Anatomy of a Butterfly

Zero

The slurred, deep throaty words of the Jewish rite rang in their ears. It was a cool Wednesday, the lingering rain from the night before dripped off the leaves in a rhythmic pattern. The air was thick and damp, not just with the weather, but with sadness. The grieving of the O'Rieuans was prominent in the atmosphere, known to anyone who stood there under the drooping willow tree, listening to the mother's muffled cries.

Ladina O'Rieuan, the youngest daughter, was slaughtered. Maybe slaughtered is too much of a insensitive term. Murdered, is more appropriate. Her body was so maimed that it had to be a closed casket funeral. The only way they found out who she was, was due to the dental match to her teeth. Her jaw held deep indentations that varied in size, caused by the countless torturous blows dealt to her face. There were still bits of decaying flesh feebly clinging to them, remnants of who she once was.

Veronica, her mother, was dressed in a black dress that used to fit but now hung loosely off of her thinning frame. The hand clutching tightly to her husband's was pale, her bones straining against the paper that was her skin. Her red hair had lost its luster and was frizzed, barely contained by the mourning hat she wore; its network doing nothing to hide the broken expression that had stole the happiness from her face. And the eyes, those gray eyes that looked so much like Ladina's, the eyes that tortured Jack O'Rieuan every time he even so much as looked at his wife, were dull. An unpolished stone without its luster.

Despair. That's what hung in the air. That's the feeling, the uninvited grievance that bestowed itself upon the holes that had grown in their hearts. That wriggled through the vast spaces that used to be the place were Ladina resided.

They all looked alone standing there beneath the tree, staring at her grave, despite the fact that they were amongst a large group of their kin their spirits shattered, hearts torn, and souls trampled.

It hadn't seemed real when they received the call that fateful day, it hadn't seemed real when they bathed what little that was left of their daughter, it hadn't seemed real until the moment the rabbi began to speak their tongue.

It was a solemn sounding group of words, riddled with sadness, and with anger. They were words that spoke all of the emotions of the people who hung their heads so that their families wouldn't see the tears dripping down their faces. But everyone knew. If not seen, then it was heard, and if not heard, then it was smelled within the thick air of the humid twilight.

And then it was quiet. Only the soft whistle of the wind and the occasional sniffle was heard.

Gesturing with his hand the middle aged man, with whiskers already turning gray, motioned towards the parents of the deceased twenty-one year old.

The man standing beside Veronica was of tall height, almost three or four inches taller than her. He had black hair that was slicked back and a neatly trimmed mustache. His dark nondescript eyes were as dull as his wife's and the dark circles beneath them told the harsh story of all his sleepless nights.

How many nights had he spent holding Veronica as she trembled within her sleep from nightmares he couldn't see? How many nights had he purposely taken pills that would keep him awake so that he wouldn't experience the same frightful images she did?

Jack tentatively led his wife forward, with a trembling arm wrapped around her shoulders. He tried to still the shakes that overtook him, he was supposed to be the strong one. As the man of the family he was supposed to be the one to comfort his wife during this troubling time. He was the one who was supposed to be the pillar of strength for her to draw upon. He was supposed to...

The moment they approached the rectangular hole in the ground he paused. His eyes ran over the the deep hole they were supposed to seal their daughter in. It was immoral. He clenched his fists to keep from crying as he released his wife and turned around. He couldn't do this. His baby girl was in there. In the unforgiving, cold ground, damned to be eternally trapped in that mahogany coffin.

He kept walking, ignoring the pitying looks his family and Ladina's friends gave him. He just kept walking, leaving behind the life he had come to know, and the precious thing that had been ripped out of it.

Veronica just stood there. The once warm presence that had been on her shoulders was gone, leaving them cold and bare despite her shawl, but she took no mind.

Seeing that the grieving woman hadn't noticed her missing husband the rabbi grabbed the shovel and handed it to her with a bow of his head.

With a frail spirit and a shaking soul she wrapped her slender fingers around the handle. Shuffling quietly and slowly over to the pile of dirt she pushed the metal in with surprising ease despite her shuddering hands, then retrieved it, a few clumps of the rich earth falling to the damp grass.

Her legs felt like led weights as she dragged them to the place where she knew her daughter now resided. They came to a stop.

