Author's notes: This isn't a story I was really planning on writing. I was just sitting there (okay, I wasn't really sitting. I think I might have been taking a shower or something, not that that has any relevance at all) when one of my little artistic muses came and smacked me in the face with an idea (my artistic muses are not overly fond of subtlety). All of a sudden I had several distinct, if rough, ideas for characters and the beginnings of a plotline in my head and I _had_ to write it down. I'm letting myself have a little fun with this story. I'm working on it basically whenever I feel like it, so chapters will be slow. This is extremely different from anything I've written before and the story still needs a lot of polish (there's a good chance I'll have to rewrite some of this), but I kind of like some of what I have so far, so I thought I might as well post a bit of it. I may or may not continue posting chapters as I'm doing this on a whim. If people show an interest in seeing more, I'll put up more *shrug*

And before I forget, I should mention that this is an original work of mine. All of the characters belong to me and I will be a very unhappy 'lil author if you use them. So please don't, okay ^^;;? Read and review if you feel so inclined.

The weather on that particular evening seemed to have lifted from the pages of a clich├ęd horror novel. Rain pelted against the windows; wind whipped the barren tree branches against the sides of the house and lightning periodically illuminated the darkened house. The power lines had been severed some time ago, leaving candles the only dependable source of light.
In a small house near the edge of town, a family sat around a table feigning interest in their unappetizingly cold dinners. The violent weather seemed oddly appropriate to each of them. None of them were in a state of mind that could be represented by bright sunshine or blue skies.
"Well, well, this certainly is a nasty change of weather," the mother, named Mary, remarked in a conversational tone. "You just can't depend on those television reporters at all! 'A slight chance of showers in the afternoon, probably clearing up in the evening' my foot. They ought to be fired. Maybe then they'd find someone who can do their job properly."
"This casserole is pretty good," the father-George-commented, hoping to avert further complaints. She beamed at him, eyes sparkling with a kind of hope.
"Oh, it's nothing special, just a recipe I picked up from Donna down the street. I can't make it nearly as well as she can.
"She does a lot of cooking, Donna, I mean. I swear that woman will be a chef someday. She's got a real gift for it. Oh, that reminds me. Elizabeth, when are you going to learn how to cook?"
"I don't want to learn how to cook," the aforementioned girl muttered angrily.
"It's a good thing to learn. You should consider learning it too sometime, Zack. You can't go eating canned foods until you get married, it's bad for you."
"Hn," Zack, the middle child, answered. Conversation essentially died off after that and the family returned to an uncomfortable, brooding silence. The father had pulled a sheet of newspaper in front of his face, no longer even attempting to look interested. Karen, who was only eight and the youngest of the three children, was making disgusted expressions over her portion of food. Zack gazed off into space, oblivious to his family while Elizabeth continued to stare darkly around the room, resenting her forced presence. The only sounds that punctuated the silence were that of the clinking of silverware and the occasional rumble of thunder.
Karen poked at a piece of her casserole with blatant revulsion, as if she expected it to sprout legs and come to life at any moment. Apparently worried that it would contaminate the rest of her casserole, she nudged it off the plate and as far out of the candlelight as she could manage. Unfortunately for her, its disappearance was noticed.
"Karen, please eat all of your dinner," their mother reprimanded.
"Karen, aren't you ever going to just learn to eat the shit like the rest of us?" Elizabeth snapped. Her father lowered the paper enough to glare at her.
"Watch your language, young lady," he warned.
"You know, she gets her eating habits from you. She's only picky because you are too. You were even worse when you were her age." Zack said, still sounding entirely disinterested.
"It's true, Elizabeth. You should have set a better example for her," her mother chided.
"Yeah, maybe." She skewered a piece of casserole with her knife and stared at it with an expression of intense loathing caused by her family's comments.
"I'm serious. Karen is still young and impressionable. Your fussiness with eating is what causes hers, so you shouldn't complain. After all, did the Jesus not once tell us not to accuse our neighbor because of the speck of dust clouding his eyes when we have a log in our own?"
