It all seemed so familiar. Pounding noise. Walls shaking. Floor tilting. Laughter and screams. All background music to a much larger, much more chaotic symphony that she knew, yet could not name.

It was in that chaos that she searched for something. No. Someone. She was looking for someone. Because she didn't feel good. Something didn't feel right. No. Nothing felt right.

She couldn't see anything. Some kind of cloudy fog--smoke. That's what it was. Smoke, hazy and obscuring her vision. With an acrid smell that made her gag. How she hated that smell. What was it again? And who was she searching for? The smoke was suffocating. Her stomach hurt. Then her head. Her entire body. What was wrong with her?

She escaped the smoke, only to be surrounded by people. Crowded. Couldn't breathe. They pushed and pulled, and she didn't know which was she was going. Just shove through. Push through, break away, find…find what? Someone came up from behind, grabbing her arms, stopping her from moving. The touch burned her skin. Everything hurt so much.

Yanking herself free from her captor, she ran away. Far away, through halls that zigzagged and blurred under her gaze, up stairs and through doors. Then, darkness. She didn't know where she was. And she hurt all over. Held out a hand, touched a wall. Leaned against it. Couldn't hold herself up anymore. Her hands brushed fabric as they fell to her sides. Fumbled with the cloth, hand tangling in its grasp.

Clink.

Something fell, and she groped until she felt what it was. Picked it up. More clinks as her fingers folded around jagged edges and cold metal. She recognized that noise, had heard it before. Knew it like the very beat of her heart.

The pounding in her body was worse, making her double over, dropping what she held in her hand. Shut her eyes, tried to get rid of the pain.

Opened her eyes. Screamed.

Eyes. Hazel, blue, almond, green, violet. Different colors, different shapes and sizes, yet all watching her. Seeing right through her, unsettling.

Holding her head in her hands, she screamed again. Utter agony. A bright light shined under her narrowed eyelids. Head felt like it was splitting into several million pieces. And a burning feeling spreading through her. Felt bad. Evil. Pure hatred.

Struggling to see, she spotted the very eyes that scorched her very skin.

Cold. Dead. Haunting.

Ice blue.

Watching her.


Unlocked

Chapter 1

Sadie Caldwell

Sometimes, I feel like I'm being followed by this invisible…something. Then again…it might just be the alcohol. Maybe. Probably.


"Sadie. Sadie, what's wrong?" a concerned, masculine voice whispered in her ear. A second later, there was a calming hand rubbing circles on her bare back. Her skin was clammy with cold sweat, and her breath rushed past her lips in rapid, short bursts.

Sadie Caldwell opened her eyes and found herself faced with the worried baby blue eyes of Travis McCollins. A shudder made its way down her spine, reminding her of the strange dream she had just had. She didn't remember much about it, only that whatever the dream had been about, it scared the crap out of her.

"Are you okay?" Travis asked, his fingertips running along her arm in what he probably thought was a reassuring gesture, but only made Sadie uncomfortable. "You just blanked, Sade."

"What?" she asked, the sound of cheering people and thumping music sounded throughout the dark room. She had forgotten about the party raging on downstairs in the aftermath of the that uncanny dream.

Travis sat back on the bed and stared down hard, most likely trying to figure out what was going through her head. "You freaked me out. One second, we're going at it like usual. And then, suddenly, you just stop moving and you began, like, hyperventilating."

Shit. What should she tell him? She couldn't very well tell him that she had fallen asleep right as they were--as he so eloquently put it--going at it. Choosing silence as her answer, Sadie turned away from the boy and felt around on the floor until her hands me the soft cotton of her shirt. Sitting up, she pulled it onto the bed with her, but was stopped from putting it back on by Travis leaning forward. Laying his mouth on the crook where her neck and shoulder joined, he nuzzled that spot. With his one hand creeping down the expanse of her stomach, the boy's hushed voice seemed to echo throughout the darkened room. "You wanna talk about it?"