She felt rooted in her place. She didn't want to leave. This was where she belonged. As a mother, she belonged at her child's side. Ladina, her little Dinnie, hadn't deserved this. Her vibrant daughter, once so full of life, was now lying in the ground.

Veronica leaned over. The polished wooden coffin seemed so final. Ladina O'Rieuan was engraved into the front of the casket in wonderful golden letters, and below it the Hebrew inscription of her name.

Final.

Eyes dead she let the shovel hover over the opening for a moment before she turned the dirt loose.

It fell, dropping into the void like ash like snow.

Then it hit.

It fell upon the wood. Except the wood was no longer wood, it was glass.

Blue eyes, with hints of gray wrapped around the pool of the pupil, peered out. They were framed by thick lashes that cast shadows on her paling skin. Fear engulfed the blue, raw terror.

Her frightened face was framed by luscious hair that reached her waist. An invisible force held her body down and no matter how hard she tried to push against it, it always exerted a force that pushed her right back down.

Her lips were held open in a perpetual 'O', the scream that ripped out of her throat leaving it so raw that she swallowed small rivulets of blood.

And Veronica. Veronica's tears dropped down, hitting the glass, joined by the dirt.

The dirt piled up and no matter how much the girl shrieked and pleaded no one heard, or saw. And as the last the bit of light was covered up the glass collapsed in, piercing her body and filling her throat with vile blockage. She tried to scream only to choke on the soil grating against the insides of her throat. Her nails bit the dirt angrily, bleeding as they ran into glass.

It hurt so much but she had to get out. She had to get out!

Air whirled in her ears and tingles rode up her spine as Amy Contaree found herself back in her own body. She blinked as she saw her person staring back at her. The contradicting icy and blistering heat that traveled along her spine was still strong as she recognized her face in the mirror. Her breathing was heavy, fogging along the glass; she gripped the counter to steady herself.

Amy tried to rein in her feelings and the strong pounding of her heart. She touched the glimmering surface, showing herself that there was no dirt and blood smeared on her face. She was herself and no one else. She wasn't dead.

As her fingers touched the glass they wretched back as a loud screech ran throughout the entire bathroom. Her hand let go of the towel that she held around her body and she shoved them over her ears in attempt to block out the harsh sound.

She squinted at the letters that were being scratched out onto the mirror.

Now you know

"You can't ignore me, Amy."

Amy whirled around towards the voice, only to come face to face with a woman. She had auburn hair that was cut a little past her ears, and cherry lips that were pursed.

She would have been pretty, if it wasn't for the fact that her eyes were gouged out and every so often scarlet liquid would cry down her cheeks. Lacerations covered her face and every inch of her body, a finger was even hanging off, only still attached by a single piece of skin. Her clothes were so damp and painted with blood that Amy couldn't tell if she was wearing a dress or a shirt and shorts.

"Ladina," Amy whispered, already knowing very well who the woman was. She constantly plagued her dreams, and stalked her any time Amy turned around. But recently Ladina hadn't been with her, for a few weeks actually. Amy assumed that the terrible hallucinations she was experiencing had ceased and that she wasn't crazy after all. That is, until now.

Ladina snickered, folding her arms. Blood dripped on the white tiles below her slightly hovering feet. "Did you miss me?" She drawled. "I certainly missed you."

Amy shook her head, bending down to retrieve her towel, her eyes never leaving Ladina's form. Wrapping the towel back around her figure she looked at the deceased female. "Y-You ju-just missed torturing me, that's all," She stuttered, her black bangs falling across her eyes.

In a barely a second Ladina's face was in hers, the anger in her soul making the pressure in the room rise. "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD TORTURE, GIRL, SO SILENCE THAT INSOLENT TONGUE OF YOURS!" Amy's ears popped and her body felt compressed, keeping her frozen as Ladina raged on. Her instinct was to shake with fear, to cry, but unable to do either she squeezed her eyes shut, willing the voice to go away.

"DON'T IGNORE ME, AMETHELL! STOP IGNORING ME! STOP IT! STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT!" Ladina screamed.

Amy whimpered, she just wanted it all to go away, she wanted to be normal again.

"Open your eyes, Amy. Why won't you take a look at what your daddy did to me?"

