"Kevin...what are you doing?" I heard a voice say. I slowly opened my eyes to the blinding sun, which was, well, blinding. A rolled my eyes around a few times to regain my vision, and looked down to the voice.
"Oh...hi Keiran. What up?" I asked groggily.
"Well, at this point in time, you. What are you doing up there?" He asked.
"Well, I was sleeping, until you woke me up!" I yelled back crankily.
"I'm just upset that I wasn't told about 'randomly sleep on other peoples roofs' day. I would have slept on every roof in the town. But no, you had to leave me out! Some friend you are." He replied, completely serious.
"It's not like that, dude. I was over a friends house and we thought it would be cool to sleep on his roof. So we did." I answered.
"I'm guessing that this friend is the lump under the covers next to you." He said, motioning towards Stephan, who was completely shrouded by blankets. "I thought that the family that lived there moved out a few weeks ago, though."
"Yeah, they did. This is a new kid I met in Spanish yesterday. You might have heard about him." I said.
"No, didn't hear anything about any new kid." He said, as I nodded my head in understanding. "Well, are you gonna introduce me? He must be awake by now from all the screaming." Syralth chuckled.
"Yeah, I guess so" I chuckled back. I nudged the seemingly lifeless blankets to see if there was any sign of consciousness in there. "You awake, buddy?" I asked. The pile moved a bit to the left and right signaling one awake dragon. "Come on out, dude, I want you to meet Keiran. Remember? I talked about him last night." I said.
The blankets moved a bit more, and I heard some slight sound come from the hut. "I don't want to...not yet." I heard him mumble.
"Come on, dude, if anyone would understand, it would be Keiran." I said.
"Syralth, if you will." Keiran chimed in.
"Like I told you before, I've known you since 2nd grade. You're always gonna be Keiran to me. Get over it." I explained to him for the thousandth time.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But this is a new kid, fresh meat, if you will. If we're gonna be friends, I would like to get him in the habit of calling me Syralth." He explained.
"Here that, Stephan? He wants to be your friend! Just give him a chance, alright? No one else is here besides me, you, and Kei...Syralth." I told the hidden dragon kindly.
"Yeah, don't worry dude. I don't bite...much." Syralth said.
"I'm just not ready. Please don't make me do this." Stephan begged.
"Too late. My mind is made up" I said, as I clutched the covers. It was obvious that he wasn't gonna reveal himself on his own. I took the liberty of tearing off all the covers, letting loose the dragon inside. Stephan looked shocked and scared for a bit, until he admitted defeat. He sat up letting Keiran get a good look at him. Syralth just kinda raised his eyebrows a bit at the site of the red reptile. He stared at him for a while, not in awe, not in shock, not even really in confusion. Just in sort of a "Oh, that's new" stare. Stephan fidgeted around for a bit, until he looked Syralth in the eyes and gave a nervous smile.
"Kevin...when did we go crazy? I wasn't told that we went crazy. Why am I always left out?" He asked; once again, very seriously. Stephan looked a bit hurt by the comment, thought.
"Hey, dude, lay off, ok? Don't you think it's hard enough looking like that?" I asked. I knew Keiran was only being crazy like all my friends, but Stephan didn't.
"You're right...I'm sorry, new kid. That was mean, and totally against my philosophy. I hate when people judge others for how they look or something else pointless. I'm really sorry if I hurt your feelings. Are you ok?" He asked very sincerely.
"Yeah, I'm ok. I've never recieved quite an appology like that before in my life. Don't worry, we're cool" He said with a toothy grin.
"Hugs?" Syralth asked from the ground. Stephan looked to me curiously, as if he had never heard the word before.
"Heh, Syralth likes hugs. He takes them at any given chance he gets. Don't worry, he doesn't bite...much." I laughed.
"Well...ok, then." Stephan said, as he leaped and flew down to meet Keiran. They spread their arms wide and clung to eachother for a few moments.
"Wow, that was sure interesting. I've never hugged a dragon before. You're so firm and tense, and have quite a nice grip. It was enjoyable, I'll say that much." Keiran said kindly.
"Heh, thanks. I don't get many hugs, so I guess that means a lot!" Stephan replied.