Double shit. He just had to ask. Given another minute and she could easily chalked up her little episode as her reaction to his 'passionate' explorations of her physique. And then they could've gone back to the party or even continued fooling around, as usual. But not after that. Not after he suggested talking about thing that they very well didn't need to talk about.

Maybe it was a defense mechanism that allowed her to distance herself, or, hell, maybe it was fear of opening up. But Sadie Caldwell did not--ever--talk about things she didn't want to talk about. Talking meant feeling and feeling meant…well, she didn't quite know what it meant. She never liked to get carried past the point of feeling. Or talking, for that matter. Not that that meant she didn't have emotions, but still, some things were best left alone. Some things, certain feelings, had to be pushed into that closet in her mind. The dark closet. The one with bolts and chains holding the door from bursting open.

Glancing under her eyelashes down the trail Travis had made along her torso with his kisses, she let out a soft sigh. Not one of pleasure, but of sad resignation. Before, she could have had fun with him, in this shadowy room with only the sounds of their breaths mingling. Now, he had ruined that. No, the stupid dream ruined that. She just wasn't in the mood anymore. Just as he was about to work his fingers under the waistband of her skirt, Sadie rolled away and pulled on her shirt.

"What's wrong this time?" Travis demanded in a huff. Sadie almost laughed at the childish petulance set in his face. A moment ago, all he wanted to do was talk. After a moment of distraction, he was no longer in the frame of mind for talking.

Finding a shoe on the floor next to the bed, Sadie shoved her foot into it. "Bored, I guess. Maybe next weekend."

"Sadie, come on." he whined. Stopping in the process of putting on her other shoe, she looked back at the boy. Dark hair rumpled from where her fingers had run through it and light eyes pleading, a few weeks ago she wouldn't have resisted returning to the activities she now abandoned. One just didn't walk away from Travis McCollins. He was the resident Big Man Musician of their small town of Whaler's Cove, alluring in that starving artist way of his. Many girls craved for the chance to be his groupie, but ever since he was twelve, his interest had been solely fixated on one girl. Sadie regretted the fact that she was that girl.

"You realize this is the third week in a row you haven't put out, right?" he asked, nostrils flaring in an annoying fashion that only happened when he was ticked. "What has been up with you lately?"

"Next weekend, Travis. I promise." Although she had no idea how she'd be feeling at their next party, whether or not she could go through with that promise. She just hadn't been very…interested in sex lately.

"Next weekend. Promise." she repeated quietly, more to herself than to the boy. Then, a final tug on her shoe and she was almost sprinting to the door without a backwards glance.

She emerged into a dim hallway, bodies pressed to the wall on either side of her. Slamming the bedroom door shut on Travis's calls, Sadie pushed through the crowd that had accumulated in the hall. Around her, she could hear drunken blabberings or the almost hysterical laughter that could only be achieved by someone who was thoroughly baked. Couples were eagerly making out on the landing on top of the stairs, most likely awaiting their turn in the room Sadie had just vacated.

Finally, she made it down the stairs, the music louder and the walls shaking from the bass. People blended together, each face smeared with the next, making it near impossible for her to differentiate between them. Everyone around her laughed, a group of girls squealing as some dunk jocks spilled their drinks near them. The music drowned any conversation, pulsating through her head. Suddenly, Sadie felt the urgent need to lie down, take a deep breath, and escape all the madness.

Maybe she should go back to that bedroom, just waltz on back up the stairs and lock the door behind her until she recollected her self. Then, she remembered Travis and the other couples and thought better of that idea. Perhaps a nearby closet. There had to be one somewhere.

She was about to start her search when a hand grabbed her forearm, holding her steady. Instantly, as she turned around, a cup of beer was placed in her hand and a voice called in her ear over the music, "Where do you think you're going?"

"Kierra," Sadie nodded, recognizing the girl as a friend, not someone who she should immediately dump the contents of the cup on. "Where have you been?"

"Outside," Kierra Conners replied, towing Sadie away form the crowd into the not-as-noisy kitchen. The light was brighter there, but the air thicker with smoke as the partygoers lit up just outside the door leading to the patio. "I'd ask where you've been, but I can already tell." A knowing smirk graced her friend's features as she pointedly looked Sadie up and down.

