Something really strange was going on. Looking back at that time, I can see that it was true. There had been something very odd going on in our class at Our Lady of the Rosary High School. No one noticed too much out of the ordinary at first. It truly came as a complete surprise to everyone—well, almost everyone.
Meggie McKellar, my best friend, said that she recognized a problem right away. She said she just had a certain feeling. Of course I really do not believe her. It may sound cruel or disloyal to speak that way about my best friend, but Meggie’s “feelings” are well known in our circle of friends, as they are usually in her imagination. Meggie does have a vivid imagination. It was one of my favorite qualities about her when we first became friends in Mrs. Bradford’s preschool class at age four. Besides, as I have told her many times, she just loves to pretend she has all the information before anyone else. Meggie is not cruel or vindictive; she is merely flighty and a little bit nosy, and she is a true friend.
It all started one Monday morning in January when Sister Mary Ignatius, our principal, called the 10th grade into the gym. She had something rather important to tell all of us. As my friends and I got seated in the gym, she explained how this week was going to work. Only a few people were paying attention to her as she spoke.
“Just as a reminder, the talent show will take place on Saturday at 7:30 in the theater. This is for a grade, remember. Now, go back to your classes and get excited for this Saturday!” Sister said. Slowly, I stood up with my friends and stretched my back while yawning.
“Well, that was a waste,” I said to my friend Alice as we walked out of the gym and down the hallway toward our next class. “Hey, do you know where Meggie is? I haven’t seen her yet today.”
“Nah, I haven’t. She wasn’t in homeroom either. Maybe she’s sick or something.”
“Are you kidding? Meggie’s never sick! She said she had to tell us something important when I was talking to her last night. She seemed fine then.” I stopped where I was, pondering over our conversation from last night. “Wait, no. I remember she said she was worried about this kid in her psych class. He hasn’t been to school in a few days and no one’s heard from him.”
Alice stopped outside her classroom door. “It was probably nothing, McKenna. You know how Meggie is. She’s just being melodramatic. That boy is probably too sick to reach his phone, no big deal. I’ll see you later, okay?” She said as she walked inside the classroom door. I nodded and went to continue my day without my best friend.
I ran into the theater after school that day, not worried about Meggie anymore. Taking a deep breath as I passed through the doors, I smiled as the scents of my second home passed my nose. This was where I belonged, where I could find my peace. I dumped my backpack in the usual spot where I kept my things and made my way to the group of friends at the front of the theater.
“Hey, McKenna! How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?” These questions came from a blond boy on my left who had been obsessed with me since around fifth grade. His name is Mike, and he had been following me around like a stalker since he realized girls were actually attractive and not aliens. “So,” he continued, without giving me a chance to speak, “I was thinking that we could do something before the talent show on Saturday! Like, see a movie? I saw a preview for this romantic comedy on TV last night! It’s called Love Spelled Backwards is Love? Stupid title, I know, but I figured we could—”
I cut him off before he could embarrass himself any more than he already had. “Look, Mike, this doesn’t seem to be getting into your head. I. Do. Not. Like. You. Do you get it now?” His face fell the moment I said I didn’t like him, again. But he opened his mouth to start anew, as he did every time this happened. “Stop it, Mike! I don’t like you. I never will. I would rather go out with a giant squid, which is saying something because I am deadly afraid of them. So, just leave me alone. I do not want you to attempt this again, because I really don’t like you and it’s starting to make me very mad. Okay? Thank you!” I finished my speech with a good death glare and stomped off downstairs to the dressing rooms.
As I was making my dramatic exit from the group, I heard him run after me. His footsteps slowed as he caught up with me, and I felt him grab my arm. I shook him off and kept walking to the girls’ room, but he skidded in front of me and blocked my way.
“Why not, McKenna? What is so repulsive about me to you? I’ve been trying my hardest to get your attention, but nothing seems to be working. Why?”
