ANICA STORM & THE WAND OF TIME
BOOK EXCERPTS

 
 


Samples of Imagination

Sample of Heart Strings

Sample of Drama


First Fifty Pages Of Anica Storm & The Wand Of Time


 
 

                        SAMPLES OF IMAGINATION

“What are you looking for?” asked Anica.

“A mirror!” said Marcel who was frantically searching the walls.

“I have a mirror!” Rain said with a smile.

“Let me have it, please! I need to make a call!”

Marcel opened the mirror up. It's dripping with water but still intact. Marcel looks at Rain and shakes it.

“Mirror Mirror On the... Uh... In this compact thingy?”

There is no answer, only silence.

"Hold on." Rain says taking it out of Marcel's hand. She uses the long draping sleeve of Marcel's robe to rub the mirror and dry it off, making the silver reflective mirror shiny again. "Now try it."

"MIRROR MIRROR IN THIS COMPACT THINGY" Marcel spoke with authority.

A voice answered back through the mirror… “Thank you for calling Mirror Mirror on the Wall Inc. All of our mirrors are currently busy right now but if you would please hold, an agent will be with you in a few minutes.”

“ARRGHHH” Marcel says in an annoyed voice.

The On Hold Music starts playing REM’s its The End of the World as We Know It.

Rain bursts into laughter.

“It’s not funny!” Anica said annoyed at Rain.

“I’m sorry... it’s the irony of it.”

Marcel paces around impatiently and keeps looking at the mirror waiting for an agent to pick up. Finally after several minutes...

“This call maybe recorded for quality and training purposes”

“I know... I know” Marcel says impatiently.

“Hello my name is Rasphatalina - how may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Marcel Kindheart; I need the layout of this castle downloaded to this mirror please.”

“I’m sorry - only a supervisor can do that, can you wait one moment please while I escalate this call?”

“Yes, fine!”

The On hold music now plays What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.

“My Bat!!!” Rain says frantically. “I’ve got to go back for Noodles!!!”

“What about your compact mirror?” asks Anica.

“Hold on to it until I see you again.”

“Okay, be safe out there!” Anica says giving Rain a big hug.

“I will, I promise. Catch ya later.”

Rain waves as she heads back down the corridor back to the courtyard.

“I’ve got a supervisor on the line but before I transfer you, would you mind taking a short survey of this call and how my customer service was?”

“NO!” Marcel angrily grumbled.

“Okay... one moment.”

*CLICK*

Marcel’s heart sunk when he heard the call was disconnected instead of transferred. Then a voice came on several seconds later ‘If you would like to make a call, please say the magic words and try your call again.’

Marcel closed the compact mirror and was about to throw it against the wall

“Don’t!!! That’s Rain’s!” said Anica.

Marcel was furious at the situation and you could see it in his eyes.

“Why don’t we ask one of the castle guards for directions?”

“I doubt there would be any guards down here to ask while the castle’s being attacked.”

“But it doesn’t hurt to look... right?”

“Is this where people drink from?”

“Yes, this is where they get their water”

Having learned her lesson from last time, Anica pauses and asks

“Is it safe for me to drink it? I’m really thirsty.”

“Yes, it’s safe to drink. It’s from a natural spring under the castle. Most castles are built on natural springs so they always have fresh running water.

“That’s pretty smart,” said Anica as she cups her hands and drinks the water from her palm. It’s very cold to the touch but so refreshing!

“Slurrrppppp.... Aaaaaah!”

Marcel walks over and also drinks, dribbling some water in his long beard.

“I hate when I do that.”

A slow whispering voice asks from over Anica’s shoulder,

“Cannnnnnn Iiiiiiii haveeeeeee someeeeee, Pleaseeeee?”

On the dirty stonewall next to Anica, materializes a ghost of an old man, bound and hanging in rusted old shackles. His body is thin, frail and malnourished but also completely transparent. It’s clear he died hanging on the wall and is still a prisoner.

Anica screams and passes out in shock.

Anica wakes to Marcel gently tapping her cheeks. She sits up quickly and her eyes widen like a deer caught in headlights when she sees the ghost. Marcel calmly tells her “It’s okay, he won’t harm you. He’s a prisoner who died hanging from his arms.”

“If he’s a ghost, why doesn’t he leave? What’s he doing here? Can’t he drink his own water?”

“Sadly, he can’t. Whoever imprisoned him put a Soul Lock on his shackles. Even if his body died, which it did, his spirit could never escape the chains that hold him because of a magic spell cast at the time he was imprisoned. Somebody had a grudge against him.”

Anica imagined what that must be like, to be chained up in this creepy dungeon and then die only not to be able to leave this place. The very thought made Anica feel so bad.

Her eyes start to well up in sadness as she gets up and quickly scoops up water in her cupped hands. She raises it to the lips of the ghost who tries to drink it but it just fell to the floor right through him. Anica tries again and again but still no luck.

“It’s no use, Anica...”

“I’ve got to try...”

“He’s just a spirit who thinks he’s thirsty because when he died he probably was. It’s not like in your world where prisoners have rights. Here they are left to die and no one cares.”

“I care!”

“I know you do, Anica, and I admire that about you.”

After trying again and seeing that her efforts still didn’t help, she ran and hugged Marcel, crying because she felt bad for this ghost prisoner whom she didn’t even know.

“Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“It’s against the law; I can’t set this prisoner free.”

“Why not?”

“Because each castle has its own laws of the land and no one dare violate the king’s rules.”

Anica looked at the spirit, whose tired old-man eyes looked back in sadness, but didn’t say a word... he just watched.

“Hey... if anyone asks we can say they were just open.”

“Who’s going to ask, Anica?”

“That’s my point! No one cares what happens to him... unless he’s a child murderer or something.”

Anica goes up to the spirit and looks him face to face.

“You’re not a child murderer are you?” she asks with one eyebrow raised and a look on her face like ‘You better not be!’

The ghost speaks softly.... “Nooooo.”

“Why are you in here then?”

The ghost lowers his head down in shame and closes his eyes.

“Because I was ungrateful.”

“Ungrateful for what?”

“The protection the castle guards gave.”

“Why... what did or didn’t they do for you?”

 “They would always bully me and my family... every day they would come into my home and steal stuff off of the counter, eat our bread and harass my beautiful daughters... all in the name of the king. Every day for months and months... So one day I hit one with my house broom on the head...”

The ghost cracked a gentle smile on his face and had a look of pride for one small moment as he recalled his story.

“... but they over powered me and dragged me here and said I would never see the light of day again... nor my family.”

“Oooooh,” Anica frowned and her bottom lip came out in sadness.

The ghost smiled again...

“But he was wrong.”

“Why is he wrong?” Anica waited for an answer but he wouldn’t say anything.

She looked him in his eyes and tried to understand why. He then looked over her left shoulder. Standing in the distance about twenty feet away Anica and Marcel notice a transparent old woman with two lovely young daughters hovering silently a foot off the ground.

“They come visit me from time to time.” The ghost said proudly.

Anica stared at them and she could see the wall on the backside of their transparent ghostly bodies. They looked happy and peaceful, like a loving family waiting at an airport for their loved one to arrive.

Tears stream down both of Anica’s eyes as she watched them disappear into evanescence. Anica went to the shackles and tried to pry them open with all her strength but they were rusted shut. She could barely reach them they were so high up above the ghosts head. It was a little disconcerting when she would accidentally move her face into his head because she noticed the sensation was cold and tingly on her skin.

Marcel saw that Anica was determined to get them open even though her efforts were futile. He looked around to make sure no one was watching and took out his wand.

Releasius,” he said softly as he flicked his wrist.

The metal cuff shackles squeaked open instantly and dangled from the wall as the arms of the ghost fell down by his side from exhaustion. It took a few moments for him to get his strength back in his arms as it’s been years since he’s been able to move them.

Marcel approached the freed prisoner and looked at him as he was getting his motor skills in his arms to work again.

“Thank you, kind sir...”

“You’re welcome. What is your name?”

The spirit looked up at Marcel and tried really hard to remember but couldn’t.

“I don’t know.” He said confused, with a sad look in his eyes.

From behind them, a young woman’s voice answered cheerfully in an accent...

“His name is Papa!”

Anica turned and saw the family that the old man described, waiting with their arms wide open and smiling like they had won the lottery. The ghost passed through Anica and went to hug his family who gave him lots of loving and kisses before vanishing out of sight.

The only sound in the dungeon now is the running water from the stream, as Anica and Marcel stood there silent, looking where Papa last stood before vanishing. Neither of them moved or said a word for a good few minutes.

“Thank you for doing that. I know it’s against the rules and all.”

Marcel takes a seat and rests up.

“Well... it was the right thing to do.”

Anica walks over and puts her arms around him and hugs him for being a nice guy.


SAMPLE OF DRAMA

“Betcha can’t change to your element, Water Girl!” said Pyro tauntingly.

Rain squinted at Pryo and made a face at him, showing her disapproval.

Anica asks, “Can your body do that, Rain?”

“Do you mean can I go all liquid? Sure, but I don’t like to.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t like being a Water Elemental. I never ASKED to be this way, I just was.”

“But that’s so cool, what you can do!”

“What? Control Water? Whoopee. If I want to control water I can flush a toilet or turn on a sink.”

Anica was a little shocked at Rain’s answer... a Water Elemental who doesn’t like who she is. Anica didn’t push it, as she noticed it was not a comfortable subject for Rain.

Pyro looked at Anica. “What can you do, are you an Elemental too?”

“Me? Oh noooo. I don’t know what I can do... nothing much really.”

“You teleported and saved my life” said Rain.

“You Teleported?!?” asked Pyro.

Anica was caught in her words. She didn’t know how to answer.

“Yes, I did teleport, but it was on accident.”

“Accident my ass... you grabbed me and teleported me to safety when Noodles and I were about to be trampled by a stampede. YOU saved our lives... that was no accident,” said Rain.

“Where did you learn how to teleport?” asked Pyro.

“Nowhere really. I just started to do it. I try not to because I keep teleporting out of my clothes.”

Pyro smiles at the thought.

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“YES, that’s a BAD THING!” replied Anica.

Rain snickered and tried to not make it obvious.

“How do you call your Phoenix?”

“My Phoenix? Oh, that’s easy! I summon it!”

“Show me, please.”

“Okay, stand back,” said Pyro as he moved his arm from right to left, palm facing out. He then lowered his arm and then raised it high up quickly, causing flames to burn in a wide circle around him, charring the ground and everything on it. In a flash the flames disappear leaving little ashes and amber's floating upwards in the air like little fireflies, some still burning... then they pull together quickly like a magnet, forming the shape of a beautiful flaming bird. The Phoenix screeches loudly as it spreads its wings and rises to pick up Pyro on its back.

“Wow... See Rain, this is why I want to stay in this world!”

“Phhhht, so he can summon an oversized chicken. Big deal. I can control the weather just by thinking it.” said Rain.

“Are you jealous you can’t summon an animal?” asked Pryo.

“Do I look like I care? I’m not Aqua-man, I don’t summon animals.”

Pyro laughed a mighty laugh.

“Hahahaha... I like you, Shower Girl”

“My name is Rain...”

“I think I’ll call you Bloop Bloop instead,” taunted Pyro.

“Oh, yeah?”

Suddenly hundreds of gallons of water fell at once on top of Pryo and the Phoenix, washing away the bird and knocking Pryo on his butt. Any water on him quickly evaporated and sizzled quickly as he grew hotter in anger.

“Alright you two, you’ve made your point. Save it for later. I don’t have time to babysit you children. If you want to duke it out, do it when I’m not around,” commanded Anica.

Once again Rain & Pyro were instant enemies.

“I’ll talk to you later Anica,” said Pryo as he struggled to call another Phoenix because the ground was soaking wet. Eventually he did.

“See you later, Pyro” waved Anica.

Pyro flew off in a hurry, humiliated and disgruntled. When he was out of sight, Anica high-fived Rain and giggled like young girls as they walked back to the castle.




 FIRST FIFTY PAGES OF ANICA STORM

“911, what’s Your Emergency?”

“I’m being kidnapped, please help me!!!”

“Where are you located?”

“I’m in the backseat of a cab and I don’t know where he’s taking me.”

“Do you know the name of the person kidnapping you?”

“No I don’t, he’s just some random cab driver I called.”

“Do you know the name of the cab service?”

“No, I don't know - Just please help me!!!”

“Ma’am, help is on the way, I just need you to try and stay calm, okay?”

“Okay.”

“What is your name?”

“My name is Anica... Anica Storm.”

“Anica, please listen to me. Whatever you do, stay on the line and don’t hang up. Do you understand?”

“Yes Ma’am”

“We're triangulating your signal, so hang in there.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means we're searching the cell phone towers near you to find your phone. If we can find your phone signal, we can locate you on our computers so the police will know where you are.”

Anica is hunched down in the back seat of a small, European taxicab that is racing along an old country dirt road. A big smirk on the drivers face reveals his confidence because he's kidnapped, raped, and killed at least a dozen other women unfortunate enough to get in the back of his cab. He keeps glancing back through the rear view mirror at how beautiful Anica is, like she's some kind of trophy.

He loves the copper tones in her medium brown hair, how they contrast with her beautiful blue eyes. Right now they show fear and terror, just the way he likes it. He's driving erratically at dangerous speeds because he's not paying attention and two, because he's trying to get as much distance from anyone who may hear her screaming for help. That thought alone has him grinning from ear to ear that this one is another score.

