Without taking his eyes from the message, he shook his head. "Clothes and everything. No Vince."

That was the deciding factor between a good day and a bad day on an already solemn day. My thoughts were so frenzied that I couldn't even formulate an eloquent sentence. Any noise that came from my mouth probably sounded embarrassing, but I wasn't really paying any attention to that. My best friend could have been killed right there... But how? Just how? How would it have been possible that he'd be killed like that only days after his brother's fall into a coma? There was the meteorite in the Circle spot! Al just told me about the meteorite! I leaned against my locker with a hand over half of my face...

"Are you ******** serious?" I asked, exasperated, with a clear hint of frustration in my tone. "No sign of Vince anywhere?"

"Yeah, dude. This is getting weird, like with Cruce and all? Vince's bro?" He shrugged, returning his phone to his pocket. "I'm probably gonna call my folks at lunch and ask them more about it."

"Knowing your dad, the cops are probably already on the case... Goddamn, man, that's horrible." I slid my hand down my face, my cheek stretching as I did so. I rubbed the back of my neck and sat on the bench underneath the lockers, slipping into my shoes. "I think I'm gonna skip the rest of school during lunch."

"Yeah, but you just said the cops could be there. They'll know if you're truant." I gave him a look that almost seemed grateful. He was trying to talk sense into me, and I was thankful for that. He was right. The police were very well aware that school would still be in session during those times, and encountering them off campus wasn't the best thing.

"...Okay, well... H-how do we know it's actually Vince's stuff?"

"Dad probably recognized the backpack or something. Maybe he checked the assignments?" That was another good point. Al's dad had a natural inquisitiveness that really helped out in situations such as these. That and he was a detective. I supposed that had to do with the inquisitiveness in the first place...

Al didn't speak any further, and neither did I. I was far too gone in my own swarm of thoughts to pay attention to anything other than the requirements, those being the directions to my next class: Biology.

I had that class with Danithan, who was a good friend of mine and Vince's. That guy... He was pretty damn enigmatic. You could tell just by looking at him that he was no coward. Danithan had a heart of steel, and had this habit of being undaunted... and wearing sunglasses. Seriously. I don't think I've ever seen the guy without his sunglasses. He wore the things when it was dark, for the love of God. I told about what Al said to me in the locker room during our partner work or whatever the teacher called it. Obviously, Danithan was my partner. His reaction was pretty obvious too. He said nothing at first. He gave me a brief look of "insert level of disbelief here", considering I couldn't see his eyes... We talked more about it on the way to our casual spot at lunch.

"So Vinnie's gone missing?" Danithan asked me, referring to Vince by a name which, put simply, weirded me out.

"Yeah, and that's pretty much all I know..." I spoke, keeping my head forward as we walked through the outdoor halls of grassy Metedia High. For a fairly small school, there were a lot of acres of free space, give or take an abundance of trees. Dan knew I was down about this. That much was clear, and I hoped it was to everyone around me. Though, at the same time, I wished Dan talked a bit more so I didn't feel like I had to endlessly question Vince's disappearance. I didn't know the answer, so I knew there was no point in asking myself a huge barrage of pointless questions...

When the two of us arrived, Zack was already there. Cruce's group was standing around with their heads low nearby. On top of their good friend's coma, Al had likely already told them the news about Vince. I tell you, Cruce's cousin looked devastated. First of all, he was the only one related to a meteorite victim who decided to show up if you considered Vince's absence. Topher was this hoppity, upbeat cheery schoolgirl boy who was habitually "clingy" with his cousin. So it was understandable why he was depressed... His sorrow and my anguish were probably on equal ground at the moment.

"'Ey, Zatch." I heard my brother call me. He made a motion with his head for me to approach him. "You okay, man? I heard that stuff about Vince from Al over there."

"I'm not really 'okay'..." I admitted. He knew that much already. My best friend--I know I've said it already--could have died. I was concerned to a point where I was actually worried about Vince. If that seemed redundant, here's why: Vince is Vince. He'd always been the kind of guy to let nothing bring him down. There was no point in worrying about someone who seemed to always come through a crisis. 'Course, now there was this exception where he could have just been raped and killed, at least, if I remembered the whole clothes portion of the story. I couldn't imagine any other reason for the loss of clothes prior to death.

"Sorry, dude." He gave me a soft pat on the shoulder. I probably would have just buried myself in him if we weren't in public. Ironically, Topher did that to Cruce almost every day. Ironically again, I felt motivated to go over and speak to that little transvestite. Oh. He was a transvestite, by the way. Real girly. Looked like a girl. No one seemed to mind it or care though. I certainly didn't. It made him who he was: Topher.

"It's... cool." I shook my head. It definitely wasn't cool. "I'm gonna go talk to Topher. We're dealing with crap that's alike in some manner."

