Author's Note: I have a request for anybody who's reading this. Don't worry, it's not shameless review-seeking, because honestly I have already written around three hundred pages of this book and I neither need people's approval to continue it nor have the ability to really change anything from such an early chapter. No, what I want from you, my sweet, anonymous reader, is actually just the opposite: I want you to refresh this page five or ten times, so I can't be able to accurately tell from the "stats" page how many people have truly read this. This isn't a big request, so please won't you do it for me?

And, one more note. Um... I personally guarantee that this story gets much better after a few chapters. So, if you read this chapter and are on the fence about continuing to the next one... please just do it? There's no pressure- like I said before, I don't care at all about reviews- but, cheesy as it sounds, I'd really like to believe that I'm communicating with somebody, if only for a few minutes.


Chapter One

The binder lay open before me, empty plains of loose leaf paper shivering in frantic anticipation- or maybe they were just moving because of the force of my nervous breathing. The blueness of my ballpoint pen drew out the same color of the veins in my hands, the veins that I had been staring at for at least ten minutes in order to avoid facing the paper's blank wrath.

I thought I had become familiar with the routine. After all, I had been writing ever since my hands had learned to do so as a child, about a decade ago. It was simple, to me: when the voices in my head sang a lullaby, I would write fantasy. When they sang a dirge, I would write poetry. And when they would refuse to sing anything, choosing instead to just hum tunelessly for hours, I would drown them out with essays or journaling or anything else that felt like tumbling out of my mind to escape the din. It was a routine that I had grown to expect, even to love.

But the voices had betrayed both me and common sense. They had started to sing in pictures, and I had no idea how to respond.

The song stuck in my head at that moment was a sharp brown eye in which a dirty mix of every conceivable emotion flashed. I knew in my bones that I had never seen it before, because to see something one has to be able to process its appearance and come to a basic understanding of what it is and how it compares to everything else around it. I had done no such thing. Therefore, I decided that the image must have entered my mind as sound, as white noise that I had found to be of little value and subsequently tuned out.

Of course, I knew exactly what the eye was, who it belonged to, and where it could be located if I wanted to see it in reality. I also was able to understand the gratingly familiar male voice that sang the lyrics as they were being dragged along behind the song. "Curse of Adam," it mumbled, over and over again, the auditory quality of his eye giving his words a dark and powerful feeling.

Knowing what needed to be done, I sighed. The song had to stop, or the voice would refuse to let me write anything else, maybe even refuse to let me sleep at nights until the story was spent.

Okay, then, I will play your game. I will write something- no masterpiece, but something- and then you will leave me alone, I thought, pressing the tip of my pen against the paper. Blue ink poured out all too eagerly, mocking my hesitance even as it encouraged me.

This is not going to be beautiful, my mournful mind sighed as blue, loopy words began to form on the page. I hope that Ophelia never reads this…

~~)0(~~

INSERT UPBEAT THEME SONG HERE.

So I'm supposed to be writing about Adam, correct? Well, I know nothing about him. He was a boy on stage crew. He almost killed Kevin Blake. He put a curse on us. He was a pretty decent sculptor. Alright, now, The End.

Alec's eye is still in my head. Big Brother is watching, eh? Well, newsflash, self: Alec doesn't care at all about what I write. He's a stage manager, not a…fanboy, or whatever. And Ophelia would only laugh at me if I wrote what I feel needs to be written.

Sigh sigh sigh. I probably should take a few days to research him, but I get the feeling that I should write this now. Who knows how long it will be before I get another break like this, what with the show opening next Thursday and all? I suppose there's nothing like making up backstory where none has been provided. Ultimate power …

Alright then. Adam's childhood is mine. I don't really care if it's true at this point, as long as I get to write something!

It began with the birth of a red haired child. Was he Irish? I don't know. It was always kind of assumed, though.

What I do know is that, as a boy, Adam loved to fingerpaint. Now, this was no casual hobby of his, but rather an obsessive, fanatical fixation. He would stare at the bright colors for hours, just daydreaming happily about where he would put them. He would get paint all over his clothes on purpose, because he was convinced that it was a protective charm. To him, there was no greater ecstasy than the feeling of goopy nontoxic paint beneath his fingernails: the thought of washing his hands or peeling the color off his skin after a painting session was simply blasphemous.