Anica looks out the back window and see's nothing but a thick cloud of tan dust that's being stirred up by the car. There's so much noise from the car that she struggles to hear the operator's voice. She presses the phone hard against her ear and hears the 911 dispatcher cover up her microphone with her hand.

“Get me a supervisor, NOW!” Despite this effort, she can still hear the dispatcher's muffled voice so she continues to listen intently. Seconds later an authoritative male voice asks, “Is it the Serial Killer Cab Driver?”

“I believe it is. It sounds like he has another victim in his car, a young woman named Anica Storm.”

“How much longer before you lock onto her signal?” He asks in a concerned tone. Sounds of fast typing on a keyboard are heard before she answers.

“About three minutes.”

“Okay, keep her on the line. Let me know when you have it, I don't want this bastard to get away!”

Anica hears the hand come off the mic. Before the dispatcher can speak, she interrupts. “He's going to kill me, isn't he?!?”

“Anica, listen to me. We are going to find you! I promise, just try to be strong! We're coming.” The compassionate voice said.

The driver almost loses control of the car, causing Anica to be thrown around in the backseat like a rag doll, dropping the phone. She finds herself on the floorboard in an awkward position so she gets on her knees to better balance herself in the swerving car. Anica picks up the phone and is relieved to see the call is still connected. She puts it up to her ear and hears the dispatcher talk to her.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, I fell over, but I'm okay.”

'Thh hsss shiqrrrr eerrk' the signal comes in garbled and unrecognizable. She pulls the phone from her ear and sees the antenna bar on her phone is flashing the poor signal indicator. Instinctively Anica lifts it higher and hopes that she doesn't lose the signal. She peeks over the back seat, looking out the rear window hoping to see a police car or anyone, but all she sees is the same cloud of dust. The dispatcher comes back clear again.

“Anica, Can you give us a description of the cab driver? Tell us what he looks like.”

Anica peeks up from behind the seat and suddenly without warning the phone is snatched from her hands and is thrown out the driver’s side window!!!

Anica watches in horror as her phone spins and bounces several times, shattering into hundreds of little pieces before disappearing into the dust cloud left by the car. Anica reactively screams in desperation and fear as she slaps the back of the window over and over, cursing her bad luck. That phone was her only hope of survival and now it’s gone!

The serial killer cab driver rolls up his driver side window as he downshifts and revs the engine to drown out her screams. Reality sets in more firmly; as her imagination makes her paralyzed thinking about all the things he's going to do to her. She’s breathing so fast that she’s hyperventilating. In a last ditch effort, hoping this is just a bad dream, she pinches herself hard to awaken from this nightmare, but she's awake and this isn't a dream. He’s going to kill her… It’s just a matter of when.

CHAPTER 1
THIRTY SIX HOURS EARLIER

Anica loves bookstores and is a life-long avid reader. There’s just something about the smell of a book that brings a smile to her face. She doesn't know what it is, but whenever she enters any bookstore or library, she's instantly in heaven. If she could have her way, she'd live in one surrounded by all kinds of books - soft covers, hard covers, you name it. Since she can't live in a library or bookstore, she has the next best thing at home, a favorite chair in her bedroom she calls the Tardis.

She calls it that because when she's in it with a good book, it takes her to any time or place and on so many adventures. It's no surprise her favorite chair color is Tardis blue, with a fleece police box Tardis-design blankie and a pillow case with David Tennant on one side and Matt Smith on the other, depending on which one she wants to see.

Anica considers herself a super fan of the British Sci-fi show Doctor Who and sometimes wishes she could travel through time and space, meeting all kinds of creatures and getting in all kinds of trouble that usually can be solved by using a sonic screw driver (yes she has one) or just by using her wits.

At night, she looks out her window and wishes she would see the Tardis spinning in the night sky. As with all good reading chairs, her chair also has the usual prerequisite of food crumbs, candy wrappers, and loose change you'll find between the cushions of a much-loved seat.

However, Anica is about to go on a journey she's been saving up for over the past few years. She's saved up and bought tickets to go to Europe and has her bags all packed and is ready to go. She is miles away from home and her favorite chair at Portland International Airport in of all places, Powell's bookstore! She's with her lifelong best friend Michele, browsing the many shelves of books and magazines to help find something to pass the really long flight to get there. A good eighteen hours crammed into a tiny seat, alone, is not really anyone's idea of fun.

As they browse row after row of beautiful cherry oak bookshelves, Anica notices the aroma of fresh coffee brewing from somewhere nearby, pleasantly lingering on the air. Teasing her. She tries to ignore it, but she recognizes the aroma… it's her favorite Black Forest Mocha! The smell is emanating from across the way at her favorite coffee place called The Coffee People.

Anica was devastated when The Coffee People closed up all their shops, but one stayed open, forever thriving and treating all those who travel through Portland International Airport. They are the only ones who make her favorite coffee flavor just the way she likes it. She also loves the chocolate-covered coffee beans! The mere thought of one last cup before the flight is making her mouth water. Anica takes in the aroma with one deep inhale and lets out a pleasant sigh, a big grin on her face.

'How can I resist you?' She thinks to herself. 'Darn it... I don’t want you now because you’re gonna make me get up and go pee every five minutes... But, oh you smell SO good! I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!' She thinks playfully to herself. 'You’re evil! I'm just going to ignore you… La La La. See! It's working!'

She picks up a book that catches her eye and glances at the back cover. Her eyebrow lifts with intrigue and her bottom lip sticks out like a detective who's just stumbled upon a plot-twisting clue!

'Action, Escapes, Magic, Vampires, Were-Dragons, Time Travel and it's got Love and heart break too…  This could be interesting!' She thinks to herself.

“Hey, what do you think of this shirt?” Michelle asks, holding a brown souvenir shirt to her chest that says, Also, I can kill you with my brain!

“What brain?” Anica replies playfully.

“Shut up! I have a brain and you know it!”

Both girls laugh and push each other playfully. Anica’s attention goes back to the book in her hand. Michelle’s curiosity makes her peek over to see what book Anica is holding. “Whatcha' readin’?”

“Oh, it’s a novel I’m thinking of buying for my trip. I can’t decide between this and,” holding up a second selection, “this one called Heart Strings from Amanda Petrick, which also looks pretty interesting.”

“Well, why not get both?”

Anica smiles at that thought. “Good idea!”

“But I want to read it when you’re done, okay?”

“You still didn’t give back the other book you borrowed!” said Anica.

“That’s because it’s such a great book! I… uh… am kinda stuck on this one part.”

Anica thought for one moment and her eyes lit up in shock!

“You're not doing what I THINK you're doing… are you?”

“Me? Nooooo!” Michele blushes and frowns and her eyebrows express that she would never do that.

“Good, you better not!”

Michele has a sheepish grin on her face, like a kid busted stealing a cookie from a cookie jar.

“You ARE, aren't you?” Anica pushes Michele playfully, “I can't believe you. You're so bad!”

“Hey, I'm not the one who calls my “neck massager” Vera!”

“That's it… let’s go!” Anica playfully grabs Michele by the arm and leads her to the cash register, smiling. She knows she can't win that argument.

“Do you want to get some coffee?” asks Anica.

“Sure, if you're buying.”

“I guess… since it'll be the last time I see you in a few months.” Anica said, looking at Michelle while handing money to the cashier, who scans her books and gives her a receipt and puts her books in a plastic bag. The mood suddenly switches for Anica as she thinks about what she just said.

A few months… The thought of leaving her best friend is starting to sink in and is making Anica's eyes well up. She tries to hide it but Michele notices and instinctively responds by wrapping her arms around her, holding her tight. Anica has never been away this long from anyone and the thought is overwhelming.

“I’m going to miss you so much!” Michele said, still hugging her.

Tears start to fall hard as Anica replies back “You’re not even gone and already I’m missing you! How is that even possible?”

Michelle pulls back and looks Anica in the eyes.

“You know why silly, because the bond we have is so strong! We’re the best friends anyone could ever have and we will be forever! Nothing is ever going to change that and no little time apart is going to stop that. I'll still be here when you get back so don't you forget that!”

“I wish you could come with me. I hate flying alone.”

Michelle took both of Anica’s hands into her own and squeezes them tight.

“I’m going to miss you too silly goose. I so wish I could go but you know I can’t,” Michelle said with sincerity and a tear in her eye.

“You know with school and finals coming up, it’s just the timing is all wrong.”

“I know,” acknowledged Anica. “Damn school and bettering yourself!” Anica folds her arms and pouts her lips playfully, trying to be angry but still smiling.

“I don’t have to like it but I do understand and I'm proud of you for bettering yourself. I just want you all to myself, that's all.”

Michelle suddenly perks up like she always does when she gets a bright idea! Anica's smile gets really big at the look on Michele's face.

“Hey! Call me when you get there and we’ll talk on the phone for hours on end, just like when we lived next door to each other!”

“GOD I miss those days!” Anica smiles at how she and Michelle would talk about anything and everything.

“I remember on school nights when we used to stay up past 11 with the lights off, talking on the phone all night,” Michele replied, “Sometimes staying up ALL night into the next day and we still had to go to school!”

“Yeah, I remember because I kept getting in trouble in Mrs. Wentworth's class for falling asleep. It was your fault!”

“Oh, but we had so much fun!”

“Yeah it was.” Anica chuckled at the happy memories. They walk out of Powell's, heading over to The Coffee People where the bright red sign, black borders and white letters beckon. It has everything a coffee lover could ever want. They browse the menu as the overhead intercom clicks on.

Now boarding for flight 1971 non-stop to Europe, Gate C.”

Michelle looked at Anica for confirmation.

“I’m afraid that’s my call,” Anica said with a sad look on her face. “I didn't even get to have my coffee, damn it.” Anica's bottom lip comes out to pout.

They hug tightly one last time, not wanting to let go.

“Go on, don’t miss your flight or I'll never hear the end of it!” Michelle says as she hands over Anica's carry-on bag.

“Thanks for bringing me here. I love you so much! Talk to you soon?”

“Love you too. Yeah, call me when you get there so I know you're okay.”

“Even if it's late over there?”

“Doesn't matter what time, you know you can wake me up anytime.”

“Okay I will. Take care of yourself!”

“You too. I'll be waiting for your call and texts so don't forget!”

“I won't.”

Anica gets one last quick hug and then with tickets in hand, carry-on slung over her shoulder, she walks to the boarding lounge and hands her tickets to the flight attendant to be scanned.

She turns tearfully to wave one last time to Michele who waves back with a big supportive smile. She's given her ticket back so she turns and walks onto the Jetway leading to the plane, wiping at the steady trickle of tears.

'Be strong Anica, you can do this.' She thinks to herself.

As she walks on board, sounds of hissing are heard as the cabin pressure slowly increases as air is pumped into the plane through the air vents. Random conversations can be heard from passengers settling in for the long flight. Anica looks around and sees the overhead lights softly glowing, as the people in front of her are slowly starting to take their seats.

She uses the time it takes for the ones in front to get situated to do a little covert people watching. Some are texting away on their smart phones; others are reading paperback books or eBooks on their portable tablets.

People watching has always been one of her favorite pastimes. She makes her way down the isle towards the back of the plane where her seat is assigned. To her surprise, no one has sat in the other two empty seats next to hers so there’s no awkward maneuvering should she need to get up and use the restroom.

She checks her seat number with the ticket and is pleased that her seat is by the window. Since the middle or aisle seats haven’t been taken yet, Anica hopes no one else will sit in them so she’ll have room to stretch out. Of course that's wishful thinking, but one can hope. After putting her carry-on in the overhead bin, she takes a moment to take in all the sights and sounds of the plane. She hears the sounds of suitcases being opened, people talking amongst themselves, electronics beeping and seat trays being pushed up or pulled down.

Anica turns and tries to look out the window but the thin plastic window shade is pulled down. She lifts it up and looks out the window of the plane and is surprised to see how quickly the daylight is fading. The skies are darker and overcast as tiny drops of rain start to tap the outside of the window, slowly streaming down and changing the outside view to a mosaic of beautiful, bright colors.

She glances down and sees the marshaller wearing his huge earmuffs and waving his orange flashlights to the pilots. His movements are hypnotic and interesting to watch as his flash lights look like little orange light sabers. Anica looks back at the terminal windows to see if she can see Michele one last time, but can't. It's finally dawning on her that her dream of going to Europe for the first time is finally coming true. It's been several long years in the making with lots of pre-planning. While part of this makes her happy, she's also nervous and jittery inside.

She's never been away from home before, especially for so long with no family or friends. She can feel the butterflies in her stomach turning. This trip is a big deal for her, a new experience that is a little scary and exhilarating at the same time. Part of her wants to get up and leave, but it is already too late. Her bags are in the plane's cargo hold and the money is already spent. Like it or not, her journey has begun and there's no turning back. Anica fidgets and has second thoughts about leaving. She's about to get up when someone walks up and asks, “Excuse me. Is this seat taken?” 

CHAPTER 2
MARCUS

Anica turns and sees a tall, handsome man showing a beautiful smile. He's wearing a dark gray Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater that hugs every chiseled curve of his manly body. He's also wearing nice Khaki pants that match his sweater. His facial features are that of a European model with dark eyes, his short straight hair shiny and black, almost with an Adam Levine look that really works for him. Anica is spellbound as her jaw relaxes in awe of his handsomeness.

“I hope not...” she says not breaking her stare.

“Hello, my name is Marcus, but you can call me Mark.”

He extends his hand out to shake with a warm, friendly smile.

