Prologue: It Began with a Prank

This story begins with an old woman sitting in a rocking chair.

At a first glance, she was a fairly old soul, and she was also very grandmotherly in appearance: you could picture her as a woman who always bakes cookies, or the old lady who never fails to wave at the neighborhood children while she lovingly tends to her garden. At the moment, however, Old Aggie wasn't smiling... nor was she baking, gardening, or even acting grandmotherly.

She was reading a newspaper with tears in her eyes.

Ever so slowly, she took her glasses off just as the wet trails spilled down her weathered cheeks: almost as though she were at a funeral, she picked up a pair of nearby scissors and began cutting something out of the news article. Then she picked it up, and slowly rose to her feet, shuffling over to the locked door at the end of the hall. Once again... it had happened. Once again, a battle had been lost. And once again... Old Aggie found herself standing in her study, examining the smiling face of yet another child who'd vanished.

She knew that the girl would most likely never return, since none of them ever did.

Once Taken, nobody ever came back.

However, this case had been the most heart-jerking one she'd had in years, since the girl's parents had frantically come to visit her in an attempt to find out what was going on inside their home. It had all begun one afternoon when James and Cecelia Thompson had knocked on her front door, claiming to be needing her 'expertise' as they'd called it. It wasn't anything new: nearly seventy thousand people had come to her over a long stretch of many years, looking for the same discreet help.

Once they'd explained their story, she'd known that They had come around again.

According to Mrs. Thompson, it had first begun in the middle of the night on a Saturday: she'd woken up without knowing why and had gone down into the kitchen to find all of their food supplies stacked from floor to ceiling in odd, geometrical manners. When she'd turned the lights on, several appliances had turned on as well, which had illuminated some patterns on the ceiling. After that, their teenage daughter started having nightmares about someone being in her room, and all three of them had begun suffering from black-outs, disturbing behavior, and savage nosebleeds. Their daughter, Alice, had become violently ill for almost three weeks.

Then... the odd situations became public since four migrations of geese, sparrows, and several other birds flew clean into their home.

They'd pelted the house in a mass frenzy, one after the other, smashing their little skulls and killing themselves.

Later that afternoon, the birds had been cleaned off their lawn in piles, but little blood spots had been all over their home.

That was why the Thompson family had finally come to see her.

In truth, they'd been skeptical about everything until she'd forced them to take a small test... but after that, they'd listened to her warnings. And because of what she'd told them, they'd obviously chosen to fight back: they'd definitely tried their hardest to avoid the inevitable. The proof of that had been in the paper, since there had been photos of the Thompson home completely boarded up.

However, just like all the other families... they hadn't been able to win, and their daughter had gone missing.

The only thing that would remain would be the smiling photo of the fifteen-year-old girl who was now taped on her wall. The wall that also held over sixty thousand other smiling faces, dating all the way back to the late nineteen thirties, when her twin sister had been Taken right in front of her and she'd become aware of Their existence. Her sister hadn't come back, either... there hadn't even been a glimmer of hope. The old woman slowly closed her eyes and shivered despite the heat of the afternoon.

This last vanishing had by far been the worst... mostly because she'd had a little hope that a family might be able to defy Them for once.

However, she had learned over twenty years ago that once someone was chosen, they would be Taken no matter what. It didn't matter how much a family struggled... it didn't matter how much they tried to resist... it didn't matter what lengths they took to keep their precious loved ones safe... because in the end, the person they were trying to protect always disappeared.

This new face would decorate her wall with all the rest... the face of a girl with long blonde hair and a soft smile that didn't touch her large blue eyes: this girl had been sheltered greatly because of how much her parents had loved her. She had also been beautiful, but that didn't matter now: she was gone, most likely for the rest of her life. Aggie believed that this family had probably come closest to beating Them and getting their happy ending... but in the end, They had taken the Thompson's daughter just like all the others.

Even though Aggie had given up a long time ago, she still wanted to fight... to do something... anything... but it was hopeless.

A human cannot fight what it cannot comprehend.

"It's been a long seventy-three years, Abigale." she whispered sadly, shuffling into her room and closing the door on her study. "There's nothing more I can do."

That being said, she made her morning coffee and sat back down in her rocking chair, refusing to think about this latest disappearance.

After all, there really was nothing she could do: the Thompson daughter had been Taken... and like all the others, she would never return.

Or so the old woman thought.