An equally distasteful idea to him was the notion that he should confine his art to mere paper when finger paint was obviously far better suited to walls, carpets, and furniture. By the time he entered school Adam had transformed his bedroom into a hippie explosion, with waves of bright colors that contrasted one another brutally crashing down from his ceiling onto the surprisingly sophisticated pictures closer to the floor.

Adam had made an unconscious decision to never paint anything he could see in real life, so on his walls he mostly depicted dreams. There were some people, yes, but the dragons outnumbered them, long, fiery snake-things that lazed beside castles and armor-clad knights. There was an alien in one corner if you looked close enough, and behind it, something large, shiny, and utterly unidentifiable.

These pictures were his pride and joy. Little Adam worked on them for hours each day, painting and repainting, putting them even before his simple spelling and math homework. To this day, he cannot perform long division properly.

His parents were concerned about his habits in the beginning: after all, the time the young boy spent in his room was time that other children his age spent in their backyards, in the parks, in the streets, playing games and riding bikes and getting into the friendly fights that for some reason are so central to the development of healthy and well-adjusted adults. On several occasions, little Adam even found himself locked outside his house, staring blankly at his mother through a window as she gestured toward a nearby pack of neighborhood boys and his conveniently placed bicycle. Invariably, however, these experiments just ended with Adam taking a seat underneath some shady tree and tracing abstract patterns in the dirt, leaving his frustrated parents to denounce him as a genius and abandon any attempts to socialize him.

And Adam's portfolio continued to grow all over anything he saw or touched.

Little Adam, somehow, managed to graduate from elementary school. As a gift to him, his parents painted his bedroom walls white.

That was the first time he had ever wanted to hurt anybody, an auspicious moment in his life, considering what he did to Kevin Blake later on. Coming from his graduation ceremony on the yellow school bus, walking home on the black streets next to the green grass, kicking a little gray pebble with his brown shoe- all that he had wanted to do at that time was run really far away and explode all of the colors together. But when he finally got to his bedroom, his studio, the one place where he felt happy and natural, there was not a color to be seen.

Adam used to be an idealist, so he didn't immediately blame his parents for the horrible blow to his soul. Instead, he got the notion into his head that he had entered an intergalactic spaceship by mistake, for surely there was no place on Earth so dry and uninteresting as a white-painted room, no terrestrial force so cruel that it would hide the colors that had filled his childhood. But after several minutes of shocked exploration, the truth became clear to him: pale shadows of his paintings, the ones that had been too bold originally to have been covered up by a single layer of whitewashing, ghosted under the walls' smooth, lifeless surfaces, assuring him that the room was no spaceship but instead a horrible nightmare.

On realizing this, an image entered his mind. It was of him destroying his mother's flower garden, his father's classic car. And then the fantasy shifted so that he was destroying his parents themselves, and he began to wonder about revenge. Not about how to exact it from anybody in particular, but just about the concept in general.

You see, Adam's life until then had been very steady, very plain (but by no means ordinary.) He had wanted to paint, and so he had painted. He had not wanted to do schoolwork or make friends, and so he had not done those things. Nobody had ever really opposed his self-serving ways, not as long as he'd been alive, and this unusual phenomenon had prevented thoughts about injustice and revenge from blooming in his fertile young mind. But now that he had been- in his way of looking at it- spitefully attacked by his own parents, the payback instinct that had been lying dormant for ten long years suddenly… kicked in.

And he didn't understand it at all.

As he ran his fingers time and time again over the bland whiteness of his favorite canvas, struggling with the emotions that he had never felt before, slamming his mind against the incomprehensible wall that should maybe have been eroded away years earlier, Adam gained an uneasy understanding of his situation. His paintings that he had worked on for his whole life were gone, and he would never be able to reclaim what he had lost. Even if he was able to recreate the wall perfectly (which he was fairly certain he could do; the room had become so natural to him that the pictures had, basically, imprinted themselves on the back of his mind), the spirit in which he had painted it would not be the same. The pictures had been created with a kind of joy that perhaps nobody but Adam had ever experienced before. They were irreplaceable, and in his mind Adam knew that the matter had been closed as soon as his parents had rolled out painted to subdue the last streak of color.

But in his fingertips, his dangerously irrational fingertips, Adam felt certain that, by destroying something in return, he would be able to make his pain a little less.