"I wouldn't know. I don't read the Bible, remember?" The tension in the room, which had already been painful, now increased ten fold. Their father lifted the newspaper higher so that it completely shut him away from his family. Zack's turned his head towards his room, longing to run there. Karen suddenly found her casserole fascinating and proceeding to pick at it even more.
"Elizabeth!" her mother said sharply. "What were we just talking about?"
"Food?" she answered, deliberately ignoring the point.
"You know what I mean. I know you don't mean such things and I understand that this is just a stage in your life, but you shouldn't speak of such things, especially not in front of you siblings. You're the oldest and it is your job to be a positive role model."
"Why not?"
"Because to not accept God's love, the greatest gift we are given, is the worst thing we can do. I know that you have not turned away from Him and our just being childish. I know that this will pass. But for now I ask that you respect our beliefs until you come to acknowledge yours."
"This is not just a-"
"George, would you pass me the carrots, please? We should finish them tonight."
"Mother, I-"
"This discussion is over, Elizabeth," she said quietly. Her manner was calm enough, but there was a steel edge to her voice. "I will not have you imposing your false beliefs upon this family. You set a bad example far too frequently as it is and you need to take more responsibility for your actions."
"So, everything's my fault? What a surprise. Everything's always my fault."
"I didn't say that. Elizabeth, dear, you're being overly defensive."
"I am not! It's always like this. I'm always corrupting someone or ruining something or getting blamed for everything."
"Now you're being childish. If you want to throw a tantrum, you will have to go to your room."
"I am not!" she said, condemning herself with every word.
"Elizabeth, please calm down. You're being petulant again," her mother said. Elizabeth, who had been beginning to stand, deliberately sat back down. She folded her clenched hands in her lap, glowering at the family in bitter silence.
"Mother, please don't call me Elizabeth. You know I don't like that name. I prefer to be called just Liz now, okay?"
"Elizabeth is lovely name and you should be happy with it. I don't care what your friends call you, but in this house you will remain Elizabeth."
"Dad, can't you at least ask her not to call me that?" He lowered the newspaper ever so slightly once again.
"Do what your mother says," he said before returning his attention to the sports section. Elizabeth's knuckles grew noticeably whiter in their place under the table, but she withheld the retorts rising in her throat. She did not dare go against her father, even when he was in a relatively calm mood. Conversation ceased as it had done before.
Karen, once again bored with the lack of speech and not terribly enthralled with her food proceeded to deposit more of her casserole on the table. Elizabeth's eyes narrowed to slits upon seeing this but the rest of the family appeared not to notice her.
"Karen, don't do that. You want to grow up to be beautiful lady, right? Well, you can't do that if you don't eat your dinner," their mother said in exasperation.
"Mom, she's just trying to get me in trouble."
"God, Liz, just shut up, will you?" Zack said, rolling his eyes.
"You shut up!" she said.
"Both of you be quiet, I'm trying to read," their father said, ending the argument instantly. Karen, who had decided by now that it was time for the attention to return to her began to speak.
"I'm not going to grow up," she said calmly. "I'm going to die."
"Shit, if it wasn't enough to have a stupid big sister, I had to get a little one too," Zack muttered. Elizabeth sent him a poisonous look but said nothing. Their father for once bothered to place to newspaper on the table instead of merely lowering it several inches.
"You watch your language too. We don't use words like that in this house."
"Well, this sucks for me. I shouldn't have to put up with their bitching all the time."
"Zachary," their father said, his voice ominously low. "You will not use that kind of language here, understand? If I tell you not to, you will stop."
"But you do all the-"
"That is different."
"Yeah, whatever."
"This isn't funny. Apologize to your family this instant."
"What if I don't want to apologize?"
"Then you go straight to your room and stay there as long as it takes for you to mature." The teenager in question rolled his eyes heavenward.