I sighed, looking at him hard. “I just don’t like you. I do not find you attractive to me. Try someone else, Mike. Someone who might actually like the puppy dog act you have going on. Now, if you please, I have to go get ready.” I started forward but he stayed in my way. “Move, Mike.”
“You will regret what you just did, McKenna. What you have been doing to me these many years past.” He actually looked sort of evil as he said this to me. I, being the doll that I am, punched him in the face.
“Goodbye, Mike,” I hissed, and moved into the dressing room, leaving him outside the door with a mad look on his face.
That was kind of scary. You have to admit it to yourself, self. You know you’re freaked out right now. But it’s no matter. You must stand your ground and not let him see your true feelings. That’s what you have been trained for, no? Just calm yourself in the ways Sensei taught you and put on your ballet clothes. It’s time to show them how you can dance.
I guess it is time to tell you just who I am. My name is McKenna Trust—or well, that is the name that Sensei picked for me when he found me. I have no idea who my parents are, where they are from—and if they are still alive. They abandoned me when I was only a few months old on a doorstep in Quebec, Canada. That’s where Sensei found me. He took me to his home and began to train me. At first it was just basic self-defense, meditation, and yoga. But as I grew, he noticed my aptitude for ballet. He taught me everything I know, and even spent the money to send me to Russia once a year to train with the Russian Ballet. In addition to the ballet lessons, I have learned as much as I can about self-defense. There is not a part of me that is weak, including my mind. I train with him two hours every morning before school, three hours directly after school, and then go to a high class studio for classes after that. It doesn’t leave much time for socializing, let me tell you that. But I am happy. Sensei is my father, mother, and mentor in all ways possible.
I finished tying up my pointe shoes and started my way out of the dressing room when the pain hit me. It was excruciating, so much so that I fell on my knees, a silent scream passing through my lips. I clutched my head in agony as a new image overtook my brain.
Did I mention I could see the future, as well?
Meggie was strapped to a chair in the middle of a dark room. There were no windows and the one door in the room was locked. She jerked awake at the sound of rattling keys outside the room. Panting, she struggled against the bonds that held her down, trying to get away. It was impossible. A shadow was cast across the room as the steel door pushed open. It was a man, that much she could see. She could not tell his height from her position facing the corner of the room, but he seemed to be short. She awaited with bated breath as the figure approached her chair. He came up behind her, and whispered, “It’s nice to see you awake. At first I thought you were going to go fast, like the last one.” The voice made her shudder with fear. It was rough, like wood or sandpaper. She shuddered as he got closer, intensely frightened of the way his joints seemed to creak. He reached out and touched her arm, caressing the skin there with his hard hand. She screamed against the gag in her mouth, her eyes widening in horror at the cool wood feeling. He laughed; it was an evil, sinister laugh that filled the room, and her heart, with fear. As he bent to her ear, he whispered a line that made my heart stop. “I’m going to enjoy killing you very much, Meggie McKellar.”
I fell out of the vision, lying on the cold cement floor of the dressing room. I clutched my heart as I tried to catch my breath. There were so many uncertainties about this vision—where she was being kept, who had her…if she would even still be alive when she was found!—but one thing was absolutely certain. I had to find Meggie McKellar, or she would die within the week.
I was worried sick about my best friend, but I had to keep a clear head if I were to find her in time. I spent the week studying with Sensei, trying to find as much information as possible on this man with wooden hands. We spent the whole time pouring over books, surfing the Internet, and calling Sensei’s contacts around the world. Try as we may, we could not find anything substantial about him.
Before we knew it, it was Saturday, the day of the talent show. It had almost completely slipped my mind with all the possibilities rushing around my head. I did not want to leave Sensei for something as frivolous as a talent show; however, he made me leave. Not only was it a requirement for my class, it was also a way to clear my head. Who knows, maybe I would figure something out when I was there.