The boy, unable to stay in his horrible white room any longer, languished for hours in the hallway outside the door, holding his head of shaggy rust-colored hair between his knees and imagining horrible, foreign things, like paintbrushes with sharpened handles being used to create sadness instead of art. But because Adam was still an acceptably stable person at that point, despite the oddities that moved like little parasitic aliens under his skin, those thoughts remained locked securely inside of his mind.

So on little Adam went through middle school, through those unconditionally awkward years that are fun for nobody and torture for all. Adam took all that came at him like a man, though, coolly failing tests, scorning sociality, and shoving art into anything that he could find. Although walls were now off-limits to him, more than a few media remained for Adam to conquer. In recompense for having painted his room over, his mother kept him well-supplied with more traditional painting supplies- acrylics, graceful watercolors, and the like- and it eased Adam's deep and consuming boredom to master these during the endless days of his solitude.

During those three years, though, he kept to the promise he had made in anger on the last day of elementary school. From the day he graduated fifth grade on, not a soul saw any of the art that he created.

Well, except for one piece, the one that Adam kept on a little table by his bed on top of the lava lamp that would glow purple if he ever turned it on. It was a hunk of wood, carved into the nearly perfect shape of a bird. He had made it himself the day he hit that guy.

In the future, Adam wouldn't remember what the boy, a tall, scary kid that had already grown a beard at the age of thirteen, had done to make him so angry. He doubted he would have been irritated by any direct insult, for he had become accustomed to these over the years and in truth hadn't minded them to begin with. Neither would any threat to his family and friends have enraged him, because he had no friends at that point and had lost any emotional attachment he'd had to his parents after the whitewash incident. Adam eventually decided that the boy had done nothing wrong, or something stupid, and that he himself had just wanted someone to hit.

Well, long story short, he'd chosen the wrong person. The boy had been carrying a knife with him and, as soon as Adam attacked, had used it against his scrawny, un-athletic adversary. Adam put up a decent fight, but in the end he found himself where he had known all along he would end up: lying alone on the ground, staring in shock at a stream of blood as it ran from his left hip into the dirt.

He didn't think that he was going to die or anything, but he couldn't move very well, either, and he was on a woodsy path seldom traveled by anybody that would be able to help him get to medical aid. The fact that he was angry as hell and in his mind had already exploded into a million metaphoric drops of acid didn't help matters, either. So, to disperse the pain and anger that had a larger combined volume than his body could accommodate, Adam picked up the knife that he had knocked out of the boy's hand at the end of the fight, grabbed a fallen chunk of wood from beneath a nearby tree, and began to brutalize it without mercy.

He stabbed at it repeatedly, screaming curses against art and humans and anger itself, when he realized that the log looked kind of like a bird in flight. Amazed that something (semi-)beautiful could be created out of negative feelings, he took on the project of refining the shape he had seen, just to make sure that he wasn't mistaken and that it wasn't only a formless hunk of wood after all.

He had expected to entertain his curiosity for only a minute or so before going back to his previous violent and destructive behavior. He had been wrong. The bird began to take shape beneath the knife that had just a few moments before been used to hurt him, becoming more and more lifelike with every careful stroke executed under Adam's keen eye. All traces of unhappiness slowly drained out of the boy, leaving only a sharp, euphoric focus in all of his muscles and bones. Eventually, of course, he was found by a woman walking her dog and was taken immediately to the hospital, but he didn't even notice when this happened. The bird was in his hands, and the knife was in his hands, and no force on earth was strong enough to pry them away.

The sculpture that ended up beside him each night as he slept was far from flawless, but Adam didn't care. It was a challenge to him, a second oath. One day he would create a perfect form, he resolved, and that form would be all for him.

Soon after he came to this resolution, though, Adam was faced with a change so major that it made the fight he'd lost seem like a rerun of a TV show that he had already seen a hundred times. Adam… entered high school.

The school he entered was a very nice one by anybody's standards. Architecturally, it was interesting. The walls were all painted cheerful colors that matched the carpets perfectly. It had an acceptably pleasant aroma in most places and the cafeteria lunches were pretty good.

Adam, however, couldn't have cared less about any of those things. He was miserable. His classes were hard, and boring, and the homework his mother forced him to do took up so much of his time that he sometimes went entire days without working on his carvings. His goal of perfection that he had pursued so ecstatically the previous summer was not looking likely.