"Yes, Zack. This is a good Christian household and we can't tolerate that disrespect here," his mother added, her voice as steely as her husbands.
"Fine with me." He stormed off to his room, abandoning his untouched dinner. Several seconds later they could hear the lyrics of his music through his closed door. Elizabeth's face displayed a faint; albeit somewhat twisted, smile of miserable satisfaction at not being the victim.
Another crash of thunder disrupted the subsequent quiet. Karen's eyes widened.
"Are we going to get struck by lightning?" she asked.
"No, dummy. It's too far away," Elizabeth said. Her tone was somewhat milder now, as the family was no longer positioned against her. Her mother glanced at her sharply.
"Elizabeth, don't call her that. She was only asking a question."
"Would we die if lightning hit us?" Karen asked.
"No," her mother responded. "God would not let one of his faithful servants die. He would protect us from harm so that we could continue to do his work and spread his word."
"Don't listen to her," Elizabeth said, her eyes beginning to acquire a wicked gleam as a trace of her dark humor returned to her. "She's only saying that so you won't get scared. If you got struck by lightning your heart would stop and you'd die. Or maybe you'd go up in flames." Karen's eyes widened even more in fascination.
"Really? You mean if we went out there we could be set on fire?"
"Yup, just like a candle stick," Elizabeth said solemnly, flicking her eyes in the direction of the dancing candle flames. Karen turned her attention to bright fires right before her face, clearly conjuring various gruesome scenarios in her mind.
"Would it take long?" Karen wanted to know.
"I dunno. I've never exactly tried it. But one of my friends tried to get hit once. She stood out on a hill under this big tree but she said-"
"That's enough, Elizabeth," their mother said nervously. "We're a good, Christian family and we don't discuss such things, especially at the dinner table."
"I'm not a good, Christian-" she began to protest. Her mother's look was so enraged that she bit her tongue though and contented herself with pouting.
"Hey, what was that?" Karen asked abruptly.
"What was what, brat?"
"Sorry...I don't see why it's such a big deal..."
"I heard a noise."
"What did it sound like?" her mother asked politely, relieved at the change of topics. Karen paused thoughtfully to consider the question.
"A burglar," she concluded after a moment's hesitation. "It was kind of a thumping sound. I think someone's trying to break in." Elizabeth snorted disdainfully.
"Yeah, like the opinion of a eight year old really matters."
"You can go to your room too if you don't behave," her mother said sharply. "If you can't at least say something polite, you don't deserve to speak. Now Karen, I'm sure that it wasn't a burglar. No one in their right mind would want to be out in this awful weather. I certainly wouldn't!"
"Maybe they were crazy," Karen whispered darkly, relishing the prospect. "Probably an ax murderer if I had to guess. I'll bet he's waiting until we're asleep so he can...what's that word...dismember us. Crazy people like to come out at night, don't they Liz?"
"I don't know. You should go ask your brother, he's closer to our resident ax murderer's sanity level," she said dryly.
"I'm warning you..." her mother began. Elizabeth glared daggers at her, her old resentment beginning to replace her black humor, but fell silent.
"There it is again," Karen said. This time no one said anything in reply as they had all heard the sound she spoke of. It was not terribly loud, but there had been the distinctive sound of something large and most likely soft striking the pavement. Karen's eyes grew wider still.
"I knew it, it's a serial killer. We're all going to die. His going to cut us up tomorrow all they'll find is our bloody remains. We're gonna die. We're gonna die. We're gonna-"
"Shut up, brat!" For once no one argued Elizabeth's harsh command. Everyone listened intently for the noise to repeat itself. The only sounds they heard were the rain slamming against the windows and Zach's strangely out of place music though. Just as everyone was about to heave a collective sigh of relieve, they heard a soft knock at the door.
"We're gonna die. We're gonna die," Karen whispered the phrase as if it were a mantra. Their mother let out an unnaturally shrill laugh.
