Chapter I – Sleepy Hollow
“My shadow moved again today” The young boy said slowly.
“Was it like the last time? Or was there more?” The counsellor asked from across the table, her pen and notepad in hand.
“It was like last time. Only…” The young boy trailed off, not wanting to make his situation worse.
“Go on Andrew, you can tell me”
“Well… This time it was pointing at something” He looked to the ground as the counsellor cocked her head and raised her eyebrows.
“It was pointing at something? How do you mean? What was it pointing at?” The counsellor jotted his words in her note pad. She found them increasingly interested, but wished to get to the bottom of these visions.
“Like… It looked like it was at least” Andrew fidgeted with his hands, hoping she would drop the topic, but knowing that wouldn’t happen.
“Where was it pointing Andrew?” Asked the counsellor, urging Andrew to open up, she had been trying for several months already and made little progress. She just needed him to be comfortable.
“Uh… I don’t know… Could have been anywhere I guess”
“Are you sure?”
“No, I mean, I think I am… I don’t know…”Hanging his head again, Andrew sighed, unsure how to make her understand what he saw.
“I understand that this can be very stressful on you, answering these questions, and attending these sessions, but it is important to tell me everything. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me everything. Do you understand?” Andrew kept quiet. He understood what she meant, he just didn’t like that he had to inform her of every thought he had. It had the tendency to make him feel like he might be crazy.
“Andrew? Do you understand?” She asked again hoping he would respond. She had found her sessions with Andrew relatively easy, but also time consuming. Andrew had the tendency to stretch out silences and choose fewer words over actual conversations quite often.
“Yes Dr. Cassier, I understand.”
“You can call me Lily, Andrew, if it makes you more comfortable.”
“Okay… Thank you… Lily.” Said Andrew, who felt more uncomfortable than he wanted to admit, but also knew that these sessions were important. If not for him, then for his parents at the very least, they seemed happier now that he’d been seeing Dr. Cassier, or at least less worried about him.
“Well I think that’s all the time for today Andrew, unless there was anything else you wanted to add?”
“Uh… No. I think that’s everything…”Said Andrew, ready to leave her office.
“Okay. I think we made some good progress today Andrew. You can go back to class now.”
“Thank you Dr- uh, Lily.”
Picking up his navy blue back pack with his right hand, Andrew Miller slung it over his left shoulder, on top of his favourite worn denim jacket. He was wearing a plain black tee with blue denim jeans. His sneakers were plain black converse that were speckled with paint and coated with mud. He smiled mildly at the counsellor as he pushed through her office door and turned down the school hallway. Headed towards his locker he spied a clock on the wall and realized it would be lunch in only thirty minutes. Class will be over soon, might as well just go to the lunch spot. Passing by a classroom door he slowed his pace and peered through the class window. It wasn’t the room he was supposed to be in but it was the one he would have preferred to be apart of. His friends Jason Alprin and Luke Kevans were sitting in the back of the math class, they were passing fantasy trading cards back and forth when the teachers back was turned. He had a card game planned with them for after school, the thought gave him something to look forward too. Three rows ahead of his friends sat Holly Turnbridge. Andrew could feel his heart beat quicken as he saw her, sitting attentively writing notes. She was one of the smartest kids in his class, and one of the prettiest girls in the school, in his mind at least. Jason had almost caught him staring at her at lunch one day and teased him for liking her. Andrew denied it adamantly, affirming that girls were gross and he had no time for them anyways. Occasionally Jason and Luke would bring it up just to bother him, but in all seriousness he did think he liked her. She was a nice girl with a sweet smile. She had naturally wavy blonde hair and bright green eyes. She made him wildly uncomfortable and he found he lost the ability to speak around her. He briefly considered the possibility that she could in fact be some sort of witch. Although she probably wasn’t and even if she was, he’d still like her, he thought. Teaching the class was Mr. Gratin , he was one of the more pleasant teachers despite his obsession with telling stories from the old glory days. It was a double edged sword for the kids as it cut down time on schoolwork, but his glory days were dry and boring. They primarily consisted of the time he shook hands with some genius who was disabled. No one had shown any interest in the story, or any idea who the guy was. He was an understanding man though and helped you out when you had a question. He used one of those sticks when teaching and would tap it on his desk if anyone was talking too loud. He didn’t have much of a temper and had taken a bit of a liking to Andrew and his friends being quoted as saying to other teachers that “One day we’ll be learning from them”. Passing by the classroom Andrew could see another teacher leaving one of the offices. Panicking a little inside he tried to come up with a reason for not being in class if the teacher should notice him. Often Andrew found himself wishing for a cloak of invisibility. As the teacher got closer he realized it was Ms. Costa, a very sweet and younger teacher who Luke had apparently once said was beautiful when talking to Jason. Jason told everyone in class, Luke punched him in the arm. It bruised and it never came up again, but Andrew would never forget that Luke too had noticed a girl, it gave him a strange comfort in regards to his own feelings. Ms. Costa had short and dark curly hair, blue eyes, and she was a shorter woman but still a foot or so taller than Andrew.
