"Solaris"

Crashing into her dorm room, Zoe flopped onto her bed. She was mentally and physically exhausted. Her hundred dollar text books landed on the floor with the force of her full strength, making a loud crash enough to pull her roommate, Holly, out of her study enduced stupor.

"Shit, Zoe," Holly said, annoyed. "Don't do that. If they're too damaged, you can't resell them."

"I just finished my last final and I could not even care less about those damn books," Zoe groaned in reply. "This term has been killer."

"With you taking four full classes and your workstudy, it's amazing you can even function right now." Holly added, getting up from her bed. "Oh, hey. That's right. I totally forgot to tell you! You got a letter earlier."

"From my mom again?"

"No, amazingly enough," Holly said, trying not to laugh. "It isn't postmarked. Doesn't your mom live across the country or something?"

"Well, yeah, she does, but..." Zoe sat back up when Holly handed her the letter. The envelope was blue, with a sticker of a lovely ribbon holding the flap closed. "...this looks like some invitation to a six year old's princess birthday party."

"...How old is your little sister again?"

"Twenty three."

"Oh. Just open it all ready," Holly said. "You're not gonna find out anything about it until you do."

"Yeah, enough suspense," Zoe said, finally pulling the flap open. She found a card inside. She read it aloud. "You're invited to a formal graduation party for all of the class of 2015. Please feel free to bring a date with with you. The party will be held at the Kilvan estate tonight at eight o'clock. Happy graduation."

"Whoa," Holly said in amazement. "The Kilvan estate? Aren't they the richest family in town?"

"I don't care. I'm not going."

"Why not, Zoe? All you have done is work your ass off and surf the internet half dead. You should celebrate your hard work!"

"I don't have anything fancy to wear. Who would I take as a date?"

"That guy that tries to ask you out every Friday?"

"Hector?!"

"Yeah, him! He's a cutie, right?"

"...just drop it. Even if I did have a date, my clothes are all pretty casual."

"Shut up!" Holly said, opening up her closet. "You're my size, so wear one of my dresses. And you don't need a date to have fun!"

"Maybe my plus one could be my Dragon Fantasy II doll."

"Naaah, as cute as he is, I don't think something that can ride in your purse can be considered a date." Holly said, pulling out a very nice lavender dress.

"Hey, there's an idea. Holly, you be my plus one. Keep me company."

"No way. I have a job, remember? I'll drop you off on my way to work."

"...Holly..." Zoe could not hide her disappointment.

"You are going to have fun, damn it! Because you haven't since you got here. Four years without one party, one date, one day at the beach? Zoe, this is your last chance."

Zoe rolled her eyes. "Oh fine! I'll go!"

Holly smiled widely. "So let me get you all fixed up."

Zoe was never the type to dress up. But here she was, standing at what could have been the most fancy party she would ever be at in her life. The Kilvan Estate was essentially a mansion made of glass, with shrubbery lining all the walls. It didn't seem like a real graduation party. She felt more like Cinderella standing at the foot of a castle, hesitating before she climed up those fated steps.

"I'm an art major with a minor in computer science," she whispered to herself. "I work at the campus library to pay tuition. I don't belong here..."

She climbed the stairs to the door of the Kilvan Estate mansion. It really was too lavish for Zoe's taste. All she thought about while standing in the doorway was about how the starving kids in Africa were just gonna have to go hungry because some old bat just had to live in a fucking glass house with animal shaped shrubbery to hold her damn high society events in.

Zoe wanted to be by herself when she saw all the beautifully dressed people in the room ahead. She sat down on a very beautiful bench, letting him greet his friends alone. She wasn't his date, after all. What was supposed to be fun about this?

"Oh, is that you, Zoe?"

Zoe looked to her left. She knew that voice. Been a long while since she heard it. "Now if I'm not mistaken, there's the voice of the queen of the junior high newspaper writing staff."

"I was the editor." the same voice replied, somewhat annoyed.

"You called yourself the queen in seventh grade," Zoe answered. "Did Aileen Masters really take lessons in humility?"

"Zoe Doughtery, you haven't changed at all since then. Your commentary on articles was as sharp as your tongue is now." Aileen stood in front of her, with her arms crossed. "I'm glad you could come! It is lovely to see you again."

"Eh," Zoe said, sighing. "This really isn't my element. Fancy parties, lavish clothes, glass houses. You know."

"Are you kidding? I love it! The moment my last name is Kilvan, this will be mine." Aileen waved her arms. "Won't that be splendid?"

Zoe laughed at first, but her old friend's expression didn't change a bit. "You're serious?!"

"Yes!" Aileen showed Zoe the ring on her finger.

"My princess, are you scaring guests again?"