"No!" Amy shouted, her eyes flying open. The gray surrounded by the blue seethed with barely concealed anger. "You're a liar! A liar! My dad is a good person, and you know it! Stop lying to me!"

"Stop ignoring me!" Ladina shouted right back. "How can you still be in denial, you imbecile? I showed you my funeral! You saw my mother crying, and my fath—" She choked up.

The image of Ladina's father walking away was still flashing in Amy's mind.

"I'm sorry," Amy whispered, but Ladina didn't hear. She was drying some invisible tears that Amy couldn't see. The pressure that had held her body captive was draining slowly.

"Why?" Ladina whispered, all the pressure gone now that her anger had run cold and turned into sadness. She looked up through her messy red hair at the thirteen year old girl, trying to find answers. "Why did he do this to me? And you," For someone with no eyes, her eyeless sockets burned into her with an emotion that seemed utterly human. "why won't you...why won't you believe me?"

Feeling the woman's sadness soaking her own soul Amy reached out to her only to have Ladina's head snap up. "Don't touch me. I HATE YOU!" She screamed, before disappearing all together.

Ladina was the first person her father had killed. Amy knew that now, now that she was eighteen. But she hadn't accepted it. If she had listened to Ladina she could have turned her father in and prevented the brutal murder of nineteen other women.

But no. She didn't believe the woman she had later learned to be a spirit and not a figment of her imagination. At that time, she believed that her father, Derek, was an angel sent to earth. That he could do no wrong. But isn't that have every child feels before they wake up and realize that their parents aren't perfect? Her dad just happened to be more shaded...

"Aaaaaaaaaammmmmyyyyyy..." The voice drawled from outside, a shadow appearing from underneath the door.

Please go away, please go away, Amy pleaded silently. She was huddled up in the janitor's closet, hiding under the shelf containing cleaning products. The strong scent of Bleach and Lysol filled her nose, making her head swim with dizziness. Her behind was wet from where she had sat on the end of the damp mop that had been carelessly tossed on the floor. It squished as she brought her knees closer to her chest.

Ladina was mad. Beyond mad. She had caused so many terrible images to flash through Amy's mind that Amy barely could get her voice past her paling lips to ask the teacher for a bathroom pass. After a few words of concern from her teacher she had practically run out of the classroom.

Ladina's shrieks and wails of rage echoed in the halls, it had rung in her ears to the point where she jumped into the janitor's closet to escape it.

"They've arrested the wrong guy, did you know that, Amethell?" She whispered, her voice eerily calmer than normal.

Amy felt the banks of Ladina's soul as the murdered women rested against the door on the other side. The banks briefly kissed her soul, merging.

"I didn't do anything to that girl, I swear it!" A middle aged man with dark hair and thick glasses yelled, ignoring the words of the Miranda Rights the cop was reciting. His white wifebeater was drenched with spilled beer, and he was wearing red and green striped boxers.

He tried to struggle out of the officer's grip but quickly found the handcuffs already clinking on him. In a desperate attempt to stop what was happening, as the man led him to the generic police car, he shouted,"I loved her! I'd never hurt my angel!"

The officer had to see it. This was a mistake. He would never touch his darling.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's what all the guilty ones say," The burnette cop said as he pushed the man's head down. Shoving the deranged stalker into the back seat he slammed the door behind him.

...

"I'm telling you, I didn't do it!" The man growled as the door creaked open and a man walked in, one hand handcuffed to the metal leg of the table. They had locked him in a plain room that had only a table and a few chair decorating it. There was one door but it was being guarded by at least four policemen.

A manilla folder was thrown on the table, already opened to a picture of a room. It showed over fifty photos of Ladina covering the full span of one wall. Some had pictures of the suspect pasted next to her, others were photoshopped ones of him and her together as a couple. Ladina and John Lafo, was the label under what looked to be a fake wedding photo.

"Explain this then," The police officer with blonde hair said, his brown eyes showing his anger towards the person in custody.

With his free hand John adjusted his glasses, his hands slipping along the legs due to the sweat that was rolling down his face. "That's my wife," The man said pointedly. His eyes narrowed at the man. "Why were you in my house?" He snapped.

"Oh shut up you piece of scum!" The officer barked. "She wasn't your wife; you're nothing more than a delusional freak! You see this?" He yelled, shoving the man's head down to the table so that he could see the rest of the photos, his fingers flipped the pictures until he found the one he wanted. "Look at this! Look at what you did to her!"