“Excuse me Mister, shouldn’t you be in class?”
“Oh, hi Ms. Costa, uh… Bathroom?” Andrew felt instant dread at his response and its flimsiness, but he hoped she would understand, as she usually did.
“Of course sweetie, you know where it is” She gave him a light pat on his shoulder and walked passed him. Dumbfounded, Andrew stood in spot and watched her as she walked away. He never thought skipping class would be so easy. He had only done it on two other occasions. Once he had faked sick and his mother believed him. He stayed home and played Super Nintendo most of the day. His sister Deborah had made a big deal about it though and called him a faker, she was just mad that she had to go to school. The other time it was a class at the end of the day and him Luke and Jason had all left class to go to their favourite trading card game store to get new cards with their allowance. Luke had gotten caught when they came back at the end of the day for pickup, this was before they got their bikes, but he stayed silent and didn’t mention that Jason and Andrew were with him. It was part of their brotherhood pact, their unbreakable bond. A pact they had made in grade 3 when they all became best friends. They had only made four rules at the time but they were strong as iron and unbreakable. As follows, according to the grade 3 iteration of their pact, the rules were: Do not tell on one another, Always share with each other, No one gets left behind and Girls are gross. They hadn’t updated those rules in two years and Andrew and Luke both had started to think it possible that girls might not be completely and unforgivably gross after all. Continuing to his locker Andrew stopped one more time, this time it was at an empty classroom. The lights were off but he swore he saw something move. Standing outside looking in, he stared into the darkened room. Nothing. After a moment he could only see his reflection in the glass. He had fair skin and dark hair, it was medium length and messy. Not intentionally, it was just hard to control, he had a cowlick right on the top of his head so he always had to use product or just leave it be. He often left it alone and just wore a hat. He didn’t have his hat on now but it was in his locker and he looked forward to putting it back on. He looked at himself a while longer, noticing his blue eyes and crooked teeth. He had lost his left canine and his lower right front tooth. They had started to come in now though, which he was happy about. Thankfully he didn’t whistle when he spoke but he was still a little embarrassed. Unavoidably he was teased at length by Luke and Jason until they too lost teeth. Jason lost a molar in the middle of class and Luke pulled out one of his upper front teeth by accident. One of the older kids who didn’t particularly care for the three kids had taken to calling them “The Toothless Crew” and it stuck. They didn’t mind though, they thought it was better than many alternatives, which it was. Leaving the window, Andrew walked to the end of the hall and stopped at his locker. He and his friends had only just got their lockers since they were now in grade 5. They went to a Grade K-7 school, it was a very large building that was split into two sections. The kids from Grade K-4 had their own section of the building, while the kids in grades 5-7 shared their own space as well. It wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t a lot of bullying and with the place being so large you never really spent too much time with any older kids. The high school was on the same plot of land being separated by the large parking lot. Andrew didn’t mind it and neither did his friends, they had gotten into a habit of sticking together pretty early on and had found their own space which no one had ever tried to take from them. They considered themselves pretty lucky. Opening the locker, Andrew reached in and pulled out his favourite hat. It was a royal blue with wear and tear around the edges and had no logo, he pulled it on then stuffed his bag into the locker, but not before he retrieved his lunch from the bag. It was in a brown paper bag and had his name written on it. His mom Francine had always made him lunch every morning before school. She was in the habit of writing the name on the bag because the year prior she did the same for Andrews older sister. Deborah was 5 years older than Andrew and had just started ninth grade at the towns high school before her disappearance, they had always gotten along fairly well but never really spent that much time together. Coincidentally, the hat he never leaves home without had originally belonged to Deborah. His sister had gone missing in the early Fall of 1993. They didn’t find her body until that Winter. The circumstances around her disappearance and death were still greatly unclear. The