Anica places her hand into his and notices how smooth his hands are with such a nice grip, not to hard, not to soft. She keeps her hand in his as long as she can, not wanting to let go so she can savor his very gentle touch.

“Anica Storm, nice to meet you Mark!” she responds with a big friendly smile.

Mark checks the row number with the one on his ticket.

“Row 29 Seat B, I guess we're going to be sitting together for a while.”

“Oh darn.” Anica jokes as her eyes take in all of Mark's yumminess. He reaches up and opens the overhead compartment to stow his bag, and in doing so his shirt comes up a bit, revealing a peek at his lovely abs. Anica catches her breath as an unexpected wave of pleasure shoots through her body, making her quiver uncontrollably.

She grabs the armrest to brace herself, trying to regain her composure. She didn't expect the accidental show, but it brought a smile to her face with aftershocks lasting a good twenty seconds. Her eyes open wide at the incredible sensation that just occurred. 'Wow!!! What just happened?'

She shamelessly glances over some more at his body while he's preoccupied with settling in. Anica is making a mental note at how his face is rugged, yet smooth; his eyes also seem to express so much without even saying a single word. He's just so handsome that she could just look at him for hours and never grow bored. Even his masculine, yet gentle voice is soft on the ears. He can read a phone book and you wouldn't even notice. Her eyes follow his every move of his body as she looks in stunning fascination at how handsome Mark is. 'And to think… he's going to sit next to me!'

Anica closes her eyes momentarily to try and regain some semblance of herself, as she can't help but take in the smells of his soap, the cologne he uses. She's getting that tingly feeling again and it makes her shake her head up and down while smiling with her eyes closed. When she opens her eyes Mark's face is inches from her own, watching her in fascination.

“Aaaggghhh!” Anica pulls back instinctively. Mark laughs at Anica’s face turning bright red in embarrassment. Even though she's embarrassed from being caught off guard, she notices his laugh is infectious. She can't help but laugh too. Mark sits down in his seat next to her.

'Wow, this guy can't be real! He's just, what's the word… Perfect?' Anica thinks to herself. Maybe there's something, some deep secret he has... Maybe he lives with his mom? No… he's too well dressed. Maybe he’s a hit man? Nah, he’s too nice. There has to be something wrong with him. Maybe he's married! Look at his finger! Is there a ring? Oh please don't let there be a ring!'

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Mark says.

Anica looks at his ring finger and there's no sign of any ring, no tan line or rub line to show where one's been. Mark notices Anica is preoccupied with his left hand.

“What's so interesting about my hand?” asks Mark.

“Huh? Oh… I was just remembering how soft and gentle they are.”

Anica made that up but he seems to believe it. Mark smiles at Anica and asks, “Would you like to feel it again?”

Anica nods her head up and down several times. Mark raises his hand in front of her and parts his fingers. Anica wastes no time interlacing hers in his, squeezing them tight. They fit naturally in his as suddenly her body starts to quiver uncontrollably on the inside. Anica closes her eyes and smiles softly.

“You okay?”

Anica nods but doesn't say anything for about twenty seconds and then opens her eyes wide.

“What happened?” Mark asks.

“Heaven.” Anica said with a warm smile on her face. She sits back in her seat, still holding his hand as she collects herself.

“Do you want to know a secret?” Mark asks looking left and right to see if anyone else is listening. He leans closer towards her and whispers “Between you and me... It took me several passes before I could build up the courage to talk to you, much less sit down next to you.”

“You did? Why?” Anica asks with a bewildered look on her face.

“You have no idea how beautiful you are, do you?”

“No?”

“You are incredibly beautiful; you have no idea how lucky I feel just to be able to sit next to you.”

If Anica were a block of ice, she would have melted in her seat; it's the nicest compliment anyone has ever given her.

Mark continues, “There’s just something about you that is special... Unique. I can't put my finger on it.” Anica looks at him holding her hand.

“You know what I mean.” He smiles.

“You don't seem like all the other women and trust me, and that’s a good thing!”

Anica's face starts turning red again as she looks away, smiling, as she can’t believe such an incredible compliment could be coming from such an incredibly handsome guy.

“Thank you” she says with sincerity. In her mind there's an inner dialog about if she should say something sarcastic like 'Yeah right, you probably tell that to all the ladies,' but there's another part that is unfamiliar with how to respond to that.

'What if he's sincere and telling the truth? Don't blow this Anica, what ever you do, don't screw this one up! He's perfect and sweet and oh my god is he incredible eye candy! Michele would be so jealous! You totally deserve him...'

A sniping voice enters her head at this point, the voice of self-doubt.

'No you don't.'

'YES I do!'

'Look at him; He's out of your league…'

'But he likes me; that makes him fair game!'

*DING*

*DING*

The overhead signs flash twice as the pilot's voice comes over the speaker to greet the passengers. The plane jolts a little as it starts to leave the gate. The sound of the oxygen hisses louder as it's pressurizing the cabin. Anica can feel her ears pop as the engine turbines rev up and down a few times as the pilot makes his preflight checks. For now this is enough of a distraction to silence her thoughts. Her heart is beginning to beat faster and her breathing rate increases as the plane begins to taxi onto the runway. Mark feels Anica's anxiety by her gripping his hand tighter.

*DING* the fasten seatbelt light goes on.

They both let go long enough to buckle their seatbelts, but quickly resume holding hands. She looks out the cabin window one last time to see if she can see anything but can’t. The skies are too overcast and the evening darkness has settled in. Her eyes start to water as a tear slowly falls down her cheek. Mark notices and gives her a tissue from his pocket.

“Thank you,” she says wiping her tears with her right hand.

“Are you okay?” Mark asks concerned.

“No…” She says, trying to be strong, but the thought of being away from her best friend is just too much to hold back the tears wanting to come out. They stream down her cheek uncontrollably as Mark leans over and gives her a comforting hug, letting her cry on his shoulder. After a few minutes Anica regains her composure and reaches into her pocket to pull out her cell phone. The wallpaper on her screen is a photo of them both laughing and being goofy together, snapped from an arm's distance away.

“This is my best friend Michele. Already I miss her like crazy and we haven't even left the runway.”

“You two are very close, aren't you?”

“We're like sisters.”

“I take it this is your first time apart?”

“Yeah.” *Sniff*

“You’ll be back before you know it. Everything will be okay.”

The flight attendant came down the row making sure everyone has all electronic devices are turned off.

“Ma'am we need you to turn off your cell phone, just until we get in the air.”

Anica nods and holds down the power button, shutting it off. After the screen went dark, Anica continued to stare at it as if she could still see the wallpaper of them both.

“She’s battling breast cancer.”

“Oh No!” Mark sat up, looking at Anica and listening intently.

“I feel so guilty for leaving her. She just found out last week.”

Mark hugs her tighter. Anica rests her head on Marks chest as he caresses her.

“I’m so sorry to hear that!”

“She insisted I go, even though I wanted to stay and cancel. She said 'No, you go on! Have the journey of a lifetime!'

Anica sniffles into a tissue and wipes her nose before continuing.

“She knows I planned this trip a long time ago, working hard and saving every penny so I could go. Everything seems great in my world and then all of the sudden this comes along. I was like 'I'm not going' and she's all 'Yes you are!' I tried to convince her I wasn't but she's stubborn as a mule, more than I am. I never win arguments with her.”

“Did they say how bad her breast cancer is?”

“They say she's got stage 4 breast cancer.”

“I don’t know what that means?”

“It means that the outcome isn’t good. Let's just say there is no stage 5.”

“But there’s still hope, right?”

“There's always hope,” Anica says, “but my luck, God is going to take the only good thing I have in my life away and then I don't know what I'm going to do.”

“You need to hang onto that hope and be strong for her.” Mark says. “Like I said, you'll be back in no time! Your friend is right; you need to focus on enjoying your vacation.”

“I’m trying to, but it’s just the timing of it all. She starts radiation next week, and I’m not going to be there for her, and I feel so bad! She’s always been there for me.”

Mark gives her another tissue so she blows her nose a bit too gustily, and in a wave of embarrassment she sits up and hides her eyes in her hands. Anica peeks to see if she left snot on his chest.

She did.

'Way to go Anica, you just left your snot all over his expensive sweater! Eeeewww!' Anica then grabs a tissue and starts wiping at Mark's sweater.

“I am so sorry, here I am, being a sissy la-la, babbling about all my problems and you're probably like, 'What have I got myself into sitting next to some psycho chick,' right? But somehow I feel totally comfortable with you, to tell you all this, crying on your shoulder and even leaving my snot on you! Well I didn't mean to do that. Some impression I'm leaving, huh?”

Mark laughed.

“You’re wrong... I don't see a psycho chick or sissy la la. I see a compassionate and caring friend who would rather give up the world to be by her best friend's side. It's very honorable and noble of you to put others before yourself. Not too many people do that anymore and I'm glad you feel comfortable enough to share that with me, snot and all.”

Anica's frown turns into a smile.

“I also see a young woman whose about to embark on a fantastic journey to a far away place she's never been. Seeing amazing things, eating incredible food and who knows… Maybe even making a friend or two along the way? Does this sound right or am I way off?”

Anica smiled wider.

“Wow… You sure know what to say to make a woman feel better.”

She grasps his hand for a moment in an appreciative way.

“What about you? You married? Have a girlfriend?”

“I once did. She cheated on me with a coworker of mine and ran off with him.”

Anica leans back in disbelief.

“What? No way!!! What a... I’m sorry! I shouldn’t say that, but that just makes me mad! I can't believe someone would do that to a nice guy like you. I’ve known some people like that and it just makes me so furious... Grrrrrr!”

Mark smiles in appreciation of Anica caring about him.

“Thanks, but there's no need to get worked up. I try to live my life by the motto 'In life there are no mistakes. Only lessons.' This was a valuable lesson learned, even though it was a painful one.”

“Did you love her?”

“Did? I still do, even though I can't be with her.”

“Wait, you still LOVE her? Even though she cheated on you?”

“Yes, I will always love her because I gave her my heart but apparently it wasn't good enough and that's not my loss, it's hers. I'm at peace with myself because I've forgiven her and I've forgiven myself.”

“Even if she came crawling back, begging you for forgiveness?” asked Anica.

“Even if she came crawling back I couldn't be with her, because I can't trust and respect her. If I can't trust or respect you, I won't be in a relationship with you, period, no matter how much I love you. I learned long ago if you lose respect, forget it, it's gone forever.” said Mark.

“You're a lot stronger and wiser than I am. I don't think I could ever love my boyfriend if he cheated on me and ran away like that. NOT that I have a boyfriend or anything. I'm actually single at the moment… In case you were wondering.” said Anica trying to drop a discreet, subtle hint but is failing miserably.

“I'll make a note of that,” says Mark with a smirk on his face.

“Have YOU ever had your heart broken or been cheated on?” asked Mark.

“No... I’ve never been in a serious relationship with anyone, at least not yet. I’ve had boyfriends but most of them were too immature and didn’t know how to treat a lady. All they cared about was sex or gaming. Not that there's anything wrong with gaming… or sex, or gaming while having sex. I'm a gamer myself, but you have to make time for your sweetheart, do you know what I mean?” Anica asks, looking at Mark.

“Of course. You need to nurture and support both friendships and relationships on a consistent basis or they will die.”

“I agree. I've never let anyone close enough to break my heart, that way I’ll never get hurt or used.”

“Oh... So you’ve never been in love?” Mark’s face lights up with intrigue.

“Well, I’ve cared about people before but I’m not sure if it was love. You tell me, Mr. Love Doctor, how does one know if they're in love?” Anica repositions her body facing Mark so she can listen intently with a smile on her face.

“Well, when you're in love your feet never touch the ground because they will feel lighter than air… like walking on clouds. Also, you will find yourself constantly thinking about the other person... You can’t help it. Morning, day or night, they are always on your mind. When you talk about them, your face will light up and they will be your first waking thought and your last thought before you go to sleep.”

“Really? What about real life problems? You know, kids, work and all… Doesn’t that get in the way of love?”

“If its true love, nothing can get in the way of two people who love each other. No bullet, no sword, nothing can penetrate the hearts of two people meant to be together, and heaven forbid you get between two lovers trying to be with each other! When you’re both in love, you protect each other, fight for each other, help each other, succeed or even fail together, but in the end love prevails. No matter what life throws at you both, you'll be able to handle it because you're a team.”

Anica has one eyebrow raised.

“You’re not gay, are you?”

Mark bursts out laughing “No, why do you ask?”

“Because you seem to be in touch with your feelings, and are very knowledgeable, more than most guys I know. You also know how to dress, you smell good and in my experience when ever a guy is either too good to be true, they are either married, gay or hiding something.”

“I assure you, I am not married or gay, nor do I have anything to hide.”

“Then why aren’t you taken?”

“Are you always this forward?” Mark inquires.

“Only when I see something I like!”

“Oh, REALLY?” Mark crosses his arms together.

Just then the flight attendant comes by to check seatbelts.

“Please make sure your seatbelts are fastened securely.”

Mark nods to the attendant. “I look forward to hearing more about this over the next 18 hours”

Anica sits back in her chair and smiles confidently.

“We'll see.” Anica smirks playfully.

She reaches over and holds Mark’s hand again, their fingers interlacing naturally. The plane is now at the end of the runway and is cleared for take off. The pilot throttles the engines causing them to roar loudly as the plane accelerates down the runway, rapidly gaining speed. The G-force pushes them into their seats as Anica looks to her left, squeezing Mark's hand. He looks over at her and gives her a warm smile and a tighter squeeze.

