The first thing my mother ever taught me was to never leave the house after sunset; that was when the witches would catch you.

Still, as I lay wide awake in my stifling bedroom, I found that the outside was calling to me. The day had been spent frantically planning my wedding, which was fast approaching. None of it had been my design; the pompous and wealthy—but rather unattractive—Thomas Harrison had proposed to me. Despite my insistence that I was not pleased, my parents agreed without my consent for us to wed. Today, Mrs. Harrison visited to discuss the arrangements with my mother. All the while, Mrs. Harrison gossiped and talked about me.

"You must not feed your children properly, Mrs. Williams. Dorothea is as thin as a rail. Whatever shall we do when she is prepared to bear children?"

It was like I was a pig being prepared for slaughter. Even though I would soon be her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Harrison had no right to talk in that manner. Perhaps we were not as wealthy as she, but we had what was necessary. However, I could not inform her so; it was not my place. Otherwise, I would have humiliated myself as well as my entire family.

Lying in bed, my heart was beating fast. My room suddenly began to feel as if it was too small, closing in around me and threatening to squash me like an insect. Never mind that the moon was high in the sky, that every soul in Salem was asleep. I needed fresh air; otherwise, I might scream. As silently as I could—so I would not wake David and Catherine—I rose from my bed and began to creep out of my room. Taking slow, cautious steps, I managed to work my way out of my house and into the streets. Just as I had suspected, it was empty and silent. Slowing my breath so it did not sound so loud, I ventured in the direction of the forest, where I would be in the company of the trees.

As I followed the path—which wove in a complex pattern between the oaks—all of the tales my mother had told me rushed into my head. There were witches living in the woods, she told me, who were ready to feast on young girls. I had refused to believe these stories. They seemed like ridiculous myths to me. How could people use magic, when God strictly forbade it? All my mother was doing was protecting me from wild animals that roamed late at night. And yet, I had never heard of people being in danger from anything other than witches.

For a long while, my feet carried me as my mind wandered along a separate path. I reflected mostly on marrying the odd Thomas. Even as a child, he had remained aloof from the other boys; his education was more important than forming friendships. There was no way to fix his messy red curls or his freckles, which spotted his face like the night sky. His teeth were much too big and crooked, a disgusting yellow color from lack of maintenance.

It would be humiliating to stand by his side. You may call me narcissistic, but many considered me beautiful. My mother often complemented me on my long, thin brown hair, which she was able to style with ease. My skin was as pale as the moon, which many men admired. I was also tall; over half a head taller than Thomas, even. It was cruel of the world to pair me with Thomas; he was going to make me unhappy.

Losing track of time, I found myself facing an area where the trees ended. My siblings and I had undergone a stage where we wanted to draw a map of Salem, full of places that we loved or hated. It had taken a couple years, but we had discovered quite a bit before we grew up.

During that whole time, we had never discovered this place.

For a moment, I considered venturing further. Something about the fields was calling to me, much like the outside. It was wrong, though. What if I was lost? I would need time to return. Concluding that I needed to return now, I was just beginning to turn around when I heard a moaning sound.

Panic flooded my whole body and froze me into place. Was there an animal in the clearing? I wondered, slowly turning back towards the field. When I found no animal, I abandoned my fears and ran towards the sound. It took me a moment before I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eyes and recognized the figure on the ground.

"Rosemarie," I breathed, crouching down by her side. The poor girl was breathing heavily; her eyelids open only a slit. Sweat caked her forehead, and her skin was pale. "Rosemarie Jenkins," I said louder, shaking her shoulders gently. "Wake up, I beg of you!"

When she didn't wake, I began to feel pity towards the lord's daughter, despite her egoistic ways. She looked so weak, so helpless. Once more, I shook her shoulders, so fiercely some of her red ringlets flipped in front of her hair. With a gasp, she opened her eyes, her pupils dominating her green eyes. Very frail and trembling, her eyes widened. "Witch," she breathed, and fainted.

"I should have learned long ago that the female race is unable to keep a secret."

Flinching away from Rosemarie's side, I rose to my feet and turned to face the unfamiliar man who had appeared without warning. To less observant people, he might have seemed rather ordinary. The way he held himself—his broad shoulders squared; his eyes placed forward steadily; his brown hair, which was the same color as his tan skin, tamed—suggested that he was a man of great wealth. But, I have always noticed eyes before any other quality. His eyes were what scared me.