Even worse, his mother was pushing him to join a school activity in another desperate attempt to force a social life upon him. Adam thought he wouldn't be able to avoid it this time, for his mother seemed Adamant about it. So he listened hard to the conversations going on around him- not participating in them, of course, but still learning all that he needed to know.

Sports teams, student government, marching band, film club, literary magazine, math team… all of these things seemed like wastes of time. Even art club held no appeal for him: he knew full well that it would be useless to join if he didn't have even a basic understanding of some Asian language. Then, right when he was about to give up hope and go out for golf, he heard an interesting conversation.

It was during health class, while they were learning about the evils of illegal drugs. He sat at a table with two other freshman boys (he couldn't sit alone because there were no open seats available) and was in a very bad mood, as usual. The idea of just leaving the classroom and never coming back crossed his mind, especially during the ridiculous climax of the movie they were watching during which the main character had a mental breakdown and then died a horrible, horrible death. His public school system is very effective.

"So you have stage crew after school tomorrow?" one of the boys asked the other.

Stage crew. For some reason, those words calmed down his stomach. Adam wasn't sure what the thing they spoke of was, but he could hear faint undertones of… passion and triumph in those two syllables: stage crew.

Now Adam was seized by a confidence of desire so strong that I can only conclude that it was given to him by God- or more likely by that trickster Satan. And in response to that dramatic change of being, Adam did something that he had never tried before: he spoke to another student.

"What is stage crew?" he asked.

The boy whom the initial question had been addressed to, a short, blonde kid, shrugged his shoulders (the other boy had been distracted by the video and was now intent on the bloody corpse on the screen). "I've only been to one meeting. I think that we make the scenery for drama and help out during the plays and stuff."

"Sounds cool," Adam's flat voice remarked. "Is it too late for me to join?"

"Um… I don't think so. I guess that you could come tomorrow and ask whoever's in charge. It's at two thirty. On the stage."

Adam nodded. "I think I'll come. Thanks." He thought for a moment, remembering the endless lectures his mother had fed him on the importance of making friends and communicating with people. "I'm Adam, by the way," he added involuntarily.

"Kevin Blake," the boy replied.

"Cool."

So Adam went home to his mother and told her about stage crew. Not knowing any better, she agreed to let him join. And that was when it all began.

The next day, Adam arrived and was made welcome, which he thought was absolutely shocking. Many happy, smiling techies shook his hand and made freshman jokes about him, but Adam discovered that he didn't mind those little jibes. Especially after he was handed a paintbrush. The power he felt as he worked on the sets lifted his spirits and carried over into every aspect of his life. He made several friends in crew and even one or two in his regular classes, he got better grades, and he seemed happy to be alive. During rehearsals for his first show, Adam was taken to a physical and emotional high that he favored to artmaking, to anything else in the world. When opening night finally came, he felt that he could love nothing more

"You're projecting."

I looked up to see Ophelia, the older crewmember that had established herself as my friend and mentor. That's one thing that I like about high school: a junior can be friends with a freshman like me.

"What do you mean, 'projecting?'" I asked.

Ophelia sat down awkwardly beside me on a couch set. She was almost unable to bend her legs, for the pants she wore were stiff with countless layers of paint. Her t-shirt was a little better; I could at least tell it had been green before.

"You're taking yourself, your own thoughts and feelings, and putting them into a character. I mean, that's okay, but you should be aware that you're doing it. I know from experience that it gets boring to write after a while."

"I guess that's true, but I don't really have a choice. I've never even met Adam before, so I have nothing to go on," I pointed out, closing the binder I had been writing in and laying it gently down on the ground beside the set sofa we were sitting on. "How should I know his feelings during the first play he was in? I don't even know its title!"

Ophelia ran a hand through her short blonde hair, picking at the drops of blue paint that had splattered on it. "Wait, you're writing a story about the real Adam? The Adam from two years ago?"

"Yes," I answered. A bubble of self-consciousness exploded in my chest. Feeling for some reason that I needed to justify myself, I continued, "Alec told us about him when we went up to the catwalks, and I thought he sounded interesting- I mean, this isn't a serious story, I just totally made up the dramatic biography, but-"

Ophelia laughed. "You're projecting again, Eve! I think the curse is a very cool idea for a story- certainly one I never thought of. Don't assume everybody will hate something just because you do."