Anica turns to her right and looks out the window, seeing lights blur from the buildings and cars being passed by at a high rate of speed. The plane shakes up and down for a few seconds as the plane pulls upwards, followed by a much quieter mechanical sound of the landing gear doors closing.

The plane is banking 45 degrees upwards into the night sky as things seem quieter now. Outside the window, grayish white clouds wisp by, blocking her view of the landscape below. Moisture streaks can be seen streaming from front to back as they climb higher and higher.

After about 10 minutes the plane levels out as the all clear *DING* can be heard. Moments later the attendants start to push their carts down the isle handing out drinks. The sound of soda cans tabs being popped open and the distinctive hissing can be heard from the front.

“You okay?” asks Mark.

“I think I'm going to be okay with you here next to me.” She smiles, squeezing his hand.

“I'm glad.”

During the long flight Anica and Mark open up to each other and talk about all kinds of things, sharing stories, likes and dislikes, getting to know each other better. Anica really likes Mark and is getting the impression that the feeling is mutual, which causes her to relax and enjoy her flight even more.

Through out the flight, Anica lifts the arm rest and snuggles close to him, resting her head on his shoulder for short naps or just to hear the rhythmic beat of his heart while he gently runs his fingers in her hair. They even share several gentle kisses.

'One can get used to this.' She thinks to herself, taking in a deep breath of contentment.

Anica never got around to reading her books, but it's with good reason. Here's this incredibly handsome, dare she say hot guy who is really nice, charming, and has a lot in common with her. Seventeen hours pass so quickly and now the plane is less than an hour away from landing. Part of her doesn't want it to end.

“Hard to believe it’s been 17 hours already,” Mark says.

“I know right... The time just flew by. No pun intended. Ha ha!”

Mark laughs.

“Ha Ha… You’re funny!”

Anica replies, “Looks aren’t everything.”

*DING* the fasten seatbelt sign is turned on and the pilot comes on the air to let everyone know they are ahead of schedule and will be landing soon.

“Awww. Can we go again?” Anica jokes.

“Knock yourself out. I'll be waiting for you back at the hotel.”

“Tsk… that would be no fun, not without you,” Anica comments. The sound of the landing gear doors opening can be heard as the plane makes a smooth landing on the runway. Moments later it comes to a complete stop at the terminal as the lights come on in the cabin. They wait until the crowd in the isle moves out before they get up out of their seats.

Mark, being the gentleman he is, brings Anica’s bag down for her and lets her walk in front of him. She holds his hand, looking back at him with a grin like she had just won the lottery. Soon they are out of the tight confines of the plane and inside the more spacious airport. Looking at them laughing and walking together, you'd never guess they've only known each other for less than a day. They head to the baggage claim area and wait for the bags to come out on the conveyor belt. Mark leans over and kisses Anica gently on the lips as she closes her eyes and savors the moment. She then hugs him as he wraps her in his manly arms. Never has she felt like she's belonged more than in her arms.

“Hey, I know this great little restaurant not far from where you’re at called 'La Louisianne.' It serves delicious European food and pastas. How about we meet there for dinner tonight, say 6 o’clock?”

“A second date?” Anica asks with a sly grin on her face.

“Oh, I don't know, are you ready to end this first one?” He says, pulling her into a kiss like lovers do. Anica grins and giggles playfully as they kiss passionately.

“I don't want any of this to end…ever!” Anica says looking him in the eye.

“Me neither. You're pretty awesome and a great kisser.”

“I was going to say the same about you mister.” Anica jokes.

“I'll text you and then later this evening we'll meet up and have dinner together. And if you're good, I'll take you to my place when we're done.”

“Can we skip dinner and just go to your place?” Anica asks.

'ANICA! I can’t believe you just let that slip!?!' She thinks to herself.

“Don't tempt me,” Mark jokes and smiles, playing off what he just heard.

“Hey, I almost realized I don't have your phone number or contact info in my phone!” Anica mentions.

“You're right, that would suck if you didn't show up. What's your number?”

“971-256-1343”

“Got it. I'll send you a test message real quick.”

*Zzzztttttt Zzzztttttt* Anica's phone vibrates with a new text from Mark.

“It works! Yay!!!”  Anica says with a big grin as she saves his number.

Mark's joy turns to sadness as he sees his bag coming around the corner. That means their time is almost up.

“Do you see your bag?” Mark asks.

“Yeah, mine's the one with the pink ribbon tied to the handle.”

Mark grabs it and lifts it off for her.

“Thank you, my good gentleman.” She says.

“Just don't forget to leave a tip,” Mark jokes.

“We'll see.” Anica smiles wickedly.

They walk toward the doors and several vacant cabs are parked with the drivers opening the door for them.

“May I take your bags sir?” One of the cab drivers asks. Mark hands him his bag that is taken and placed in the trunk.

“And you ma'am, will you be sharing the ride?”

Anica frowns that she won't be going with him, as much as she wants to.

“No, I need to be going to this address.” She hand the cab driver a slip of paper with her hotel's name and address. The driver hands it to the other cab driver in line who quickly loads her bag in the trunk and then gets in the car. Anica turns and faces Mark, wrapping her arms around his neck. He wraps both arms on her hips.

“I guess this is good bye, for now.” Anica says.

“Not good bye. See you later. Good bye means you're not seeing me again.”

Anica smiles. “You're right; I'll see you later this evening. Too bad we didn't book at the same hotel.”

“Something tells me if we did, we'd never get anything done.” Mark jokes.

Anica stands on her tiptoes so her lips can reach his. She gives him a soft, gentle kiss, not wanting to break the kiss for fear of forgetting how wonderful it feels. Mark responds by grabbing her body and pulling her close to him, embracing her passionately for several long minutes before one of the cab driver yells, “COME ON YOU TWO… GET A ROOM OR GET IN. I DON'T GOT ALL DAY”.

They part, both laughing and embarrassed.

They hug each other tight as Anica closes her eyes and cherishes the feeling of his big, manly arms embracing her. She stands there and watches Mark get in the cab, as he is driven away. Anica takes a deep breath and lets out a big sigh before getting into her cab.

“You on vacation?” asked the driver, making small talk.

'Vacation? What vacation? Oh yeah!' Anica remembers she's on vacation.

“Yeah, you can say that.” She says with a smile as she looks out the window.

*zittttttttt zitttttttt* *zittttttttt zittttttttt* her phone is vibrating in her purse. She reaches in and grabs it. She presses a button and is pleasantly surprised to see a text from Mark! It reads:

Hey beautiful, attached is the address of the restaurant we talked about. I had an incredibly wonderful time getting to know you and look forward to our dinner date tonight! Talk to you soon! *Muah* - Mark”

Anica’s face lights up again as she smiles ear-to-ear, texting him back.

“I’ll be there 6pm sharp! Don't be late! *Kisses!*”

CHAPTER 3
DINNER DATE

It isn’t long before Anica is at the hotel she is staying at. She's in line to check in, behind a young couple who are making out like crazy. The guy is tall and looks a little bit like Marcus, and Zachary Quinto rolled in one. The gal he's making out with is slender with long brown hair, sporting a leather jacket that has the letters Little Sins sewn onto it.

'Where have I heard that name before?' Anica thinks to herself.

The young couple moans and giggles as their hands wander all over.

'Sheesh, get a room! Wait a minute; they're already working on that. Hahaha! Silly me. I crack myself up sometimes.'

The woman in front of Anica backs up and bumps into her.

“Oh I'm so sorry!” She says, spinning around and then freezing in place like she just saw a ghost. “Wait, you look familiar... Don't I know you from somewhere?”

“I don't think so lady. I'm not from around here, and I’m from the U.S.”

“Me too! Wait, I DO know you! Aren't you Anica Storm?”

“How did you know that?” Anica asked bewildered.

“It's me, Sarah Bailey! We bumped into each other at the library back in Washington State! You were carrying a stack of books and I wasn't looking and we both dropped our books all over the floor.”

“Oh my GOSH... I remember! Wow of all the places!”

Anica and Sarah hug like old friends, bouncing up and down.

“Let me introduce my lover... David Carroll. David, Anica Storm.”

“Nice to meet you Anica,” he says with a warm smile.

“Likewise” She replies, shaking his hand politely.

“You checking in at this place too?” Sarah asks.

“Yep!”

“So are we! The band mates had to postpone one of their gigs so here we are!”

Sarah turns to the hotel clerk. “Can you put Anica in a room near ours?”

“One moment and I'll see what I can do,” The clerk types away on the keyboard.

“That won't be a problem... just let me know Anica if you're okay with me switching the room on your reservation.”

All eyes turn and look at Anica in hopes she'll say YES.

“Sure... Why not,” Anica answers. “I'm on vacation; I can use a little adventure!”

“Yay!” Sarah says, bouncing up and down, clapping her hands like a cheerleader.

“Is she always this happy?” Anica quietly asks David in his ear.

“I have no idea...”

The trio heads upstairs to their rooms, turning to go their separate ways to get settled before heading back out.

“We'll talk more later, Anica,” Sarah says as she slips into her room with David. Anica waves her hand in acknowledgement as she unlocks the door to her room. Once inside, she locks it and leans her back up against the door, taking a deep breath and looking at her spacious room. The room has several large windows with white see thru curtains and a big full size bed with a comforter begging to be laid on. She lets her bags fall to the floor as she flings her body onto the super comfy bed, feeling the soft, thick comforter and pillow top mattress as it springs up and down for a few seconds.

She looks around the room and admires the beautiful French Victorian décor carefully placed throughout the room. 'Wow, this place is beautiful.'

As she lies there, Anica keeps thinking about her upcoming dinner date with Mark. This is still 7 hours away and time now seems to drag on very slowly. Minute by minute, second by second. It's almost a cruel irony when you want to be with someone time speeds by but when you're apart, time drags on forever. Anica ponders while staring up at the ceiling. Then the insecurities start to creep in. Her thoughts and focus now go on the 'what ifs.'

'What if he sees me and doesn’t like my outfit? What if he stands me up? He wouldn't do that… He better not. What if he changes his mind? What if he sees me and thinks I'm ugly or fat? Nonsense! Don't think that way Anica! You're an attractive woman who's deserving of him… OMG, what will I wear?' She thinks to herself as she jumps out of bed, quickly throwing her big suitcase onto the bed. She tears through it like someone looking for a needle in a haystack as she tries to decide what to wear. She tosses several clothes combos across the comforter; a blouse and bottoms, skirts, shorts, and several different in-betweens, but none of them are to her liking.

Frustrated, she scoops them up all at once and throws them back in the suitcase. She stands there for a minute, thinking. She grabs her books she bought and tries to read but she can't focus. Her thoughts are on him and longing for Mark.

'What's wrong with me? I've never felt this way before. It's like he's constantly in my mind and thoughts.' She looks at the alarm clock on the table and time is dragging on. She tries to pass the time by doing random things but nothing seems to help. Her every thought is on this incredibly handsome man and the more she thinks of him, the more butterflies turn in her stomach. She's never longed for someone like this before and it's driving her crazy.

*Zzzzzttttttt* *Zzzzzzzttttt*

Anica bolts to her feet, grabbing the phone lightning fast to read Mark's incoming text but it's not him, it's from Michele.

'Hey you, did you have a good flight? How were the books you bought? Nothing exciting here, what I would give to be on an adventure like you're having! I'm going to bed soon, it's pretty late here, just wanted to send something out cuz I hadn't heard from you in a while. Hope you're doing well, call or text me in the morn' - love ya!'

Anica puts down the phone and lets out a long *sigh*

*Zzzzzttttttt* *Zzzzzzzttttt* another text message comes through and Anica gets excited that it might be Mark.

It's Michele again. It reads: P.S. Stay away from cute guys, you know how you are around them. You fall too hard and too quick and I would hate to see you get your heart broken, especially when you should be focusing on taking in the sights. I know you! LOL.

Anica smiles at how well her best friend knows her. She couldn't find it in her to tell Michele that she did just that and that he's really cute. She wants to but she knows she can't win an argument against her best friend so for now she'll wait on telling her.

*Yawn*

Out of nowhere a big yawn catches Anica by surprise.

'Goodness! Maybe I should take a nap. That will help pass the time.'

She undresses down to her usual sleepwear consisting of a long tee shirt, panties and socks because she loves the feel of the cotton sheets on her legs. Sometimes she likes to move her legs under the covers like a snow angel because the cool sheets feel good and slippery. Her mind doesn't take long to think about Mark. Her stomach is turning with butterflies at seeing him again. Anica stops for a second and listens…

Her room is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. It almost makes the voices in her head seem so much louder. Suddenly coming from the other side of the wall she hears *Squee - Pound* *Squee - Pound* *Squee - Pound* *Squee Squee Squee - Pound - Pound - Pound*

Anica looks up at the ceiling with her eyes wide open, a very annoyed look on her face.

'SERIOUSLY?'

She bangs on the wall. “What ever you two are doing, keep it down will ya?! I'm trying to sleep!”

Anica realized it's still early afternoon and that probably sounded silly. After a moment of silence, a muffled reply came from the other side of the wall.

“Sorry!” Followed by softer Squeeing of the bed. She doesn't want to know; all she wants is some peace and quiet so she can sleep.

It's quiet for about a minute, then a soft *Pound-Squee* can be heard, followed by a long silence as if they are waiting for a reaction. About 10 seconds later it happens again. *Pound-Squee-Pound* followed by silence.