One of his eyes was pure white; the other was a glowing red.

Frozen with fear, I barely managed to choke out, "What have you done to her?"

The man let out a booming laugh, making me jump. "You see, Dorothea Williams"—I felt my body freeze, for he should not know my name—"I possess these… powers, you might say, that allow me to do whatever it is I wish. If I will for there to be fire, there will be fire." For emphasis, he snapped his fingers together and flames leapt from them. My throat tightened and I felt like sobbing. He's a witch. He has cast a curse on Rosemarie.

My body screamed run! Escape from this man who is able to summon fire into his open hand! But yet, I was unable to move. A powerful force had taken over my body and held me in place. I could only move my head and breathe. Magic.

Letting the fire sputter out, he approached me, his eyes studying my form as he circled around me. Run! my body continued to scream, but I couldn't move. Embarrassment consumed my thoughts, and I wished he would quit looking at me in that way. My nightgown was much too thin.

"Lady Rosemarie," he said, gesturing towards where the beautiful redhead laid, "has been courting me for a several months. I wanted a new doll, and she offered herself. I just do not understand how she could possibly be so attracted to me." A dark smile crossed over his lips, sending chills up my spine. "Perhaps it was my, let us say, enchanting ways. But, I grew tired of courting her. Her love, no, her obsession, had become dull. And now, she is becoming my newest source of power." Once more, he looked at Rosemarie, and I finally understood. He was draining her life to make himself more powerful.

His eyes traveled towards mine, and I barely contained my emotions. I will not cry. "It is a pity, Dorothea. You are such a beautiful young girl. But, Lady Rosemarie has demonstrated how women cannot keep secrets they have been told. The only way for you to remain silent… is for you to become my newest energy source."

No. Not this. My mother's advice flooded my mind. Never leave the house after sunset, for the witches will catch you. Why hadn't I listened to her? I would have lived to see another morning. Instead, I am here, facing my end.

The pupil of his red eye grew thin, and I began to feel faint. He's draining my power. He would continue to drain every bit of me, until I died. As my vision began to flicker and my heart raced, I began to lose consciousness. I gave into the sweet callings of death and closed my eyes…

"Back away from her, Storm!"

Instantly, my dizziness disappeared, and I was able to move. Snapping my eyes open, I nearly missed a figure flashing by, ramming itself into the man—Storm—with a force that wasn't humanly possible. He's like Storm, I realized.

Upon hitting the ground, Storm threw his hand in my direction. An impossibly strong force blasted into me, and I flew backwards into a tree. Hitting the ground with a force that shook my whole body, it took me a moment before I could move.

Lying on top of Storm was a boy about my age: eighteen, or perhaps nineteen. He was a beautiful creature, with ink black hair streaked with gold that almost reached his waste. His eyes were much like Storm's, but sapphire and gold. He was slightly shorter than I, and much shorter than Storm, yet his strength was impeccable. I was filled with admiration.

Storm screamed a word that ladies are forbidden to repeat, and demanded, "What are you doing, Luca?!"

"You don't have to do this," Luca spat, his accent unfamiliar. "You have enough power. Leave both girls alone."

Storm hissed, "Never," and Luca was yanked off him, almost straight into the air. He landed on the ground with a force that should have snapped his spine. But, he scrambled to his feet, unscathed.

I watched in awe as Luca's pupils became slits, much like Storm's. Everything around me began feeling, well, different. The atmosphere became thick and heavy, and I was finding it hard to breathe. What is he doing?

And then, a voice entered my head. It wasn't my conscience. Rather, it was his voice. Cover your eyes. I barely had enough time to bury my eyes into my arm before the most powerful force I had ever felt smashed into me.

It was almost impossible to explain. It was like an explosion, but not quite. It didn't burn, like fire. Rather, it felt as if it was pealing my skin off. Every bit of my body itched and protested in pain, and I could only bury my head and scream. Tears streamed down my face as realization struck me. I'm going to die. I cannot bear this pain any longer.

And then, it was gone. Everything became normal within a second; it was all washed away. All was still. And yet, I was too wary to raise my head. What if this is a trick?

A hand pressed against my shoulders. "You can open your eyes now."

Lifting my head and wiping tears from my face, I looked around. Everything looked as normal as I felt. The grass was undisturbed; Rosemarie was still in the same spot on the ground. Luca stood over me, his hand extended towards me. I took it, and he hoisted me to my feet. "Are you well?" he asked, supporting my body better than my quaking legs.