The pictures were gruesome. Bruises, cuts, any type of wounds possible covered her, inflicted in what looked like the most painful of ways. One of her pried out eyes rested in her mouth which was still open in what was probably her last scream, the other one stuffed too far down her esophagus to see. Her intestines lay splayed around her like tentacles, drawn out to show their impressive length. On her arm THIS IS TRUE ART was carved into the revealed bone that was sticking out. Her legs were slashed and both bent in awkward angles, punctures collected on them by the many in some sort of sick Connect-the-Dots.

"No, no no no no no," The man panted, his eyes wide, the pictures reflecting in their glaze. "How could you have done this? How could you have done this to my angel?" He screamed, trying to get free. He pulled so hard that a sickening 'pop' was heard as his wrist broke, but the pain only seemed to fuel his delusional rage.

"I'll kill you! I'm going to tear your heart out!"

The officer tried to restrain him before he was able to slip his wrist out, but John continued to struggle.

Banging his head repeatedly on the table he wailed, "My angel! My angel! My beautiful angel! What have you done to her! Ladina!"

"Because of your father," Ladina said as Amy blinked away the traces of the vision that the woman had forced upon her senses. There was no longer the smell of beer and sweat, there was now only the mind swirling scent of the chemicals.

Sometime during the replay of what Ladina had seen the woman had crouched on her knees beside Amy, making the young girl shiver with slight fear. "Because of your father," She told her, her voice tearing up. "An innocent man is going to go to jail for murder."

For some reason the atmosphere was comfortable and Amy found herself hugging her knees tighter, her fingers playing the the threads of her ripped jeans. "But if what you showed me is true then he deserved to be in jail, anyways. He was stalking you."

Amy felt a rush of tingles attacking her shoulder as Ladina rested her head in the crest. "I know. But," She sighed. "I just want someone to know what happened to me. That's all... I mean, look at me," She said, weakly gesturing to herself, a bit of blood from her fingers flinging on to Amy's face. "I'm dead, and I can't get the only one who sees me, a child, to tell the world what happened to me." "I'm pathetic," She mumbled.

Air caught in Amy's throat, and she turned to her side to say something that she hoped would comfort her hallucination, only to find Ladina gone.

Sighing, Amy used her shirt to wipe the blood off her face, only to find none. She was frightened of herself. She was beginning to become used to Ladina's presence. She was beginning to become used to the gruesome sight of the woman. And it scared her. She was becoming used to being crazy, like it was normal.

But she couldn't worry about that now, she thought as she stood up. She had to get back to class soon. Looking at her soiled pants she glared at the mop before letting loose another sigh.

When Amy arrived at her house, she tiredly opened the front door and rounded the corner.

"Hey, Ammy!" Drake said, not removing his eyes from his PSP. His thumbs flew over the buttons so fast that they were a blur, his own blue eyes were grinning with excitement. They weren't like hers, they were a solid, dark color, and expressive while hers were odd and made people call her things like 'witch', 'freak', and 'different'.

His eyes were only brought out by his white-blonde hair, which curled around his face lovingly.

Drake was the youngest of the Contaree family at ten. Thanks to her thirteen years of life Amy was the middle child. Danny... Daniel Contaree would have been twenty-three years old if it wasn't for the cruise ship that had sunk in the Mid-Atlantic when he was fifteen. Their aunt Melanie was with him too.

"Yes, yes, the house is wonderful, I assure you. It has the most amazing view of the beach and is very close to the down town." Amy's mother, Dana, spoke, talking in to the bluetooth that was constantly perched on her ear.

She was a tall woman, her height only increased by the black heels that she wore which matched her dark pencil skirt and generic white blouse. She had blonde hair that was gathered into a tight bun, with tendrils hanging out that teased the back of her neck. Her high cheek bones accented her face and were pronounced by her vibrant brown eyes, which she was now rolling.

"No, no, no," She promised whoever she was talking to. "I assure you that due to its location that its value will only go up from here on out."

Dana was a successful real estate agent, which was always conflicting with Derek's—her husband's—work schedule at the museum. When one was home the other usually wasn't. It was a wonder that either of them were able to get any sleep.