Anica waits a few minutes before taking a deep breath and then throwing the covers off. She sits up annoyed and swings her legs over the side of the bed, pausing a moment. With one foot she hooks her pants towards herself. She pulls them back on in annoyance, and then opens the door and shuffles down the hall in her fuzzy socks like a professional ice skater on wooden floors. She makes her way downstairs and walks to the front desk to ask for her old room back. Several minutes later Anica returns with a new room key.

'Let's try this again, shall we?' She quietly thinks to herself as she passes the noisy room and squints at the door with contempt in her eyes. She transfers her stuff into the suitcase and drags it all down the hall to a much quieter room. Thankfully the décor still looks the same; the only difference is that the view is facing the front of the hotel and not the back, which is okay to her.

She unbuckles her pants and lets them fall to the floor as she climbs back into bed. Thankfully this bed is just as comfy as the last. Anica closes her eyes and starts drifting to sleep, smiling at the thought that when she wakes, she'll soon be in Mark's manly arms. All of the sudden her eyes shoot wide open as she realizes she hasn't set the alarm clock!

She quickly rolls over and sets it for 4pm. She double-checks that the AM/PM switch is correct and that the alarm is set to ON, it is.

'That should give me enough time to wake up and get ready,' Anica thinks to herself. She plops her head down in the fluffy pillow and quickly drifts off to sleep. It isn't long before the annoying alarm clock buzzes loudly.

*BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP*

Still with her eyes shut, she reaches over and hits the snooze before rolling back over. While the alarm didn't wake her, rolling her face into a pillow damp with drool instantly does!

Eeeewww! She moans, shifting away from the offending pillow, wiping at her face. She let out a big wake up yawn and sits on the edge of the bed, waiting for the rest of her body to wake up. She shakes her head back and forth, scratching her scalp with both hands because it feels good. Her hair stands up in different directions as a result.

She gets up and shuffles to the bathroom, where she turns the squeaky chrome handle to start the shower. The hissing sound of hot water tapping the bathtub floor forms a nice cloud of steam that rises, fogging up the mirror and bathroom. When it's the right water temperature she steps in with her back facing the showerhead, lost in the moment of pleasure, as the hot water feels good on her neck and shoulders. She stands there with her eyes closed, smiling that it's almost time to see him.

After about 15 minutes of getting cleaned up, she gets out of the shower and dries herself off. Like Mark had mentioned about being in love, Anica notices a little spring to her step which makes her feel giddy as she presses the play button on her music player to resume playing where her favorite song let off.

Anica is a big fan of the University of Oregon Men's Acapella Group, who sings a killer rendition of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, which just happens to be her favorite song in the whole world. She grabs her hair brush and starts singing into it like a microphone “Oh Oh Oooh Oh Oh Caught In A Bad Romance... Paparazzi!”

She wipes the fogged up mirror with her towel and brushes her hair, happy as can be. Then it dawns on her... She needs to call a cab now to pick her up, if she wants to be on time. On the table next to her bed is a welcome card from the hotel with important numbers on them. One of them is the number of the local taxi service for the area. So Anica quickly dials the number and the line just rings and rings.

'Come on...' Anica thinks to herself as she listens intently to each of the unanswered rings. She looks at her cell phone to make sure she dialed the right number. She did so she hangs up and tries again.

Still, the line rings and rings with no answer. When Anica taps the number in for the seventh time, she accidently presses the wrong number on the keypad but doesn't realize it. After a few rings, someone finally picks up.

“This is Luigi,” answers a thickly accented guy on the other end of the phone. Anica's voice rises in excitement.

“Hello Luigi! You're the taxi guy right?”

There's a long pause on the other end of the line.

“You need a ride?” asks Luigi.

“Yes! Yes I do, please!”

“Okay” he says with a wicked smile in his voice.

Anica gives the guy the information of her hotel, and her destination, unaware that this will be her last ride of her life.

“I'll be right over.” He says, hanging up the phone. He grabs his favorite butcher knife and looks at it with an evil grin on his face.

CHAPTER 4
Highway To Hell

Anica's heart begins to race and the butterflies grow more intense in her stomach as she hits the 'End' key on her phone. Anica is frantically triple checking that she has everything she needs to bring with her...

'Purse? Makeup? Phone? Keys? Money? Breath mint? Favorite book? Check!'

Anica lifts her underarm and takes a sniff. 'Check!'

She takes a deep breath of relief and lets it out with a big beaming smile. She is ready for her date! She keeps looking down the dusty roads from the window of her second story hotel room, hoping to see the taxicab.

As she waits, she appreciates the beauty of the scenery outside her window. She can clearly see the countryside, dotted with small pockets of forests for miles around. Old houses and farms scattered in between tree lines mix with green and gold fields of grass. The smell of fresh hay drifting through the open window is a welcome change for Anica, who breathes in deeply the lovely country air. In the distance she can hear a horse's hooves clopping as it walks, growing fainter and fainter.

All this is just icing on the cake for Anica, as she grew up a city girl, used to the noise and fast pace of urban society. Here, it was all relaxation and a much slower pace. A small European four-door car comes over the horizon and drives up to the hotel rather quickly. It stops suddenly, causing the dust cloud behind it to blur the car momentarily. Anica looks carefully and spots a makeshift sign in the dash with her name on it.

'That's him! He's here!'

Anica jumps up and runs to the mirror for one last check: everything looks good! She then grabs her purse and races downstairs to the front of the hotel. Luigi gets out of the car, towering over it like Andre the Giant. How he can fit in such a small car is a good question. Luigi walks around to the passenger side and opens the back door for Anica, smiling. It isn't the prettiest smile, but he is trying to be professional. Anica looks up at this European giant and feels positively small.

He looks like someone you wouldn't want to cross in an alley at night, standing about 7 feet tall and about 400 lbs. His eyes and hair are dark brown and his jaw is the size of a bear! She didn't notice that nowhere on the car did it say Taxi on it. Anica feels a moment's pause about getting into the makeshift cab, but she remembered what her dad always said about not judging a book by its cover! Daddies are always right and his wisdom has never let her down, so Anica gives Luigi the benefit of the doubt.

'After all, I am in Europe and maybe they do things differently here.'

She smiles politely up at the driver as she sits down and lets him close the door like a gentleman. He then walked around and gets in the driver’s seat. When he sits down, the whole car drops down by a few inches!

“Sorry,” he says in his thick European accent.

Anica is unable to take her eyes off of his huge hands that make the steering wheel look so tiny. As they take off Anica checks her watch and it says 5:00pm. She is glad that she still has an hour to be there, plenty of time.

'I wonder what Michele is doing? Maybe I should check in with her.'

Anica calls Michele's number. A prerecorded message plays

'The subscriber you are trying to reach is unavailable. Please check your number and try again. She hangs up and tries again, same message.

'I guess not. Oh well I'll try again later.'

She puts on her headphones and listens to her favorite music while enjoying the beautiful scenery passing by. After 20 minutes of driving Anica becomes curious about why they aren't there yet. She takes off her headphones and asks the driver “How much further?”

The driver keeps staring ahead and in his thick accent says only, “Soon.”

Anica wants to believe him but something in her gut tells her otherwise. She reaches into her purse and pulls out her cell phone, bringing up her GPS. Since she already typed in the address of the restaurant earlier, she is able to pull up the location where Mark is meeting her. Anica presses the 'current location' button to see where she's at and, to her horror, shows her moving in the opposite direction!

“Hey, you’re going the wrong way!” says Anica frantically to the driver, tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“I know where to go!” He replies in an angry and annoyed tone.

“I want to go to the La Louisianne restaurant; it's in the other direction!” Anica exclaims, reaching in her purse and pulling out a brochure she got from the airport that has the address clearly on it.

“Just sit there and be quiet!” Luigi commands in his thick accent. He guns the accelerator to make a point, causing the engine to rev louder as they reach dangerous speeds. Anica falls backwards in her seat as he starts driving erratically on the winding roads, sending a message that he doesn't give a damn about her.

The wheels squeal around the curves until they go off into the dirt, kicking up dust and debris, as he leaves the main road and heads down a dusty, country road. Anica turns and see's that this can't be good, causing her heart to race a mile a minute in fear. Anica knows that physically, she's no match to take on this big guy and as she looks at him, her imagination starts to visualize all the things he might do to her. This doesn't help her situation.

She remembers her cell phone, so she takes it back out, and fumbles to unlock the key guard. Her hands are trembling uncontrollably as she tries to remember the European equivalent of 911 but she can't remember. So she dials 911 on her phone in hopes that someone who's with the police will pick up. To her relief she hears a female voice come on the line.

“911, what’s Your Emergency?”

“I’m being kidnapped, please help me!!!”

“Where are you located?”

“I’m in the backseat of a cab and I don’t know where he’s taking me”

“Do you know the name of the person kidnapping you?”

“No I don’t, he’s just some random cab driver I called.”

“Do you know the name of the cab service?”

“No, I don't know - Just please help me!!!”

“Ma’am, help is on the way, I just need you to try and stay calm, okay?”

“Okay.”

“What is your name?”

“My name is Anica... Anica Storm.”

“Anica, please listen to me. Whatever you do, stay on the line and don’t hang up. Do you understand?”

“Yes Ma’am”

“We're triangulating your signal, so hang in there.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means we're searching the cell phone towers near you to find your phone. If we can find your phone signal, we can locate you on our computers so the police will know where you are.”

Anica looks out the back window and see's nothing but a thick cloud of tan dust that's being stirred up by the car. There's so much noise from the car that she struggles to hear the operator's voice. She presses the phone hard against her ear and hears the 911 dispatcher cover up her microphone with her hand.

“Get me a supervisor, NOW!” Despite this effort, she can still hear the dispatcher's muffled voice so she continues to listen intently. Seconds later an authoritative male voice asks, “Is it the Serial Killer Cab Driver?”

“I believe it is. It sounds like he has another victim in his car, a young woman named Anica Storm.”

“How much longer before you lock onto her signal?” He asks in a concerned tone. Sounds of fast typing on a keyboard are heard before she answers.

“About three minutes.”

“Okay, keep her on the line. Let me know when you have it, I don't want this bastard to get away!”

Anica hears the hand come off the mic. Before the dispatcher can speak, she interrupts. “He's going to kill me, isn't he?!?”

“Anica, listen to me. We are going to find you! I promise, just try to be strong! Can you do that for me?”

Anica lets out a terrified whimper “I'm trying…”

Tears stream down her cheeks. She doesn’t want to admit it but she has a feeling that the outcome isn’t going to be good as thoughts of her impending doom only makes it worse. 'What’s he going to do to me? Is he going to kill me? Torture? Rape me and then kill me? Oh God… I'm too young to die!'

Her hands tremble uncontrollably as she presses the phone harder against her ear, trying to hear over the sounds of gravel being kicked up against the metal undercarriage of the car. Her lips and chin tremble as she sniffles and wipes her nose on her sleeve. Her heart is beating so loud and quick that it feels like it’s going to jump out of her chest any minute. Her only comfort, if any, is that as long as the car keeps moving, she's fine. It's when the car stops that her imagination takes over, making things a lot worse then they are. Right now it's her worst enemy, along with every second ticking away to her inevitable doom.

“Hello?” Anica whimpers.

“I'm here Anica, hang in there. We're coming.” The compassionate voice said.

The driver almost loses control of the car, causing Anica to be thrown around in the backseat like a rag doll, dropping the phone. She finds herself on the floorboard in an awkward position so she gets on her knees to better balance herself in the swerving car. Anica picks up the phone and is relieved to see the call is still connected. She puts it up to her ear and hears the dispatcher talk to her.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, I fell over but I'm okay.”

'Thh hsss shiqrrrr eerrk' the signal comes in garbled and unrecognizable. She pulls the phone from her ear and sees the antenna bar on her phone is flashing the poor signal indicator. Instinctively Anica lifts it higher and hopes that she doesn't lose the signal. She peeks over the back seat, looking out the rear window hoping to see a police car or anyone, but all she sees is the same cloud of dust. The dispatcher comes back clear again.

“Anica, Can you give us a description of the cab driver? Tell us what he looks like.” She pulls herself together for a moment and tries to muster the courage to look. She doesn’t want to look but she knows she has to.

“He looks like someone from the show The Sopranos.”

“Okay, can you be more specific? Is there something about him that makes him stand out, like any visible scars or tattoos? Does he have any body piercings?”

Anica peeks again from behind the seat and gets a good description of him as he’s focusing on staying on the road.

“Um... He’s got a huge jaw line. The kind that looks like it can take several hits and not even faze him. He's got a big, kinda crooked nose. Looks like maybe it was once broken. Also squinty eyes, like someone staring in the sun.”

“You mean like Clint Eastwood squinty?” the dispatcher asks.

“Yeah, like that! Oh, his arms and hands are huge, very muscular!”

“You're doing great Anica, keep it up! What else do you see?”

“He’s got a tattoo of a heart with the words MOM inside it on his right arm. He’s wearing a dark flat cap. The kind gangsters wear from the 1930s. Also, a vest and dark pants. I can't really see anymore than that without climbing into the front seat with him.”

“Do you see a name posted on the visor or anywhere in the cab? Any kind of identification?”

Anica looks around but doesn’t see anything.

“No, just a bunch of trash and empty cigarette boxes on the dash.”

“Look out the window. Do you see any landmarks around you?”

“No, it's just a bunch of trees and back countryside.”

“Do you remember seeing any road signs that you passed? Do you see any now? Anica peeks up from behind the seat and looks out the back window.

Suddenly the phone is snatched from her hands and is thrown out the driver’s side window!

