Chapter 1: "Chesire Cat"


Lia was halfway out of the school, when she realized she'd forgotten her notebook in her last class of the day. She must have left it on her desk, she decided, as she made her way back down the now empty halls of the high school.

The school was quiet, she noticed, except for a few stray, distant noises. It felt like she would be breaking some grave, unspoken rule if she disturbed that silence. So she tried her best to keep her rather squeaky tennishoes from making any more noise than necessary.

As quietly as possible, she pushed open the door of her Social Studies class and slipped inside. She started to go to her desk and balked when she saw who was standing right next to it, holding what appeared to be her notebook in his hands.

Daniel Johnson--her crush... Her heart beat faster, and a million thoughts started to fly through her brain. Daniel already had a girlfriend, so there was no chance he would like her, and meanwhile, he was a grade above her, so they never got the opportunity to take any classes together. And to top it all off, he was holding her notebook, which if she remembered correctly, had a little heart, with an arrow through it, drawn on the inside of the cover. And above and beneath that heart, traced a couple hundred times, were the names Lia Martin and Daniel Johnson.

That was when her heart just decided that beating fast was too much trouble and stopped beating altogether. She stepped nearer to Daniel, who was staring at her with an unreadable look on his face, and held out her hand, dumbly.

He blinked and then glanced down at the notebook he was still holding, cleared his throat, glanced back at Lia and held it out to her. "Uhm..." he said, and if she didn't know better, she would think he was nervous. "I guess this is yours..."

Lia gulped and nodded, her fingers closing over the notebook. She snatched it from him, and was about to turn and hurry away in humiliation, when he gasped. Surprised, Lia turned back to look at him, wondering what could have shocked him so much that he'd actually gasped.

But his dark-brown eyes were staring through her as if he was looking at her soul. She went cold from her face to her fingertips and asked, uncertainly, "D-Daniel?"

He blinked and seemed to be with her again in the classroom, as opposed to in outerspace maybe. But he seemed a little pale now, like he'd seen something Out There that wasn't too pleasant. "Lia... You're going to die."

Lia felt her face flush from ears to cheeks and tears sprang to her eyes. Wasn't it enough that he'd read the little evidence of her crush for him? Now he had to go and tease her about it, by coming up with some lame story about her dying? He was just being plain mean!

At that last thought, she turned and ran away, not bothering to turn back around when he called after her, "Lia! Lia, please listen to me!"

o o o

Thursday afternoon:

Daniel was picking at his food...

He knew it. And he could tell, by their silent exchange, that his parents knew it too. But he couldn't help it... He didn't feel well at all. Something heavy and sick was sitting in the pit of his stomach, and he knew it had everything to do with the vision he'd had of Lia...

He'd seen her, lying on the floor of what looked like a bedroom. She was pale, and cold, and still... And there was a puddle of blood on the carpet beneath her. He'd seen it slowly spreading, until it reached the foot of her bed. When he'd finally looked back to her body, he'd seen horrible gashes on her face and across her chest that hadn't been there before.

Daniel had been having visions for awhile now... Not all of them were terrible, or anything. Sometimes they were just about the most normal stuff--like seeing that journal on Lia's desk. He'd been about to go home, when he'd had a vision of the journal, sitting on the desk in an empty classroom. He'd clearly seen the classroom's designation, and had gone to look for the journal, thinking someone must have forgotten it there.

But then, he'd opened the cover, planning to look for the name of the person it belonged to, so that maybe he wouldn't have to put it in lost and found. And he'd seen the little heart, with his name below it, and the name of a girl above it. Lia Martin...

He'd blinked at the thought of anyone having an actual crush on him. Sure, he had a girlfriend, but Anne was more like a friend-girl than an actual girlfriend. Maybe he was more to her than that, but it was okay to date her for the time being. Love wasn't exactly an idea he'd wrapped his mind around yet. Even infatuation was a little hard to fathom. Okay, so he was seventeen, a junior in high school already, but he wasn't looking to get married yet, or anything.

And as his mind had rambled on like that, the door to the classroom had come open. And a girl, with medium length, nearly black hair, tiptoed in, her head down as she watched her feet. He froze, and when she looked up at him, he was surprised by how bright and incredible a shade of cerulean her light-blue eyes were.