"Breaking News!" A stoic voice called.

Both Amy and Drake looked up as a woman with dark hair and tan skin came on the screen. She nodded slightly. "Good evening, I'm Sheryl Thompson, and welcome to FNL News at Four. We have breaking news on the O'Rieuan case."

Amy froze. O'Rieuan?

Images of a vibrant red haired woman and mourning family and friends flashed across the screen. "It's only been a few weeks since the founding of the body of young twenty-one year old Ladina Shay O'Rieuan. At the shocking news her family were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered life and carry on. Her funeral was yesterday. We were, of course, denied access to the very private ceremony but we were told that many showed up to show their support.

Around 3 o'clock this afternoon police arrested who they think to be the murderer. The suspect, who was believed to have been stalking Ladina, is currently in custody. No word yet on whether any ground has been made towards a confession or not, but rest assured we will keep you posted."

"Also, having happened today, a local middle school student Ashton Barsona w..."

Amy was frozen. It couldn't be...

The gray around her eyes shimmered as tingles ran up the side of her face.

"Now do you believe?" A whisper breathed against her ear.

White hot fear poured down her spine, so tangible that she screamed, her book bag sliding from her arm and crashing on the floor.

"What's wrong?"

"Ammy?"

Instantly her mother and brother were beside her, eyes tinged with worry.

"Th-that girl..." She stuttered out through blue lips, trying to get the words out but failing to find how to express it.

"Please hold on for a second Ms. Derice," Her mother spoke into the bluetooth before leaning down and placing the back of her hand on her daughter's forehead.

"Oh my, it looks like you have a fever. And no wonder, you're as pale as a ghost."

At the mention of the word 'ghost' Amy paled further. Ladina's gleeful, triumphant giggles echoed throughout the house.

"Yes!Yes! Yes! You're finally understanding now! I'm real, not some figment of your imagination!" Amy briefly caught a glimpse of Ladina's form as she twirled in the next room, becoming visibly each time she passed the archway.

"Drake," Dana said, grabbing his arm. "Go find the thermometer, hurry," She urged. Leaning next to her daughter she patted her cheek. "Sweety? Sweetheart? Answer Mommy. Amy? Amethell, this isn't funny, answer me."

Dana was becoming increasingly frightened as her daughter's figure kept on paling, cold sweats rolling down her face. And in a sudden movement Amy collapsed, her pale figure on the floor, except she was awake, her eyes glazed over. Her chest rose and fell with the suddenly painful task of breathing.

"Drake! Grab my keys! Hurry, we're going to the hospital!"

Amy's mind was swaying in a ricochet of thoughts, teetering on the edge of hysteria. Was that what she had been seeing? Ghosts?

In a half here, half there state Amy saw Ladina's form next to her mother's worried one, peering at her. "Huh," She mused. "You don't look too good."

Scooping Amy into her arms Dana grabbed her keys from Drake, who had run into her, and then dragged him to the car. Handing Amy to Drake they both climbed in. Drake was excited to be in the front seat for the first but he knew something was wrong with his sister, and it squashed his happiness.

"Start, start, start!" Their mother pleaded to the car as the engine sputtered, spastic. Finally when she got it running she sped backwards on to the road, all the while telling her son, "Drake, keep talking to Amy, try to keep her awake." Yanking the steering wheel a hard left they turned and raced onto the street.

"Um," Drake racked his brain for something to talk about but finding himself at a loss for topics, he just began talking about nonsense. "So, uh, Michael saw a purple bunny in the Forest of Nymph. It was kinda cute and stuff until it showed these killer teeth that were all like, nom nom nom," He said, mashing his teeth for sound effects. He tried to keep the worry out of his voice as he cradled his comatose sister, tears were starting to run down his face as she made no movement to show that she heard him. Was she dead? Listening to his mother he kept talking.

"On this Family Guy episode I saw, Peter went to Narnia by falling through a washing machine. So, the other day I tried to do the same. I hit my head. It hurt a lot. There's this little Derek's Head shaped dent in there now. I covered it up by pretending to do laundry. Yup." He sniffled but continued. "I got bored the other day so I tried to make an imaginary basketball team. The captain is named Carl Foreli.