"Sure, go for it." Zack smirked. I turned to Cruce's group, which they called the Circle. I wasn't sure if it had anything to do with Autumnridge's famous Obsidian Circle, or anything. I heard Zack begin to converse with Danithan. At that point, I had made my way to that poor little dude sitting against the wall on his own. It looked real evident that he'd told the others he wanted to be left alone... Well, he didn't tell me.

"Heeey..." I sat near him as I called, one leg stretched out and the other bent up. I wasn't given the cold shoulder very often, but that was, without a doubt, the case here as Topher turned a blind eye to my presence. "...Are you as worried about him as I am about Vince?"

That got his attention.

"Mm?" He gave me a curious, one-eyed look, as his hair blocked one of his turquoise eyes.

"I'm sure you've heard by now." I shifted my attention to the small bits of rock on the ground, picking one up and rubbing it between my finger and thumb. "I heard it from Al."

"I heard..." He watched as I toyed with the rock. "I want to know what's happening. This is so unreal. Meteors? That make you sleep? It's scary..." He undid his ponytail, the hair tie around his wrist. He gave his head a quick shake to loosen his long hair up. I was glad he was listening to me. It was a step forward.

"It's horrifying. Truth is stranger than fiction... and that kind of sucks." I flicked the rock, watching it land a few feet in front of me. "But you, Topher. How are you doing?"

"I feel so terrible. If only I trusted my gut and told Cruce not to go outside, this wouldn't have happened."

"Well, he's stubborn, right? Maybe he would have gone anyway? He's a lot like Vince, you know."

"Mhmm." Topher wrapped his arms around his knees, his chin resting on his upper arm.

"I was thinking of ditching around now to go and see what's going on in the woodland. Al told me that was a bad idea... So, if you're up for it, would you like to head over there after school?" I faced him with an honest smile. I wasn't really sure why I asked this question. I mean, I really didn't have anything to gain out of it. So, yes. Why did I just ask him that? I was worried about him, for sure...

"Oh. Like, together?" I could tell his face lightened up to this. I never did question why. "Mmm, okay. Where do you want to meet after 7th period? Here?"

"Here's fine. I'll let Zack know."

"Hey, um... A-are you maybe doing... you know... like anything else after that?" He eyed me with and irresistible orb of blue. Now, I wasn't gay or anything, but I still thought Topher was exceptionally cute. I had nothing against being in a relationship with him, but it'd be a shocker to everyone I know. I didn't think I was ready for the world to see me with a boyfriend, 'cause, like I said, I'm not gay. Possibly bi, but... I don't know, maybe I was shallow. Upon thinking about all of this, Topher's question nearly eluded me.

"Nah. Not really. Now that I got that English project done, I'm pretty free." Sometimes I said things that reminded me of the concept of consequences. I was tempted to leave school at lunch. English was right after lunch. I would have missed the deadline to turn in that hefty project. "Why? Do you wanna hang out?"

"Would you be alright with that? I'm so bored without Cruce around." Again, the poor thing lowered his head, folding his hands together and twiddling his thumbs slowly.

"Well sure! I'm fine with it. I bet Zack would be too." I gave him a friendly smirk, despite his lack of attention toward my face then. "What do you want to do?"

"Would it be okay if we just walked around the woodland?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. Anywhere else after that?"

"Uhm. Hm, I dunno. Maybe we'll see afterward?"

"'Kay." I gave a few slow nods. I hadn't been given much homework today so far, and there was no doubt in my mind that I'd be in the woodland in a few hours. I had little a problem with Topher joining me. It was a bit like how he had no problem with leaning against my shoulder. He did so, and it was incredibly difficult for me to resist the urge to wrap an arm around him. Again, my actions flew full speed beyond my decisions, and, yes, that arm around that boy's shoulder was, in fact, mine!

"Thanks..." He whispered to me. I've never really heard that sort of tone from him. It was so soft and gentle; a lot like... him. Honestly, in that moment, I didn't pay attention to any looks we might have been given. It was just he and I in our solemn little moment... Until Zack came over with Danithan. It was comfortable, but it didn't last all that long.

And it almost left me wanting more of those moments...

Anyway, I talked to BB, that is, Big Brother (and I'm not referencing the character from the novel) and he said it was perfectly fine. The woodland was within walking distance of practically everyone's house in Autumnridge. It was no problem.

English came next, obviously. With the exception of Zack, we all walked together to the nearby class. If we tried to walk through the halls with as plentiful as our numbers were, we'd crowd up the damn place. On the way to the class, Danithan and Zack were really the only ones talking. I heard a few things from Al and Emelina, who was sweet girl that clearly had the hots for Al. She "fangirled" over Topher's hyper-homosexuality from time to time. I was surprised she didn't notice us basically cuddling back there. That seemed like something she'd normally squee over.