"Uh...Stephan...we have a problem." I said from the roof top.
"What's that?" Stephan asked obliviously.
"Well, I'm pretty sure that if I jumped down from here it would be a form of suicide, so I would rather if that not happened" I said.
"Oh! I'm sorry dude, let me get you down." He said, as he flew back up to the roof with grace.
"So...how are we doing this? Do I, like, ride on your back or something?" I asked.
"Heh, no, I don't think that will work. But this should..." He said, as he came close to be and locked me in a bear hug. "Hang on" I heard him say, and I did as instructed. He jumped back off of the room, still clinging to me, and gently floated down. I felt our feet touch the grass, but he still was hanging on to me. He gave me a slight squeeze and let go.
"What was that about?" I asked.
"Well...Keiran isn't the only one who likes hugs..." He said, smiling just a bit.
"Syralth, please." Keiran chimed in.
"Well...ok, just give me some warning next time, ok? I like to hug back, you know?" I said with a smile.
"Heh, ok. Will do." Stephan said while patting me on the back.
"So, what do you guys want to do?" I asked, while checking my watch. It was almost 1 PM. We slept in quite a bit.
"Well, I was originally heading over to RJ's for snacks and the like. You guys want to come?" Syralth asked.
"Well...I don't know, guys..." Stephan responded shyly.
"Oh, come on, dragon boy. Now you have two of us that got your back. Nothing bad will happen. In fact, you might even meet some more of my friends." I said.
"Well...if you guys insist." Stephan said. We started to walk southwards down to RJ's little gas station through the streets of Highridge. Since it was a Saturday afternoon, we passed quite a few people on the way, each with a slightly different reaction to Stephan. Some of them looked at him with disgust, others looked at him straight up fear and backed away. Some people gave a warm and friendly smile, while others shivered at just the sight of him. Others yet even seemed to admire his red scales and seemed infatuated with his appearance. So many difference consensus's of the situation, even in a moderatly sized town like highridge. But one thing did stay constant. Stephan walked along the streets with a frown on his face and looked at the pavement the entire time. I did feel bad for him, all this unwanted attention. Some people love to be the center of attention, but they try. It's gotta be rough being the center when you have no other choice.
After the endless walk we finally arrived at RJ's shop. We walked into the store to be greeted by none other than RJ's son, Craig. Craig was a nice guy, but was very laid back and didn't really care what people thought of him, so he never really tried to make good impressions.
"Hey Craig" I said.
"Hey, dude" Syralth echoed. Stephan stayed quiet, probably in an attempt to keep himself unnoticed.
"Hey, guys, what's up?" Craig said, in his usual sleepy and monotonic voice. He looked over to Stephan and was taken a gasp for a second. But, just like normal Craig, he shrugged it off in a few seconds. "Hey, man" He said to Stephan.
"Hi" Stephan said quietly and shyly.
"Hey. So, what, you some kind of freak or somethin'?" Craig asked. I wasn't too surprised, he usually says stuff like that. Stephan looked back at the ground and frowned.
"I guess..." He mummbled, but loud enough to still comprehend.
"Cool, cool. Well, I haven't seen you around here, so welcome to RJ's! The solution to all your daily needs here at Highridge! We hope that you enjoy your stay here and blah, blah, blah" Craig recited unenthusiastically.
"Heh, thanks" Stephan responded quietly and with a slight smile on his face.
"No prob, freaky-dragon-bro" Craig said, as we walked into the little convenience store.
"Well...that was weird" Stephan said to us.
"No, that was just Craig." Syralth responded.
"Highridge is full of crazies and hoo-has. Don't worry, you'll fit right in within a week." I said, reassuring my scaly friend.
"Let's hope" He chuckled. "So...what do we do now?"
"Well, I'm gonna go get some soda or something. How bout you two rack 'em up?" Syralth said. That was the cool thing about RJ's. Not only was it a gas station and a mini mart, but it also had a tiny arcade in it. Basically, it had Pac-man, Donkey-Kong, Space Invaders, a digital juke box, a change machine, and most importantly, a pool table.