Anica watches in horror as her phone spins and bounces several times, shattering into hundreds of little pieces before disappearing into the dust cloud left by the car. Anica reactively screams in desperation and fear as she slaps the back of the window over and over, cursing her bad luck. That phone was her only hope of survival and now it’s gone!

Luigi rolls up his driver side window so no one can hear her cries for help as he floors the gas pedal. The loud rev of the engine roaring down the dirt road drowns Anica’s screaming. Reality sets in more firmly, and her imagination becomes her worst enemy. All the things he might do to her are becoming very real possibilities. She’s breathing so fast that she’s hyperventilating. She pinches herself hard to awaken from this nightmare but it’s all too real. She has no doubt he's going to kill her.

Anica sinks into her seat, panicking and trying to figure out what to do. The car is going too fast for her to jump out but if she doesn’t get out, he’s probably going to rape and kill her. Anica struggles for a few moments to build up the courage to open the door.

'Okay you can do this. Just tuck and roll. Open the door and jump out, tucking and rolling… You can do it!'

Anica lets out a yell as she reaches for the door handle. She pulls the latch but the latch doesn't open the door! She tries again and again frantically but the child safety switch is on. She tries the other door - same thing.

“Arrrrrggghhhhhhh!!!”

Hopelessness and desperation kick in as she beats on the window but it does no good. She gets on her back and kicks with her feet but it doesn't break the window. Her heart is thumping loud.

'Don't Give Up Anica… We're going to get out of this, we're gonna win!'

'No we're not, he's going to rape me and kill me and some farmer is going to find me naked and dead in his field.'

'SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! THINK! We're in a car… How do we stop a car? KEYS! GRAB THE KEYS!!!' Anica thinks to herself.

Her despair and fear turn quickly into anger as she builds up the courage to reach for the keys in the ignition. She waits for the right moment and reaches over the backseat and grabs the keys but just as quickly, he elbows her face hard, causing her to let go. Anica falls down in the back seat, holding her face in excruciating pain. She is momentarily stunned and in a world of hurt! Luigi had struck her hard, possibly breaking her nose.

'Mother of Jesus, Mercy, Fudge Packers – THAT HURTS!!!' Anica thinks to herself.

'See… I told you. Kiss your ass Goodbye ‘cause you’re a goner!’

'I’m not going to give up! God My Nose Hurts!!!'

Tears stream down her face and mix with the blood coming out of her nose. She tries to breathe through the pain and crying but it hurts BAD. She tries to focus her eyes, but they are tearing up from the pain. Anica has never been so terrified like this in her life. She lies helplessly in the back seat. 'It's over. Just give up and pray it ends quickly.'

'Don’t you give up Anica! You’re not a quitter! Michele wouldn’t give up on you, don’t you give up on her! Now suck it up, buttercup! ‘Anica thinks to herself. With new resolve, Anica sits up and regains her composure.

“I WON'T!” She says aloud and determined.

Barely able to breathe because her nose is clogged, she covers one nostril with her index finger and blows hard, expelling the yellow/green mucus and then does it again with the other side. She sniffs several times, now able to breathe clearly again with her nose opened up.

‘I can’t believe I did that. No wonder boys do it. Huh. Focus Anica!’

Her eyes wander around the car as she looks for anything that will give her an advantage. Without tipping off the driver to what’s going on in her head, Anica sees something that may be her last-ditch effort.

She watches the driver glance between the road and the rearview mirror as she waits for the road to curve ahead. As soon as he looks away, Anica reaches over the seat and grabs the emergency break, pulling up with all her might!!!

All four wheels lock up, sending the car into an uncontrollable skid as the road bends around a sharp corner. Luigi tries to regain control but it's too late: The car flips end over end into the air! The momentum is so violent that Anica is ejected through the back window, knocking her unconscious as her body lands in the grassy field of a nearby farm, several yards away from where the car finally skids to a stop, upside down.

One of the wheels is still spinning, more like wobbling and squeaking from being bent violently as debris and trash lay everywhere. The area looks like a small plane crash site, but without a plane. What's left of the car is crumpled into an unrecognizable ball of metal. Hissing sounds can be heard from fluid leaking on the scalding hot parts of the car. Anica barely regains conscious, struggling to lift her head out of the grassy mud to see if she's out of danger. All she can see is the car wheel spinning and a bunch of twisted metal. She lies back down, in a world of hurt.

Unexpectedly Anica is yanked up by the back of her shirt by the huge hand of Luigi, who was standing behind her. She starts screaming and thrashing as the driver tries to hold onto her. This angers him, and he slams her down on her back in a patch of grassy mud, knocking the wind out of her.

“I'm going to have fun killing you!” He says, as he glances up and down Anica's injured body. He starts to unzip his pants, at which point Anica musters up enough reserves to kick him in the balls, trying to catch him unaware. But it doesn't even faze him. Instead, it just angers him more. He puts one hand on her chest and pushes her deeper into the grassy mud, causing the mud to cover most of her head.

Anica gasps, trying to breathe, as he laughs at her futile struggle. She tries using both hands to move his enormous arm, but it does no good. She gasps one last breath as her head becomes submerged in the thick black mud.

'This is it… This is how I am going to die. Suffocating on mud. Great. Please be a quick death…'

Her hands struggled to reach for anything that might help her get free. For a brief moment, Anica feels something sharp and pointy in the mud but thoughts of dying drown out everything else. She can feel her air run out of her lungs and starts to pass out when suddenly she's pulled out from the mud by the front of her shirt, but Anica is unresponsive.

“You need CPR?” He asks Anica as her limp body dangles from the clothes he's holding onto. He lets her fall on the ground before he raises his leg and stomps on her stomach, causing Anica to spit up mud and blood violently. She gasps for air instinctively and takes several quick breaths. Anica cough uncontrollably, clutching her stomach.

“See, I'm HERO.”

Anica crawls on her hands and knees, trying to get up. Luigi kicks her like a football, causing her body to spin several times in the air before landing hard and rolling on its side.

*Cough - Cough* Anica spits blood, trying to clear her throat. She starts saying something between the coughing in a low tone of voice, but Luigi can't hear.

“What did you say?” Luigi asks in amusement. He picks her up by the back of the shirt and dangles her in the air like a kitten.

“Don't kill me? Why Not? It's Fun!”

He lets her fall to the ground where she coughs and spits up more. Anica again repeats what she just said in a low, soft voice. Luigi bends down enough to where his ear is lined up with her face, looking away with a smirk on his face.

“Speak up, I can't hear you!”

Without warning Anica plunges a piece of sharp metal from the car debris deep into Luigi's neck! *ARRRGGHHHH!!!*

Blood shoots out violently from the wound like a corked champagne bottle releasing all its contents. He roars loudly, trashing in pain before all 400 pounds of him tumbles face first to the ground like a mighty oak tree falling. He continues expelling dark red blood several feet off to the side with the metal rod still lodged in place.

Anica managed to get back up, wiping her own dirt and blood from her lips on her sleeve. “What part of DIE YOU BASTARD did you not understand?” she says defiantly, kicking him in his side but she only manages to stub her toe! *OW! OW! OW!*

'Real smart Anica, only you can get hurt by a dead guy!'

Her moment of victory quickly turns to fear when she notices that something is still moving underneath his shirt. She looks closer and see's something under his clothes is struggling to get out. Anica backs away more frightened then ever when Luigi's shirt tears violently open and two dark dragon-like wings start flapping really fast in all directions. Anica stumbles backwards in disbelief as the wingspan makes up a good 10 feet across, very evil looking. The wings continue to flap for a minute till they go lifeless, lying fully spread out on either side of him.

The pool of blood on the ground next to the body starts to ripple violently as it begins glowing and sparkling like thousands of diamonds reflecting sunlight. The liquid begins to rise upwards, forming a feminine humanoid shape that rises 5 feet tall before solidifying. Two sparkly fairy wings unwrap from the backside and fully extend outwards, flapping gently against themselves. Anica watches in awe and fear, as she's not sure what to expect next.

The naked winged creature opens its eyes and looks left and right before fixing its gaze on Anica. Anica starts crawling backwards on her hands and legs out of fear. The creature extends its arm towards Anica, pointing all four fingers straight up, as if motioning to stop.

Anica freezes in place and complies, not wanting to cause any trouble.

The creature tilts her head to the side as if studying Anica and then looks down at the 400-pound dead body from which it was released. It then stares back at Anica, almost with a proud look on its face. It begins to speak in a beautiful language, but Anica has no clue what's being said. It walks over and sees a bad cut on Anica's arm. The creature reaches for it but Anica instinctively pulls away, unsure what she's going to do.

The creature understands and respects her fear so she shows Anica both her palms facing up and gestures Anica do the same. When she does, the creature slowly moves both of her sparkling wings in front of her, towards Anica's open palms. They starts to flutter, causing fairy dust to collect into her hands, enough for two handfuls. The creature demonstrates rubbing her arm and gestures for Anica to do the same.

Anica rubs it on her wound and instantly notices a tingly, almost ticklish feeling on her arm as the dust sparkles brightly like it's doing something.

The creature then gestures for Anica to blow the dust off her arm.

Anica takes in a deep breath and blows as much as she can away, creating a cloud of glittering light that's pretty to look at. After Anica watches the dust float down, she looks at on her arm and is surprised it's completely gone!!! She reaches on her arm and feels her skin, squeezing and pinching… there's no trace of any injury.

Anica smiles at the results.

“Thank you, whatever you are.”

The creature closes her eyes in content. The moment is interrupted when several hundred feet away an elderly couple approaches to investigate the car crash they heard. The creature starts to panic and instantly dives into Anica's body, dissolving completely into her skin. Anica passes out instantly! The elderly man runs up to Anica to check on her and finds her unresponsive, but alive.

“Help me get her into the house,” he tells his wife. They take her inside their home and upstairs to a guest bedroom where they leave her to rest, safe from any harm and the elements.

CHAPTER 5:
 LONNIE & R'DELL'S HOUSE

Anica sleeps through the night, peacefully till mid-morning when suddenly she shoots up in the bed, screaming like she just had a bad nightmare. She looks around, unfamiliar with where she is and is panicky.

'Where Am I? Did I have a bad dream? Am I still dreaming? Am I wearing Pajamas? Who wears Pajamas anymore? This must be a dream… Oh my God, who dressed me?' Anica notices she was wearing pajamas that old ladies usually wear which confuses her even more. 'Don't tell me I'm in a nursing home! Oh please don’t be a nursing home! Wait a minute. Why would I be in a nursing home? Did I have too much to drink last night? I must have… explains the fuzziness.'

Anica catches herself making facial expressions as she ponders these thoughts.

'I really need to stop making these faces...'

Anica sees that she is in a guest bedroom that is very warm and cozy looking. There is a gentle knock at the door, with a kind voice of an old lady who's checking on her. She asks if she can come in and Anica invites her in. The old lady sits down on the edge of the bed and looks at Anica with a gentle, angelic smile.

“How you feeling” she asks.

Anica looks at the lady with a puzzled expression, still trying to remember what happened. Everything is still a little fuzzy.

“I don't know yet, I am still not awake. Where am I?”

“You're in our home.”

“This isn't a nursing home is it?”

The old lady laughs, amused. “Oh dear, heavens no. You must have hit your head harder than we thought.”

“We?”

“My husband and I. We rescued you and brought you inside yesterday.” She says with a soft angelic voice, the kind that warms the heart with assurance. The old man walks up to the bedroom door and stops at the threshold, watching quietly.

“Thank you.” Anica says.

“You're welcome. My name is R'dell, and this is my husband Lonnie.”

“My name is Anica.”

“Well Anica, would you like some fresh coffee and breakfast? I've got it ready downstairs.”

“Yes, I would love some, thank you.”

“Well, it'll be waiting for you when you're ready. I'll fix you a plate of eggs, bacon and toast. Do you take cream and sugar with your coffee?”

“Yes please.”

“Wow,” Lonnie says, “You're a polite young woman. I don't see that as much anymore.”

“Well my parents raised me to have good manners.”

“Don't lose it! It's very refreshing to see.” Lonnie says in a friendly, kind voice.

“Why don't I remember what happened night?” Anica asks.

R'dell isn't sure what to say, so she asks, “What's the last thing you remember?”

Anica thinks for a moment and then answers, “I was getting ready to go somewhere and ...um...” She struggles to remember past that point.

“It's all a blur to me. If you hand me my phone, I'll be able to tell you.”

R'dell and Lonnie look at each other before saying anything.

“We didn't find a phone on you when we found you,” R'dell says, holding Anica's hand gently.

“Found?” Anica asks, looking at R'dell in confusion.

“Yes dear, you were in a car accident. The driver was killed but thankfully you survived. It was a good thing we got to you in time.”

“Where did this happen?” Anica asks.

R'dell and Lonnie walk over to the window.

“Come take a look…”

Anica slips on a robe and ties the belt as she walks over to the window.

“See that clearing just beyond those trees? Just to the left of that, that's where we found you, lying in a soft patch of grass and mud.” Lonnie says.

“We carried you home, and R'dell cleaned you up and tended to your wounds,” Lonnie continued. “Boy, you were out like a light!”

Anica examines her body, looking for any scratches or bruises, but there are none.

“If I was in a car accident, shouldn't I have a scratch or scar to prove it?”

“We think you were thrown from the car and landed in a soft patch of grass,” R'dell says with a warm smile.

Lonnie adds “Lucky you, R'dell used to be a nurse. She cleaned you up and looked you over… not one scratch or bump. You didn't even flinch one bit. You must have been either really tired or sipping one too many from the bottle.” He says jokingly.

