The Last Indigo

Award Category
It has been said you're the hero of your own story... but what if you're the villain instead?

Chapter One

Indigo might as well be starting the 7th grade on another planet. Everything around him was alien. His eyes swept the area, scanning the kids wandering about the courtyard. Ponytails, bright colors, gel-spiked hair, and lots of new shoes. He only hoped if he walked fast enough it would hide the largest of the holes in his own. He ran one hand through his jet-black hair. It always stood up a bit, but in a good way, like he meant for it to happen. The first day of school jitters were writhing in his stomach, making his hands shake. Or it could have been because a piece of bread with a little butter on it had been his only option for breakfast. It wasn’t exactly filling.

But more important than his unhappy stomach was the thought that asking where his class was felt unredeemably un-cool. So, he followed the crowd instead. Choosing the most popular sidewalk, he went with it. Every face seemed more confident than him, more prepared. All he had was a backpack with a school-issued laptop inside. He hoped it was all he would need.

He struggled to drag even one memory from his foggy mind that had to do with school—any school. But all he could remember was the last two days. His mother said after his car accident, his brain would take time to heal. Still, the strangeness of it all made him anxious, like walking a tightrope in the dark. It could be two feet down or two hundred, he couldn’t tell.

The students around him giggled, pulling him out of his reflection. In fact, they giggled a lot. With a terrified gasp, he realized he was heading straight for the locker room. The girl’s locker room. He stopped dead, planting his feet and searching for an easy escape from the flow of long hair and pretty smiles. But it was no use, he was surrounded.


He spun around and charged through the grass, giving up on sidewalks for the time being. How could it be so hard to find Math class? He searched for expressions of anguish and horror. Surely, they’d be on their way to a class full of calculations. It didn’t take long until he spotted someone who looked the part. The boy’s sandy brown hair was fairly long, and his green eyes were a little watery as if perhaps he had allergies. He was taller than Indigo with his mouth pressed into a miserable grimace and his shoulders slumped as he walked.

Indigo followed him through the main building, trailing him impatiently. The hallways were beginning to clear and his heart beat faster. Hurry up, kid. I’m gonna be late! But just as he was about to tap the boy’s shoulder and ask, the kid bent over a garbage can and threw up. Indigo jumped back, feeling nauseous when he caught the stinging scent of vomit. He hurried away, ducking into the first open door he came to just as the bell rang.

“Welcome to class, young man. Have a seat.” A teacher with a plaid button-down shirt and a bushy brown mustache stood at the front of the room and gestured across the space with one arm as if serving a delicious tray of treats. In contrast, each student looked back at Indigo with varying forms of disgust. He glanced at the whiteboard, relieved to see Mr. Wardel and a fraction problem written across it. He quickly sunk into an empty desk in the front row.

“Now class, I’m excited to welcome you to your first day at genius camp!”

Half crouched down with a pencil and notebook in one hand, Indigo glanced back at the teacher in surprise. Genius camp? Was he in the wrong room? Were there two Mr. Wardels?

“After all,” the teacher adjusted his wide brown leather belt that held up his jeans, quite baggy around his slender form. “That’s what fractions do for your mind.” His eyes widened comically, and he leaned forward, pointing a finger to his temple. “They transform that mushy, spaghetti-looking organ in your skull into pure genius.”

A few brave souls laughed, but for the most part, silence remained. The door to the hallway opened and the same boy Indigo had followed to the garbage can walked in holding a giant black plastic bag. It hung mostly empty, with its contents sloshing as he approached the teacher.

“Dude, I threw up out there. Where should I put this?”

“Eh!” Mr. Wardel held his arm up as if to shield himself. “Casey, you need to stop this. Ever since Kindergarten, you’ve had this problem. Just... Just…” He waved his hand like the last tottering leaf on a branch. “Take it to the office.”

“Yes, Sir,” the boy turned to leave and then swung around again, causing the bag to bounce against his legs. Someone in the room gasped. “And no one calls me Casey anymore. It’s Kz. Big K, little z.”

“Gotcha, now go.” Mr. Wardel was pinching his nose, appearing more pallid by the second. He waited for the door to close behind Kz and then collapsed into his chair. It slid on its wheels, turning him in a half-circle until he clung to his desk, stopping the motion. “Eh,” he swallowed so visibly it was like he’d just stuffed an entire plum down his throat. “For the next few minutes, class, I want you to skim through chapter one on your own. Then we’ll discuss. Ready, go.” He laid his head down on his desk and closed his eyes.

