Friday, July 16, 2021

1.1 The Shadow Knows


I woke up. Shattered with pain, I woke up. Fire licked deeply at me and knives stabbed every inch of me. Every joint I had was stretched, twisted and tortured. I woke up. My eyes opened in shock... and it was all gone. The pain, the fire, the torture all gone. I gasped a deep, back-arching breath and lay there shuddering in relief, staring up at the familiar stars on my bedroom ceiling. I had once again slipped into the nightmare memory of that night until it had once again spit me out.

“Greg, are you all right?” My mom came banging in through my bedroom door.

“Yeah mom, I'm fine,” I grumbled.

“The nightmare again?” she asked. Yeah, I answered, shaking my head. “I thought I told you you didn't need to run into my room every time you heard me?”

“If I hear noise that sounds like a teenage boy, I stay out,” mom said, blushing. “When I hear screaming, I come in.”

“That's the first one in a week though,” I sighed. “It's getting better.”

“You're getting better,” mom added. “You're making progress, and not just with handling the nightmares. It has only been a month after all. These things take time.”

I had made progress. More than the old Greg Veder would have been capable of. I was so not him anymore, to the point where I felt like I shouldn't even answer to that name. Too many old connotations. Too many old mistakes to live down and regrets to get past. All thanks to my trigger event. A month ago yes, but the prelude to that had begun almost two months earlier.

I was one of the many bystanders to the abuse Sophia Hess, Emma Barnes, Madison Clements and their minions put on Taylor Hebert.

We were not innocent bystanders, we were complicit in our silence. Old Greg and I felt particularly complicit, because he once thought that Taylor was his friend and had a chance to be more than friends. The old oblivious Greg didn't get many social cues, but even he finally got that he was wrong about that. She barely tolerated him, and then only because she was basically a decent person and I was harmless.

That all changed after the locker incident.

When Taylor came back to school a couple weeks after the locker, she was different. Not so much that you would notice unless you had been semi-obsessing over her. Guilty as charged, I admit. 
What I noticed was that she was no longer surprised when the terror trio or their henchmen cornered her. She still didn't do anything about it, but she somehow knew when it was coming. Expecting it, she had a chance to gird her loins, so to speak. Sometimes it let her escape; a push from behind that missed, a tripping attempt that she avoided.

It wasn't immediate, but eventually the old me, Oblivious Greg put some of the pieces together. His other obsession, capes, brought some of their pieces into it as well and at the initial moment of crystallization, two things clicked into place. First, the conviction that Taylor had triggered during the locker incident. No clue as to what her trigger resulted in, but he was sure she had triggered. Oblivious Old Greg's second light bulb was the fact that Sophia Hess was Shadow Stalker, a member of the Wards. A cape. She was the right height, right build, and had a matching sneering, superior attitude. It also explained how things kept disappearing from Taylor's locker. SOPHIA HESS WAS SHADOW STALKER!

Thus did Oblivious Greg turn into Bold, Daring Greg who began stalking Sophia Hess and Shadow Stalker. His cell phone capturing pictures, video and audio of whatever seemed suspicious. Mostly the suspicious stuff centered around the terror trio and their campaign against Taylor.

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