I looked down, causing a wiry clump of brown hair to fall into my eyes. I didn't bother to push it away. "But… I have no place to write this. I'm only a freshman. I don't know about Adam, or the curse, or anything

"Oh, but that's easily to fix!" she pointed out, enthusiasm in her voice as she shifted on the couch. "He only graduated two years ago- there are still a couple of people here who knew him. Have you talked to any seniors?"

"Naomi and Rosa? No, I haven't."

Ophelia looked thoughtful. "It would be great if Ochieng was here. She was pretty good friends with him. Talked about him a lot, at least."

"She graduated?" I asked.

"Yes. Last year."

"Do you want to know what the actors do on this couch?" A boy with dark hair, dark eyes, and a gruff voice asked, pointing at the piece of furniture we were sitting on. That boy's name was Cole.

…I'm not even kidding. That was his name.

Beside me Ophelia shot up like a rocket. "No."

I followed suit after a moment of hesitation, not really certain why I was doing so. "What do they do?" I asked him.

Before I had even come to a full standing position, he had slid over the sofa's armrest and stretched himself across both cushions. "Rehearse scenes, I guess."

Ophelia rolled her eyes. "Sorry, Eve."

Cole burrowed even further into the couch.

I looked at Ophelia and she looked at me. And then we both looked at the floor. Now, the floor in the wings was pretty gross. We had to sweep and mop the stage twice or thrice a day at this stage of rehearsal, but somehow the wings, despite their close proximity, were invariably overlooked. This made for a land strewn with dust bunnies, trash, and paint stains, clumping around the edges of curtains and stored set pieces.

I looked back at Ophelia. She nodded.

But our inevitable descent to our new seats on the floor was halted by a flying rag.

"Cole, you lazy bastard, break's over!" a short boy with shaggy blonde hair called as he jumped monkey-like into our sanctum by the stage furniture, knocking over the couch as he did so. That was our stage manager/master, Alec.

Cole spilled to the floor and did not move.

A girl, a paintbrush dangling comfortably from her fingers, stepped around the chaos. "Um, Alec, I think you killed him."

"Shut up, Naomi."

She giggled cutely in a way that belied her larger-than-average size and less-than-average looks. "Don't be mean!"

"No. I hate you. Stop talking." Alec said sternly.

Naomi laughed again and then wandered over to join the group that was doing touch-up work on the set piece that was supposed to be a barn. They welcomed her cheerfully and, in a few seconds, she was hard at work. The sets, you see, were all finished and had been so for weeks, but they still needed to be repaired and beautified every few days because the actors sucked so much. Basically, we were at that stage in the play right before dress rehearsals started when the show as a whole was still running around like a really large and complex chicken with its head cut off.

Alec looked at Cole, who was just beginning to get up off the floor and dust himself off. "You ready to help me with the sign?"

The dark-haired boy nodded slightly, then wordlessly proceeded to the door connecting the wing we were in (right wing) to the hallway that had been designated to the drama program.

"Right." Alec threw a brief glance over his shoulder, scanning the wing to make sure all of his underlings were being safe and industrious, and, with a little smirk on his face, turned to follow Cole.

But then there came a loud cracking noise, and he was forced to turn around.

"What now?" he asked wearily.

"Um…" came a weak voice. "That was a paint can and-"

"Curse of Adam!" chorused the rest of the people in that area, before the words dissolved into laughter.

Alec crossed his arms. "Idiots."

But he couldn't hold that position for long. When he saw the red paint that had spilled over a corner of the set piece, his lips visibly twitched. "Curse of Adam, what the hell is wrong with you people?" he chuckled.

"Yay, Alec is happy again!" Naomi squealed.

"No, I'm still really pissed off. Especially at you."

"But I didn't even do anything!"

While they were bantering, Ophelia kicked me in the leg. Angry and confused, I looked up at her, but enlightenment struck as I saw her mouth the word "research." I then nodded vigorously.

"So, what exactly is the curse again?" I asked, feigning freshman ignorance.

As I'd expected, Alec responded only by glaring at me with that "I've told you once, are you really so dumb that I need to explain it again" look. Naomi, however, answered me by pointing at the catwalk that ran over left wing. There was something, something small and red, dangling from a string beneath it. It swayed slightly in a nonexistent breeze. "That is!"