Indigo opened his math book, finding some pleasure in the fact that it was identical to everyone else’s. No scratches, no marks, no dog-eared pages. Each one was a smooth, carbon copy of the next. He wished he could be as un-unique. A person so similar to every other that no one took notice, that’s what he would wish if a genie suddenly appeared in front of him. He nudged the plastic contact in his eye with his knuckle, feeling the contact firmly in place. Without them, he would stand out more than a zebra plunked down in his seat.

He began to flip through the pages. There were barely twenty in the whole chapter, and he managed to read through them in little more than five minutes. It didn’t seem unusual to him; he had no memory of anything else. But as the time ticked on, he began to wonder just what was taking everyone else so long. From what he could hear of the scattered whispers as they began to finish their reading, it had taken his classmates close to twenty minutes to cover the same material. Indigo fidgeted in his chair, feeling his cheeks turn warm as he wondered if he’d maybe missed a few pages. He turned back to the beginning and began again.

Someone knocked on the door and Mr. Wardel moved for the first time since he’d placed his head on the desk. Lethargic steps carried him across the room, and he paused at the door before opening it. “Hello K-Z,” He annunciated the boy’s name slowly. “Please tell me you’re feeling better.”

“Oh yeah, I’m good now.” The boy’s voice seemed to emit from his lungs at a louder frequency than most, booming across the room. “It’s the first day of school for me, always does it. Sorry Mr. Wardel, I know you hate puke.”

“Gah!” Mr. Wardel seemed unable to look at Kz again and he swallowed another plum. “Find a desk, please.”

“Yessir,” Kz sat in the front row at the last available desk, a few chairs away from Indigo. He caught Indigo’s eye as he dropped his book onto his desk and nodded with a grin stretched across his face. Apparently, he thought the morning was going splendidly. Indigo nodded back at him, although he wasn’t quite sure what they’d just communicated.

Mr. Wardel finished a small session of deep breathing. “Now class, before we dig into this chapter, let me remind you we are holding a meeting after school for anyone interested in helping to paint the traditional murals on the outside bathroom walls. They are meant to be an encouragement to students for the year, to bring us together as a school community. Be thinking of what you’d like to see up there. Perhaps a honeybee in honor of our school mascot?” He smiled with his eyebrows lifted as if this should bring the whole room excessive joy. A few students groaned lightly, and someone buzzed in the back of the room, making giggles erupt all around.

“Alright, alright, it was just a suggestion,” Mr. Wardel laughed. “If you don’t like it, come up with a better idea and I’ll see you in the courtyard after school.” He turned to the whiteboard and began writing out the operations needed for the fraction problem.

Indigo liked Mr. Wardel. Plus, he had an easy way of explaining numbers that made the entire lesson exceptionally simple. Not that he hadn’t understood it, but he found himself admiring the ease of each explanation. A man truly invested in the study of mathematics. Indigo’s mind seemed eager to think about infinite numbers. Billions and billions and billions—

“Indigo, is it?”

Indigo’s eyes shot back to the front of the room — what had they been talking about? Mr. Wardel had his finger down on a class list of students’ names and he scanned the room, waiting. Indigo cleared his throat, and it seemed every head turned to stare at him. He was grateful again for the contacts that changed the strange hue of his eyes into a nice, normal brown. “Uh, yes?” He felt like his voice was too quiet and sat up straighter.

“What conclusion did we come to?”

“Uh,” He reviewed the problem on the board quickly, hoping they were still discussing it. “The answer is null. Incalculable.”

“Ah, an excellent way to describe null. It doesn’t just mean zero, does it?”

“No, Sir.”

“Thank you.” Mr. Wardel closed his book, addressing the class. “For homework I want you to read through the next chapter and help prime your brain. Okay, geniuses? Warm up those smart muscles so they’re ready to work, I guarantee you it will make a difference when we delve into more complicated problems tomorrow.”

The bell rang and books shuffled, papers crinkled, and conversations started up around the room.

“Have a nice day.” Mr. Wardel retreated to his desk and Indigo felt a flare-up of anxiety. He was more comfortable talking numbers than socializing. He scanned the room while he tucked his book into his backpack and zipped his pencil and calculator into a front pocket. Two girls came up to the boy named Kz and the group began laughing.

He searched his memories for friends he might’ve had. But aside from the fact that he’d moved to the small Arizona town a couple weeks earlier, there was nothing. Even that memory was not his own, but a hastily built image based on the information his mother had given him. It seemed in the last two days she’d been talking nonstop, filling in all the tidbits of life he might need to know in order to return to a somewhat normal existence. At least until his own memories returned.