Oh, I also beat your record on the Wii. I'm now a PRO at bowling, a few hundred points above yours. I bowled a perfect game," He said hoping that the competitive side to Amy would coax her in to talking, to saying anything, even yelling at him would be good. But she was silent.

Her eyes were stuck in that perpetual stare at him, except now tears were running down the sides of her face. Her voice croaked and it sounded like she was trying to say 'why'.

Why couldn't they see? Why didn't they see what she did? Couldn't they hear? Couldn't they see her? She's right there!

Her eyes were frozen on Ladina's form, which was sitting in the back seat. She was studying her nails, rubbing them on her bloody shirt and then blowing them. Her eyeless gaze flickered to Amy's and she waved.

"It'll be okay, girly," She said, flashing her a peppy smile. "The doctors won't do anything too bad, just," She shoved her hands forward, sharply. "stick you with a bunch of needles." She grinned, still giddy and happy with the fact that Amy knew the truth now.

But Amy didn't know the truth, or rather she didn't believe it. She knew that Ladina must be a spirit but she didn't believe that her father was the cause of her death. It had to have been that John person, he fit the profile. An obsessed stalker who killed his obsession without realizing it; a schizophrenic psychopath. Derek Contaree, on the other hand, was a well respected man within the community, he was always volunteering for charity events, and helping out at the orphanage and soup kitchen when he had the chance. He was her hero. The best father anyone could have.

"...and I was rooting for the Orange soda to blast higher than the Pepsi, because everyone likes Pepsi and I think that with a little more encouragement Orange would go higher. But Terri knocked over the string that would remove the caps and the Mentos dropped in too early and sprayed us all. But I was all like, 'ha ha, suckers' because the Orange sprayed us more than the Pepsi, as proven by the stains on our white shirts..."

Drake was talking animatedly about nothing at all really while crying. His tears dripped onto her face, making her guilt surge with every precious droplet.

His fingers bit into her shirt as he cried, him clutching her close.

"Awww, would you look at that. That's so sweet. Hmmm, I wonder how your psychotic sociopath of a father raised such a caring child?" Ladina crooned, resting her head in her hand as she looked at them with her "sightless" gaze. Her legs were crossed, one occasionally bouncing on or under the other. "I expected him to be swinging axes."

Stop saying those horrid things, Amy wanted to say. But she couldn't. For some reason she was held still, almost trapped within her own mind.

"No, I can't talk right now, Mrs. Derice. No, I have to take my daughter to the hospital. We'll talk about drawing up the papers later. Goodbye."

"...Terri once ate a baby frog, chewed it too, he puked his guts up on his mom's bed so we had to blame it on his kitty Dora. You know, Dora, like 'Dora, Dora, Dora, the Explorer' Dora. That Dora. Speaking of that show, it's pretty stupid. I mean, we heard you the first time you asked 'Where's Swiper' Dora, jeesh. Diego's way better. Terri laughs at me since we were watching it with his little sister. I spit at the screen because I was so mad. I pointed exactly where the freaking jigoloo—Wait, that's a male stripper. Well, what I meant was some Spanish word starting with a 'J'. Anyways, I was pointing at it and she went ahead to ask if it was in a different place. God, I wanted to punch the TV, but Terri's sister Emily was enjoying it so I didn't. By the way, did you hear about..."

"Wow, that kid sure can talk. Pssht, I remember Dora when I was little. My mother was scared of Hispanics and Mexicans so she didn't let me watch it. She said I wouldn't need Spanish in America. News Flash, has anyone seen the majority of our population recently?" Ladina was giggling. "So, just to spite her I took Spanish in high school, and when I graduate my college major was in Linguistics and Foreign Languages. It was funny for a while but eventually I switched to Religious Studies."

"Hello? Derek, I'm on my way to the hospital...It's Amy!...Amy's just, she's just so pale and she's staring, she won't respond to me or Drake...Yes, she's still breathing. Of course I checked!"

"...rabbits and the cows were mocking the chicken because he only had one leg and had to hop like a pogo stick..."

"I always wanted to get married. But my parents wouldn't let me get married to anyone who wasn't Jewish, and most of the men that caught my eyes were Catholics or Presbyterians, not to mention..."

Everyone's voices raged on. Sometimes they seemed loud while at other times they seemed to fluctuate in volume and who's voice she heard.