"Hm...There's three of us now, so I guess we're playing Cutthroat." I wondered out loud as I walked to the back of the store, Stephan right on my heels. We entered the small little area and walked over to the ball tube. Quite an ingenious invention, I might say. Its basically a long tube with the pool balls in it, locked by a little metal door. You pay a dollar, and the gate open, letting the balls fall into the removable triangle. After you play your game, the balls go from the pockets, through the floor, and back up to the tubes via vacuum. Even with three tubes for the three different games, 8 ball, 9 ball, and cutthroat, there's also a small gate that opens up for the empty tube, but not the full ones, allowing the balls to only go in that one. One of RJ's finest inventions. I'm surprised he didn't patent it yet. I put in my dollar and pressed the "Cutthroat" button, which let out the balls I needed. I set them up on the table, along with my little "cheating the system" device. I took out 6 plastic tabs from my hidng place; behind the jukebox, and placed them inside the holes on the table.
"What's that for?" Stephan asked me.
"Just cheating the system. I noticed a while back that these pockets get narrower the farther they go down. So it was the simple matter of cutting plastic in the general shape of the pockets and jamming them into the holes. That way, when a ball goes in, you can just take it back out, without paying for another game." I explained.
"That's innovative...but what happens if we get caught?" Stephan asked.
"We got that covered. RJ found out about us doing this, and just laughed it off. He said that if we put that much effort into it, we deserved a few free games" I chuckled. At that point Syralth came up to the table with a 2 liter bottle of birch beer and a family sized bag of salsa Doritos. He handed me the chips to open while he took a swig of the soda. I took a few chips and offered them to Stephan.
"No thanks..." He said quietly.
"Oh, come on, you know you want some!" I said.
"...Oh, what the hell? Fine." He said as he took the bag. He grabbed a handful and shoved them in his snout. "Can I get some soda to wash this down?" He asked.
"Getting bold now, huh?" Syralth said, whilst handing him the bottle.
"Do we have any cups?" the dragon asked.
"Nope. No point to them. Spit is spit is spit is spit. Just take a drink" I said. He put his scaly lips on the lid a took a gulp of birch beer, as I started to set up the table. I placed the 15 balls in the triangle and lined it up with the center of the table.
"You ever play this before?" I asked my scaly friend.
"Only one or two times at my cousin's house. But the balls looked a lot different than those. They had numbers on them, and some of them were striped." He said.
"That's regular, 8-ball pool. This is cutthroat. The objectives a bit different. As you see, there are 3 different colored balls; red, blue, and yellow. And instead of only two people playing, there's three, a player per ball color. The first one that sinks a shot gets to choose what color he wants, same with the second to sink. The objective in this is sort of the opposite than that of 8-ball. In this, you wanna keep all your balls on the table. If all your balls are sunk, your out; you lose. So you wanna hit your two opponents in before they sink yours. You can break, then Kevin will go, and then me." Syralth explained.
"Ok, I guess" Stephan said, as he picked up a cue stick, and chalked it a bit.
"For someone who's only played a couple times, you seem to know what you're doing." I said suspiciously.
"Heh, well, just because I haven't played much doesn't mean I don't know how to play" He said, as he lined up his shot. He pulled back and launched the white ball, hitting the dead center of the triangle, sending the balls everywhere. He managed not only to sink a ball, but two! A blue one and a yellow one. "I guess I'll take red, then" He chuckled.
"Ok, fine. Take your next shot" I said, still suspicious of how much of a beginner he really was. He did as I said, and lined up a shot on a blue ball. He let the cue ball fly. It hit the blue ball in, but also went in a pocket itself. "That's a scratch" I said, as I picked the ball up from the pocket. There was a red ball right next to the pocket, but on the wrong side of the table. Syralth and I always played by the two-dot rule, as in, you can only place the cue ball behind the first two dots, where it was during the break. But even so, it was the only good shot I had, so I took my chances. I lined it up at the center of the table, and let it fly. I got lucky enough to hit it hard enough that the red ball went in. "I guess I'll take yellow" I said.
"Of course you will" Keiran replied bitterly. "Just take your next shot"
"Indeed I will" I said. I looked at the board. I had a two decent shots, a blue ball in the side and a red ball in the top corner. I figured that I could get Syralth out pretty easily now, so I aimed for the blue ball, as he glared at me. I lined it up, and took the shot. My accuracy wasn't quite on par, as it bounced off the edge into one my balls, sinking it into the side pocket.