The next three years went by much as the first few had: like the space between lightning and thunder. During the two shows each year, he was happy, alive, and very, very busy. When there were no shows to obsess about, he was lazy and content, waiting for the next one to start.

He collected powers and he collected allies. Mr. Kall, the drama teacher, was one of those types that felt bad for weird people even when the weird people in question don't feel bad for themselves, and Adam, of course, exploited those sentiments mercilessly, making sure to constantly throw out hints about the lonely and misunderstood childhood that he himself rarely even thought about. And so, he soon became one of the man's favorite and most trusted techies. Mr. Kall gave him most of the artistic power behind the scenes; as early as his junior year, Adam was the one who designed the sets and supervised their painting, and during the run of the shows, it was he who worked the lightboard from his lonely booth on the catwalks. These were jobs that he loved, that he spent all of his energy working on.

He'd originally thought that people would automatically grow to resent him for having two such desirable positions. After all, he held the most power of anyone on crew besides Kevin Blake, who became stage manager and construction supervisor, and he was well aware of how little reason people needed to hate one another. But he was surprised to find that nobody thought less of him for the power which he held, and that indeed some actually admired him for his dedication. Interested in this new kind of social lifestyle, which he considered to be a type of art in and of itself, he made friends among most of the crewmembers and actors.

His life was charmed, his face was smiling. But then the aliens came.

Ophelia giggled and I jumped about a foot in the air. "What are you still doing behind me, you creepy stalker?" I raged, my face burning so hot that I thought it would melt.

"Aliens? Oh, that is just perfect!" My blush grew even deeper when I turned to see her smiling so widely.

I held my binder to my chest. "Well it has to be aliens!" I justified. "Nobody has any idea what really happened to him!"

"Oh, I know that," she assured me. "I was just excited, I guess, because aliens are a very viable explanation of his change in behavior."

"Then why make fun of me?"

"I wasn't…" Ophelia frowned as I stuck my tongue out at her. "Ah, just keep writing."

In the beginning, Adam didn't mind the aliens' presence. They were kind of puny and harmless, to tell the truth, just sitting in his brain, tickling his neurons annoyingly every once in a while, but for the most part leaving no ill effects. The teenage boy found it easy to ignore them, and, after a few weeks of angst and confusion, wondering why he had to be the only one with extraterrestrial beings in his head, he just sort of let the issue go.

Then, the aliens learned how to speak in English. That made them a little more annoying, but everything was still manageable.

But when the aliens started eating away at the foundations of Adam's entire belief system, making him doubt just who he was and how he fit into the world at large, though, that was when his problems really started.

Ironically enough, this mental attack had started out a game. The aliens loved to play games, because they had no serious tasks to work on. The "What If This Object Was The Ultimate Evil In The Universe" game was one of their favorites. It had only one rule: when somebody asked the question "what if this object was the ultimate evil in the universe?" you would have to respond by saying the most horrible thing that came into your head. For example:

"What if this car was the ultimate evil in the universe?"

"It would flatten you and your dog as you went for a walk in the evening, hee hee hee."

"What if this piano was the ultimate evil in the universe?"

"It would play so terribly out of tune that everybody's eardrums would explode, hee hee hee."

And so on. Now, normally Adam didn't really mind the aliens playing "Ultimate Evil", because it was the most childish and ridiculous game that anybody had ever come up with and Adam had never really been childish and ridiculous, so he thought of the game as merely and oddity and tolerated it. Until one night, when Adam really just wanted to go to sleep, an alien directed a question at him.

"What if stage crew was the ultimate evil in the universe?"

Adam had sighed condescendingly and explained that stage crew wasn't an object and therefore couldn't be used in the game, a response that he thought would be sufficient to make the aliens feel like idiots and leave him alone. But he had been wrong. Because he'd refused to answer according to the appropriate format, another alien answered for him.

"It would take over your mind and force you to stop doing what you really like to do, hee hee hee."

"Well, that's stupid," Adam thought to himself. "It is what I really like to do."

But saying that only amused the aliens further, much to their host's chagrin. "Really?"

"Yes. Stop being idiots." He rolled over in bed, telling himself to go to sleep immediately.

"Really really?"

"Yes. You are the most annoying things on earth."