Sadie knew Kierra meant Travis, and not just by her mussed hair and even messier shirt, so hastily put on. Anyone who knew Sadie Caldwell knew that at any party, sooner or later she'd end up in a dark room with only Travis McCollins to keep her company. It wasn't like it was the biggest kept secret of all time. But still, just the fact that people judged what--or who--she had been doing irked her.

Kierra, on the other hand, still looked just as marvelous as she had when she arrived at the party. Fiery red hair falling in curling tendrils to her shoulder blades, a sharp contrast to Sadie's own choppy, short midnight-colored locks. The other girl was only a couple of inches taller than Sadie, but even wearing jeans and a tight red and black corset, she seemed to tower over the other girls around her. Many boys stopped to stare, some dared to utter a couple of words, but Kierra waved them away with a roll of her eyes and a disinterested expression. Sadie inwardly shook her head. Unworthy, she mentally called them as they retreated from her friend. Not just anyone could capture Kierra's attention so effortlessly. Idiots.

"Where's E?" she scanned the room, taking a sip form her drink and savoring the warmth it created as it slid down her throat.

"Where do you think?" Kierra grabbed Sadie's chin and forced it in the direction of the living room, where she could clearly see the dance floor. There, they watched as a mocha-skinned girl bounced alongside the other dancers, the hem of her dress flaring up when she twirled to the music. Laughing, the girl saw Sadie and Kierra and waved energetically, leaving the pumping mass of bodies to race over to where they stood. When she reached them, she threw her arms out wide and grabbed them by their necks in a giggling hug.

"Isn't this so much fun?" Egypt Lamont cheered, her bubbly nature only enhanced by the fact that she had already downed three cups of alcohol and five jell-o shots, to boot. "I looooove parties!"

She tripped over her own two feet then, and had not Sadie moved her arm out the way, would have splashed her beer everywhere. Egypt saw the cup and reached for it, giggling, "Is that for me?"

"You've already had your limit." Kierra laughed as Egypt's face fell, then perked up again as a new song started in the living room.

"I looooove this song!"

"You love everything when you're drunk!" Kierra chuckled again, bobbing her head to the new beat.

Egypt wrapped her arms around them again, more for balance this time than for any display of affection. "I looooove you guys! Bestest friends ever!"

"Yeah, yeah, bestest friends," Sadie peeled Egypt's sweaty arm off of her shoulder. Steering her in the direction of the gyrating dancers, she gave Egypt a firm shove and laughed, "Go back to you dancing, you beast!"

"Garoooo!" They laughed at their friend's drunken roar. "You guys dance, too!" Egypt protested, grabbing a hold of both of their hands and leading them. She stopped as someone passes her holding a jell-o shot. "Oooooh…"

"Nuh-uh. No more for you. Let's go dance," Kierra turned Egypt around and pushed her to the dance floor. Egypt's hand still gripped Sadie's, but it was loose enough that she had no trouble pulling away. Watching them walk away, Sadie once again felt the pressing need to be alone, to get away.

Sighing, she passed her drink to someone in the crowd who took it with no questions of complaints. Then, she wound her way to where she believed was the front door. Luckily, she made it through unscathed, with no one stopping her and only a minimum amount of alcohol spilled on her shoes.

A few people milled about on the front lawn, drunk off their rockers or just hanging around talking to people they knew. Thankfully, no one recognized Sadie, or, if they had, didn't try to communicate with her.

Cars lined up on one side of the block, but Sadie stayed clear of them; She didn't own a car, although she had had her license for over a year. There wasn't enough money for her to buy a new bike, let alone a vehicle. Besides, she wasn't exactly the best driver around, so any car she could have had probably would have been totaled already.

Kierra would give her a ride, or Travis, but that would involve them asking a bunch of questions she really didn't feel like explaining. She might've been able to grab Egypt's keys and take her car, as the girl was so plastered that Kierra would see to it that she got home safe, preferably not behind the wheel. But Sadie didn't want the hassle of searching through the party for her friend or having to return the car the next day. A walk would have to do.