He ran one hand across his side where there was still a trail of blotchy purple bruises and seven stitches that were nearly ready to be removed. The pain that surfaced made him flinch. He could have easily stayed home another week until he was closer to normal. But missing the first day of school was such a horrible thought, he hadn’t even considered it.

Besides, he needed to make friends, and the group surrounding Kz seemed nice. He listened in on their conversation, hearing something about bathroom murals. Hoisting his backpack onto his shoulder, he determined to be in the courtyard after school. Anxiety squirmed in his stomach at the thought, but he ignored it. At the sound of the last bell, he would do it. Walk straight up to the group and say hello. It would be easy.

The rest of his classes were similar to the first, except without the numbers. He liked his teachers from what he could tell of them, and the students hadn’t seemed to notice him much, which he was grateful for. It left him free to observe and remember. He took pleasure in any memory he could hold in his mind, and he constantly scanned the classrooms, picking out small details like the shape of an eraser or the sound of someone’s voice. It left him feeling powerful to stack these memories into his empty mind, filling it with new information, even if that information was nothing very important.

When lunchtime hit, the reality that he didn’t know a single person left a pit in his stomach that felt hollow and deep. He considered using an office phone to ask his mom to pick him up, but she worked during the day and likely wouldn’t be able to anyway. So he stayed, reminding himself that he had to make it to three o’clock in order to talk to Kz and the others. The thought that he might make a few friends had him sticking it out through what felt like the longest lunch period ever.

Eventually, and after countless anxious moments throughout the day, the last bell rang. He bolted out of history class where the lecture had been particularly boring and hurried to the courtyard. Students were chatting with friends and mulling towards their desired exit or lining up at the busses. He sat at a blue metal table and went through his folders. Pulling out a paper that was supposed to be for an art assignment, he sketched the sky and the school buildings, glancing up to see a bird sailing above him. He added the bird and put the paper away. His stomach was turning at the thought of talking to someone new.

“That’s not what I said,” A girl not too far away sounded angry. Indigo glanced up to see one of the girls he’d seen talking to Kz in math class. She had tight honey-brown curls and deep tan skin that glowed perfectly in the Arizona sun. Only now, she stood alone in an empty corner of the courtyard and appeared to be up against a group of four boys. They looked happier than they should have been at her anger.

“No? You didn’t say that we can’t help with the mural? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard, Clara.” The boy talking was the biggest of the group, but in a soft way. He towered over the girl and was a good head taller than his buddies. He crossed his arms in front of him and awaited an answer.

Indigo shot to his feet with a power he didn’t understand. His legs propelled him forward even as he tried to stop himself. What was he doing? He didn’t know any of these kids. But he didn’t have to know them, it was clear what was going on. And he was going to put an end to it. Still, the fear at what he was doing nearly strangled him, urging him to go back to his table. But nothing inside was listening. Like an inner tug of war that ended almost before it had begun.

“Leave her alone.” His voice snarled from his lips, surprising even himself. Since when did he talk like that? He didn’t know. But his eyes narrowed, and his gaze was stone.

The surprised group shuffled back before the larger boy found his footing. “Who do you think you are? Get outta here, punk.” The boy shoved Indigo.

Indigo took a small step back, but it was mostly a reaction as he’d hardly felt the push. Had the boy used all his strength? Indigo wasn’t what anyone would call burly, although he might pass for athletic. “All I’m saying is leave her alone. If you’re really here to paint a mural, then by all means, stay. But if you’re not, you should definitely keep moving.”

“Oh yeah?” The boy’s voice was strong, but in his eyes was a growing uncertainty, like he’d taken notice of Indigo’s confidence. And he wasn’t the only one. Kids were slowly gathering, watching as they made their way to the scene. The moment Indigo noticed the crowd around them, he was on edge. Were they there to help or would they end up turning against him? He glanced at Clara, wondering at the wide-eyed expression on her face. Did she even want his help? All the confusion pulled at him, shaking his strength until it crumbled. And it must’ve shown.

The boy shoved him, harder this time. Indigo tried to step back, but someone’s foot was planted behind him and he fell, hitting his backside hard on the concrete. The pain in his injured side exploded, hitching his breath in his throat. He wrapped an arm around his middle and sucked in bits of air, struggling against it.

“Stay down there, rat.” The boy sneered and laughter rang out from somewhere in the group. But just as the boy came at him again, a voice shouted across the courtyard.