And then when she held out a shaking hand for the notebook, he realized it must belong to her, and she must be the Lia Martin that had a crush on him. And he held it out to her, suddenly nervous, and said awkwardly, "Uhm... I guess this is yours..."

And Lia had nodded timidly and taken the notebook from him, and that was when he'd had his disturbing vision. He'd heard her calling his name as he'd come out of the vision, and he'd felt impelled to warn her.

"Lia... you're going to die," he'd blurted out, and her eyes had gone wide and her face had gone pink. Tears had sprung to her eyes then she'd turned away and run.

He'd run after her into the hallway and called, "Lia! Lia, please listen to me!" But she ignored him and kept on running.

o o o

Thursday night:

Maybe she was feeling a little jumpy because of what Daniel had said to her--she didn't really know. But Lia was getting a drink of water one night, when she thought she saw a shadow move out of the corner of her eye. But when she glanced in the direction she'd thought she'd seen it, she couldn't tell if anything was there or not. She hadn't bothered to turn the hall light on because she rarely got creeped out by the dark when she was this sleepy, but now she regretted it as she replaced the jug in the refridgerator and got the glass of water she'd poured for herself.

She tried to tell herself she was just imagining things, while her heart beat against her chest, and she was so jumpy she kept glancing behind her as she went back to her room. She had to force herself not to run the rest of the way, until she was finally safe within the boundary of the lamplight.

It was just her wild imagination, but then why did she keep thinking that something had been right behind her in the darkness the whole time?

o o o


"So, are we still going to the movies tonight?" Anne wondered and tucked a strand of medium-brown hair behind one ear. She and Daniel were walking down one of the highschool's corridors on their way to another class.

Daniel hesitated before saying, "I'm sorry, but I feel like I'm starting to get sick... Maybe next week."

"Oh... okay," Anne sighed, sounding disappointed.

"Next time--even if I'm dying," he promised, mustering up his most cheerful smile.

"Okay." Anne grinned. She took his hand and squeezed it then released it quickly. "I'd better go to class now," she said.

"All right."

Anne headed away and vanished into a classroom, and Daniel turned to go to his class. But he stopped in his tracks, when he found Lia staring at him, a schoolbook clutched against her chest.

"Hi," he said, finding himself unable to fake a smile any longer.

Lia blushed and mumbled awkwardly, "Uhm... hi." Then she turned and hurried away to her class.

Daniel was surprised; she seemed more embarrassed than angry with him. As he went on to his next class, he tried to tell himself that he'd warned her, and it was up to her to listen or not. But no matter how many times he used that argument, he couldn't seem to get the memory of her, lying deathly still in the darkness, out of his mind.

o o o

Friday evening:

Anne had decided to go to the movies with her friend, Kelly, instead. Since it was Friday, they'd planned to spend the night together. Now, they were just getting back, and were walking up the path to Kelly's house. Just then, something flew in front of Anne's vision, and she quickly turned to ask her friend if she had seen it. But her eyes widened when she found only empty air in front of her. She swung her head back and forth, searching the darkness in growing fear.


A noise from the ground drew her attention. She looked down and saw Kelly sprawled beneath her. Kelly moaned, and Anne squatted beside her.

"Kelly?" She asked again, her voice weak. She reached out and touched her friend's shoulder, noticing her hand was shaking.

Kelly's eyes flew open. Anne jumped back, her heart beating wildly. She fell onto her backside and sat there drawing in sharp breaths. Kelly's eyes were glowing...

"Kelly?" Anne's voice was a flimsy string of noise.

Kelly smiled at her, and Anne suddenly felt like running. 'It's not Kelly anymore...' she thought, yet wasn't sure why she'd thought it.

"Anne..." Her friend whispered, and then fell backwards onto the ground, unconscious.

Anne didn't hesitate; she scrambled to her feet and ran for Kelly's house to tell Kelly's mother, who called 911. After that, they'd waited anxiously beside the unconscious girl, until the paramedics came and took Kelly away. Kelly's mom went with them, and Anne called home on her cell. Her mom came and got her... Later, she found out that Kelly was in a coma. No one knew why.

o o o

Ann went to see Daniel at his house, and told him what had happened to Kelly. She started to cry, and he reached out and held her.

