Chapter 1

Well I found the address. What a shady looking place though. Ms. Jyran has really questionable taste for pet stores.

"Get an angelfish." She said "They're good companions." When I denied, she promptly threatened my grade. Great.

The outer walls of the store had no windows, and were a murky mustard color, chipping away in numerous places. The door stood at the center, it was decorated with one-way glass, so the only way to see the inside was by going in. Above the door read "Animorium," there was more, but it was, too damaged, I couldn't read it.

I was having second thoughts about going in; couldn't blame me though. Place looked like a crime lab, not to mention that the nearest store was at least a fourth of a mile away. Odd, since the ugly yellow paint only went a few feet in both directions of the door. There should be more stores close by. There weren't exactly people flocking to go inside either. Actually, there wasn't a single car parked here besides mine. I don't like this. Forget it, I'm out of here.

There was a jingle, "Do you plan to come in?" Damn it, I'm caught. I turned to see a rather unexpected face. An older man with graying blond hair, but his voice sounded so young, very peppy like a boy just out of puberty, minus the squeaking. By the looks of his face, he looked a little surprised himself. "How unusual for such a pretty figure to show up in front of my store."

"I'm just as surprised as you are. I should probably go." Before I could fully turn around I felt his cold hand on my shoulder.

"Nonsense! Come in! Come in!" He held a tight grip, this man may not look very strong, but judging by the force of his hand, he had quite a bit of strength in him; I'd better keep vigilant of him, though I'm not sure how much I'd be able to do against him.

When we entered the store, I was surprised, not by any glamorous features, but by the simplicity. It was a room not small not large. To the left was an open doorway with a decayed orange color; to the right, a hallway that made an immediate right turn, so no way of knowing what was beyond just by looking. In front of me, was a quite large bird cage, with a baby blue blanket covering over it completely. Worst of all, it had the same ugliness that the outside of the store presented. The same unpleasant color, too. I looked back; he stood in front of the doorway, leaving me no way of running back to my car.

"I thought this was a pet store." He gave me a delighted smirk.

"But it is a pet store, ma 'dear."

"Doesn't look like it."

"Any animal in particular that ya want?" I stood silent for a bit. He walked past me towards the bird cage.

"Angelfish." I whispered, involuntarily. I cleared my throat, "I'm looking for an Angelfish." He paused.

"Angelfish, ya say? Hmm, not sure we got any of those, yer free too look around ah'course; maybe you'll find'un." The cage began to rattle, I jumped a bit. "Looks like sun'un wants to join you." He unveiled the cage, inside was a monkey. He let it out, and it joyfully climbed onto his shoulder. "Now Savannah, you take good care of this yun lady, ya hear? She'll be a special guest here." He kept facing the monkey, but turned his eyes towards me, his creepy smile didn't help the situation. I was so intent on unwavering my eyes from his that I didn't notice the monkey had left his side until it was climbing up my pants.

"Uh." I wasn't sure whether to let it climb or shake it off.

"Savannah there'll take care of ya. She's good company." Nothing he spewed out of his mouth had a full sense of truth to it. He directed me to his right; to the hall with the orange walls. I'm not sure what urged me on; maybe my curiosity got the best of me. Either way, I walked on, with Savannah on my shoulder. I was half way down the hall when the man called out to me. "One more thing!" I turned. "I yuh manage to make it out as yourself, I'll give you a pet for free." He turned, and headed for the opposite side of the entryway.

I half mumbled, "What is that supposed to mean?"

The hall just seemed like decoration. It was short, and filled with elaborate pictures of animals I didn't know existed. The room I entered next was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The room wasn't huge, and carried the same color the walls outside did, just more vibrant. What astonished me were the tanks. They were a vibrant blue, with different kinds of fish in every tank. The tanks were on two different walls, stacked up so tight it made me wonder how they were fed. I was awe struck, and looked carefully for the fish I was looking for, but no such luck.

Traveling on ahead I saw the same thing in the next room, every room carrying different fish. This place felt like a maze. I must have passed at least a dozen rooms, each turning a different corner to get to the next. The further I went along the more eerie the place became. It seemed as though the condition of the rooms deteriorated with every room I passed. The tanks went from their vibrant blue to a mossy green, the paint was peeling off the walls, and the floor cracked.