“That’s enough! Break it up!”

The group scattered amidst squeals and laughter and Indigo caught one last glance at the boy who’d shoved him. The grin on his face was humiliating. Indigo’s cheeks burned and he glanced back to try and find Clara only to see her hurrying away. His humiliation felt complete. Who did he think he was, anyway? Maybe they were friends just messing around, because clearly she didn’t appreciate him swooping in to rescue her… not that he’d done anything close to that.

“Well, this is no way to start the first day of school.” Mr. Wardel knelt down beside him. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Indigo wheezed, still trying to find some air. “I’m okay.”

“Hold on, you’re the Smith kid, right? Just moved here. Car accident. Amnesia.” Mr. Wardel looked increasingly panicked. “Great goodness, I need to get you to a hospital!”

“No,” Indigo pushed to his feet, ignoring the stab of protest from his side. “I’m okay, really. I just got the breath knocked out of me. And I don’t have amnesia.”

Mr. Wardel stood next to him, scanning the sparse courtyard. “Well,” He sighed. “That Duncan is a rough kid, but he does like to be involved. I think. Or maybe he just likes to have a captive audience.” He winked. “I guess we’ll just do the murals another day. Unless you’ve got a great idea. Were you here to help paint?”

Indigo took a steady breath, finally feeling pain-free. “Uh,” He walked back to his table and pulled out the sketch he’d drawn. “What about this?”

“Oh, my,” Mr. Wardell took the paper from him, gazing down at it. “This is incredible. You drew this?” He glanced up just long enough to see Indigo nod and then his eyes returned to the picture. “This would be perfect. The skyscape of school buildings and those beautiful clouds. Do you think you could get it outlined? That should be enough for one day.”

“Yeah, sure.” Indigo’s stomach was sinking as he relived the last few minutes in his head. It seemed every kid who’d surrounded him was just there to point and laugh. He felt smaller at the thought.

“Hey, Mr. Wardell!” A voice shouted across the quad, and Inidgo looked back to see Kz hurrying toward them. “Sorry I’m late, I was helping an exchange student find the counselor. But I got this great idea, look.” Kz pulled a paper from his pocket, smoothing the wrinkles out. Holding it up, he revealed a strange, wobbly-looking bee and a tree with a huge trunk and small cotton ball-sized canopy.

Mr. Wardel appeared to be holding back a grin. “Er, that’s nice, Kz. But what do you think about this one? Indigo drew it.” He lifted up the sketch.

“Oh, dude,” Kz slapped Indigo on the shoulder. “You’re Indigo? Killer name, man. Your drawing is way better, we should definitely use it. Here, I’ll help.” He pulled out a paintbrush and began prying open a can of paint. “You’re the kid who was watching me throw up this morning.” He laughed and Mr. Wardel covered his mouth, backing away a step.

“I wasn’t watching you throw up,” Indigo protested, although he couldn’t help but laugh.

“You totally were.” Kz continued smiling as he shook a few long strands of hair from his face. “But I get it, the first day is all kinds of crazy. C’mon, let’s do this.”

Indigo smiled, feeling relief flood through him. He liked Kz, even if he seemed a little scattered. His cheerfulness made up for it.

“You’re new, right?” Kz kept his focus on painting as he talked, following the outline Indigo was working on.

“Yeah, my mom and I moved here a couple of weeks ago.”

“That’s cool. Where’d you move from?”

Indigo’s stomach twisted as he searched his memory for the answer. His cheeks began to feel warm again and his hand paused mid-stroke.

“You should sit with me and my friends at lunch tomorrow,” Kz acted like his question had never existed, moving on easily. “We eat over there, by that tree.” He pointed his brush at a large willow with a few tables positioned under it.

Indigo returned to painting, feeling truly happy for the first time that day. He glanced back at Kz and smiled.

“I will.”

Chapter Two

“I made a friend today.” Indigo stabbed a spear of broccoli and shoved it into his mouth, deciding not to mention anything about the fight. His mother hadn’t answered right away and eventually, he looked up to see her fork suspended midway to her mouth.

She smiled. “That’s nice. What’s his name? Or her—it could be a her. That would be fine too.”

Indigo enjoyed the way his mother seemed constantly surprised. “His name is Kz.” He said. “We painted that mural after school.”

“Oh. That’s nice,” she repeated, fidgeting with her plate and moving the small portion of rice and broccoli around. “Speaking of which, we should paint the outside of the house before winter. I might need you to come home right after school from now on and start on that.”

