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The sky was on fire.
A child-like cocktail of pink and orange stretched out like a big blanket, occupying every inch of the once blue sky. Tara Callaghan watched from her bedroom window as this was unfolding, searching but not finding answers to the strange sight. She had never seen anything like this before in her life. The sky looked like it was on fire.
She brushed it off as some strange weather pattern, nothing was wrong. It tended to happen in her town, and much over the entire of England. But it was mainly the sky—replaced with fluffy clouds of white or grey, not a pink and orange hue; it was as if the colour blue did not exist anymore like the unusual shade had replaced the colour.
If the sky was one incline that the day was going to be weird, then the fact that the family car that her mother was going to take her to school in that morning was not working. It wouldn't even start.
"You'll have to walk, honey," Sandra, Tara's mother said as she sighed, taking the keys out of the ignition. She propped her half-rimmed glasses up her face as she opened the car door, slamming it shut in annoyance. "I must have left something on throughout the night, I'll have to call someone out to fix it, come on, and I'll walk you half way."
But today, she knew that everything was going to go wrong and she felt that something different was going to happen, something big. But she was not sure what it would be.
There were three crows perched on top of the street sign by her house; three crows support health. That was a good thing—Tara was not one for superstition but something about today was different, and it was playing with her mind a little bit too much.
"What's the agenda for school today, Tara?" Her mother asked, snapping Tara out of her gaze towards the blackbirds on the street sign as she and her mother walked together down the road towards the school.
"Double English, Science and Maths. And by any incline of the weather or the car, I'd say today is not going to be my best day." Tara replied to her mother's advances at a conversation. "What are you doing today?"
"More job search, I have to get back into work soon, this redundancy money will only last a little longer," Sandra said, she looked sad almost instantly. But Tara knew that it was not her fault. After Tara's father, David, left one night a few years back, Sandra had not been herself, she sometimes said that was the reason why the company made her redundant—she was not working to the best of her ability. But when your husband leaves one night with no explanation, it was understandable.
"It'll get better mum, you'll find a job," Tara said as she walked around the corner close to her school. "Better run, I'll be late."
"Okay sweetie, try to have a good day, I know how much this is affecting you even if you don't want to admit it." Her mum said as she kissed Tara's head. She had left a small bit of lipstick where she kissed. Wiping it off with her coat, both Tara and her mum laughed, it had been one of the first times they had since her dad left.
"I love you mum," Tara said as she smiled.
"I love you too," Before Tara started walking off towards the school.
Tara was the type of girl that could mould her life the way that she wanted it to be, her mother always taught her that life is what she made it, and Tara did not want to waste her life for a second.
Tara did not have many friends at school; she didn't want to. Technically, Tara was an outcast of the highest standard, she was different, but she did not let it define her, and people understood that.
It did not, however, stop Tara from being one of the most popular girls in school. Despite being an outcast, she still knew everyone, and everyone knew her, and while she had her demons, she even got admiration, love and care from everyone she met. But she did not have friends. She would never see any of the people at school once she left those four walls, so she did not see the point in friendship.
Lakehurst High school had one hundred students per year group. It was a small school, but the noise and commotion suggested that the entire mainland America attended the school.
As Tara entered the school, she felt something was wrong, even worse than when she was outside in the fire tainted sky. Having the feeling that someone was stalking her was not something that was putting Tara's mind at ease. But as she looked around, all she saw were tired excuses for students and the teachers that were supposed to be teaching them; she did not notice anything out of the ordinary.
But the feeling was still there.
Anxious. That was what Tara felt. But she wasn't sure why.
Tara didn't even go to her locker before she entered the classroom, her English teacher Miss Anderson stood ached back over a table shouting at a student before the class had even started. She knew why. That specific student always caused problems, came to school with hangovers or did not listen to a word the teacher said – interrupting at some points.
Matthew Hawthorne was his name. Tara tended to stay away from him; he was not a person she mainly wanted to be associated with, he drank a lot on the weekends, a lot of teenagers did. But Tara was one of the rare exceptions that had never touched a drop in her life. Some would call her frigid if they ever found out and she was sure that peer pressure would ensure not long after.
As Tara sat down in her assigned seat, the cold feeling of anxiousness came back ten times worse. She was not usually an anxious person, but today from the moment she had woken up had been feeling this way, it was constant.
Maybe it was the stress from her parents. Her mum did not have a job. Perhaps it was the school. Whatever it was she was not going to let it bother her today.
Miss Anderson sat down at her desk and started to read out the names of the students in her class. Tara knew her name was coming. She always hated registration, every class they had to say they were here, despite being popular, she was quite nervous about how she saw herself.
Tara did not think she was kind enough to be at the social standard she was in the school; and even though she was the top of the food chain in school, Tara always thought that everyone hated her. And registration always brought up that fear. That people were thinking bad things about her when her name came up.
"Tara Callaghan!" The teacher said her name a little too loud today. Maybe it was because she was annoyed at her altercation with Matthew and it was still rubbing off on her.
"Here!" Tara called out.
That was when the floor started to shake, and the loud bangs of ceiling tiles hitting the floor began to rattle throughout the room. "Under the table everyone, quick!" The teacher shouted as Tara quickly did as instructed, closing her eyes as she hid.
Tara covered her eyes from the screeching sounds of the people around her and the bangs that were crowding her. It hurt her ears far too much, what on earth was happening?
Was it an earthquake?
She didn't know. Because suddenly, the shaking stopped.
Everything just stopped and fell silent. No screaming from the people around her or the sound of the floorboards being walked on. It was too quiet for words.
Tara grabbed hold of her chair and hoisted herself up from the floor—it was dangerous for her to be in the room, she would have to run out quick. But as she looked around the room she stood in awe, the people in the room were not moving. They just stood there, the same expressions on their face as if they were frozen.
Tara tried to shake one of the people close to her, but as she did, it was as if she was shaking a mannequin. It was as if they had frozen. Miss Anderson looked panicked, trying to usher everyone towards the tables for safety—she looked plastic. Like she had been trapped in that expression forever.
"Okay, this isn't funny anymore!" Tara said to the people in the room. But they did not move. "There has been an earthquake; this isn't the time to be making jokes!"
No one said anything. No one moved. It was just silent.
Tara was scared now, what the hell had happened?
Had those people frozen?
Then a thought washed over her. A cold feeling as if she had jumped headfirst into an ice bath...
Was she alone?
Then out of the corner of her eyes, Tara caught sight of something she did not want to see. On a tree close by to the window, Tara saw three more crows.
Six crows, and although she did not believe the old superstition, Tara began to feel nervous once again.
Six crows bring death.