local police chief and his staff had done everything possible to find her. It wasn’t even overtly clear that she had been murdered at all. She didn’t have any assault or defence wounds, she had died from what was believed to be heart failure. Since then when the new school year started Andrew had been instructed to meet with the school counsellor, Dr. Lily Cassier. She believed that Andrew was under a lot of stress and had a very overactive imaginations. He dealt well enough with the loss of his sister but had recently started to see things. The counsellor had conversed with his parents about this and they had all agreed he was probably just having a slightly delayed reaction to the traumatic experience they had all been through. Still though, they had insisted he spend a little less time playing his card game with his friends and a little more time playing a sport or something. So Andrew, Luke and Jason took their cards to the local baseball diamond. It was a compromise but they worked with it. Andrew had told his friends of the things he had seen, and they had discussed it’s possibilities. Jason had joked around saying that maybe he had powers. Luke was a little more serious and insisted that it could be a ghost or a demon of some kind. Either way, Andrew believed his counsellor and didn’t let it bother him. It had never really transgressed into anything more serious seeming in any case. A shadow twitch here and a light flicker there. The occasional movement in the peripheral to top it off. He knew his imagination was vastly expansive and creative. Shutting his locker he turned left down the hall and made his way to the ‘brotherhoods’ lunch spot. They had spent a few hours coming up with a name that they could call themselves, for a while they thought about using Blood Brothers but didn’t want to make a blood pact due to none of them liking knives so they settled on Brotherhood. They still needed a logo or some sort of saying, but in a similar fashion to the rules, no work had been done on that in two years so it probably wouldn’t happen. The brotherhood had lucked out when acquiring their hangout spot. It was outside the cafeteria and at the far end of the main foyer just off to the left in what you could call a raised alcove. There was enough space for all three of them to sit on the ledge and even play their card game and eat their lunch. Andrew put his lunch down and sat against his usual spot. The clock across the hall read 11:50, ten minutes until lunch, Andrew figured he might as well start on his food now. Opening his bagged lunch he grabbed the juice box first, it was wild berry, his favourite. Puncturing the carton with the straw and taking a big sip he reached back into the bag and pulled out his sandwich. It was ham cheese and pickles, Andrew smiled for a moment but the smile faded fast as he noticed the lack of crusts. His mother would occasionally forget, Andrew liked the crusts on his sandwiches, his sister did not. He knew that his parents weren’t dealing with the loss that well so he never mentioned these things, but they always served as a bittersweet reminder. Pushing any sad thoughts away he took a big bite of his sandwich and set down the juice box next to him. Finishing the last bite of his sandwich, Andrew began reaching into the bag to get the last item when the lunch bell sounded. Deciding he’d wait so he could share whatever treat his mother packed him with his friends, he rolled the bags top shut and sipped on his juice box. It didn’t take long for his friends to show up and he could even hear Jason before seeing them. Jason naturally spoke a little louder than most, which could have to do with the fact that at home it was only him, his brother Thomas and his father, so he would often try and win his fathers affection. At least to him it felt that way, Thomas might have a different opinion. Luke was a gentler soul, he was someone who could most commonly be found with his nose in a book or rambling about something he’d read in a book. He was definitely the smart one. As Andrews two best friends rounded the corner he smiled big and stood up to greet them. The one other thing the three boys had managed to do when creating their brotherhood was create a greeting. They performed it together. Andrew stood and with arms wide open bowed forward and said ‘I greet my brothers, with honor’ The other two did the same, then they stood and high fived each other.
“How did you get here so quickly Andy?” Luke asked as he sat down on the ledge. Luke was the shortest out of the three of them. Although both of his parents were tall it was still possible that he would turn it around after puberty. He had very short blonde hair and pale blue eyes. He was wearing Crimson coloured cords and a back sweater, his shoes were also black converse.
