Prologue

A/N: The actual story starts in media res.


Catherine awoke to a bright ray of sun shining through the cracks of her violet curtains. She anxiously threw herself out of bed and got ready. Her cat, Bubba, rubbed down at her bare feet after she got dressed.

"Aw... are you hungry, Bubba?" Catherine asked her rhetorically as she unscrewed the lid of the cat food container. Bubba meowed impatiently and blocked her bowl when Catherine tried poring the food.

"Bubba!? Silly girl." Catherine chuckled as she blocked Bubba to pour the food. Bubba was short for Bubastis. The Windslows had a fascination with archaeology and Egyptian mythology and history was their favorite subject. Soon, Catherine ate breakfast, brushed and flossed her teeth, took her backpack, and left for the bus.

oooOOOooo

"We're finally the big kids on campus, K!" Catherine squealed. She had found the pale-skinned, ruby-haired girl that she had desperately wanted to see standing by the school bus stop. Two weeks was too long to be separated from this girl. Kitty, whom she nicknamed K, was her best friend, after all.

Kitty was not a beauty queen, but that didn't matter to Catherine. Ever since she accidentally switched backpacks with her in preschool, they had been soul mates. Round thin-framed glasses on Kitty's nose. She usually wore a sweater because she always became cold, except in extreme temperatures. A short magenta dress draped her hips and thighs, and her feet bore long, colorful stockings and stylish shoes. Kitty was one of the bubbliest kids Catherine knew. She was always in the mood for talking, and disliked awkward silences. Despite Kitty's openness and the fact that she had a wide circle of friends, Catherine was her favorite, and the other girls accepted this truth.

The redhead swirled around ecstatically to find Catherine. As soon as she did, she ran up to her and squeezed her jovially. The girls then jumped up and down in their moment of bliss.

"I know, Cat! It's so exhilarating! Who should we beat up first?" Kitty chortled.

Catherine gave one of those laughs that ended in a sigh. "Oh, K. How could I live without you?"

Catherine was a fair-skinned thirteen-year-old girl about to start eighth grade. She had an almost completely different personality than Kitty. She had no need for glasses due to her 20/15 vision; yet Catherine was extremely intelligent. One of her most phenomenal qualities was her memory. She could recite the wasteland after glancing at it for an hour and could remember the tiniest, most trivial details from any book she read, while still capturing the complex symbols, motifs, and themes within them. Catherine was not a complete introvert, but she did not talk much, despite the fact that she did not fear speaking in public. She was a straight-A, teachers' pet, and science and math wizard, with perfect attendance, all in one body. Hence, she was a shoo-in to be Easterwood's eighth grade valedictorian.

Perhaps opposites did attract, even not in the world of magnets, she thought intellectually.

The bus arrived shortly and the girls boarded it in close unison. They found their spot on the school bus and sat down.

Catherine leaned back in euphoria. When the bus started up, her long, wavy, gold locks of hair fluttered by the open window. Her eyes matched the color of her dress. She was wearing a plain, yet pretty, light blue dress with short ruffled sleeves. Wrapped around her neck was a golden necklace with hieroglyphics engraved upon it. It was a gift from her grandmother, but Catherine had no knowledge of what the engravings meant. Little did she know, they would be the key to her fate.

oooOOOooo

The girls departed the bus and took their time, sauntering down the grassy field that led to the shortcut of the MPR, where their locaters were being delivered to them. The bus had arrived early, so they had plenty of time to reacquaint themselves with Easterwood Middle School.

"K, look at this! We're in almost every single class together! PE, History, Home Ec, Science, English, and Math. The only difference is, you have art when I have drama. That's so lucky. Remember last year? We only had English and Science together!" Catherine exclaimed.

"You're doing drama? I would have never expected that, and--" Kitty looked at Catherine's schedule, "You're doing it for the whole year? That's fantastic. I'll be at every one of your performances. I promise."

"And you, K, continuing with art? You're so good, you should move up to the high school level art!" Catherine said.

"It's kind of a downer that we have to take a zero-period, but at least it's PE, so we won't be as hot." Kitty rambled.

"Well, let's get going."

The girls shuffled off to their first class.

oooOOOooo

They met all of their teachers that they had before snack, and, of all of them, Ms. Horsewater was the best. She started the class out with a fun "science activity" and made the class really enjoyable. The science activity was supposed to introduce the class to 8th grade physics. Their game was about momentum and inertia. While students continued tossing a small rubber ball Ms. Horsewater pulled from her desk drawer, the students introduced themselves to one another and then passed the ball to someone new.