R'dell gives Lonnie a disapproving frown and Lonnie says, “What?”

“No I didn't drink anything. That I'm pretty sure of, I just don't remember.”

Anica's stomach grumbles loud enough that R'dell and Lonnie hear it.

“Sounds like someone's hungry,” Lonnie says.

“I could sure go for some fresh bacon and eggs. You said there’s coffee too right?

“Yes there is.”

“Well, you don't have to twist my arm, you had me at Bacon!” Anica jokes as she gets up out of bed.

She follows Lonnie and R'dell downstairs and sits at a large round table that has a beautiful Lazy-Susan marble centerpiece. On it is a cream and sugar service with a yellow flower centerpiece. She scoots her seat forward and waits patiently as R'dell fixes her a plate from the stove.

Anica takes the opportunity to look around and get a feel for the house she's in. It's a cottage style home that makes her feel safe and cozy, almost too cozy. It's very clean, with lots of knick-knacks, oddball trinkets and souvenirs blending together nicely, each in its proper place. The cabinets have a glass window that allows you to see the many coffee cups they have, as well as other dishes they are proud to display. The drawers have old-fashioned knobs and the sink has a garden window with a stunning view outside. Anica sees a large number of family photos, among them a younger looking Lonnie & R'dell. He's in a military uniform and she's in a waitress outfit.

“Is that photo of the both of you?”

“R'dell glances at it and smiles while bringing the food over to the table.

“Yeah, that was me when I was young and not-so-heavy, Lonnie was also in the service at the time.”

“It's a great photo of you two. You guys look so happy and in love.”

“We were and we still are… 30 years and counting.” Lonnie says.

“Wow… Congrats you guys! What's your secret for staying together?” Anica asks.

“Do you really want to know?” Lonnie challenges Anica.

“Yes, do tell, please!”

“Two Words,” He says, whispering in a low voice so R'dell doesn’t hear.

“Yes, Dear.”

Anica burst into laughter “Hahahaha! Oh My Gosh that's so adorable.”

“Do I really want to know?” R'dell asks.

“I told her Beer and Football!”

R'dell rolls her eyes “Yeah, right.

“I'm kidding, I'm kidding! It is two words and they are True Love. That's the secret to a long successful marriage.”

“Aww that's so sweet!” Anica almost melts at how nice that makes her feel. Anica's hands are wrapped around the outside of a coffee cup, savoring the warmth emanating from her hot coffee as she takes little sips to keep from burning her tongue.

“Good save there mister!” R'dell says.

“Otherwise I would have to share MY two words.”

“Yeah, and what words would they be?”

“No Nookie!”

Anica is caught off guard by the remark, spitting coffee out of her mouth as she bursts out in laughter.

“Oh my God, I'm so sorry! You guys… Unbelievable! I hope I'm as happy and in love as you two are. It's so adorable.” She says, trying to wipe up her mess.

R'dell brings a damp warm rag for Anica to clean up with, grinning. Anica resumes finishing up her plate until there is nothing left.

“My, you were hungry” R'dell says as she picks up the finished plate. “Would you like some more?”

“Yes please, it was delicious!”

Hearing those words puts a smile on R'dell's face and gives her a feeling of accomplishment as she serves up a few more pancakes.

“By chance, did you find any of my belongings?” Wonders Anica.

“I'm sorry, we didn't. Lonnie went back looking for your wallet or purse but had no luck finding it.”

“How weird.” Anica's face turns from hopefulness to disappointment, but she gives a half-hearted smile to try to cover it up.

“What?” R'dell asks.

“I'm still trying to remember everything that happened but can't. I was supposedly in a car accident yet I don't have any scratch marks nor any evidence of there being a car accident. My wallet, phone and purse are all gone and for some reason the name Mark keeps popping up in my head but I don't remember any Mark. Sorry, this is all unnerving and I hate it.”

“Maybe he's your husband or boyfriend?”

“No, I'm pretty sure I'm not married and there aren't many guys who would date me because I'm a little awkward, socially.”

R'dell and Lonnie look at each other like there's something to say but they're afraid to say it.

“Hey, what are your thoughts about Vampires, Werewolves and Fairies?” R'dell asks.

Anica takes another bite of her food and waits for a second to clear her throat before answering. 'Why are they asking about this? I knew it, these people are into some freaky stuff, probably believe in government conspiracies, I bet you anything!'

“I think they make great campfire stories. In fact, they make for great reading! Anne Rice just happens to be one of my favorite authors. Why do you ask?”

Anica then takes a sip from her coffee, waiting for an answer.

“What if I were to say they are real?” R'dell asks.

'HA! I knew it.' Anica thinks to herself but remains calm.

Anica smiles. “I’d say you’ve lost your marbles.”

There is a pause for a moment where no one says anything.

'This is all probably a practical joke. I bet you anything there's a camera filming me.'

“Am I on camera? Because this would all make sense, then.” says Anica, looking around for a hidden camera.

“Would you believe me if I said they are real?”

“No, because I don't believe in any of this mumbo jumbo stuff.”

“Honey, some things exist, whether you believe in them or not.” R'dell says with a serious face.

Anica sarcastically replies, “Really? So you're telling me... Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are all real?”

R'dell answers, “Not exactly.”

Lonnie chimes in, “The Tooth Fairy is!”

R'dell elbows him to shut up.

“So is Santa...” Lonnie mumbles under his voice.

'I knew this was all too good to be true. Damn it Anica, you did it again! Why's everyone I meet crazy, on drugs or want to take advantage of me? I'm so sick of it!'

Anica wipes her mouth, and is about to get up when R'dell confesses.

“You were in a car accident because a Dark Fae was trying to kill you and somehow you managed to escape. We heard the crash and came running out, we saw he was trying to kill you but you stabbed him in self-defense and down he went.” R'dell says in a rush.

“Okay, so now you're saying I was in a car accident and then a guy tried to kill me, but I killed him, but he was no ordinary guy, he was a dark Gay?”

Lonnie corrected her. “Fae, it means Fairy. When you kill a Fae, you absorb their magical abilities. It doesn’t mean you know how to use those abilities; they're just there until you learn how to develop them. But make no mistake: they're there in you now.” Lonnie says.

'Okay Anica, get out of here NOW! Just walk away.'

Anica gets up quickly, pushing her chair back hard.

“Look, I really appreciate everything you've done for me, but I've got to get going.”

“Anica, please wait…” R'dell asks as she watches Anica ignore her request and just walks upstairs, slamming the door behind her.

'Okay pull yourself together!' She thinks to herself while examining herself in a mirror. “This is all a bad dream. I'm still dreaming... Wake up Anica... Wake up!”

“You're not dreaming,” a disembodied male voice says.

“Who said that?!?” Anica asks as she spins around and presses her back up against the wall. Scanning the room she can't see anyone else, which unnerves her even more. She begins searching for hidden microphones and cameras.

“Okay, now I know I'm on one of those reality TV shows. HAHA, very funny! Michelle, did you set me up to this? Where's the camera? You got me, come out now.”

Anica looks for anything that a camera could be hidden in.

“It’s just me,” the disembodied voice answers back.

“Who’s 'Me'?” Anica asks, focusing in on where the voice is coming from.

“It's me, you know... The monster under the bed.”


CHAPTER 6
BOBAHRALLICKA
(Pronounced Bob-ah-ral-lick-ka)

“There’s no such thing as monsters!” Anica replies with certainty in her voice.

“That’s what I keep telling people but no one believes me!” The disembodied voice says. Anica notices the voice is coming from under the bed so she gets down on her knees and peeks under the bed. Anica sees two glowing eyes that seem to float in the darkness.

“Hello!” The voice says in a friendly tone. “I'm Bobahrallicka”

Anica lets forth a loud scream and runs back out of the room, plunging down the stairs in a frenzy.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” R’dell asks as she appears back in the kitchen.

“There’s A MONSTER.... under my bed!” Anica is trying to talk and catch her breath at the same time.

R’dell laughs, amused. “That’s not really a monster, sweetie. That’s our friend, Bobahrallicka. He’s called the monster that lives under the bed or in your closet by many children and parents, but if you take the time to really know him, he’s such a sweetheart.”

“Okay, this must all be one sick joke,” says Anica, unamused.

R'dell reluctantly responds. “Honey, there's something I want to tell you. Some things you need to know.” She pulls the out chair next to her, beckoning the young lady to sit down, and Anica does so out of politeness.

“All I ask is you keep an open mind while I tell you this, okay?” R'dell asks in a sincere tone.

“What’s next? Are you going to tell me that Vampires exist?”

R’dell looked at Lonnie, unsure what to say but her silence pretty much answered her question.

“Oh No… Please tell me Vampires don't sparkle” Anica pleads.

Lonnie nearly falls out of his chair from laughing so hard.

“That's funny... I gotta remember that one.” Lonnie says with tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.

“No honey... They don't sparkle, but they do exist!” R'dell replies.

“So do Fairies, Were's, Shape shifters, Elementals and so many other things.”

Anica stands up quickly and pushes in her chair.

“Okay, thanks for everything but I’ve got to go.”

“You don't believe me do you?” Asks R'dell.

“That you’re crazy? Uh, Yeah.”

“Here… Take a look and I'll prove it to you!” R'dell says to Anica, pointing at the cup of creamer on the Lazy Susan. R'dell then waves her fingers over the container, and the milk inside starts to ripple in little waves. Anica watches with a skeptical eye, unimpressed.

“Watch!” R'dell says softly with a confident smile.

Seconds after she says that, little cream-colored hands grab onto the edge of the cup, followed by little arms as a tiny woman pulls herself up onto the edge of the creamer. She has long slender legs and arms; a fully formed woman in miniature. She smiles and speaks in a language that Anica has never heard, but it is very pleasant sounding to the ears. R'dell opens her hand on the table, palm up, and the little woman gets out of the cup and moves to sit in R'dell's hand like they have done this before. She brings her hand up so the tiny creature is at eye-level with her.

“Hello my little friend,” R'dell says with a smile, looking at the little white creature. “I want you to meet Anica.”

Anica's eyes are wide open and her jaw is on the table in disbelief.

R'dell lowers her hand and the little figure steps down and walks to Anica's end of the table, leaving a trail of milky footprints behind her. She speaks to Anica as if introducing herself, making a curtsey. Her body morphs a dress that stretches out as she bends. The creature extends her hand to shake but Anica, still in shock at what she was seeing, doesn't register it. The creature morphs her whole body into the shape of an extended hand, hoping that Anica will shake it. Anica still doesn't comprehend what the creature is trying to do.

Then the creature splits into two smaller versions of herself and shakes hands. After performing this pantomime, both of them look up at Anica, waiting for a response. Anica comes out of her shock, realizing what the creature is doing and feeling dumb as she extends her finger out to shake. The creature’s morphs back into one person, happily shaking Anica's finger.

“Put your hand down on the table, palm side up.” R'dell instructs.

Anica puts her hand down on the table like R'dell did and the creature walks over and sits on it. Anica moves her hand up to her face to get a closer look and, to her surprise, the little creature moves her hand from left to right across her upper lip, leaving a little milk mustache. Suddenly it giggles while pointing at it, talking in her strange language. She can feel the wetness across the top of her lip so she uses her tongue to lick it off, and realizes what she is doing. She then smiles as the little creature signals for Anica to move her face closer, which she does. The little creature gives her a milky kiss on the cheek and then jumps off her hand and back into the creamer cup, returning to a liquid state.

“Wow…”Anica is slack-jawed.

“I will never be able to drink milk again.”

R'dell and Lonnie laugh.

“Now do you believe me?” R'dell asks.

“You've got my attention, but seriously, how did you do that?”

“Magic!” R'dell answers with a warm smile.

“There are all kinds of wondrous and magical things that can't be explained but just are. Some things are incredible while others are also very frightening. But just remember this: in the nature of things, everything is balanced out. When I asked you about what you thought of Vampires, Werewolves & Fairies, it's because they DO exist, and that's only the beginning! There are a whole bunch of equally scary and wondrous creatures as well.”

“As long as they don't sparkle, I'm okay with that,” says Anica jokingly.

The mood in the room has changed dramatically. Anica is still trying to wrap her mind around what she saw.

“I'm sorry for being rude, please forgive me. Tell me; are fairies like the little creatures with wings like in Disney?” Anica asks in fascination.

“Well, most of them have evolved to human-size and, like the Vampires; they have adapted to blend in with society.”

“Human-size... You mean like 5 or 6 feet tall?”

“Oh yes, if you know where to look, they can easily be found in society.”

“Like where?” Anica asks.

“Think about it. They are the local artists, craftsmen, musicians and the like. You can usually find them in little clusters. Ever heard of River Dance?

“Yeah?”

“Fairies!” R'dell exclaims with a smirk on her face.

“No way!” Anica smiles. “So that thing you did with the milk, and magic, does that mean...”

“Yes,” R'dell replies with a smile “Both Lonnie and I are Fairies.”

Anica's jaw drops again in amazement.

“But why can't I see your wings if you're Fairies?” Anica asks. “Are they hidden?”

“Human eyes can't see our wings but trust me, they're there. Sometimes when we make an effort we can make them visible for humans to see, but we've learned its best not to show them, because there's been some tragic results. Humans are irrational and fear what they don't know, sometimes killing what they don't understand. Your history is chock-full of examples, like the Salem Witch Trials.”

“Are Witches real, too?”

“Oh yes, Witches, Wizards, Sorcerers, Warlocks; All very real! BUT, who do you think taught them their spells and made their wands? Us Fairies!” R'dell says with a proud look on her face.