He sensed something wrong--that Anne was in danger. He couldn't make much sense of the vision, except that there was a shadow, hovering closely to her.

Daniel stiffened a bit, but Anne didn't seem to notice. It wasn't just the vision that bothered him, though. Her strange story was also troubling. What was going on? First he'd had a strange vision of Lia, and now this.

After Anne had calmed down some, he asked her if she would be all right. She said yes, and, after a while, went back home. Still... What if she was in danger? Whatever had happened to Kelly might happen to her next. And what if it was connected to the vision he'd had about Lia?

Daniel decided to forget about it. There was nothing he could do, right? He'd tried to warn Lia, but she'd run away. Besides, he was new at this having visions stuff. He had only begun to get them a while ago, so he still didn't really understand them too well. They'd been very literal so far, but what if they weren't all that way? What if they were just metaphors?

Then again, what if they weren't?

o o o

Saturday night:

Lia stepped into her house. She had been out with some friends, and they had just dropped her off at home. She walked through the kitchen and down the hall to her room. All the lights were out, and she felt a little jumpy as she pushed the door to her room open.

She saw a pale, moonlit figure standing in front of her and screamed. For a second, her fright went away when she thought that it was only her dad. But the figure darted towards her, and she saw a grinning maw that could never have been her father's.

She didn't even have time to scream again. It hit her, and she was knocked to the floor. Claws flew towards her neck and chest...

o o o

Saturday, midnight:

Daniel awakened, with a sharp gasp. His heart was pounding against his chest. He hadn't had a nightmare but he felt as if he had. He turned onto his side, staring into his semi-darkened room. There was a little light coming in from the window.

He saw Lia, standing in a hallway like she had been the other day. A halo of light brimmed on her edges. She stared at him like before, her blue eyes sad, then she smiled and turned away. Her image began to fade, and he tried to run after her...

Daniel came out of the vision. He was out of breath, and his heart was pounding again.


o o o

Two days later, Monday:

Lia wasn't at school... Anne seemed distracted. Every time he tried to talk to her about something, she would give him the "short answer" version of a reply.

On his way out of school, he asked a girl he knew was Lia's friend, Jessica, where Lia lived.

His gut instinct was to leave it alone, but he needed to know. Jessica walked with him to Lia's house then went on her way. He knocked on the door. At first, no one answered, so he tried again...

A woman, with reddened eyes and nose, answered the door.

"Hello? Can I help you?" Her voice was tired and hoarse.

"I'm looking for Lia," he answered hesitantly.

The woman's eyes filled with tears; her voice shook as she said, "I'm sorry... you must be one of her friends from school... Lia... Lia is..." she burst into tears and turned away into the house.

A man came to stand in the doorway.

"Who are you?" He asked gruffly but kindly.

"I'm Daniel. I go to Lia's school," he answered.

"Lia... there was an accident. She's dead," he finished stiffly.

Daniel's mouth fell open. He stuttered, "I'm sorry... I--I should have called first," he burst out and then ran away.

o o o


Kelly had died on Sunday. No one understood what happened. And even though she was the only one who had a clue, Anne didn't get it, either.

She kept having nightmares about a monster with glowing eyes and an evil fanged grin. So she tried not to sleep. But, eventually, she would drift away or be too tired and finally turn out the light. Once she fell asleep with the light still on.

Then she started seeing things in the day--shadows or movements out of the corners of her eyes.

A voice would sometimes whisper to her, but she could never understand what it said.

She was reading in bed on Tuesday night. She heard a whisper, like wind whistling through a crack in a window. Startled, she looked up and felt something cold shoot by her. Odd that it didn't feel like air...

She got up and checked her windows, anyway. They were all closed. She turned to go back to her bed, and the whisper came again. This time, it hit her full on. She froze at the chill sensation, and a tremor went through her.

"Kelly?" she whispered without knowing why.

'No,' she heard, 'Not even human...'

She thought she heard laughter and then everything went black.

o o o

Wednesday afternoon:

Daniel went to Anne's house that day after school. She didn't say "no," when he'd asked if he could help her with homework or just hang out. So he'd taken it as "yes" and had followed Anne home.

Inside her house, she went straight for her bedroom. He followed her, his greatest worry at the moment having nothing to do with parents or proper behavior.