"That's what you get, jerk" Syralth replied playfully, as he chalked his cue and aimed. There was a red ball still in the center of the table near a side pocket, but there was a ball between the cue and the shot. Syralth altered his aim to an empty edge of the board. He hit the ball and bounced it off the edge directly into the red ball, and right into the side pocket.
"Lucky shot" Stephan said.
"It's not luck, it's physics." Syralth replied, as he lined up his next shot. Looked like he was going for one of mine. A ball almost directly on the edge of the table. He had no shot. But if I knew Keiran like I thought, he has some sort of plan. His eyes were darting all over the table. He took over a minute to just line up the shot, as I munched on the chips he bought. He finally shot the cue ball. It hit the yellow ball off the edge. It rolled to the other side, before colliding with a red ball. The yellow ball's trajectory changed, and headed right for the corner pocket, while the red ball headed for the side pocket. Both of our balls went directly in.
"You always do that. Turning the situation around like that." I said, noting that Stephan and I had two balls each on the table, while Keiran had three.
"Yup" He said quickly, while he lined up his next shot. He took the plunge as he missed the yellow ball completely and landed the cue ball right in the pocket. Stephan picked up the ball and placed it on the table. He aimed at a blue ball on the table, and shot. The balls collided, but neither went in. Instead, the cue rolled right into one of my balls, and by a stroke of luck, pinned it in the corner pocket.
"Of course that would happen" I said, while rolling my eyes. Now I only had one ball on the table. The dragon chuckled and lined up his next shot. Luckily, it was one of Syralth's. He aimed and shot, this time hitting it dead center and into the corner pocket. He lined up his next shot, another one of Syralth's, and, once again, hit it into the corner. Now he was winning. He lined up the next shot, this time mine. He aimed and fired, but luckily for me, it just bounced and ended up in the middle of the table. I took my cue stick and lined up my shot. Unfortuanatly for me, there weren't any good ones, except for my own. The best shot I had happened to be a blue ball. I lined it up and looked at Keiran's face. He didn't seem nervous, almost as if he was mocking me. Either way, I lined it up and took the shot. I hit the ball, and it hit the edge of the pocket. Litterally a quarter of the ball was over the hole; I missed the shot. But to make things worse, some how the cue got back to hitting my ball. Right into the side pocket. I had lost.
"Well, nice try, Kevin. Maybe next time" Stephan said politely.
"Yeah, I guess" I said, still mad at myself for that ironic shot. I looked at the table and saw that it was a tough call on who would win this. Syralths ball was right in the corner, but at the same time, Syralth had two great shot on Stephan, but he could only take one of them. The shots were on the complete opposite corners, and the balls were on opposite sides of the cue. Knowing Syralth, he could probably sink one of them easily, but it could ruin the shot for the next one. Then again, what other choice did he have? He lined up one of the shots. He tilted the stick high in the air, and hit the cue ball on the bottom with lots of force. It shot forward, and hit the red ball into the corner pocket. The cue ball then started to go backwards and hit the other red ball into the corner.
"Game" He said unenthusiastically.
"Are you guys pulling my leg or something?" Stephan asked amazed.
"Nope. Roll the ball backwards, and the second it hits something, it'll go backwards. All in the physics." Syralth said, as he collected the balls from the pocket.
"Hey, dudes and freaky-dragon dude, have a fun game?" Craig said while walking over to us.
"Yeah, I guess so. I lost..." I said, still sulking.
"And I won" Syralth said smoothly.
"And I was somewhere in the middle." Stephan said softly.
"Awesome, awesome. Mind if I jump in on a game?" Craig asked monotonically.
"Well, we were playing cutthroat, but if you have the money to get the 8- or 9-ball set, then sure." Syralth said
"Who needs to pay when you have the key?" Craig said, as he took the small metallic key from his pocket. He went over to the ball machine and inserted the key into the hole in gate. It opened up and the 15 multicolored balls rolled out into the dish.
