Chapter 1

A Strange Encounter

"Ba-da-da-dada Dancin' in the streets! Do-do-do!" Suzan sang quietly to herself, though 'singing' would not be the right word for it. First of all, she was a miserable singer and she knew it. Secondly, to sing implies that the singer actually knows the song. Suzan did not even know the name of the song she was singing let alone how the rest of it went. It was really just one line and a vague tune that had gotten stuck in her head and refused to leave. Finally she was more so whispering than singing. After all, she was in a library.

By all accounts, Suzan was not a particularly interesting person. She was a short girl with pale skin, hair the color of brown sugar, and dark beady brown eyes that always were darting this way and that. In addition to that, she was far too shy to join any clubs at school, too quiet to be picked out of a crowd, and definitely too meek and mild to have a story of any kind written about her. Or so she had come to believe.

The mousy little girl scuttled her way through the library's shelves, scanning over the books' spines, trying to find what she was looking for. She had been searching for quite some time now, having come directly from school without changing from her drab, gray, unflattering school uniform. So far she had found nothing. It was then that a peculiar thought struck her. At first the thought was completely absurd, but as it took root it troubled her more and more until she finally gave it voice.

"What am I doing here?" she whispered to herself giving voice to the strange thought. Almost an hour ago she had been seized by a sudden panic which drove her to the library. At the time she thought that it must have been some school project she needed to complete. And yet, she could not think of just what project it was. In fact, going over all her homework in her mind, she was able to happily conclude that she was all caught up. So what brought her here?

She pondered and puzzled over this, trying to think. Then, with subtle suddenness a clue presented itself. In some unknown corner of the library she could hear a faint music. The same urgency that had driven her to the library returned to prod her to find the source of the music. Without a second's hesitation she hurried to the source. Sadly the maze of shelves and books, combined with her unfamiliarity of this place made the process difficult.

Before long she noticed that the music seemed to be getting louder, not only because she was getting closer (she hoped) but also it seemed that someone was turning up the volume. The song was one that Suzan could have sworn she heard before. It was some classical song, composed by a long dead man with a foreign name and played on instruments that she could not name and she wondered if anyone even played them anymore. In addition to getting louder and louder, the music was growing in intensity. The more intense it became the faster she urged herself.

Twisting and turning, trying to find it as the tempo increased. Faster and faster, louder and louder, she was no longer her own person, merely a slave to the song. Like some invisible puppeteer the music lead her through the winding passages. The song was drawing to its dramatic end, and Suzan feared that if she did not find the source before the music ended then she would never have another chance. For some unknown reason this was a terrifying thought.

The final note of the song climaxed and crashed just as she turned a corner. With a relieved sigh she saw the source; a small boom box sitting on a study table and plugged into the wall. Near the boom box sitting with his feet up was a boy, only a few years older than her, it seemed. Bristly stubble clung to his chin, matching his soft, red, messy hair. He was dressed very casually with worn-out jeans, a faded T-shirt and sneakers that were falling apart.

"It's you!" Suzan exclaimed, startling herself. She was startled because first, she had spoken very loudly for being in a library, and secondly because the words had simply spilled out of her. She actually could not ever remember seeing this boy even once before. And yet, he seemed so familiar.

"I really do love that song." the boy said, disregarding Suzan's exclamation. He leaned over and turned off the boom box, then looked at the girl. "You see? I told you that you wouldn't remember me. But of course you don't remember me telling you that you wouldn't remember, because if you remembered that I told you that you wouldn't remember then you would have made me a liar, and I hate being made a liar against my will."

Suzan stood frozen for a moment. A strange fear of this boy had seized her. She found herself unable to speak or move. After a minute of two of patient silence the boy spoke up. "You don't remember, but we had this conversation before, where I told you I'm not interested in eating you. Please, won't you have a seat?" he gestured towards the chair on the other side of the table. Slowly Suzan forced her legs to work and moved to the chair. All the while her mind was running a mile a minute. 'Who is this guy? Why does he act like he knows me? We've never met, have we? And what about what he's saying about forgetting?' She found herself at the chair and, with a nervous gulp, took a seat.

"Who are you?" Suzan blurted out, hoping the answer would put her vague fears to rest.

The boy lazily put a finger to his chest, "Fox." Before Suzan could ask for clarification he aimed his finger at her. "And you are a mouse."

'Fox' acted as though those two statements would answer every question ever posed throughout all history. Suzan, to the contrary, was more confused than ever.

"What are you talking about?" she demanded. Her fear was beginning to dissipate and be replaced by impatient curiosity. "What do you mean I'm a mouse, and what's all this about forgetting? I don't remember forgetting anything." She paused at the strangeness of that last statement.

Fox looked at her, expecting more, then answered, "I'm talking about exactly what I said. When I said you're a mouse I meant precisely that. And I've already told you everything you need to know about forgetting, you've simply forgot it all. Finally, of course you don't remember forgetting anything. If you remembered what you forgot then that would defeat the purpose of forgetting."

Suzan, though usually quiet and reserved, could only handle so much before reaching a breaking point. Fox's latest volley of non-answers had driven her to that point. For as long as she could remember she hated not getting answers when she asked for them. But for now, she held back her anger, at least long enough for one question. Clenching her fists under the table she asked through gritted teeth, "Do I know you?"

She had intended it to be a simple yes or no question but, as she was discovering, Fox was very good at making things complicated. "The you that you were knew me, but only the me that I was, not the me that I am. The you that you are doesn't know the me that I was nor the me that I am, as the me that I am and the you that you are have only just met."

That was simply too much for Suzan. Her rage exploded and she leaped to her feet and slammed her hands on the table. "Just give me a straight answer, will you?!"

The boy seemed utterly unconcerned with the outburst, "You enjoy being this big don't you little mouse?" He shrugged his shoulders and drove a hand into his pocket, "The you that you were and the me that I was made a deal recently. You had come to me with a request, as many do. A request that only I could fulfill. I agreed to help you if you retrieved something for me. You'll remember all that soon enough." He then pulled something out of his pocket. It looked like a bracelet or a very tiny necklace. A single green emerald was set in the middle piece and it hung delicately from a silver chain. He slid the bracelet across the table to her and stood up. "You'll need that to retrieve what I want. And a word of caution you should remember; part of our deal was that if you failed to get my item, not only would I not fulfill your request, but I also get to eat your heart."

He looked her in the eyes as the seriousness of his statement sunk in. Some how she knew he was telling the truth. The fear rushed back into her. If she did not get this unknown thing then he really would eat her heart. Her intimidating and annoyed demeanor quickly collapsed into her usual meek and fearful one, something told her that he was not joking and fully intended to kill her. "Now I need to go. I'm tired, so tired. I need to rest." Fox then began walking away. Before disappearing behind a book shelf he called back to the paralyzed Suzan, "Good luck little mouse, and don't forget to use the bracelet." With that he disappeared into the maze of books.

Suzan lifted the bracelet of the table to examine it. "What is going on?"