“I just came here after I was done talking to Lily” Andrew explained as he resumed sitting on the ledge.
“The head shrinker, your head does look smaller!” Jason laughed heartily at his joke, he was always aiming for a laugh at almost whatever the cost. Jason was a similar size to Andrew so they would sometimes trade clothes if one or the other got something really cool. Jason had curly brown hair and brown eyes with an olive skin tone. He was dressed very closely to how Andrew was dressed, with blue jeans, a white shirt except no jacket. Just like the other two, he had on black converse. They had decided that converse shoes were the best shoes around, so if you were in the brotherhood you had to wear them.
“My head isn’t shrinking, she’s a nice person, trying to help” Andrew wasn’t sure how else to describe her, he didn’t actually like the meetings. They usually made him uncomfortable, and he often felt like he was being judged, or was expected to be in a worse emotional state.
“Yeah yeah, whatever. Luke tell him what you told me” Jason said as he pulled out his lunch box from his bag. It was a plain lunch box, black with a handle and a clasp on the front.
“What is it Luke?” Andrew asked.
“I found out that they’re releasing a new pack of cards today, could be an expansion.” Said Luke excitedly. He was also pulling out his lunch from his bag and had started eating his own food.
“Really?” Asked Andrew hopefully, he loved when they released new sets and he really wanted to expand his collection.
“Yep, we should go to the mall after school before they sell out” Andrew liked the idea and mulled it over for a few seconds before Jason input his own thoughts.
“We have to go, if we ever want to have hope of being the masters of this game, we need those new cards” Andrew knew he was right, and felt very much the same. The boys had from time to time participated in tournaments at the local card game shop, and even did fairly well the last time around, finishing fourth out of ten.
“Okay, we’ll have to be pretty quick though, mom wants me home right away.” Said Andrew, hoping they would understand. The rules around the house had gotten stricter, and while he understood, it did sometimes limit his ability to participate with his friends.
“Yeah yeah, that’s fine, so it’s a plan then!” Jason smiled and shook Andrews hand. Another thing they found themselves doing often. If you had an arrangement or a deal with one of your brothers you have to shake on it, and you never break a shake. There had only ever been one instance when a shake was broken. The boys never spoke of it. With the plan settled on the two boys who had yet to finish their lunches be into whatever had been packed. Luke had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Jason had two slices of leftover pizza. Andrew sat and watched his friends eat their lunches as he thought about their plan for after school. He knew he was supposed to be home right at 3:30 every day, but he figured if they biked fast enough they could make it. It’ll be fine, I’ll make it. He thought.
“What did you guys get for a treat today?” Luke asked as he finished up his sandwich. Luke was always on top of the treats. They boys would share what they had amongst themselves, one of the rules. Andrew reached into his paper bag and pulled out a pack of Dunkaroos with chocolate frosting. Luke presented a pack of fruit gushers proudly as Jason held up a bag of Bugles. The boys all cheered as they opened their treats and passed them around.
“Yes! Andrew your mom is awesome, Dunkaroos are my favourite!” Luke grinned wildly as he dipped a kangaroo graham cracker into the chocolate frosting.
“Yeah she’s cool I guess” Andrew smiled as he grabbed a handful of bugles from the plastic bag and passed it on to Luke. Luke grabbed the bag from Andrew as he passed the Dunkaroos to Jason who was passing the fruit gushers to Andrew.
“I wish my dad would buy better treats. Bugles are okay I guess” Said Jason as he shrugged his shoulders and grabbed the Dunkaroos from Luke. His father Lee was a carpenter for the local mill. He worked very late often and wasn’t incredible at listening to the boys when he grocery shopped. His brother Thomas typically had most of his attention since he related better to his oldest son which often left Jason on the sidelines. Jason didn’t mind so much because it gave him almost complete freedom to do whatever he wanted with his friends, but occasionally having dinner at his friends houses he would feel a little sad. His mother had left them when he was only 6 years old. She had apparently fallen in love with another man and regretted her life choices up to the point when she left. That was all Jason’s dad had ever told him about it. The reality was much darker. Jason’s mom had been an avid user of heroin, she was able to kick the addiction before meeting Lee but the stress of being a mother to two children apparently caused her to cave. She used in secret most of the time but Lee found out shortly before Jason’s 4th birthday. He gave her many chances to clean up but she fought hard to stay high. Lee gave up eventually and let her go. If she was still alive she was one town over, living on the streets, only Lee knew this.