Amy tried extremely hard not to hear the liquid chime voice of Ladina O'Rieuan, who she now knew was murdered a few months ago, her remains recently discovered. Who she now knew that wasn't a figment of her overactive imagination, or trembling sanity.

But why? Why am I the one to see her? I've never seen dead people before.

Or had she?

She could remember certain times in her early on childhood how her mother used to tell her she had too many imaginary friends. Which wasn't true because her friends were standing right next to her. Her mother was just teasing her. She could obviously see them.

There also was that time when she saw Grandmother Riley sitting in her room. She was so excited that she got her parents to come in her room while she pointed at her rocking chair.

"Look! Look! Isn't she so pretty glittering? She must really like my chair. Mommy? Daddy? What's wrong?"

Her mother had collapsed to her knees and hugged her close saying, "Oh, sweetheart. I know you miss Grandma but you shouldn't play like this. It isn't healthy."

Her father then patted her head, making her look up at him. "Hunny, Grandma's funeral was yesterday. Remember? She had a heart attack." Amy just shook her head, her lips trembling, and tears in her eyes as she looked at her parents. Leaving her, knowing that she couldn't be convinced, they left her to play with her imagination. Why wouldn't they believe her?

...Could it be that she's always been seeing the dead?

Now that she thought about it her Grandmother told her that her parents didn't understand the gift she had, that she was one of the only ones left. What that meant, she hadn't known at the time. And in time, she had forgotten about her 'imaginary friends' or the brief encounters she had with dead relatives.

But now it was all rushing back.

"No..." She whispered, making Drake pause and look at her.

Dana spared a glance towards her teenager. Taking a hand off the wheel she squeezed Amy's chilling hand. It was slippery with sweat, like an melting ice cube in her hand. "Just hang on, baby, we're going to get you some help."

Ladina, by her expression, was eyeing Amy with something akin to concern. "Heyyyy, so the mute girl speaks. What's up sleeping beauty?"

Amy couldn't even blink at her.

The scenery rushing by came to an abrupt stop. Mercy Truss Hospital was a large building built out of white stone. With over fifty levels and three wings dedicated to saving the lives of those who were afflicted it was ranked one of the top medical centers in the country, coming out at number 4. The dark clouds overhead began sobbing, dripping recycled water down onto the green paint of the recently parked Audi.

"Oh, my dear child, why don't you speak?" Ladina dramatically mock cried as Dana and Drake both ripped out of the car, taking Amy with them.

As they rushed in the ER Ladina was left in the back seat. She kicked her feet childishly, giggling. "And so the truth came out." She grinned, lounging on the leather.

Her body was blistering, her blood boiling, heart pounding, adrenaline racing. Fear was pouring into her by the bucket load and she couldn't seem to escape it despite the fact that there was nothing to worry about. The fear rendered her frozen.

"Mrs. Contaree, I'm afraid your daughter is catatonic."

"Oh God," Dana breathed, looking the black haired thirteen year old who was laid out flat on the hospital bed. Tubes carrying fluids were hooked up to her, threaded through her arms.

The man in the white lab coat smoothed his blonde hair back and glanced at the woman before returning his gaze to Amy's still form. Her eyes were wide open, fear reflecting in them.

"Has your daughter any previous illnesses? Or perhaps, a disability?" He spoke, an Irish accent bleeding into his words.

Dana shook her head. "No, no. There's nothing wrong with her. She's a perfectly healthy teenage girl. I don't know why this is happening."

The man's brows furrowed and he contemplated a thought while looking over the girl, checking her vital signs. "Wha—"

The door burst open and revealed a man with black hair that was tied in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. He had blue eyes that were so dark that they were commonly mistaken as black. His jaw was wide and angular, his cheek bones very pronounced. "Dana! How is she?"

"Oh, Derek," Dana sobbed, drying the tears from her eyes as she stood up from the bedside chair and threw herself in his arms.

Derek Contaree wrapped his arms around his sobbing wife. Trying to comfort her he turned his gaze towards the doctor to find out what was going on.

All the while Ladina's anger expanded heavily throughout the room, making the pressure rise. Being the one who could see her Amy was the only one affected, its effect working together with her fear, keeping her paralyzed.

"LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID TO ME?" Ladina screamed, throwing a punch at Derek that went right through the middle of his stomach. Besides an unseen wind swaying his scarlet tie Ladina's motion went unnoticed by everyone.