In her room, she whirled on him and all his suspicions came to the forefront of his thoughts.

"Anne, what's---"

He cut himself off when he saw her glowing eyes. He stumbled backward a step and ran into the door. He was sure he hadn't shut it.

"There is something wrong with---"

"No," she cut off his words, coldly.

He shivered. "Who are you?"

The thing in Anne, grinned maliciously. "It is of no consequence," it hissed, "What matters is what I want..."

"Wh-What do you want?" Daniel asked. His voice had grown weak with fear.

Anne smiled terribly and stepped toward him.

o o o

A year later, Tuesday night:

Lia awakened...

She groaned and rolled over. Something was wrong. She opened her gritty eyes and found that she was looking at dirt. She sat up and shivered. It was dark... but she could see clearly by the light of the moon.

'Moon? Dirt?' She questioned herself foggily.

Her eyes widened and she took a long look around. She looked at the odd shape of stone slabs jutting out of the ground all around her.

'A-a graveyard?' Her mind stammered to her.

She tried to recall why she would be sleeping in the middle of a graveyard and could remember nothing. She stood to her feet and shivered. Something pulled her gaze to the grave marker beneath her.

"Lia Martin... Daughter," it read.

Lia swallowed and something flashed in her memory.

A face in the darkness... tearing, clawing, and then blankness...

'I died,' Lia thought and next she breathed aloud in horror, "Oh, God..."

'Why is it so cold?' was her next thought.

It was almost irrelevant, but at the moment, it seemed necessary for her to ask herself. Maybe simply because she needed something to take her mind off of the bizarreness of the situation.

Lia swallowed back panicked tears and began walking. She wasn't sure where she was going but she needed to start moving now, or she would be frozen out of fear. Something crossed in front of her vision, and she shrieked. It was a man.

'Not again,' she thought.

She turned to run, afraid that it was the thing that had killed her.

"Wait!" The voice was definitely a man's, but something in its quality made her want to stop and look at him, instead, she kept running. She screamed, when she felt a hand grab her arm and yank her to a stumbling halt. Blindly, she turned to punch and kick at whoever this new threat was, but soon enough found her wrists in the stranger's strong grip.

"Hey… stop," he protested when she insisted on trying to kick him in the shins. "I'm not going to hurt you."

"That's what you say!" she yelled, even as she felt inclined to trust him, "But just wait until I stop fighting, and you grow claws and try to gouge me to death!" She realized she was being rather hysterical, but by that point, she didn't care.

"Huh?" he wondered, even as he dodged another one of her kicks. Then he said, "Never mind, here, hold still a second, okay?" He sounded somewhat exasperated, and somehow that didn't fit into her version of a scary serial killer, enough for her to calm down a bit and stop trying to nail him in the foot.

"Okay," she said, hearing her own voice shaking slightly.

"Okay," he repeated, gently, and released her wrists. He shrugged himself out of a dark overcoat and deftly wrapped it around her before she could even think to flinch away. Gratefully, she slipped her arms into the too long sleeves.

Now that she wasn't running, she had a chance to look at him. He stared back at her shamelessly, taking a cigarette from his pants pocket and lighting it with a lighter he took from the other pocket. By the lighter, she noticed his eyes were a bright blue color, and a strange flash came to her of glowing eyes staring at her from the darkness.

She shivered, and he gave her a worried frown. "What happened?"

She shook her head, "I don't know..."

His face was hard and still, "Come on, I'll take you home."

He led her away out of the cemetery. She found herself seated in a car; the stranger drove and asked her where she lived. She was going to tell him her address, but a thought occurred to her. She'd died. If she came home now, her parents would freak out.

"I can't go home," she said quietly.

The man looked at her sharply. "Why not?"

For a moment, Lia thought about lying. She knew she was going to sound nuts, but she said it anyway. "I died."

He stared at her for a moment.

"That's not--" He sighed. "Never mind, I've seen some strange things. Heck, I'm strange myself. Of course it's possible." After a moment, "How did you die?"

"Someone--something--murdered me," she answered.

After another long silence, the man said, "My name is Julius Devereau, by the way."