"So I guess we're doing team 8-ball, then?" Stephan asked.
"You know it. So what are the teams?" Craig asked while setting up the balls.
"Well...how about me and you versus Kevin and Stephan?" Syralth suggested.
"Sounds good to me" Craig said, as Stephan and I both nodded. "So who breaks?"
"Well, since I won the last round, you guys can break." Syralth said.
"Okay. You break, Stephan, you seem to be good at it." I said, while handing him the cue stick. He took aim at the cue ball and let it fly. The balls smashed into each other, and rolled all around the table. He was able to sink 2 solid balls...unfortunately, one of them was the 8-ball. "Maybe I spoke too soon..."
"Sorry..." Stephan said glumly.
"No worries, freaky-dragon-dude, try again." Craig said, while re-racking the balls.
"Well...ok" Stephan said, as he grabbed the cue ball and lined it up. He took another shot this time, and once again, two balls went in. First the 7, and then the 15.
"I guess we're solids" I said, as I motioned for the cue stick. Stephan handed it over and I took aim for the 2 ball in right next to the corner pocket. I hit the 2 into the corner pocket, but the cue ball rolled to the other side of the table and into a pocket. "Damn, I'm having bad luck today." I said.
"Hey, don't worry about it, we're still winning." Stephan reassured me, as Syralth took the ball. He placed it on the table and shot. Like always, he sunk one of his balls directly in. Syralth handed Craig the cue stick, and he lined up a shot. Once again, straight in. He handed the stick right back to Syralth, but before he could do anything, a few annoyingly familiar voices sounded.
"Whadda we have here? The fuckin' freak's tryin' to act cool. Maybe we should teach him a lesson." One deep and drunken voice said.
"Yeah, I think we should. Teach him his place as an animal amongst people" Another one said, in a high pitched and nasally voice. He had a sort of over confident smirk, obviously looking for a fight. Stephan tensed his shoulders and glared.
"And look! This is the guy that gave him cover before, when we was teaching him a lesson after school." The last one said in a raspy and monotonic voice, obviously brought on by cigarettes.
"What, do we have to show this whole fuckin' city who not to mess with?" The drunk thug said in a cocky and arrogant matter.
"Yes, because we really 'messed' with you. God save us." Syralth said bitterly and sarcastically.
"You watch you're fuckin' mouth!" The drunk thug replied angrily, while pointing at Keiran.
"Maybe if I was a low brow like you, I might just be able to!" Syralth replied, obviously itching for a fight.
"Hey, you best not be messing with Benny. He'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget." The nasally kid said.
"Him teach anything? That's doubtful, I'd be surprised if he could even count." Stephan said smirking. I was surprised he actually had the guts to say that; I was proud.
"What you say, freak!?" The scratchy voiced thug said.
"You heard him, didn't you, asshole?" I said. The rate that this was going, it wouldn't be long until a fight. And from the looks of it, it wouldn't take long to kick their asses. One was drunk, so his reflexes were shot; one was obviously a hard smoker, and the other was scrawny. And hey, we had a dragon on our side. It shouldn't be hard to win.
"I'll make you regret that!" The drunk said, while taking a slow and inaccurate swing at me. I dodged with ease, but hey, the first strike was initiated. There's no getting out of it now. Craig stepped out from the scene, knowing what was going to come. No offence to him, but he's kinda useless in a fight, and he knew that. So it was 3 on 3, should be fun. I punched the drunk in the gut and he stumbled back against the pool table. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of them start to take a swing at me. I wouldn't have enough time to avoid it, so I braced myself. Luckily, the punch never connected. Syralth managed to catch his fist from the side, and punched him in the jaw, knocking him down. Unfortunately, in his act of courage, he got nailed in the stomach by the smoker. Stephan managed to get in the fight and hit the smoker in the crotch, he dropped instantly. That was two down, now it was just the leader of the pack. He readied himself, but before anything else happened, a few sirens were heard. The thugs immediately recognized the howling of a police cruiser. They got up as best they could and ran out the back door, like they've been doing it all their lives...well, they probably have been.
"This probably won't turn out good..." Stephan said nervously.