Adam shifted again, and suddenly the bird was the only thing he could see. The carving he had made more than three years ago while injured and angry on some lonely path, before he'd ever set foot in a theater, in those days when it had been just him and art. He'd promised that he would create a perfect form, but because of how busy he was with his duties, he never had.

"Stage crew is a kind of art, anyway. Making sets and stuff," he thought nervously.

"And then destroying them right after the show's over," an alien added.

"That's not-"

"With white paint, sometimes."

Adam remembered in an instant exactly how his knees had looked the day his parents had painted his room in elementary school. He had been wearing faded black cargo pants that day, with little droplets of red paint flicked over the left leg. Those knees had been all he'd seen for hours after the fact as he sat outside his bedroom, crumpled in a little ball, too angry to move.

He couldn't exactly remember the anger; emotions had never interested Adam very much; but he could remember his knees.

An alien giggled. "How long has it been since you worked on your art?"

"I joined stage crew because I wanted to. It didn't make me do it. I chose to," the boy reasoned weakly.

"Then, are you the ultimate evil in the universe?" another inquired.

Adam shook his head, ruffling his dull red hair against his pillow. "No."

"How do you know?"

"I just do."

The bird sculpture was staring at him. It looked kind of sad. Adam looked away.

"So, if neither you nor stage crew is the ultimate evil in the universe, why are you doing only things you hate?"

"I don't hate stage crew!" Adam protested.

Alien laughter. "Let's overlook that fact for a moment."

"Ooh, it's a logic puzzle!" another alien exclaimed.

"The ultimate evil in the universe causes you not to do what you love. Art is what you love. You are not doing art because you are doing stage crew. Therefore, whatever caused you to do stage crew is the ultimate evil in the universe."

"Nerd. Shut up," the boy demanded. "That's not true at all."

"So what? It's logical."

"No, because that would mean that Kevin Blake is the ultimate evil in the universe."

"He is."

"No he isn't. He's one of my best friends."

"Are you sure?"

"You're ridiculous."

It continued.

And the next day after rehearsal, he cornered Kevin behind the school, beat him into the pavement, and left.

Mr. Kall had turned a blind eye to the widespread drug abuse, sexual misconduct, academic dishonesty, and criminal activity that his underlings engaged in, but a direct attack on his favorite techie was not something that he could ignore. So, publicly and dishonorably, he dismissed Adam from stage crew for as long as he attended the school.

When Adam finally got his head straight and realized that growth as a human was okay and that aliens didn't actually exist, it was too late to change anything. He'd already been banished by the authorities and shunned by his friends. All that he had left was exactly what he'd had before: solitude, and free time to work on art.

No matter how hard he tried, Adam couldn't get himself to be happy about this. So he decided to see if a different emotion would work better in the situation. After much deliberation, he chose unbridled wrath. If he could not exist peacefully in the safety of crew, than nobody would.

He turned to his carvings for the first time in three years, working until the advent of dawn on a miniature of himself.

Though very small, that sculpture was his finest to date. The shapes and proportion were perfect, and he had even painted it in the likeness of himself, matching colors perfectly until the carving looked like a living, breathing clone.

But at the end, Adam frowned at his creation, sensing that something was not correct about it. Something about the color…

He nodded suddenly and painted the statue entirely red.

Then, with a splash of magic or art that nobody will ever understand, Adam became a man split in two. Half of him remained as a person of the world, inhabiting his body and making use of his mind.

The rest of him entered the carving.

(Well, Alec explains this bit rather differently, but let's not get into that right now.)

The next day, Adam was permitted one last climb to the catwalks in order to gather his things from the light booth. The wooden Adam came with him, hidden in the corporeal Adam's backpack. Adam had a plan for him.

It's said that he laid a curse on us that day. Maybe that's true. Certainly, unusual things started to happen, like accidents occurring that could maybe have been avoided, actions beginning that had no definite origin, people laughing when they should have stayed silent. But the term "curse" was never used until long after the fact, when people started to realize that there were really no simple words to describe what Adam has brought into being.

All that we know is what Adam told us, in the brief and illegible note he left lying on the catwalks next to where he'd hung the carving:

"I'm leaving now, like you told me to. But this thing I made is staying here. It's a human. And if anyone takes it down, I'll come back and destroy the whole theater."