Authors Notes: - Gee, I started my first Sci-fi novel now I'm starting my first horror novel. What's up with me lately? I need to finish more stories than I start! But I do finish them! Normally pretty fast too, it only took me a few months to write 'Misbegotten' and the only reason it took me so long to write 'Darkness' was because I dropped it for a year. Oh well, back to this story. I plan on this to be an atypical horror story where there are smart characters and the people you expect to die, die! Or do they???? I'm just joking around :) But it will be far better written than most horror movies are. BTW there is a point to this title, you'll find out about that later.

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Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.

- Japanese proverb

Fear & Pain

"Esma! Quit playing around with that silly game and get down here! You'll be late for school!"

Esma groaned and rolled onto her back, her long black curly hair fanned around her head. She scowled at the ceiling, scrunching up her pale but graceful face. After a moment she leaned over the bed and turned off her Playstation 2 and TV. Hopping to her feet she grabbed her backpack on the way out of her bedroom and quickly stuffed her feet into a pair of sandals, found just outside her door.

"Maybe the fate of the world depends of my beating Final Fantasy 10!" She protested from the top of the stairs. "And besides, I'm in collage; nobody cares if I'm late."

Her mother turned and gave her, her patent 'could stop any toddler from thirty paces' glare and frowned deeply. "Well I care if you're late! You have to get your education or-"

"-you'll end up a single pregnant woman with no education and no chance at a good job." Esma finished for her. "I know, I know, you give me that spiel every other day Mom."

"I just want the best for you." She said with a sigh, turning back to the dishes.

Esma snorted and jumped down the stairs two at a time. "I'm not you Mom, and unless my name is suddenly Mary I'll not be having a kid any time soon."

"I just worry." Her mother grumbled.

She walked over and kissed her Mom on the cheek. "That's your job."

"I wish you wouldn't dress like that." She abruptly said, looking at her daughter disapprovingly. Esma was wearing black baggy jeans that only managed to stay on her by the power of a very tight leather belt. On top she had a long sleeved black fishnet shirt over a black tank top over a black sports bra. Barely hidden under the mesh was her ever present silver pentagram. For shoes she always wore the same knee high black leather steel toed boots.

"What?" Esma said looking down at herself.

"You can look so pretty if you dress up." Her mother bemoaned.

"Whatever Mom." Esma rolled her eyes and turned to leave.

"Be careful." She said quickly as she walked away.

"Don't worry I'm packin'." Esma said playfully as she ran out the door.

"God that girl, she's never serious." Her mother said rolling her eyes as she watched her daughter run down the sidewalk towards school.

Esma jogged up to the street corner and pushed the walk button as she skidded to a stop. Other pedestrians swarmed around her, some talking into their cell phones but most steadfastly ignored everyone around them and stared intently across the street at the don't walk signal, as if willing it to change. She bounced from foot to foot, full of energy. Mentally she blamed it on the full moon coming that night; she always got a boost of energy around that time of the month. The lights changed and the signal turned from a red hand into a walking green man. She bound into the street moving ahead of the crowd. Only four steps into the intersection and a strange sensation stopped her in her tracks. She froze and slowly looked around. A feeling like ice forming in the pit of her stomach made her shiver. The cold sensation crept up from her toes and spread to the tip of her head, setting all of her senses on edge. It took her a moment to realize she was afraid, but of what she couldn't figure out.

Suddenly she was knocked to the ground. She hit hard and hissed in pain as the heel of her hand scrapped on the sidewalk as she instinctively tried to catch herself. Standing over her was an unshaven young man around her age, maybe a few years older. He turned to a car driver by and yelled.

"Why don't you get off your fucking cell phone you bastard!" He shook his fist at the passing car. The driver glanced back at them but quickly drove on.

Esma shook her head, trying to dismiss the lingering sensation and stared up at her apparent savior with a frown. He looked like a cross between a bum, a stoner and a collage kid. His hair was a dark brown mess that may have one time been brushed and was badly in need of a trim. He was wearing an unflattering pair of loose carpenter pants that barely managed to stay in place. Apparently the flannel long sleeved shirt tied around his hips helped keep them put. For a shirt he was wearing a simple white undershirt that looked a little overdue for a visit to the trash can. Covering his feet were nothing more than a pair old of beat up unidentifiable tennis shoes.

"You know, it's not very smart to stand in the road like that." His voiced softened as he turned and looked down at her. "You ok?" He held out his hand to help her up.

"A little confused and shaken up but otherwise fine." Esma grumbled, taking his hand.

"Why were you standing there like that?" He asked as he pulled her up. "You looked surprised or something."

"I just suddenly felt something..." Her voice trailed off and she shrugged.

"What's your name?" He asked with a smirk.

"I'm Esma Valdim." She smiled and extended her hand.

"Nice to meet you Esma, I'm Casper Puca." His smile grew and his handshake was firm, she liked that.

"Like the ghost?" She giggled.

"Yeah..." His smile quickly faded.

"And Puca, like the horse." Esma smiled more.

"Puca? Horse? Now this one is new." He got a curious look. "What's that about?"

"Yeah, the puca are shape shifting faeries in Irish myth. They are said to be destructive and tricky, but not often deadly." She shrugged slightly.

"You're a wealth of information." Casper chuckled. "Is Esma short for anything?"

"No." She said abruptly.

"Touchy subject?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Everyone seems to think its short for Esmeralda, it drives me nuts! Technically it is short for Esmeralda but my full name is Esma." She explained apologetically.

"Oh I see." He nodded slowly then glanced at her backpack. "Headed to school?"

She nodded and adjusted the bag on her back.

"So am I... how about we walk together?"

"Sure, the company would be nice." She smiled at him again.

"And I'll keep you from getting run over." He grinned playfully, looking comical with his 'not quiet full enough to be called a beard' facial hair.

"You need a shave." She said as she stepped into the street just as the lights changed.

"Huh?" Casper mumbled, rubbing his chin as he followed.

"It looks ridiculous."

"I think it makes me look manly." He protested.

"Manly? I guess so, if you're going for that lumberjack look. Though..." She glanced down at his long sleeve flannel shirt, tied around his narrow waist. "You look more like a grunge lumberjack."

"Hey, I resent that." He chuckled.

"Right." She shook her head laughing. "You look almost like a bum."

"Do you always insult the people you meet?" Casper asked in a playful curious voice.

"Not really. So consider yourself special." Esma countered playfully.

They both laughed and continued down the sidewalk, heading towards their school. Masses of other college students herded around them, heading in the same direction. An air of joy and anticipation hung in the air, for most students today was the end of the semester and summer was soon going to begin.

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