"What the hell is going on here?" The fish in the tanks became less active, and they looked so…sad. They also became a hell of a lot harder to see in the murky water. I began to turn around when a fish caught my eye. I came closer to the wall, almost pressing my face to the glass of the tank. Could it be my fish? This fish, too, looked sad. I know I shouldn't tap the glass, but I wanted to see if it was at least alive. To my pleasure, it was. It swam with more vigor than I thought it had, which is more than I could say for the other ones.

"Hey fishy." It faded from blue to yellow. It just seemed so pale, not at all as vibrant as the pictures I'd looked up. Somehow, that didn't matter; this fish would belong to me. "I'm taking you home." It was hard to tell, but its eyes seemed different colors, as well…

"Owe! Hey!" The monkey I had ignored up to this point had pulled my hair and was not running wildly towards the next room. "Damn. Hey Savannah get back here." I followed her calmly to the next room, and stopped as if I'd hit a wall. The next room was something I definitely did not expect. In glass cages, were probably about every exotic animal I'd ever seen, ranging from small monkeys, to big cats. Room after room, the animals became rarer and rarer. Then I came to the last room. I stared, bewildered. The animals from the pictures in the orange hall were here cramped into glass cages. They sat so still, so silent, they almost didn't seem real. I jumped when I heard the crash of breaking glass. It didn't sound close by, but with the animals here, I shouldn't take the chance of one of them coming after me. I heard a small chatter and turned to find Savannah tugging at a cloth that seemed to cover a doorway. I guess she really was there to take care of me. I headed towards the doorway and pulled the cloth. I should really stop being surprised by what I find here.

A long white hallway filled with a row of cages, all empty, except for one. In it was some sort of hybrid primate. It had long sharp nails on both hands and feet, dark brown shaggy fur, what looked like cat ears, and a baboon's face with long sharp teeth, and I'm not talking about just the canines. It growled and hissed viciously, I was almost happy to see such a reinforced cage, until I heard a familiar little chatter. Climbing up the cage, was Savannah.

"Savannah, what are you doing?" My voice sounded shaky, and weak. As if to answer me, she began to undo the locks holding the cage shut. "Savannah, no!" I don't know why I bothered. Before she undid the last latch, I ran for it in the opposite direction. I barely made it to the next room, when I tripped over the cracks that had been on the floor. Go figure. I skidded across the cement, and thudded my head against one of the glass cages. "Shit." I looked back, to find the hybrid animal coming towards me, it almost seemed like slow motion. I screamed as I waited for my body to be mauled, but it didn't come.

I opened my eyes to see what had happened, since I'm pretty sure I didn't just die. Standing only a few feet away from me was a man…I think. He was holding the hybrid against his chest, all I could see were the guys arms wrapped tightly around the hybrid's chest. It flailed violently, but his grip did not waver. It was then that I got a good look at the sheer size of the animal. Its head was well above the guy's and its feet dangled below the knees. Was this guy wearing shorts…and no shoes? I tried to get up, but the pain surged in my left arm. Damn, I must have hurt it when I fell, surprisingly, my head was fine. When I looked back up the guy was gone, but judging by the sound of a cage rattling, it meant he was putting the animal back in its cage. I got up quickly and began to head to the room with the doorway, only to be cut off. I bumped straight into the guy's chest and almost fell back.

Now the size of the hybrid really scared me. This guy was a good foot taller than me, and at 5 foot 7 I always figured I was tall for a girl. I gazed up at him, I couldn't help but stare. He had black wavy hair, and eyes that left me breathless; one was a golden honey color, the other a milky blue, this along with his olive skin made him beau…

"You should leave."

"Huh?" Huh?

His stare didn't waver from mine; I couldn't look away, so he did. Damn. But not before he took hold of my hand, and pulled the living hell out of it, back the way I had come in the first place.

"Wait!" He didn't stop. "Hey, I said wait!" Nothing. A few steps later I heard water lightly tap under the weight of my foot. This time I forced myself from his grasp, he went for my arm again, but I managed to avoid it. "I told you to wait!" I gave him a stern stare. He sighed and looked away.

I turned back to inspect what I had stepped on exactly. I looked from the floor to the wall. One of the tanks had busted. The horrifying thought occurred to me a moment later.

"No…" I dropped to my knees trying to gather all the fish. I'm not sure if they're cold because they're fish or because…

"They're dead." I froze.