"Don't worry, my guess is that we'll be taken down the station, be questioned and stuff, while they look at the tapes and ask witnesses who started it." I said calmly. I've been involved and witnessed enough fights to know the outcome. The least we would have to worry about would be about a $50 fine, but we probably wouldn't be in any trouble at all.
"Yeah, it happens to us more than you would think" Syralth said weakly, while he held his stomach.
"You ok, Keiran?" I asked, concerned for his health.
"I told you, call me Syralth." He said, probably annoyed at me again for forgetting.
"Yeah, he's fine. So what now?" Stephan asked.
"Well, the police will probably enter in a few secs, ask the clerk what happened, then tell us to come down to the station." Keiran said. And sure enough, a few seconds later, A police officer came in the store, asked around, and wandered to the back to us.
"You three boys are going to have to come with me." Office Arlington said, as he notioned towards Syralth, Stephan, and I.
"Understood, sir" I said, as we followed him outside and into his tiny little Civic Cruiser. He started to drive off, keeping an eye on us in the back through the rear-view mirror.
"You boys know you shouldn't be fightin', especially not in a public place like that." He advised.
"I know sir, but in all due respect, we were just looking out for our friend here. As you see, he doesn't exactly fit in with the normal crowd, so to speak." Syralth said, as Stephan gazed out the window.
"I can see that, but you know you should try to avoid it if at all possible. Just walk away." He said to us, and we solemnly nodded. "But, hey, don't worry about. I know you two are good kids, and your friend probably is as well. This will all be sorted out in an hour or two. We caught the other boys in the fight who ran from us, that's already a strike against them." He said, as we nodded again. By that time, we had arrived at the station. We piled out of the cop car, and followed him into the station. We sat down in a dim lit and gray room on one side of the table, as he sat in the other. "Can you boys tell me what happened?"
"Well, sir, we were just playing a friendly game of pool. That is, me, Keiran, Stephan, and Craig, when they came in and started harassing Stephan." I explained politely.
"I'm assuming you're Stephan?" He asked, while looking at the dragon in front of him. Stephan nodded. "What were they saying to you?"
"Just that they were gonna 'teach me a lesson' for trying to act like a person instead of an animal..." Stephan said bitterly.
"And we had to stick up for him, sir. We couldn't let that happen to our bud, we stick together." Keiran said.
"I see, I see. And what happened next?" The cop asked calmly.
"Well, some stuff was said, mostly pre-fight banter, just sticking up for ourselves. Next thing you know, Benny's taking a swing at me. I reserve my right of self-defense and knocked him back. Another one came at me, but Keiran was able to protect me, and the Stephan protected Keiran. Then you guys showed up." I said.
"Sounds like a pretty good alibi. Lemmy just clear it with the other officers and we'll have you out of here as soon as we can." Officer Arlington said, as he walked out the door.
"Well, that was easy" Stephan said.
"He'll be back in a few minutes with their bullshit side of the story. Just be prepared for it. You were the target in that case, so they're probably gonna pin it all on you. Just stay calm and we'll be find. There's a camera at the back of the store that'll show everything, and we have Craig and probably a few other people as witnesses." Syralth said, and sure enough, the officer was back in a matter of moments, with another cop.
"They say that you guys started the fight." Officer Arlington said, sighing.
"In all due respect, sir, I'm not surprised. But I'm curious, what was their story?" I asked.
"They say that they walked into the back of the store to get some change from the change machine. One of them accidentally bumped into Stephan, and he flipped out. They said he was tearing and clawing at them, and then we came. They said that they were afraid the 'monster' was coming after them, so they ran." The other officer said.
"That's not what happened..." Stephan said sullenly.
"Look, I know. They don't have any claw marks or torn cloths or anything, just black and blue marks conveniently in the shape of fists. But as of now, we have no evidence on who started this, so we're gonna have to keep you here a while until we can get some." Officer Arlington said, while rubbing his temples in stress.
"There's a camera in that back room, and we already have a witness not involved in the fight; Craig Lotz. He should be able to clear this up for us." Syralth said.
"Thanks for the information. We'll do our best to get this all straightened out soon. For now, you guys just chill in here until we release you. Put on music, talk, text, whatever." The other officer said, as they both walked out the door.