ElementsCHAPTER 1

Tori and Maria were walking home together, just like they always did. They were best friends; they had been since kindergarten. The two girls knew everything about each other: from Maria's favorite freckle to Tori's birthmark (six circular moles on the back of her right hand). Currently, they were in seventh grade.

"So, are you doing anything today?" Tori asked.

"No, not really." Maria replied. "Why, do you have something we can do?"

Tori shrugged. "Well, I thought maybe we could go to the library."

Maria yawned. "What's so great about the library?"

"I never said it was great," Tori argued, "I just said I wanted to go there."

"You're weird. Do you know that?"

Tori gave a fake bow. "Thank you. But, to answer your question, there's a new rumor about Aulie the Alien."

Maria's eyes lit up. "Cool! Can you tell me?"

"I'll tell you when we get there."

Mrs. Aulie was the librarian at the local library. People called her "Aulie the Alien" because she wore glasses that made her eyes seem three times as big. She was small and old and had a hat that had some wire sticking out of it. Kids made up rumors that she was an alien and all that. There were about two new ones a week.

Tori and Maria finally arrived at the Mika Memorial Library. It smelled musty and dank (as usual) and looked really old. The light was dim and hardly anyone was there. When they entered, Mrs. Aulie started babbling.

"Hello, and welcome to the library. Do you need a funny book, a geographic book, a book about eleme…hamsters?"

The two girls ignored her and went straight to their favorite spot – the small wooden table with the two chairs in the corner. Actually, it was more of a secret place, because it was behind a bookshelf that ran diagonally across a corner. They were pretty sure they were the only one who knew about it. Since it was dim in the library (even dimmer in the corner), Tori and Maria kept a stash of flashlights and batteries behind some books there. The girls usually stayed there all day, doing homework and just hanging out.

Maria was the brave, funny, outgoing one who always got into trouble. She had straight, black hair with brown eyes that could stare anyone down easily. Maria also had a crush on a guy named Taylor, but she was afraid to tell Tori because Tori hated Taylor.

Tori was the smart, shy, responsible one who got good grades and who new right from wrong (usually). She had brown, curly hair that she often let hang down in her face, and deep gray eyes that Maria said could see straight through lies. And, like most responsible people, she didn't like anyone.

Maria and Tori had just gotten settled when Maria asked, "OK. We're here. Now can you tell me?"

Tori grinned. She found it amusing to see Maria so impatient, which was normally all the time.

"Fine. Mai told me today that those wires sticking out of her hat are really stuck in her head and that she's being controlled by aliens that are planning to invade Earth. There. Are you happy?"

Maria whistled. "Wow. They're getting pretty far-fetched, aren't they? Almost sounds like they're getting desperate."

The two girls started doing their homework. After a while, Tori checked her watch and exclaimed, "Oh, wow! I have to get going!"

"Now?" Maria whined.

"Yes, now. Sorry." Tori began to pack her books.

"Er… Tori? Before you go, could we… uh…"

"Yes?" Tori urged.

"Could we go… uh… exploring?" Maria questioned timidly.

Tori froze. She understood completely what Maria had meant.

"…What?" Tori whispered. Without waiting for an answer, she said, "Do you honestly think I would ever go down there again? Ever?! I've already been in there one time too many… bye." With that, she grabbed her book bag and stalked away, shuddering at the thought of what had happened years previously.