"But if I hurry-"

"They've been dead long before the tank broke, maybe not the way you'd think." I realized that this was the most I'd heard from him. He had a strong voice, but soothing at the same time. I slumped and looked at the fish.

"Wait…" The guy didn't say anything, but I felt his stare at the back of my neck. "There's a fish missing." I couldn't be wrong, this is the tank, I know it.

"Don't worry about it."

"Why wouldn't I worry?!" I didn't look over to him. Why was I so upset? Why do I feel like I've just lost something important? I guess that was obvious. "That fish…he's the reason I freaked out…he's the one I wanted to take home." I heard the guy's footsteps on the water, he stopped behind me. I didn't feel like standing up, instead I turned to face him.

If I were a Japanese manga, my body would have shot back in an arch with a nosebleed. Has…has he been naked this whole time? With my face only inches away from his manhood, I don't think my reaction of blindingly throwing a punch, was so drastic. I felt my punch hit something hard, but soft, not squishy. I opened one eye first in more of a squint. What I saw shouldn't have relieved me so much. He caught it. He caught my punch. My fist seemed so small compared to his hand.

"That was a little close for comfort." His voice wasn't angry; it was smooth and soothing like it had been before. I found myself staring at his multicolored eyes, partly because I didn't want to look anywhere else, but mostly because they mesmerized me. "Here, let me help you up." The hand that had caught my fist was not carefully undoing it, so that I could hold on. I let my hand comply, and kept my stare at his eyes.

I'm not sure why, but at that moment everything clicked. He reminded me of the fi-. Wait. The broken tank, the missing fish, his eyes…

"Impossible." He looked at me with eyes of curiosity. "Are you-"

"Well aint this a sight fo sore eyes. Little girl, I allow you in my store, and you wreck one of my tanks." I turned to face the tall lanky figure that was the owner. He stared amusingly at me then at the guy. He mumbled something that was barely audible, "Is this predestined, I wonder?" At that moment he gave a wicked smile, which frightened me more than the mauling I almost had.

"She had nothing to do with the tank, an you know it." I turned to the guy, who was now wrapping a cloth around his waist, guess that's what he had been wearing. It looks like the cloth that covered the doorway. He spat hate in his calm words, I didn't think such a thing could come from him.

"Oh, but she did." His smile was not directed at the guy. "If she hadn't come-"

"I'm still myself." I didn't know I had spoken until both men were staring at me. I caught my statement, "You said that if-"

"I know what I said." He didn't sound too happy about this, though. He walked up to me. "It's time fo yuh to leave little girl." He pulled my arm away from the guy's, pain surged through it. "If yuh follow, I won't keep my promise." It was obvious he wasn't talking to me. I glanced over to the guy, I really wish I knew his name. He winced, and looked away. I held my stare on him until we turned into another room. As if transferred, my hatred for this man flourished. He had his long thin fingers gripped around my upper arm, and I knew full well he wasn't using his full strength; not even an ounce of it to pull me through the rooms. I could see glass cages and fish tanks fly by, until we made it back to the beginning.

He practically threw me out the door. I stumbled a bit to catch my balance, falling once was enough for today; I still managed to hit the wall, hurting my arm all over again.

"Yuh can leave now."

"No." He stared at me as if defiance was something he wasn't used to.

"No?" He mocked.

"No. You promised that if I made it out as myself, I would be able to choose a pet for free."

"Yuh cheated."

"It's not like I meant to. Besides, you never said that was forbidden."

"Tch!" He scowled. Then gripped his left arm as if he were in pain. Ironic. Savannah came out running from the room on the right side; was that white hall the way back here? As she climbed up onto his shoulder she made a weak chattering noise. I hated her, too. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have had to be saved.

"The angelfish."

"What?"

"I want the angelfish with the mismatched eyes."

"Do yuh now." His voice was calm, but hoarse. He stood up straight showing off his real height. "And if I refuse?" Before I could answer, he groaned and tightened his hold on his arm. I could have sworn his arm was buzzing. He groaned louder. "Gya! Fine! You'll get yuh fish. Now git out!"

"But I need to get the fish."

"I'm gonna send 'em to yuh." He seemed to be back to normal now.

"But you don't know where I-"

"Oh I know, little girl." He was shoving me out the door, his black eyes staring holes into mine. My body complied as he made his final heave out the door. Before he closed the door, the last words he said to me were, "I know." The door slammed, and I ran for my car, not even glancing back as I drove away.