"Oh, it must be one of the neighbors. Probably Donna. We have to remember to thank her for this lovely recipe, right? I'll bet she has something to tell me about the ladies luncheon next week." Trembling slightly, the now pallid woman stood up and walked unsteadily towards the door. Their father remained inert in his chair with the sports page blocking out any form of fear. The other two family members were far too curious to let such an opportunity pass by. They followed their shaken mother from a safe distance. Elizabeth attempted to appear bored while Karen eagerly recited her gory predictions of their fate under her breath.
The door opened, sending what seemed like several gallons of rainwater gushing in. Shielding her eyes from the assaulting weather, she peered out into the gloom. The neighborhood appeared to be deserted. She called out several times in her now high-pitched voice, the sound eerily like that of a shriek.
"It's a dead girl," Karen said in awe. At first her family members did not realize what she had meant. Upon looking down though they found the body of a teenage girl sprawled across their front step. Their mother let out a genuine shriek, stepping away from the person in horror.
She seemed to gather her badly frayed nerves together and stepped foreword to check the fallen girl's pulse.
"She's...she's alive. Oh, thank you Lord for saving this child. Thank you for this miracle," she said, her voice hushed. "Goodness! We'd better get the poor thing inside! Elizabeth, come help me!" For once, her daughter did not utter a protest. She came to the doorstep and together they dragged the limp adolescent out of the raging storm, shutting the door as they did.
"Are you sure she's alive?" Karen asked, sounding slightly disappointed. Elizabeth directed an truly venomous expression at her. They lifted the girl, who was surprisingly light, and placed her under a blanket on the couch.
Though she the girl's chest rose and fell as she breathed and her heart still beat, she certainly bore resemblance to a corpse. Her skin was a deathly shade of white from the cold, as if she had been chiseled from marble rather than flesh. She was cold to the touch too.
"I wonder where she came from. We'll have to find her parents; they're probably worried sick by now..." their mother mumbled nervously.
As Elizabeth stared at the sleeping girl, she could not help but think that it was doubtful that they would find her parents nearby. She was obviously not from their town. In fact, she did not really look like she came from any modern American town or city.
Her hair was raven-black and styled in two carefully curled pigtails tied with blue ribbons. As if that were not enough to make her appear out of place, she wore a dress that was practically an antique. It was white, adorned with blue ribbons and lace. The rain had made a mess of the otherwise beautiful garment, rendering the fabric translucent and causing it to sag. Were it not for the pitiful state of her attire and hair, she would have looked like a doll.
**She doesn't seem real,** Elizabeth thought. She felt the strange urge to reach out and touch her face, just to make sure that she was really there. In a world of MTV videos, blaring music, cold casserole and school assignments, this child-how old was she?-seemed out of place.
"We should let the poor girl sleep," their mother said. "She must be exhausted." Reluctantly, they left her lying on their couch, each half-wondering if she would be there when they returned or if she really was only a product of their imaginations.

More Ranting From the Author: Not a whole lot happened in this part, but it is only the beginning. Right now, I'm trying to let the audience get a feel for at least some of the characters. Sadly, I could only show them in one setting here so you can only see one facet of their personalities ;_;. It really doesn't do any of them justice, particularly Elizabeth, who behaves in an entirely different manner when in a different social setting.

By the way, Alice was originally inspired by Mana (for those of you who don't know, Mana was the leader/guitarist of the successful Japanese band Malice Mizer). Initially, I was tempted to make this almost an alternate reality fanfic and have Alice (I even considered naming her Mana instead) be a carbon copy of my idol. Fortunately, I backed out. I've written a lot of fanfiction and I'd like to do something else for a while. Alice remains her own person, though her taste in clothing and hairstyles are patterned after Mana's. Her personality is entirely unique and she happens to be one of my favorite characters in this piece. I had never intended her to have an enormous role, but she is quickly becoming a crucial character to the story and has developed in ways even I never anticipated.