Her house was only twenty-five minutes away by foot. As she started down the side walk away from the house, she noticed how quiet it had become. Behind her, the party went on and the music was still loud. But here, in the dark of night with only the skittering of nocturnal animals, something seemed different. Everything lately seemed different to her. Like she had blinked and while her eyes were closed, during that millisecond, the entire world had shifted. Once, walking home form a party in the dead of night wouldn't have bothered her. Now, it scared her.

An owl hooted in a tree nearby. Funny. She never thought they had owls in Whaler's Cove. Houses lining the street were black, everyone inside them being asleep. Sadie checked her watch, an old, barely working thing that her mother had given her on her tenth birthday. 11:40. She'd be home by midnight. Kind of a spooky thought, especially when the shadows seemed to be hiding lurking shapes that really turned out to be Halloween decorations. She rubbed her temples, shaking away her unreasonable fears. Nothing was out there. The shadows were just playing ticks, her own mind bringing to life her paranoia.

Chills raced down her back, making her regret not bringing a sweater to guard her from the cool October breezes. Halloween was less than two weeks away. After that, November and with it, colder weather. Soon, there'd be no more casual walks home from a party so late at night, not unless she wanted to freeze her legs off.

Crossing her arms over her stomach didn't stop the chills, no matter how tight she hugged herself. She shrugged off the little voice in her head that told her maybe it wasn't the wind that caused those shivers, and from her skirt pocket, she pulled out a metal ring. The objects attached to it clinked together as she moved it. Another present from her mother, this time when she turned twelve. A simple, metal key ring round enough to fit her whole wrist, with no embellishments or special properties. Just something to hold her keys, of which she owned many. Key for her front door, back door, attic, diary, jewelry box. A key for anything and everything, though half the time she forgot which key went to which lock.

Tapping the ring on the side of her thigh, she took relaxation in the chiming sounds the keys made. Almost like music, only somehow better. Nothing could compare to that sound, the one sound that put her mind at ease and her heart still with the simplicity of it. A couple of more jingles form the key ring and all her worries and fears crept away.

Ten minutes and she turned off into what looked like a dark alley. Only it wasn't an alley, but the entrance to Peachtree Grove, as the sign announced at the corner. Graffiti covered most of it, but Sadie knew by heart its words, having live din the Grove her entire life. She stopped for a moment, reaching up without a second thought to trace the indented G on the sign. Her mother used to do that, trace the same letter with the same finger Sadie was using. When she was younger, her mother and sister and she would be walking home from somewhere, usually the grocery store. And her mother would stop, reach up, trace the letter, smile--

A long, attention-grabbing meow made her jump. But, knowing the feline cry, Sadie released the tension in her shoulders and glanced around. There, sliding along the shadows, was a black cat. Sadie had only to move a couple of feet and the cat rushed forward to rub its heavy self over her leg. Bending down, she pushed the cat away and brushed the hair off her ankle before continuing down the street. The cat followed behind her, stalking her as though she were his next meal. Except he wasn't looking to attack; Gray was a harmless old thing.

Five minutes and two blocks later, Sadie came upon the short cul-de-sac that contained her home. She could see her house as she walked, a three-story falling-apart monstrosity plopped down in the middle of the street, complete with rickety fence and overgrown grass. A solitary tree stood next to the house, its bare branches the stuff seen in really old horror movies, seeming to scratch and scrape at the chipped paint and dusty windows. Home, not-so-sweet home.

As she neared her house, the cat began meowing again. Giving in, Sadie knelt on the side walk in front of her yard and held out her hand. The cat rubbed his head appreciatively against it, and she scratched behind his ears.

"Jesus, Gray. You're such an attention whore." she murmured, moving to his chin. The cat lapped up the petting, his golden eyes twinkling as though he agreed with what she said and didn't particularly care about it.

