Phantasmagoria

Book one of Three:

The Price

Part I:

Kira Stone

Chapter One: Premonition

Dull hair. Spotted complexion. Crooked teeth. All I saw when I looked in the mirror was a monster. A quiet, unassuming monster that somehow blended into society. I'd constantly poke myself to be sure that I was real. And constantly, I'd be disappointed to learn that indeed I was.

Slowly I started brushing my hair. I had a fascination with watching the bristles go through the strands. As it separated each follicle I couldn't help but think about how they're just going to get back together. I never understood what I meant by that, but it seemed perfectly sound in my head as I swished my bangs just right. Or as right as it's gonna be, anyway.

Yipping and clawing on the other side of the bathroom door took me out of my thoughts. I sighed and smiled, "Micah." I opened the door to let my precious husky in. She was always a ball of energy. "Good morning, my little trouble maker!" I let her lick my face happily as I followed her out to the living room. Placing her on the couch, I opened the window and clicked on the TV. The sun warmed my cinnamon skin.

"Another woman was arrested today under suspicion of deviant activities." The perky news anchor rattled on as I prepared my coffee and filled up Micah's bowl, "Police say that she's responsible for the disappearance of 5 year-old Lilith Fields who has been missing for an excruciating 3 years."

I changed the channel. The news was always so depressing. I didn't need any more depression in my life. As soon as the channel changed I heard my phone vibrate in the next room.

"Ugh," I groaned, "I forgot to turn my alarm off." I never understood why I set alarms. I always woke up before them.

I quickly ran into the room with Micah close behind. She hopped on the bed with me while I shifted through my unkempt bed. "Shit." I retrieved my phone and read the alarm's label. I should've been in the studio 10 minutes ago.

Without a minute to spare, I sped through the clothes in my closet. Since I live so close to the studio, there's no reason for me to be late all the time. But I always was. I picked out a black shirt, skirt, and shoes. You can't go wrong with black. I adorned it with gold jewelry and a white bag. As I stopped to check myself out in the mirror, I took an extra moment to look at my imperfections. My dress glistened with the jewelry but I could only see dark spots on my cheeks and barely visible eyebrows. I sighed heavily and pulled out my make-up bag. With a brush of foundation and an eyebrow pencil, I was the world's idea of pretty.

"I have to go now!" I said to Micah as though she understood. I turned the TV off and poured my coffee in a thermos. Micah sadly followed me to the door, "Be good, my little angel!" I crouched down and gave her a kiss. She jumped around and I laughed. She always put a smile on my face and it made it hard to leave sometimes. But I had to go.

My heels clicked down the hallway as I power-walked away from my apartment. I flew through the front door, not even bothering to check for mail. Two blocks down and an empty thermos later, I entered another building. I ran into the open elevator and mashed number 13 as though it would get me up there any faster.

"Well, if it isn't Kira."

My body tense up as I heard my name. I looked to see that the other elevator passenger was my producer, Kenneth Landry. He stood tall and muscular in his usual attire of a t-shirt and jeans. His fair skin looked brighter next to his dark hair as his stern, green eyes glinted at me.

"Hi…" I didn't know what else to say.

He shook his head, "I had time to meet up with an old friend and sit down at a diner for breakfast."

"That sounds nice."

He grunted and the elevator door opened. We both walked down the hall into the studio. As soon as I put my bag down, he tore into me, "Do you take this seriously at all, Kira?"

"I do, Ken."

"Then why don't you act like it?" He threw his hands in the air, "I can't help you if you don't want to be helped!"

I groaned, "Look, Ken. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm always late. We've been doing this for a while now. You know how important this is to me. Now, can we please get on with this?"

Looking defeated, Ken simply nodded and motioned for me to go into the soundproof room. I walked in and put on the headphones while placing my lyrics on the stand, "Let's redo 'Homeland'."

Ken's voice came through my headphones, "What was wrong with the first take?"

"Nothing. I just feel like I can do better."

"As long as we get this album done soon, I don't care."

I waited for him to set up. Soon I saw heard him counting down, followed by a familiar composition. Every time the music played, I got lost in it. Without words, it spoke to me. I could remember every stroke of the violin I played to make that haunting melody as Ken's piano grounded me:

One day, I will leave this place

Possibly a different person than I was before.

I won't even have the heart to ask

If I'm loved anymore

But no matter where I'm headed

And no matter what I become

I will never forget

Where I came from

I never thought when I sang this song. The words just poured out of me like a faucet. I could feel them coming out from the deepest part of my heart. And before I knew it, it was over. I had sung everything I had to say and the music had died. I didn't realize my eyes were closed until I opened them to the blinding light. Kenneth was giving me a thumbs up.

"That really was better than before. Nice job!"

It felt like I had no emotion left in me as I tried to think straight.

"Want to work on the last song?" I heard him ask through my confusion.

"Oh…what? Yeah. Yeah let's do that."

Before Ken could even begin his usual countdown, the lights suddenly cut off.

"What's going on?!" I called out. Nobody responded. I threw off the headphones and tried to open the door. It was locked.

"Ken? Ken?!" I banged against the door, "Ken! Please open up!"

Finally I was able to open the door. It was as though someone unlocked it, "Ken, are you alright?" Still no answer. I felt my way around the room. Along my journey I realized that Ken's chair was empty. I was all alone.

"Oh no…" I felt my heart beating out of control. I made my way to the front door and into the dimly lit hallway. Only one light was still working and it was flickering.

"Hello? Is anybody out there?" I yelled. No response. I didn't know whether to look for Ken or to leave immediately.

I took a deep breath, "Ken would look for me. Then again, Ken is a big, strong man. Oh no, oh no what do I do?" My mind was spinning, "Ken would want me to be safe. I have to get out of here."

Decision made, I made a dash towards the stairs. I held back a gasp as I saw the door was ripped off its hinges and lying on the floor. I had to push forward.

I took off my heels and ran as fast as I could down the stairs. At that moment I really wished I wasn't on the 13th floor. All I could hear were my bare feet slapping against the poorly painted stairs. Soon they began sounding as loud as gunshots. I felt like I was being watched. Watched and followed.

When the 1st floor sign came into view, I couldn't be happier. I was running so fast that I slammed into the exit. I couldn't even feel the pain as I tried to push it open. It was stuck.

"Why is this happening to me?" I cried. I didn't even have the strength to bang on the door as I slid down to the dirty floor.

"Wouldn't it be better if you could control your life?"

I heard a deep, menacing male voice that seemed to speak within my mind. "Who's there? " I looked around, "Ken? Was that you?" I was the only one in the stairwell.

The strange voice never responded. Instead, I suddenly fell through the door. Literally through it. I knew the door was still closed but I found myself on the floor in the lobby. Through the glass exits I saw police and ambulances littering the streets.

"There's a woman in there!" An officer shouted after spotting me. I was quickly surrounded by an entire S.W.A.T team.

"Are you alright ma'am?"

"Were you followed?"

"Can you walk?"

I didn't realize how exhausted I was until they bombarded me with their questions, "I—I'm fine. Where's Ken? I need water. Is Ken ok?" I stood up on uneasy legs. It felt like I ran a marathon.

"Get her medical attention! Now!"

I was lifted by one of the men and carried to one of the ambulances. All I heard were reporters asking questions and sirens going off.

"Stay with me, Miss." The paramedic helped me onto a stretcher.

"I just…need…water." That's all I could muster.

I could feel myself fading out of consciousness. In the midst of all the commotion, I was feeling a weird kind of inner peace. The last thing I could hear was that strange voice echoing through my head. Over and over again.