We all turned in those projects. A few students presented theirs today! The teacher was not strict at all. He was the coolest English teacher I've had, and that was the best class of all. Seriously, this project was like the largest thing we had to do until something before finals, then finals themselves. And, I tell you, I knew everyone in that class. It was pretty great. Of course, I wasn't really in the mood to be at school in the first place.

The people who presented did a marvelous job on their research and all. First up was that smart-a** (in a very positive way) guy Derrick. He had like the IQ of a rocket scientist from the future's future. And he didn't even strike me as a nerd. 'Was always a little uptight though. Next up was a Hispanic girl named Maripossa who makes some epic cookies. That implied we already had one of those class parties. We did. She did a pretty good job! Last came a friendly yet fairly quiet dude who's name began with a J. I knew him the least out of everyone, because, and I restate this, he was always so quiet and, to be frank, mysterious. Sometimes I wished our teacher wouldn't call us "Mr. or Miss" then a last name. I would have been able to remember the guy's name if not! Oh wait...

That's right. His name was Jovany.

'Not sure why I wanted to remember it so badly.


After my last class, which was just an elective, I met Topher at the usual spot. He had his phone out, which told me that he had most likely alerted his parents (aunt and uncle technically) that he'd be out. I was glad I got a little break from my usual habit! I know the day was pretty glum, but I was not in the mood to make music. Which was weird. Usually, emotions bolstered my creativity. But I didn't have to concern myself with that, and, again, nor did I want to.

"Hey! You ready to head out?" I gave him a soft pat on the shoulder from behind. I wasn't sure what goaded me into that. I just did it. He seemed to be in a better mood, which I assumed when he gave me a bright smile.

"Uh-huh. So are we gonna go with our stuff, or...?"

"I'm gonna swing by the Senior lot, since it's on the way. BB said he'd drop my stuff off at home. I don't think he'd mind taking yours too, and we could drop by my place afterwards?" I had given this idea some thought during period 7 since there wasn't much else to do. Aside from breathe I guess.

"Oh, if he doesn't mind, then certainly."

That was pretty much the plan for today. Seriously, I didn't think this day could have gotten any stranger. Here I was with this guy I didn't know particularly well. We were about to go to the forested region of Autumnridge to simply relax due to the meteorites that made our friends fall into an unrelenting sleep. What more awaited me? What more awaited Topher?

The police sure awaited us.

When we got to the woodland, backs free of our school gear, police vehicles of a few sorts were parked in a pretty disorderly manner within the circular lot before the path into the treeline. Topher or I didn't see that yellow caution tape anywhere, though I suspected we'd be told to leave the "scene"...


As soon as I set foot on the dirt path, I shivered. My head pulsed with pain. I felt my heartbeat gradually perish... The environment around me became even more lush with color and... then I heard Topher call me.

"--tch? Zatch, are you okay?" His hand was on my shoulder. He was shaking me lightly. The pain subsided, but my suspicions mounted an entirely new peak. I've never felt this inclined to pursue something; to reach something. Whatever lay at the end of that was something I couldn't have left unattended to in my destiny. It became my ultimate goal. I had to go...

What I didn't know then was that I had been reached through a complex series of brainwaves reverberating throughout the woodland. At the time, I didn't know whose brainwaves they were, but they were powerful. And they were not human. I remembered being convinced that some sort of alien life form was in the woods with us. I thought it was pretty legit. It would have explained the meteorites in a way.

"Hey, we need to go to the Obsidian Circle." I said quite suddenly, Topher not expecting that statement.

"But what about the police? Is there another way?"


Our next adventure was something Topher did not like, though he refused to let me go on my own. We weaved through the trunks of the trees, pushed our way through the thick bushes, and got a bit dirty in the process. One thing I knew about Topher was that he hated the thought of being dirty. First of all, the guy constantly smelled like fruity flowers or flowery fruits. Second, he practically spelled it out with his reluctance to join me. I didn't mind if he wanted to stay back, though, I still did want him with me... I wasn't sure why. At that time, there was no persuading me to do anything other than locate the source of the brainwaves. They were at the Obsidian Circle. No. They weren't there exactly. There was something powerful there. The brainwaves were separate...


I stopped.

The Circle was but feet away from our position. I knew because I heard voices. The authorities were here. Topher was silent... The glow beyond the bushes was radiant as a fire... The waves were no longer ahead of me. They were no longer behind me. They were at neither side of me... I breathed warm air out of my nose and turned the other direction, giving such an effort not to disturb the noisy plants and twigs nearby...

Topher's neck was completely extended, his head back a ways. What he was trying to see was something I was trying to find.