"I'm Lia Martin," Lia said.

o o o

Monday, morning:

Lia had moved into Julius Devereau's apartment. It wasn't as weird as it sounded; Alyssa Blackwell, Julius' friend and possible girlfriend lived there, too. Julius had actually asked her to move in, so that it wouldn't be as weird for Lia. Since Julius and Alyssa were both lawyers, it hadn't taken that long to get all the paperwork stuff fixed. So Julius was now her legal guardian.

Alyssa had lent her some clothes until they could go shopping on Wednesday. After that, she'd been enrolled into her old school.

Lia had spent the rest of the week and weekend getting used to Julius, Alyssa, and the whole mess that was officially now her life. She'd talked to Alyssa about it a little, and even to Julius. Neither of them knew for sure what it meant, her coming back and all, but they had speculated some. Lia had found out that Alyssa believed in the supernatural too.

She even admitted to experiencing it for herself once or twice. Lia liked Alyssa. She was very down to earth, but in a mysterious sort of way.

It wasn't that bad living with these near strangers. Lia felt safe with Julius and Alyssa. Like they were relatives that she was visiting, or something. She guessed that it could be worse.

o o o

"Maybe I should go disguised," she suggested, darkly, to Julius that morning before school.

She fidgeted with a pair of his sunglasses that were lying on the kitchen table.

Julius shook his head, "Forget about it. Most of those kids probably didn't even hear about your death."

"Are you implying something?" Lia grumbled and slipped on the glasses.

"Only that your parents would have wanted to remain discreet about it," Julius answered in a careful tone.

"Okay... but if someone recognizes me, I'm bleaching my hair white," Lia threatened.

Alyssa, who had been getting a cup of coffee in the background, chuckled. "I'll help you."

Julius grimaced and said, "I don't think so." He reached over and snatched the shades from Lia's face.

Lia sulked but didn't protest.

o o o

Later, at school:

Lia was so nervous her hands were shaking. But slowly as she began to realize no one was paying very much attention to her, she began to relax.

At lunch, Lia caught sight of her friend, Jessica. She didn't want to talk to her for fear Jessica would freak out, but she wanted to speak to her old friend again. Conflicted, she kept glancing at over at her blond haired friend.

She started with surprise when she saw a familiar boy slip into the seat beside Jessica. He slipped his arm possessively around Jessica's shoulders, and Lia gasped. It was Daniel Johnson.

o o o

Lia had made one friend by the end of school. A girl from her history class, Sandra. 'Dray' was what she insisted Lia call her.

Dray was something of a tomboy with her short gel-mussed hair and her constant wicked grins. She joked as a running commentary flowed from her lips. The earrings in her ear tips twinkled along with her cat-green eyes. Those eyes were a complement to her flaming red hair.

Dray walked with her to her new home. Along the way, Dray's never ending speech happened upon a topic that caught Lia's interest.

"You know that boy, Daniel?" She didn't pause for Lia to confirm it, "Well, he and Jessica Anderson are together. I've heard some creepy stuff about their relationship, though."

"Like what?" Lia was able to interject.

"Well, I've heard they go around together at night on joy rides that end with people dying, gruesomely and or mysteriously." Dray's usually cheerful voice had taken on a spooky quality.

Lia took a deep breath to steady her voice, "Do you think it's true?"

Dray shrugged, "I don't know. What I do know is that once a guy tried to flirt with Jessica, and, later, he was in a hospital 'cause he got so beat up."

"D-did Daniel do that?" Lia asked.

"Maybe... Some kids think it might've been Jessica, though," Dray added.

Lia shivered, but decided to laugh it off as a joke.

o o o

That afternoon:

"So, you're dad is kind of strange, Lia," Dray said.

Dray had stayed to help her with homework. They were finished, now, and lounging in the living room sipping at sodas.

Lia hesitated, "Why?" she finally asked.

"Uhm... well, for one, he looks a little young to be your father... even though I can tell he is---you two just look too much alike not to be related."

Lia blinked in surprise, and Dray continued, "Second, he smokes, and third, he has a girlfriend that kind of lives with him, but he doesn't sleep with her."

Lia's eyes widened, "How do you know that?" she exclaimed.

"I can tell." Dray grinned mischievously.

"Right." Lia answered dubiously, "How?"

"Well... they sleep in different beds. I peeked when I went to the bathroom." She giggled when Lia gaped at her audacity.