"Yeah," I gasped out, confident that I was fine. And then, I saw Storm's corpse. Every bit of his skin had been licked off of his skeleton, and was left behind in black waste.

I became violently ill.

XXX

We were at the outskirts of the forest, facing the village of Salem. It looked the same as it always had. How can everything appear the same, but it is not?

Luca motioned for me to stop, struggling to signal around Rosemarie. The poor girl was still unconscious, and she was much too heavy for me. So, instead, Luca carried her.

"Stay here. I will be back within five seconds."

I blinked, about to ask a question. But he was gone. Of course he can disappear into thin air, I reminded myself. Almost instantly, he reappeared in front of me, with Rosemarie no longer in his arms. "She's safe," he said in response to my quizzical look. "Are you prepared for me to escort you to your house?"

"Are you a witch?" I blurted out. Immediately, I flushed, for it was improper to ask such questions.

I expected for him to become angry with me for intruding on his personal business. Instead, he looked me in the eyes, and smiled. "Dorothea," he said, his mouth elegantly pronouncing my name. I loved how he said my name. "I'm not exactly a witch."

"What do you mean?"

"We don't call ourselves witches," he said. "But, most average people would."

"Do you not want to kill me, like Storm?"

He hesitated, as if deciding on an answer. Finally, he told me, "Not all of us are like that. There's an organization, like a cult, which Storm is a part of. They call themselves by unusual names and their sole goal is to become as close to invincible as possible."

I studied his handsome face. "And you're not—"

"No," he said, cutting me off before I could finish my question or ask anything else. "Come, let me return you to your home."

A little disappointed that I could no longer ask questions, I allowed him to lead me through the empty streets. When we finally reached my house, I felt panic rise into my throat. He didn't have to tell me; I knew he would leave. The thought of him disappearing made me feel sick.

"Here you are," he said, gesturing towards the door.

"Here I am," I breathed, unable to hold back the overwhelming emotions. Oh please do not cry, I mentally begged myself.

"Can I ask you something, Dorothea?" His voice cracked, and an expression of distress crossed over his face. But, it was gone within a second.

My curiosity suddenly stronger than my panic, I asked him, "Yes…?"

Almost subconsciously, he took my hand into his, and studied it. "Can you swear that—no matter what happens—you will never tell anyone of tonight's events?"

For a moment, I wondered if I could. Could I even make a promise like that? What had happened was so… unnatural, and it would be hard to lock it up in my heart for eternity. And yet, I imagined what would happen if I told someone about Luca. They would hunt him down, and burn him at a stake. No, I couldn't allow for that to happen. Not to such a beautiful person, with one blue eye and one golden eye.

"I swear."

"Good," he said. Out of courtesy, he leaned forward and grazed my knuckles with his lips in a soft, short manner that made my heart flutter. Standing back up straight, he told me, "It has been a pleasure to meet you, Dorothea."

"The pleasure is mine, Luca." My voice shook, and I was close to tears. What if I forget his face?

Luca had started to turn and leave, when I called out to him. "Will I ever see you again?" The terror in my voice was hard to hide. And yet, I could not understand what was wrong with me. I've fancied young men before; why am I acting so foolish right now?

A small smile crept across his lips. "It may be a short while, or perhaps many years, but yes. I will seek you in the future. I promise. Here." His hands reached up to his neck, and he unclasped a circular locket that I had failed to notice. Taking my hand, he placed it on my open palm and closed my fingers around it. "Remember me by this." And with that, he disappeared into thin air.

Hesitantly, I studied the necklace. It was plain, so it was no wonder that I had overlooked it. Slipping my fingernail under the lock, I flipped it open. And staring up at me was his face.

XXX

When I woke up, the first thing my hand did was fly to the locket around my throat. Relief washed over me. It wasn't a dream. I once more opened it, and stared at the picture. I would survive, I realized. If it meant I could see Luca again, I would wait a thousand years. I snapped it closed, and let go.

And then, there was a knocking at the front door.

I had to catch myself before I stood up. It couldn't possibly be Luca. I had already humiliated myself enough by walking the village in my nightgown. I would not do so again. I had just begun to settle back into my bed when I heard the man at the door. It was Roland Jenkins, Rosemarie's father.

"By the law of Salem, hand us your daughter! Rosemarie has accused Dorothea Williams of being a witch!"