"No! Come and meet my fiancee, Zoe." Aileen snatched her hand and dragged her along until they were in the most populated area of the mansion. "My love, this is Zoe Doughtery. She and I grew up together."

Aileen's fiancee was taller than both Aileen and Zoe. He wore clothing more fitting for a Spaniard at a bull fight than a party. "It is a pleasure to meet a friend of my future bride," he said in a very thick Spanish accent. "I am Ravio Kilvan. Make yourself at home."

"Thank you ever so kindly. Can't say I ever have been to such an event," Zoe said, showing Ravio the respect he clearly seemed to want. She could tell how he was the type to thrive in such manners, so she dare not question that.

"Zoe, so, where is your date?" Aileen asked. "You must have someone with you tonight, yes? I simply must meet your companion!"

Zoe shook her head. Way to put her on the spot. "Nope. Can't say I do."

"How can a lovely lady like you not have a gentleman to look after her?" Ravio asked. "Aileen, I must give your friend at least one dance as a simple courtesy."

"Your fiancee is charming," Zoe said to Aileen. She was a little put off by Ravio's sudden interest in her being single and decided to find an excuse to back off from him. "Excuse me, Aileen... I hate to ask so directly at a party like this, but... Can you tell me where to find the ladies room?"

Aileen pointed over to the nearby hallway. "First door on the left," she said. "Do be sure to come back! I have a buffet of food you just have to try!"

"I'm sure I do," Zoe muttered, slowly walking over to hide in the bathroom until the party was over. "Aileen is going to marry into the Kilvan family? She joked about being queen back in junior high, but she'll practically be one when she ties that knot." Zoe really regretted her decision to come now. Not only was she bored, but to see that display - to know Aileen had ascended like this? She didn't go into the bathroom, but she did see a path leading outside into a huge garden. Zoe stood there, looking at what must have been a very lovely hedge maze.

"You should not wander off, sweetling. It is easy to get lost out there, especially this late at night."

Zoe turned around to see Ravio standing there. "Mr. Kilvan," she replied. "This setting makes me nervous. I just needed some time to gather my composure."

Ravio approached her slowly. "Hmm. You seem tired. May I lead you to a bedroom? You can rest there."

"That is very kind of you, sir, but... I will be just fine," Zoe replied nervously. "You should attend your bride-to-be first and foremost."

"Please. Allow me to take care of an honored guest as I would in my home country," Ravio insisted, extending his hand to her. He looked directly into her eyes, and suddenly she didn't want to pull away as much. "Such a gentle little sweetling. I will take good care of you." He smiled, revealing his canine teeth to be longer than his other teeth. As she put her hand in his, he pulled her close enough to hiss her, but didn't. She trembled when he exposed her neck, but was too weak willed to pull away.

"No! Not another!" a yell came from behind them, breaking Ravio's hold on Zoe. "Let her go!"

Ravio's eyes opened widely, turning to face the challenger from the garden. "I know that voice," he said, tossing Zoe to the floor. "I have killed you numerous times. Every hundred years..."

"I will take you out this time," the challenger announced loudly. "I will avenge my love!"

Zoe wanted far, far away from this. She thought it had to be some sort of elaborate prank or maybe a show to entice the attendees of the party. That had to be why Ravio was so chillingly creepy. She crawled along the floor, thinking the entire time about rich people having such boring lives that they had to fill it with such drama and outright nuttery to keep it interesting.

"Believe what you want," Ravio shouted, finally lunging at the would-be hero in the shadows. "The Kilvan family will never die completely."

"I will end it," the hero proclaimed, brandishing a blade that glimmered even in the darkness. After a few lunges from Ravio, the hero managed to stab him in the eye. He then pulled it out and pushed it through Ravio's heart, ensuring the rich host's death.

Zoe gasped when she realized it. "You... You!" she started to turn away, but the hero grabbed her hand. "Let go, you crazy maniac!"

"If you stay here, you will be accused of killing Master Kilvan." the hero stated. "I saved your life. You must come with me."

"I most certainly will not." Zoe said sternly. "I will report you to the police!"

"Is that how you repay someone that rescues you? Having them arrested?" the hero asked. "You have no idea who he was or what he wanted to do to you." He pulled her along until he noticed there was unrest in the mansion. "There is little time. I have no choice. Miss, may I ask your name?"

"Zoe," she stated flatly.

"Well then, Lady Zoe, I fully apologize for what I am about to do," the hero said. He turned around to face her, reared back his left hand, and punched her middle so hard it caused her to fall against him, unconscious. "I only hope that my people will be ready for the war about to erupt from this. Oh, Mahitab... Will Solaris ever forgive me?"

-End part 1