Indigo glanced around them. It was small and sparsely furnished, with a tear in the carpet and a hole in the wall, and a few hastily patched cracks here and there. Painting the exterior wouldn’t have been his number one choice for renovation. “Well, I was planning on finishing the mural over the next few days,” He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. “Besides, there’s really no hurry. Not much of a winter in Arizona, right?”

“Well, yeah.” She took a quick drink of water and coughed. “I mean, it’s just a good time of year for it, that’s all.” She flicked at her neck, like she was swiping her hair back even though her hair was short and clung to her head in puffy brown curls that were laced with gray.

Indigo felt a prick of curiosity in his stomach, telling him there was something she wasn’t saying. But he worried if he pried into it, she might really put her foot down about him staying after school anymore. He finished his last bite of rice, although a hollow ache of hunger remained. “Can I go upstairs? I’ve got some homework to get to.”


He wondered if he was just imagining the relief in her voice. Was it really such a problem hanging out with friends? He mulled it over as he lifted his backpack onto his shoulder and headed up to his room. What if he was a troublemaker and he just couldn’t remember it? They had just moved. Maybe she was just trying to take him away from his old friends. Was that why he’d jumped into a fight with Duncan so easily? Was he a bully?

Plunked down on his bed, he chewed a yellow pencil and opened his science book. The lesson was available on his laptop as well, but his eyes were beginning to ache again. He’d been given a box full of contacts that his mom said were supposed to combat his sensitivity to light, or whatever was bothering him. The contacts also changed his eye color to medium brown. But the pain in his eyes had been progressing over the last two days. He didn’t want to tell his mother that, either. It made him nervous.

He left his book open on the bed and walked to his mirror, glancing out the window. There was only a tree branch watching, so he gently removed a contact from one eye with his fingertips. It was a shock how much it had changed in just one day. Although his vision was perfect, something was definitely wrong. Two days earlier, his eyes had been an unnatural grey-blue with almost no color at all. Now they were bright aqua, brighter than they should be. A sliver along the edges was beginning to turn so deep blue it was nearly purple as if seeping the color up. He had no memory of his eyes before, maybe this was a normal thing? Did other kid’s eyes change colors? He doubted it.

Dishes clanked downstairs and he flinched, looking into the mirror again and replacing the contact. In the next few minutes, he read through the homework chapter twice. It introduced a few simple scientific philosophies that were easy to understand. But it wasn’t really why he’d come upstairs. He just wanted some space to think.

“I need to run into work,” His mom’s voice rang out from the first floor. “You okay for a little while?”

“Yeah, mom!” He listened to the door close, and the car start up, feeling a little glum at the idea of being in the house alone. Even though he was up in his room, it was still nice knowing someone else was there with him. For a grocery store clerk, his mom had really unusual hours. They were never consistent.

He walked to the open window and looked out at the bright sky. Too much time until night. He wished it was dark so he could go to sleep and then he’d be closer to meeting up with Kz and his friends at lunch. Maybe Clara would be there. The thought had him nervous again, especially since she’d run off without saying a word.

Something rustled in the bushes at the base of the tree and he glanced down, searching for a squirrel or cat. His neighbor’s cats were always wandering. One had even climbed the tree and taken a nap on his bed the week before.

He opened his laptop, searching the internet for ways to restore his memories faster. If only he had a better idea of his past, maybe he wouldn’t feel so self-conscious and out of place all the time. In a daze, he scrolled through endless search results. His eyes quickly became blurred, and his head nodded with sleep.

Suddenly, purple light shot through the roof, and splinters of wood ricocheted off the floor. Huge pieces of the ceiling fell in chunks. Indigo found himself trapped underneath the rubble, unable to move his body at all. He tried to lift his arm, but it was pinned down. Someone was coming for him, ascending the stairs slowly with the confidence of an assassin—no, not an assassin. A creature. One truly experienced in evil.

Indigo shot up from his computer where he’d fallen asleep face-first on the keyboard. He lifted his hand to his forehead, feeling the indentation of a Y and G on his skin. In the search bar on his computer was a long, mismatched pattern of letters.

naoeiwuga pwrougia erivunygidunvz.

He yawned and closed it, not able to remember what he’d been looking for anyway. The dream he had was strange and had him feeling nervous, but it was just a dream. At least night had fallen. There were sounds of cupboards opening and closing from downstairs and he hoped his mom had brought home groceries. The thought that he might be able to have a big breakfast in the morning was encouraging, but he was too tired to go see for himself. He climbed into bed and fell asleep.