A flash of movement from the corner of her eye. She tilted her head just enough to observe the house across the street. It stood as tall as her own and was just as old, but that was where the similarities between the two homes ended. Unlike hers, the other house showed no signs of wear and tear. The yard was well kept, the fence having been freshly painted a month before, while the weather was warmer. Behind it, a dark woods that seemed not to engulf the house but embrace it. All the lights were out, but there was a sleek black car and an intimidating motorcycle in the drive way. Which seemed odd, as Sadie knew there were never any cars at that place, just as she knew someone lived there, although there never seemed to be any signs of life coming from it.

But there, on the wraparound porch, there was a light. A small, orange-colored round light, hardly noticeable unless someone were actually looking for it. Smoke wafted from the light, wispy and almost transparent. A cigarette.

She could only make out three tall shapes standing on the porch, one of them holding the cigarette. And suddenly, as if they saw her watching them, she could feel three pairs of eyes on her. It reminded her of that dream, the one she couldn't remember but could still feel the aftereffects of.

Gray meowed and she realized he was pushing against her hand because she had stopped petting him, too caught up in the three figures standing just across the street. Watching her. Muttering an oath at being such a wimp, Sadie rose to her feet, tapping her hand against her hip. A dozen keys clanked against each other, reminding her of the ring still in her hand. She put them back in her pocket and snapped her fingers, "Come on, Gray."

The cat jumped the fence quickly and was joined a second later by Sadie. The fence only came up to her thighs, so a swing of one leg followed by the other brought her into her yard. There was a gate, but it made a creaking noise that woke up the neighborhood. And although she knew no one would come, or care, to see her sneaking back into her house, she still liked to keep that feeling that she was doing something bad.

Trudging through the dead leaves and the grass that brushed against her ankles, she finally stopped at the base of the lone tree. Grabbing the lowest branch, she hoisted herself up and up and up, until she was high enough that she was level with a second story window that had been purposefully left open. Still feeling three sets of eyes on her, Sadie had a moment to reflect on how grateful she was that she decided to wear leggings under her skirt. She was probably giving the three across the street enough of a show without a panty flash to add to it. Then, gingerly, she inched her legs out to the open window.

Finally, after crawling through the window, a skill perfected after many parties and many more sneaking-ins, Sadie was standing in her own room and shutting the window on the three outside. It was the perfect 'whew' moment, where all her muscles relaxed and she could wipe imaginary sweat off her brow.

Then, a noise. An opening and closing of a door. Her whole body tensed, waiting for something, anything. Hand slipped into her pocket, fingertips gracing the jagged edge of one of her keys, instantly comforting her.

Another door. Open. Close. Then.

Silence.

Of course. She let out a shaky breath, disappointed and ashamed that she could even think something would happen. She could be having her own little party at that moment, complete with thumping music and drunken teens, and still, no one would come to reprimand her. What had she been thinking?

A meow. Gray was curled up on her bed, tail swinging languidly to and fro.

Flabbergasted, she sputtered, "You--how--ugh…never mind." Sadie let it go. Gray always beat her up the tree and into her room. Muttering something about stupid cats, Sadie tugged off her clothes and replaced them with a tank top and sweat pants. She crawled into bed, with Gray cuddling up next to her side, his purrs loud and comforting. After setting her key ring on the night stand, she settled her head on the pillow, ready for sleep to take over now that the ring was in an easily accessible spot. It would be right there after a much upsetting dream. She'd been having a lot of those lately.


Authoress's Notes: So, yeah, new story! Just to let you all know, this story will probably not be continued on this site. I'm actually planning on writing this, and then posting it on another writing website. But this story has been floating around in my mind for about half a year now, and I finally sat down and wrote up the first chapter at the beginning of summer. And I really liked it, which shocked me because I never really like a first chapter the first time I write it. So, finally, I decided to post it up on here, just to see what all of you think about it. I'd really appreciate some comments about what you think about it. Also, please ignore any grammar/spelling mistakes because I am using my mother's laptop, on which I tend to miss a lot of keys. And near the ending, my friend called me, and it is really hard to talk on the phone and type at the same time.

Anyways, other than that, I hope you enjoyed this! Thanks for reading!!