The waves were above us. In the trees. I, too, focused upward.

"Is someone up there?" He asked me, aware that I'd just tuned in to the source of his attention.

"Something is up there... I think it's what I was after."

"What is it?"

I didn't answer. And that was because something else did. We happened to be looking at that something else. There was movement, and then blue. Blue eyes. Larger than Topher's, and encircled in what looked like black rings. Around that was green. I made out the rest or most of its body. That. Was the largest bug. I. Have. Ever. Seen. And it was the source of the brainwaves.

"What the hell is that thing?" Topher gasped, struggling to maintain a low profile.

"Maybe an alien?" I hypothesized.

"D-do you think it has something to do with Vince?"

"...Possibly." Its eyes were fixed, and so were mine. We were unmoving. If it was afraid of us, it could have long since vanished from our sight. The camouflage was so impressive. If I lost focus for a second, I'd have had trouble regaining it... Yeah, that thing was not scared at all. It looked it at first. Based on its decision to stay and watch us with the knowledge of us watching back, I'd have said that this creature had the means to do some terrible things to us. Topher knew as well as I did, and wanted out. Now.

"We need to leave, this is crazy..." He whimpered, stepping back a bit after tugging at the side of my shirt... It was too late for any last laments about the situation here. Silent as a mouse (though clearly not one) the thing lowered itself from the branch, descending smoothly with the rapid flapping of its clear wings. Topher whimpered again, scampering back a bit.

"Oh s**t, it--" I had no time to finish that pointless thought. It was hovering in my face. I turned away with an arm concealing myself as best as it could have done. I heard the fluttering of wings cease. It had landed... I scanned around, finding the creature at my feet, and... suddenly it wasn't as frightening as I had thought a moment ago. Topher kept his distance, but I felt at ease. It was actually kind of cute, whatever it was. I may have chosen the wrong course of action when I lowered myself to its level, but I was curious. And so was it... "Hey, little fella! You're... not like... you know..." I shrugged. "'Not gonna eat my face off, right? I need that item. You know, my face?"

"No, uh, Zatch. You're fine. You and Topher are fine!" It spoke. Perfect English. What. The. Hell? It was so unexpected that was positive I had just lost a few brain cells trying to prepare for that should it happen again. And yeah, it did! "I'm not going to hurt you, and I'm not sure how I could hurt you." The voice was high pitched, though not so much that it was chipmunk-status. It was well below that point. Even still, there was something to it I was familiar with right off the bat. It knew our names too. I probably should have been most concerned with that matter...

I remained still and silent.

"C'mon. It's just me. It's Vince. Look, I don't know what happ--" You're damn right I didn't let him finish that sentence. I did something Topher would have done and swept the little thing right up in my arms as though he were a puppy.

"Gggh, you little b*****d...!" I whispered loudly, squeezing him close to my chest. "Why did you go and turn into a giant bug like that?!"

"Urg--I d-didn't really--agh--have a choice. Hey now! Easy, easy!" I let him down. "There's a lot of stuff going on here, and I can't be seen. I might have made the mistake of showing myself to you two, so you have to promise me not to tell anyone you saw me here, okay?"

"Aww, but duuuude. How long are you going to be all hidden and whatnot?"

"I don't know. Maybe I'll turn back soon..." Vince shrugged, staring at his stubby hands.

"You know, Zatch, you're awfully calm for what we're seeing here." Topher spoke up. He was right, but I was relieved beyond his understanding. I was so glad to see Vince (sorta) still alive. I didn't care what he had somehow turned into. The most important thing here was that he was... well, still here. "Me? I could have run off screaming by now! But thank you, Vince, for letting us know it was you... Even though I'm kinda freaking out. Vince, how did this happen?"

"I'm not sure what to tell you... I suppose I can tell you when it happened. I was on my way to school. Then I turned into this."

"Good story." I chuckled. "What're you going to do?"

"...Tell you what. How about I meet you at your place, Zatch?"

"W-whoa! Without being seen? How're you going to--"

"I know my way around this town, man. And now I can fly" He twisted his back toward us, his wings fluttering for a second. "I'll find a detour through the forest here and stay out of sight."

"Whatever works for you, bug boy. Man, check you out... You're so tight looking. You've got the antennae and the whole... bud thing..." I probably sounded like a dumbass. I'm glad Topher found it funny. He giggled a little, but I could tell he was still nervous. And possibly hysterical. "Sorry, sorry. We'll fawn over your bug-ness later. Topher, let's make this quick, okay?"

He nodded. Vince flew off. We partnered back up. We left... And through all of that excitement, I couldn't help but forget about the pounding headache which I thought I saw the end of. It turned out I was wrong... I was so wrong. About everything. Things were about to get much weirder. Even more so than they already were.

And it was only MONDAY.