Chapter 3 - Part 1

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After half an hour of a bumpy drive on an unmarked trail, zigzagging through the thick, maze of identical trees, we finally arrived at our destination—a clearing in the middle of nowhere. Which, in itself, was a miracle.

As soon as we got off the SUV, it turned around and drove away, leaving us in front of a two-story, modern, rectangular building. Street lamps ringed the place. I spotted at least four armed soldiers at the rooftop. A glass door was at the center of the building. The door slid open and a guy stepped out. When he saw us, he went straight up to us.

"Welcome to Biringan," he greeted with a huge smile. "You're the last to arrive." His friendly demeanor stands in contrast to his intimidating looks. Tall and dark-skinned. His dark hair was shaved crew-cut style. He was wearing beige cargo pants, white sneakers and a black t-shirt that was way too small for him or his chest was just way too big for his t-shirt.

"Right this way," he said as he ushered us inside the building.

He didn't introduce himself or asked our names, which was very weird. And it was a bit awkward at this point to ask for his name so we just followed behind him towards the glass door in silent. The door slid open automatically as we approach, blasting us with cool air. 

We slide along the smooth, tiled floor. The place was lightly decorated with huge, black vases, potted plants, some paintings, and furniture. It was like any other dorm I've seen.

Inside, there were other teenagers. Five guys and four girls all wearing uniforms from different schools. Then there's this one girl sitting at the bottom of the steps of the split staircase. She stood out easily in her blue, knee-length, one-piece dress with long sleeves. Her raven black hair braided on one side, creating a fish-like tail that rests over her shoulder.

Everything about her is elegant like she was going to the prom, except for the white, running shoes she's wearing. And she's also the only one with her luggage with her. So she's either homeschooled or out-of-school. Based on her looks, I'm going with homeschooled.

"All right, listen up!" Our buff guide shouted. All of us formed a semi-circle around him. He was accompanied by a middle-aged man with graying hair and a balding head. "I am Major Lewis Coleman. And I will be giving you your orientation," he said smiling, his voice was loud and lively.

"For the entire month, you will be living here with your fellow haunteds and with Mr. Marino here—he gestured to the man on his side—isolated from the rest of the city not only for your safety from the Shade but also to avoid the repeat of the Dark Year."

He then proceeded to give a quick recap of the Shade history, all the way to the beginning of the first appearances of the Shade to the Dark Year that led to the construction of the shelter, Biringan. Not that we need reminding of.

The Dark Year. It was taught in our history class as part of the curriculum of the subject so almost everyone knows about it. I've seen a documentary about it, once.

It was when U.V. lights were first installed inside homes, preventing the deaths of haunteds. But because of that, another problem arose. The Shade never seemed to hurt other people, only haunteds. But that didn't stop the general public to blame every misfortune, sudden deaths, and mysterious illnesses to the Shade for years.

Over the years, the fear of Shade then turned into hate for the haunteds. Many of them were ostracized, bullied and harassed. They feared for their lives on a daily basis, even their families received death threats. Then the worst year came. 

The Dark Year. During this year, paranoia solidified to the mass hysteria of killing innocent kids. The public persecuted the haunteds. The U.V. lights that once protected them had also painted them targets for scared neighbors.

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