Kitty was not one for science. She did not despise it; it was just not her forte. Her creative mind sometimes blocked the logic and reasoning of science and mathematics. Catherine thought that maybe Ms. Horsewater could help Kitty develop a deeper interest in science. Everything would have been fine that year if it had not been for the sudden and unfortunate cerebral injury (or so they said) Ms. Horsewater had encountered at the end of the first trimester.

Ms. Horsewater was rushed to the hospital, and the faculty hired a temporary replacement, or at least, he was supposed to be temporary.

Mr. Trude, this new teacher to replace Ms. Horsewater, was everything but fun. He assigned large loads of nightly homework and his tests were almost impossible on which for students to even manage to receive a "C." However, because Catherine had a fantastic rote memory and reading comprehension, this did not affect her as much as others. The substitute also gave detentions for some of the most irrational reasons.

One student got out of his seat without raising his hand to go sharpen a pencil, and he was assigned a detention the next day at lunch.

Mr. Trude looked to be in his late 50's or early 60's. Plicas sank into his face, and his straight jet black hair hanged over a portion of his right eye. His skin was coarse and reddish and his irises were dark brown. He wore a collared shirt with rolled up sleeves, gray slacks, and a tie. Sometimes he wore a long, dark brown trench coat. Whenever he passed by, a sharp chill polluted the air. Just about no one liked him, except for maybe Jum.

Jum was an idiot, though, and he used brown-nosing to stay out of trouble.

Whenever Catherine entered the cold classroom, she couldn't help but notice a switch hanging idly over the malicious man's desk. School was not as fun this 2nd trimester, and it didn't get any better.

oooOOOooo

When second semester arrived, Catherine and Kitty switched from Physical Education to Health for zero-period. Both bravely signed up for all of the topics the class had to offer. The girls never suspected that they would have to apply one of these topics to their life.

Soon, in the spring, students started disappearing from what Mr. Trude said were expulsions. Catherine did not believe Trude in the least. Something about that hostile human bothered her, and she would stop at nothing to find out a possible correlation between the horrid events and him.

After school on March 15th, Catherine sleuthed around in the science classroom and yanked the switch above the former Ms. Horsewater's desk. This caused the chalkboard to rotate and slide upward to reveal a secret room.

Curious, she climbed into the crevice and shut the chalkboard. Nearby, was a wall with a torch. She seized the torch, walked up a long, winding, stairway, and placed it in a gargoyle's head. This caused the stairway to rotate to face the other direction and rise to lead upward to a wooden door.

Catherine started up the stairway. However, when she reached the 29th step up, the bottom steps of the stairway began to disintegrate. Panicked, she tried darting up the stairs, but the steps behind her disintegrated too fast for her, and she fell hard on the stone floor.

Pained by the shock, she meandered through the hallway of this room and tripped and fell into a puddle of water. As she entered a dimly lit room, she saw an unsightly image.

Students' carcasses lined the brick wall. Catherine was sick to her stomach.

She hurled around and saw a closed gate with a stone sign that said "GargantuausGargantuaus." The inside of the cage growled loudly and frightened her. Catherine gulped. Her eyes darted back and forth, scoping out an exit. Luckily, she found one.

She escaped the dungeon by running through an open gate. The gate lead to an empty room that contained a gentle ramp. Beyond the ramp stood a platform with a wooden door. She opened this door and saw a stairway that looked very similar to the one she had previously encountered. When she closed the door, the back of it blended in with the gray brick texture, and the handle disappeared.

Catherine cautiously walked down the stairs and into the first crevice she crawled into to enter the area. Quickly, she opened the chalkboard, jumped out, secured the chalkboard, and picked up her belongings.

She fled the classroom, paranoid about running into Mr. Trude. However, this did not occur. Relieved, Catherine rushed out of the science building. Now that she finally knew the truth, she planned to spread the word.


A/N: This story uses alternate endings. I didn't do this originally, but thought I would try it out and see what readers think. I've had conflicting opinions on this issue. When you reach the end of the chapter called The Golden Necklace, you may choose one of the 4 alternate endings. You can also read all of them and see which one you like better.

If you don't like the idea of alternate endings, choose Ending 1, my original ending, and my favorite one.

A/N: A zero-period is a class that starts before actual school begins. It is designed for students with busy schedules.