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1995

Prologue

Andy sat at her desk, staring at her English teacher as she lectured about proper sentence structure. She could hardly wait until class ended so she could meet her friends for lunch. School food of course sucked, but she didn't care since she had money to buy a Philly cheesesteak after school. Not that she lived in Philadelphia. Nope. She lived in suburban Ohio, but it was okay. Safe enough. Fun enough. She had good friends, interesting teachers, parents who weren't divorced. And, even though she was only in middle school, her parents trusted her to walk home after school by a certain time or to call them if she was going to be really late. They gave her enough time to stop at the local sub shop or to stay at school for extra help from her teachers, not that she needed it. She was a smart girl, and she did not abuse their trust. Much.

She shot a smile toward her best friend, Lily, when she heard her name whispered. Looking down, she saw Lily kick a note over to her. As it slid to a stop near her feet, she bent to retrieve it, stopping suddenly as a feeling of fear washed over her. Sitting back up quickly, note forgotten, Andy swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. She gripped the far corners of her desk to brace herself for ...something. Squeezing so hard that her fingers turned white, Andy stared sightlessly straight ahead, seeing a large black phantom form in front of her eyes. It hovered before her, black holes for eyes and a wide open maw. Andy felt cold, terribly cold, and she held on even more tightly, causing her desk to shake as the phantom came closer. And closer. The coldness overwhelmed her, and she screamed, feeling her soul being sucked out of her, swallowed into that horrible, gaping, toothless mouth. She could vaguely hear people shouting in the background, but all she could see was black. All black. And she fell and fell and fell into those awful, bottomless eyes until she reached aching, blessed nothingness.