“That’s okay Jay, I can see if my mom will pack me an extra snack… Or I’ll sneak one” Said Andrew proudly, he liked to fancy himself a stealthy individual.
“Yeah right Andy you’ve never snuck anything” Luke said, shaking his head at Andrew.
“Shut up Luke you know how ninja I can be!” Andrew threw a bugle at Luke who caught it midair in his mouth and crunched it up, laughing
“Thanks Andy, you don’t have too though” Jason smiled as he chomped a Dunkaroo. In the distance Holly was walking from the cafeteria to her locker. Andrew saw her and instantly looked down at the gushers in his hand. He started silently praying that none of the guys would see her, prompting them to tease him. He looked up one more time but now she was closer, heading down the hall probably to go to her locker he thought. She wasn’t looking his way but he thought he could see her smiling.
“Hey Andy?” Asked Jason.
“What Jason?” Andrew asked expecting the worst.
“Isn’t that your girlfrie-”
“Shut up!” Andrew punched his arm and Jason erupted into laughter, Luke joined in as Holly walked past them. Andrew could have sworn she looked at him as she went by. He felt his heart beat faster for a second.
“I’m just bugging you Andrew, sorry” Jason held out his hand for Andrew to shake. Andrew looked at him sullenly for a second then embraced the shake. Luke laughed again as he ate a handful of bugles. Andrew shook his head and tossed the gushers he had into his mouth. The boys spent the last ten minutes of lunch laughing about the time they discovered a bees nest by accident under the deck at Luke’s house, and they all got stung. It was during one of the many quests the brotherhood embarks on. Often it’s to find hidden treasure or uncover secrets. One time they had undertaken a venture to acquire a relic of great importance, Deborah’s diary. They found it with relative ease, although it was Andrew who actually ventured into the room to find it, but opening it was perilous. Jason volunteered, but before they could learn anything Andrews mother had intervened. When they regrouped at the brotherhoods secret base, which was a shed in Andrews back yard, Jason reported on his findings. He couldn’t read much that quickly he said, but Deborah had made a weird new friend, he figured it was a boy. They would also undertake the occasional monster hunt. They had only ever been on two. The first one was to help find a neighbours cat that had gone missing. The boys were successful in tracking it to an old barn house about an hour away. The second time was less successful, the boys had banded together to find Deborah, they came back home soaked to the bone from the rain and exhausted, just like every single officer who had also been out there. They had been defeated that night, and hadn’t ventured on any other quests since then. The lunch bell sounded and the kids packed up their garbage and disposed of it.
“Okay, Jason you and I have English now, Luke you’re in P.E. now?” Said Andrew as the boys stood and grabbed their belongings.
“Yes sir!” Luke said as he saluted Andrew.
“Okay, let’s meet at crows landing after class. Right away! Don’t be late!” Commanded Andrew as the boys all reciprocated Luke’s salute. Crows landing was what they called the bike racks, since crows would often flock their in the mornings.
“Yes captain!” The three boys high fived at the same time and departed. Luke went left through the main hallway to his next class. Jason and Andrew went straight down the hallway they were already in, towards Andrews locker.
“Andrew can I ask you a question under brotherhood confidentiality?” Asked Jason, he had a sincere look of concern on his face and Andrew felt his stomach tighten. Brotherhood confidentiality was the highest of secrets. It was rarely used except in cases of extreme importance. They always took these matters seriously. Andrew stopped for a second and looked at Jason. He was concerned but put his left hand on Jason’s right shoulder and bowed his head.
“I grant brotherhood confidentiality, speak in secret”
“Okay… well, do you think that maybe girls aren’t gross?” Andrews eyes widened at the question. He felt both afraid and excited. If Jason was asking this question then that means they could possibly remove the rule and then he could talk to Holly. If that was what he wanted, he thought it might be. If anyone asked he would deny it harshly. Girls were, and are, gross. Although, he might have an opportunity here. Taking a step back from Jason he stroked his chin thoughtfully. How to play this? He asked himself.