I got to school with thirty minutes until I had to be on stage. My piece was second to last, followed by—ugh, Mike—with his ventriloquist act. Mike used to always brag about how his great uncle had made the doll with his bare hands. Boring, if you ask me. But it is what he likes to do, so I let Mike do it. He really isn’t that good, though. I’m sorry to say that he does not have any talent…at all. I personally find his dummy to be a little bit creepy. Its eyes seemed to follow you as you walk past it, and sometimes it seemed it could actually talk.
My friend Rosalie came up to me as I made my way downstairs to the dressing room. “Hey,” she said. “Mike looks kind of depressed. I think you, like, hurt his feelings yesterday.”
I scoffed, and said to her, “Well, maybe it’s good for him. He needs to understand that I don’t like him.”
“I know, right? Anyways, have you seen his doll? He thinks he, like, lost it.”
Wow, good move, Mike.“No, sorry. He’ll find it by show, though!”
“I know, but he keeps, like, freaking out about it. He’s afraid the wood is gonna, like, chip or something. So overreacting! Like, it’s not that important. He could totally just go on stage naked. Everyone would have the same reaction if he went up there with his doll anyways!” She laughed at her own joke. Normally I would laugh with her, but I was a little preoccupied with something she had said.
“Wooden hands,” I whispered to myself. “The doll has wooden hands.” I let a small smile come on my face before I started to leave. “Hey, Rose, I gotta run. Break a leg!” She looked astounded as I ran away from her, because no one ever runs away from Rosalie.
I ran through the possibilities of where that doll could be keeping Meggie as I got changed. Probably somewhere in the theater, since he had to be on stage for Mike’s act. Not in the dressing rooms, naturally. Not in the wings or makeup room. The wood shop, maybe? I rushed out of the dressing room and yanked open the doors to the wood shop. I scanned the room but there was no one there, just piles upon piles of scrap wood.
I ran around, checking every place downstairs where he could have been hiding, but he was no where to be found. Ah, wait! As I stood backstage, I could see slight movements on the catwalk above me. That had to be him! He moved Meggie up there!
I scurried up the ladder, not paying attention to the hissing warnings of the rest of the cast participating in the show. As I ascended to the final step, I saw him. He was only two and half feet tall, and didn’t seem intimidating. I walked as carefully as I could to him, getting ready to knock him out. As I was about to do so, however, he turned around with a knife.
“Ah, just who I was waiting for! McKenna Trust…I have heard so much about you from our little friend here.” He placed the knife up to Meggie’s throat, pressing the blade to her neck. She whimpered against the gag, crying as a dribble of blood fell from the slight cut. Her eyes pleaded to me to save her, but I was paying no attention to her. My focus was all on the wooden demon in front of me.
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with, little man,” I growled to him, stepping forward, ready to fight. As I jumped over his head, I knocked the knife out of his hand. It fell to the other side of me, where the doll could not reach it with me in the way.
We circled, the wooden doll and I. I centered all my being into the concentration that is needed to do this. As we fought, I gained the advantage. I brought out my famous roundhouse kick. Now, if I were sparring with a man of my size, this would only knock him down. But because he was a doll, I knocked his head off with the power behind my foot. His body fell forward as his head, his face one of shock, flew across the catwalk and down backstage.
I quickly stepped forward and undid my best friend’s bonds. She clung to me, sobbing. I patted her back and guided us both forward and down the ladder leading backstage. She looked up at me, her eyes filling with the gratitude behind the tears. I smiled and hugged her. No words were necessary. I had gotten my best friend back, safe and sound.
I went on stage and did my choreography. Everything was as good as I would have liked it. When I went backstage after the show was over, Meggie ran up to me. I looked at her as she sobbed and hugged me. “It’s okay, Meggie. Really. Everything is going to be just fine. There is nothing to fear now.”
She looked at me, curiosity burning in her eyes. “H-how did you—you—f-find me?”
I just laughed and brought her closer to my chest. “That, my dear best friend, is a story for another day.”