The doctor shook Derek's spare hand before repeating what he told his wife. "I'm sorry to tell you this, Mr. Contaree, but your daughter is in a catatonic state. She's comatose."

Shock settled on Derek's face at the doctor's words. He tried to conceal it from his family but it was useless.

"IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT! I HAD A LIFE! A FUTURE!" Every so often Ladina's fists would go through parts of Derek's body, but eventually she realized that she wasn't doing anything harmful to him and calmed down enough to disappear.

The doctor gave Mr. Contaree a sympathetic glance."Usually catatonic states are caused by an intense fear or when the body believes itself to be in great danger. It locks up to protect itself. It's like a safe. The mind is kept safely inside, aware of the outside, while the body is the iron protecting it." He looked at the mother. "Something must have triggered this. Do you have any idea what? The sooner we discover the cause the sooner we might be able to convince her that she's safe and bring her back."

"Well," Derek and Dana looked towards their son as he stood up from the opposite chair. His fingers were still entwined with Amy's. "we saw the news report about a girl named Ladina O'Rieuan, she was murdered by some type of sicko. It kinda freaked her out, I guess."

Derek's eyes widened before he concealed the reaction. He glanced nervously at his daughter. "That wouldn't have been enough to cause this," He told his son condescendingly.

"No, but," Drake said thoughtful. "I think Amy knew the girl. Because she kept saying 'that girl'."

Dana looked up. "Now that you mention it," She sniffed. "She did say that." Her eyes widened. "Oh my god, she knew that woman. Oh my god. Oh my god." Pushing Derek away from her she rushed to her daughter's side and took her free hand in hers, and rubbed it against her cheek. "Why didn't you tell us that you knew her? Oh god, for something that horrible to happen to someone you know. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I couldn't protect you, Amy." Tears rolled down her face, mixing with her running mascara. "I'm sorry."

It's alright, mom, Amy wanted to say but she couldn't move. She couldn't even bend her fingers or wiggle her toes.

"She knew Ladina?" Derek said, stumbling a bit before he recomposed himself. Standing up straight he walked over to his daughter and stroked the strands of her hair.

Drake, trying not to look at the sad state his parents were in, looked back at the doctor and continued to explain. The tears in his eyes stung and the ones that he had already cried had tasted bitter on his tongue. "I guess she didn't know that Ladina was murdered. It was pretty gruesome."

Dr. Dorikai nodded, his eyes a little horrified at the thought of what Amy was feeling. "Yes, that would do it." His blonde hair swayed as he turned his eyes to the two adults. "I believe that she will snap out of it in a day but I would recommend you get her some psychological help."

Dana was quickly on her feet, in the doctor's face. Due to her height she towered over him easily. "Are you trying to say my daughter is crazy?" She yelled, her tears spilling over her anger painted cheeks.

The doctor's eyes widened and he swallowed. "No, madam, that's not what I meant. What I meant was that having a close friend murdered will put a lot of pressure on her mind, especially at an age this young. She will want to vent her feelings about it, and it's best if she does it in a healthy way rather than it coming out in a negative circumstance."

The fire in Dana's eyes quickly dimmed and she backed away, holding her elbow. "Oh, I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lose control of myse-...I'm sorry."

Derek's eyes glanced at his comatose daughter, and she gazed right back.

Dad...she thought...did you kill Ladina?

Almost as quickly as the thought intruded Amy's mind, it was abandoned.

Her father was a fine man, he had no reason to kill anyone.

"Daddy?" She whispered tiredly, blinking her dry eyes.

Everyone looked at her, relief etched on their faces.

Derek hugged Amy to him, smothering her with his love. "Oh, pumpkin, you're alright. I'm so glad."

Unique eyes that had widened in surprise returned to half moons as she hugged her father back, a small contented smile on her face. How could she have ever thought that he was a murderer? Nestling within her father's arms she sighed happily, her soul at peace.

But, that didn't stop that one shred of doubt that would remain buried in her heart for the next few years to come.

Thank you for reading. The real story as told in the summary shall begin the next chapter. I'm going to try to keep the AN s for this story as less as possible since most people don't like to read them. Thank you again, and please review. I need at least a few reviews before I update.

~River Shadowtress