"Sneaky," Lia said, regaining some of her composure.

"So, how old is your dad?" Dray asked with "twinkly" eyes.

Lia fidgeted with her soda can. "I don't remember," she lied.

Dray rolled her eyes and chuckled. She glanced at her wristwatch. "Well, I gots to go, now, so I'll see you at school tomorrow, Li." "Li" was Dray's nickname for Lia.

"'Kay," Lia said and rose to walk with her to the door.

o o o


Since coming back from the dead, Lia discovered her relentless crush on Daniel had vanished. But maybe there was another reason for that, possibly the same reason that made her jump half a foot when he said "hello" to her in the hall.

His voice came from behind her. She spun around and saw him grinning at her. Even though she recognized his face, there was something indefinably different about him. And then she noticed the blond haired, blue-eyed Jessica clinging to his side. She looked at Lia coldly as if she had never seen her before and didn't really care to know her, now.

"H-hello," Lia stuttered back Daniel's greeting.

Daniel said, "Why don't you come out with us later, Lia?" He smiled again, and she felt like shivering.

"Where are you going?" she asked timidly, holding her History book tighter as if it could protect her somehow.

"Just to a movie," Daniel answered, his dark eyes seemed to penetrate into her mind just like they had that day when she'd gone back for her notebook, except this time there was something sinister about it.

"I'll have to ask my Dad first," she told him, trying to keep the cautious tone out of her voice.

"That's okay, just call Jessica when you find out," he answered. Lia felt like he was only pretending not to notice how nervous and wary she was.

Jessica handed her a piece of paper, and Lia took it. Afterward, the couple walked off down the hall.

Dray's voice made her jump, "What did those two want?" she asked Lia.

"A movie," Lia said quietly.

o o o

When she got home she explained the situation to Julius and Alyssa.

Alyssa looked a touch more grim than Julius as she said, "No way... serial killers---not people you want to go out and have a "good time" with. And besides, you've already died once; you probably don't want to do it again."

Lia sighed, "It's not like I want to go, but something is drawing me to them. I can feel the danger, but..." She didn't know how to explain how urgent she felt about this.

Julius glanced at Alyssa, and they exchanged a look that Lia couldn't decipher.

"Let her go," Julius said.

Alyssa sighed and got to her feet. She went to where Lia sat at the table and unclipped a chain from around her neck. She handed the necklace to Lia.

Lia took it and examined the white stone on the pendant, while Alyssa explained, "It will protect you from most forms of evil." Strange... the stone didn't really feel different than any other, but there was something about it that nagged at Lia. But it wasn't really a bad feeling. In fact, it was sort of soothing.

"Thanks," Lia said quietly.

o o o

Monday night:

Lia waited on the curb of the apartment complex's parking lot. Nervously she looked up every time she heard a car approaching. She was looking out for a black two-door car. She hoped she hadn't missed it. Just then, two headlights blinded her. She tried squinting through them, so that she could see what kind of car it was. But there was no need. The car rolled to a stop, and Lia could now tell that Daniel was driving.

Lia went around to Jessica's side of the car. And Jessica got out and pulled the seat forward, so that Lia could climb into the backseat. After Jessica got back in the car and shut the door, Daniel began to drive again.

"Lia," Jessica said. Lia didn't remember her voice ever being that cold. "I'm glad you came."

Lia tried to smile, "Me too."

They were riding for only a little while when Lia got the sense that they weren't going to any movies that night... or ever probably, if she guessed right.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked, trying to keep from breathing too fast.

"Don't worry about it," Daniel answered her in an easy voice.

Lia swallowed, "Jessica, what's happened to you? You seem so different, now."

Jessica's voice was eerily level, "Lots of things change, Lia."

Lia was silent after that. She played with the pendant's stone at her neck. She still couldn't place that weird feeling.

"Pretty necklace," Daniel commented, and Lia's hand convulsed around the gem. She didn't reply.

o o o

Daniel stopped the car.

"We're here," he said and Lia felt all her hairs stand on end from goose bumps.

She followed Jessica and Daniel's examples and got out of the car. Her hand fumbled a bit with the lever on the back of the front seat, but she was finally able to push it and move the seat at the same time. She ducked under the seat belt and practically tripped out of the car.