“Hmm, you might be on to something. How would Luke react?” Andrew asked cleverly, hoping to play off the fact that he himself wanted this.
“I don’t know…” Said Jason who was now staring at his shoes.
“Why are you asking this now?” Asked Andrew, wanting more information from his friend.
“Does it matter?” Retorted Jason, who had started putting back up his shields.
“Maybe” Andrew said confidently.
“I don’t wanna talk about it” Said Jason as he started walking away and Andrew followed.
“We could bring it up at the next brotherhood council?” Suggested Andrew. It was the only thing he could come up with that could benefit him and still keep his thoughts safe until then. Brotherhood council was a type of meeting they held every so often to go over any quests or ways to improve the brotherhood. In the last two years they had five meetings. They weren’t very frequent just for the fact that things seemed to stay relatively normal in their group being it just the three of them. They had three of those five meetings about Deborah, even Thomas attended two of them.
“Maybe… I don’t wanna be the one to bring it up though.”Said Jason, sounding relatively stubborn about it.
“Fine, I can” Said Andrew, realizing that if he wanted progress he might have to be willing to take the step for the rest of them.
“Really?” Asked Jason.
“Whatever, if we vote on it you better have my back” Said Andrew as he stopped and turned to face Jason.
“Deal” Said a now confident Jason.
“Shake on it” Andrew demanded as he extended his hand. Jason eyed it carefully and after a moment of hesitation, put his hand in Andrews and gave a firm shake. Andrew felt some wave of relief wash over him. They finally reached his locker and he unlocked it and retrieved his English book. They were in the middle of reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Andrew really liked the book and had finished it his first weekend with it. Jason had barely made it through the first chapter so Andrew often helped him with the assignments on it. Closing his locker behind him the two of them made their way to the classroom. It was four rooms down and on the left. It was in the empty room from earlier, Andrew stopped again at the window and looked in. He saw several students seated and leafing through their notebooks, as well as the teacher at her desk. It was Ms. Costa. English was Andrews favourite class with his favourite teacher, and Jason’s least favourite class. Jason enjoyed P.E. The most, which was no surprise to anyone. He was definitely the fastest of the group as well as the strongest. Luke was more into science and math, but regardless he was the smartest of them all. Jason turned the door handle and motioned to Andrew.
“Alright alright” The boys entered the classroom and took their desks. Andrew and Jason sat together in the back of the class. Jason put his notebook and copy of The Outsiders on his desk as did Andrew. A few more kids trickled in behind them but otherwise everyone was present. Ms. Costa stood in front of the class with the attendance sheet and began to run through the names. Andrew started to feel a cold tingle in his spine. He shivered briefly and slowly looked around. He didn’t see any windows or doors open and he was still wearing his jacket. In the corner of his eye he saw something flicker. He looked down to his right. His shadow. Both his hands were on his desk, but his shadow had raised his left arm and was pointing at something. Andrew looked around the room, wondering what it could possibly be pointing at. The door? The clock? Ms. Costa? He had no idea.
“Andrew Miller” Ms. Costa called out.
“Yeah, what?” A shocked Andrew shouted in response. The whole class turned and looked at him, Jason included. Looking around the room Andrew could feel his face redden. The embarrassment settled in.
“You can just say present, sweetie, is something wrong?” Realizing she was just doing attendance still his face reddened even further. He shook his head side to side and she smiled at him and continued with the list of names. Everyone slowly stopped looking at Andrew and he felt his cheek colour return to normal gradually.
“Pst, Andy what’s wrong?” Jason whispered from beside him.
“Nothing, it’s all fine” Andrew responded, not wanting to bring up his strange hallucinations.
“Okay” Jason said. Ms. Costa finished attendance and instructed everyone to read their books. Jason picked up his book and opened it up to his bookmark. Andrew looked at his shadow again, it was normal and the cold feeling was gone too. He sighed and picked up his book, opening it up to where he had left off during his second read through. Maybe I am haunted. He thought to himself.