She shut the car door and looked around, seeing that they were parked in front of an old house. The yard was overgrown, and the wooden porch was caving in. The front door had holes in it that gaped into pitch-black darkness.

Lia shivered.

"Come on," Daniel said, and Jessica began walking beside him up to the house.

"W-wait!" Lia ran after them.

She shuddered when Daniel had to brush away cobwebs to pass through the porch's lintel. She saw a large black spider scuttle up the banister as she passed by. Lia squeaked at the sight and walked faster. She almost slipped into a crack in the floor. She gasped as she began to fall, but before she fell completely through, a strong hand caught her arm and lifted her to safe footing.

She looked up to find Daniel's face close to hers and peering at her with glowing eyes. She squeaked again, and he released her. Now she was really hyperventilating---her heart beating like it wanted to escape from her.

Once in the house, Jessica closed what was left of the door behind them.

"I-It's dark in here," Lia spoke. Her voice sounded too high and cracked.

"Not for long," came Daniel's icy reply.

A strange light flickered on, and Jessica and Daniel were illuminated in the darkness. Lia took a step back from them when she saw that Daniel was holding a ball of pure light.

"H-how?" she stammered the question.

"Energy," Jessica answered. Her pale hair and face looked ghostly and luminous.

Lia swallowed. Daniel let go of the globe of energy and it hovered in the air between them.

Lia flinched slightly away, and Daniel said, "Come here, Lia." Something made her feel as if she couldn't resist him.

She stepped forward and into his outstretched arms. She'd imagined things like this before her death, but before then, none of her fantasies had included murder.

Daniel's hand caressed her cheek and then snaked around to the back of her neck. He drew her head towards him. Lia's eyes fluttered closed... Her heart pounded against her ribs... Lips pressed against hers, soft and damp. . .

And then she snapped out of it.

She opened her eyes and tried to push away from Daniel, but he was too strong. She moaned in panic and felt her energy begin to drain from her. She realized that she would die if he took it all...

'No!' she screamed silently. Suddenly a light flared between them, and Daniel was pushed away by an unseen force.

Lia looked and saw that the pendant had sparked to life and was glaring fiercely---It had protected her.

She gasped for breath and retreated, when Jessica began to advance toward her with menacing eyes. Lia whimpered at the baleful look. Daniel stood smirking evilly at her from behind Jessica, and for some reason that smile reminded her of the Chesire Cat's, and she wondered hysterically why she was thinking about Alice In Wonderland when she was about to die.

"Jessica..." Lia desperately searched for some sign of the Jessica she remembered in those cold blue eyes, even knowing that wherever she was, Lia would not be able to reach her.

Jessica grabbed at her, and the pendant exploded with light once more. Jessica was knocked to the floor, and after the light faded a bit, Lia saw that she was unconscious.

Daniel scowled and was on her in a quick leap. He grabbed her by the arms, and Lia screamed. This time, the pendant remained dark.

Lia squeezed her eyes shut, steeling herself against whatever happened next. Again, she felt the energy seeping from her, and she tried to resist. But as her energy left, she became weaker. She slumped forward, her head falling on Daniel's chest. She felt his arms wrap around her.

'No... Daniel!' She remembered the way he'd looked at her that day in the hall. It had been as if he wanted very badly to do something, like he would have done anything to help her, if only he could.

Lia forced her eyes to open, and she tried unsuccessfully to push herself up. She wasn't even able to lift her arms.

"Daniel," she whispered listlessly, "I know you would never hurt me...before, I think you were even trying to save me... Daniel, please, here's your chance... help me..." She slumped down again...

'No... I can't give in,' she told herself.

'Daniel!' She tried with all her remaining strength to reach him with her thought, 'Daniel! Please, I know you're still there...'

The body she was propped against stiffened. Suddenly, there was another burst of light, and Lia thought that it was from the pendant. Instead of throwing Daniel back from her, though, it shot through and around him. With a sort of "crack", Lia felt the energy return to her.

The rush made her lightheaded, and her knees gave out. Strong, gentle arms caught her around her waist.

"Lia?" a familiar voice questioned.

Lia looked up into dark-brown eyes. "Daniel," she said breathlessly.

Daniel's arms tightened around her. "You're alive," he said in awe, and what she thought was joy.

She nodded. "So are you..."