“Look it up… next time you’re at the library or on the Internet. Over time we've all learned to keep a low profile early on and it's served us well.”

“You must not have kept it low enough because our history is chalked full of sightings of Vampires, Witches and Monsters.”

“Yes! But where is the evidence? There is none!” Lonnie said proudly.

“There are a few people who know we exist, but whenever they speak up, people think they are crazy. For the most part people like you don't believe we exist and that's good. Do you know what's even better? We hide in plain sight!”

“Really? Give me an example of how you're able to hide in plain sight.”

“Ever heard of the show True Blood?” R'dell asks.

“No WAY… You're telling me they're real vampires?”

“Most of them are. They hire a few humans and slap on some fake teeth to give the impression that it's all special effects and make-up but trust me, they're real.”

“That amazing!!!” Anica says with a big grin of excitement. “I love that show!”

“Like I said, in plain sight. Nowadays people are copying everything they see, dressing up and waiting in lines to go to conventions, movies, gatherings, all dressed as their favorite characters with no clue that we blend in perfectly.”

“Are the cast members of Twilight real Vampires?” Anica asks.

Lonnie bursts into laughter again and falls over in his chair.

“What's so funny?” Anica asks.

Lonnie had tears in his eyes from laughing so hard, trying to speak.

“What you said... That's hilarious!” Lonnie gasps, trying to catch his breath to speak. “First off, Vampire 101. They don’t sparkle in sunlight. Whoever wrote that nonsense was as high as the person who wrote Alice in Wonderland. I DARE YOU to go to the town of Shadows Crossing and ask the residents there if they sparkle. You wouldn’t last one minute!”

“What’s Shadows Crossing?” Anica looks at R’dell to answer.

“It’s a very gothic looking town inhabited by nothing but Vampires.”

“Wow, tell me more please.”

“Well, they go about their everyday routine like you and me, minding their own business. There's always this cloud cover that is so thick, it blocks out the sun, allowing them to walk about the town day or night. It’s kinda like when it’s really foggy outside and visibility is low, except it’s created magically and has been there for hundreds of years. Non-Vampires stay away, unless you have a death wish or an iron-clad proposition for them.”

Lonnie chimes in. “If you do, it better be a good one too, or you can kiss your ass good bye!”

“Sounds creepy.”

“Trust me, it is! It’s got tall gothic structures and pointy roofs lined with statues that you would swear are real and watching you!”

“Do you worry about vampires attacking you guys?”

“You mean do vampires attack fairies? Not any more. They used to though, because our blood is like candy to them. It's very sweet and highly addictive. Once the vampire starts to feed, it becomes extremely difficult to stop, which is usually what kills them.”

“I don't get it, why does it kill them?”

“Because fairy blood is regenerative. It heals dead or damaged tissue.”

“So the blood starts to heal the dead tissue of the vampire?”

“Right, it attacks the vampire's “disease” on a cellular level and cures the body of it. Remember, it's highly addictive and once they start feeding, it's almost impossible to stop.”

“Kinda like when someone is electrocuted, they want to let go of the wire but can't.”

“You can say that,” Lonnie answers.

“So does the person who was bitten come back to life?”

“Unfortunately no. Once the soul leaves the body, after a certain time, it is lost forever. Vampires use the dead body to exist in, come to think of it, so do Screaming Shadows.”

“Huh?” Anica's eyebrow lifts in wonder.

“I'll tell you later.” R'dell says.

“Can you tell me more about the guy who tried to kill me; you mentioned he was a Dark Fairy? I'm interested in learning more,” asks Anica.

“Okay, give me a sec.” Lonnie sits up in his chair and leans forward, resting an arm on the table as he takes a swig from his coffee cup. He wipes his mouth and then begins to explain.

CHAPTER 7
LEWRATH

“Well… Long ago ALL fairies co-existed peacefully and we thrived for thousands of years, generation after generation. We evolved, we developed music, magic, arts, you name it. But as with all things, one day it came to an end when one fairy accidentally killed another fairy. No one knows for sure how it happened but the one who killed the other fairy absorbed that fairy's magical abilities, making him stronger and able to do more. If my memory serves me correctly, his name was Lewrath.

“At first he felt horrible at what he had done, but as he soon learned all the things he can do with his new abilities, and greed started to cloud his judgment. He began to imagine what it would be like to kill other fairies that he had been envious of because they could do things he couldn't. He essentially became power hungry and acted on his impulses. Lewrath intentionally hunted down other fairies for their abilities and killed them in cold blood, man; woman or child, but there was a downfall he didn't count on… Although he had the ability to do all sorts of amazing things, he didn't know HOW because no one ever showed him! There are no instruction manuals on how to do these things; traits are passed on from family to family, generation to generation.”

“Kinda of like how my grandma passed on her secrets for cooking home made apple pie to me.”

R'dell nods her head in agreement. “That's right, Anica.”

Lonnie continued, “This infuriated him because the potential was there for him to do wondrous things, but it did him no good. So instead he would torture other fairies for information and then end up killing them once they learned what he wanted. It went on to become a massive killing spree. They tried to stop him, but he was unstoppable because he figured out how to do some powerful things that were no match for individual fairies. It became every fairy for themselves as he hunted and killed now just for the thrill of it. He absorbed so much power and thankfully grew bored of killing that he stopped for a while. He didn't want magic anymore, he had all he could possibly want, but there was one thing he wanted better than magic… a Son! And who best to give him one? One of the most beautiful creatures of the land… A Queen Fairy!”

“A Queen Fairy?”

“Oh yes! A Queen Fairy is THE ultimate ruler of any given kingdom and is usually the life giver of many fairies. She's essentially the mother and protector of all her children, young and old. She can give birth to thousands of fairies for a total of seven millennia before she dies.”

“That's a lot of birthdays to remember,” Anica jokes, trying to lighten the mood.

“No kidding right?” Lonnie chuckles before continuing, “There aren't too many Queen Fairies, but those that exist are extraordinary in every way, shape, and form. They are elegant in their movement and behavior, and are very beautiful beings who command nothing but respect.”

“Lewrath lusted over one of the Queen Fairies and so he approached her and demanded that she bear him a son. She laughed in his face and refused. Lewrath responded by killing all her guardians before capturing and taking her prisoner. For weeks on end, he continually raped her, over and over. Her pain and suffering were too much for the land to bear as her screams were heard for miles in every direction. Even all the wolves of the land would howl to express their sadness and the pain, that's how much the Queen is loved.”

“Then one day the screaming stopped and silence fell over the land, ending the nightmarish sound of great suffering. Lewrath, in his madness, finally succeeded… The Queen was finally impregnated with a son.”

“Lewrath wanted his son to rule the kingdom by his side and was excited when the Queen gave birth to him… But it was clear when he was born that something wasn't right.”

“He didn't move like an ordinary baby, nor did he look normal. His eyes were all black and his infant grin revealed pointy sharp teeth, almost like that of a demon child. Even the servants drew back in fear at the sight of him. Lewrath didn't know what to make of his son so he gave the Queen the responsibility of trying and raise it. However, this child didn't want to listen or do what it was told… It was truly a product of its violent creator. It had a mind of its own, and despite all the discipline or love given in the world; nothing could change this child from being twisted and evil. It was like the wiring inside his head was just all wrong.”

“It became malevolent, destroying everything and challenging all authority, all still while a toddler. The Queen tried calming the child by rocking it in her arms, but Lewrath finally had enough. He got up out of his throne, walked up quickly to the Queen and passionately kissed her on the lips. Then, in one graceful move, he violently snapped her neck. The Queen's body went limp and fell where she stood, dropping the child on its head, hitting the cold hard floor, rendering it unconscious.

Lewrath seized the opportunity to suck the magic life force as it radiated out of her body. Not caring if his son was dead or alive, Lewrath spit on him and left him to live or die next to his lifeless mother. He was mostly annoyed that so much time was wasted for nothing, she had birthed him a useless child and for that, she deserved to die.”

“Lewrath changed his mind and didn't want any children. He decided it was better to recruit other fairies to join him in the killings, promising them power, money and anything else they desired. His army of Dark Fairies ravaged the lands, going from town to town, killing innocent fairies and absorbing their powers. Those who weren't fairies weren't spared either. No one was left alive.”

“However, it wasn't long before they decided to turn on him, wanting his power for themselves. It became too much of a challenge to keep them under control, so Lewrath fled and went into hiding, leaving these Dark Fairies to cause chaos on their own. To combat the growing threat of the Dark Fairies, the High Council formed an elite group of guardians called Protectors and trained them in the art of war.”

“Kinda like the Special Forces for Fairies then?” Anica inquires.

“Something like that. When the time came for them to engage the Dark Fairies, they fought valiantly and won, absorbing the magical abilities that the Dark Fairies had stolen over the years. Now the shift of power balanced out to the side of good with the Protectors now able to do incredible things with their new magical abilities. The one advantage Protectors had been that families wanted to share their knowledge of their magical abilities to benefit the protectors.”

“What are some things they could do?”

“Let's see… Well, there are all kinds of abilities… the ability to Teleport, Read Minds, Turn Invisible, Soul Jumping, Incredible Hearing, Incredible Sight, Camouflage Touch, and Control Gravity… plus a whole bunch of things.”

“Invisibility? Wow, that sounds cool, I would love to be invisible!”

“Wouldn't that would be neat? In time, most of the Dark Fairies were defeated and disbanded. They haven't been seen in force for over several decades now, believed to be wiped out.”

“What about Lewrath? What happened to him?”

“The High Council created a hunting party to track him down and bring him in to answer for his crimes. After much searching and a fierce fight, they successfully captured him.”

“Do Protector Fairies still exist now that there's no more Dark Fairies?”

“Don't get me wrong, Dark Faes still exist. The guy who tried killing you was one.”

“Oh right.” Anica said.

“But to answer your question, Yes, Protectors still exist, but they're not just Fairies. Now they're all kinds of creatures. Elves, Dwarves, Rangers, Weres, Vampires, Elementals, pretty much anyone.”

“Wow… That's still hard to believe that everything you said exists.” Anica states. “What happened to his child? Did he die?”

“Believe it or not, the child didn't die! About a week after the Queen was killed, they found both of them together… Literally. The child hollowed out her chest cavity and was found sleeping inside her ribcage. He survived by feeding on her blood and organs.”

“Because the Fairy blood has healing properties!” Anica says, feeling smart and a bit grossed out at the same time.

“Right! He scared the scouting party that found them because he was covered in blood and entrails. They say he was having a blast playing with her organs like toys. They tried to find a home for the child, but every orphanage passed him around because he was too much. They nicknamed this child Asylum because that's where he ended up… The one place that could deal with his mental illness.”

“Speaking of dealing with... Lewrath how'd that go?”

“The High Council put Lewrath on trial where he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death by volcano.”

“They threw him in a volcano?”

“Yep, it's the only way to ensure that he was gone for good.”

“After they did that, the High Council agreed that there needed to be some sort of warning system in place to tell if a person has been doing evil deeds or if they've been doing good. With their combined wisdom, they came up with the idea of casting a spell that would forever alter the wing structures of all fairies based on the deeds they do.”

“You mean as a way to tell them apart?”

“That's right. So instead of fairy wings being all the same, now whenever a fairy commits any act, be it hurtful, mean or dishonest, or nice, beneficial to all, or altruistic, it alters their wings physically. You can now see the choices a fairy has made in his or her life by the shape and colors of their wings. When a fairy does a good or bad deed, that action changes their wings ever so slightly. After years and years of choices, you can usually spot a fairy that's done good in his or her life from one who's chosen to be evil and hurtful to others because their wings are visually a lot different.”

“Which acts as a red flag warning to others.”

“Exactly!” Lonnie says, continuing. “Those that generally do good to other people or animals usually have bright colorful wings that are as beautiful as a light reflecting through a diamond. Their wings are usually roundish, others can be feather-like or it can be a combination of them all. Those who are mean or hurtful... You can usually tell because they have darker colored wings that are more dragon-like and pointy at the ends, some are almost bat like. They could also have holes and tears in them.”

Anica interrupts, questioning. “What if someone maybe did bad things when they were younger, but then changed their lives around and did good, what would their wings look like?”

“Well, closer to the back they would be more bat-like and the further outwards they would be more colorful and healthy looking.”

“So you can have a combination of fairy and bat like.”

“And everything in between.” Lonnie says.

“Come to think of it, we are so used to seeing all kinds of wings that we don't give it a second thought any more, unless they really stand out. Everyone now and then makes choices they’re not proud of, but that's life. We live and learn and make mistakes.”

R’dell added, “The important thing to remember is that now everyone's history is literally in their wing structure. It goes back to the day they were born. All fairies have two main wing bones that stick out of their backs at birth. Every choice we make affects a different smaller branch off of the main bones.”

“So like tree branches?”

“Yeah, you can say that. Over time these branches shape the color and outline of our wings. Most of us who are average end up with the typically shaped wings you would normally see on a dragonfly. Those who you would call “criminal” usually end up with bat or dragon-like wings.”

“Wait a minute. You're both fairies; remind me again why I can't see your wings?”

“Because the human eye can't see them, the same way you can't see ghosts.”

“So you're telling me you have wings on your backs right now?”

“Would you like to see?” Lonnie asks.

“Yeah, but HOW?” Anica asks, smiling ear to ear.

“By these.” Lonnie takes off his reading glasses and hands them to her. Anica inspects the craftsmanship of the frame and the lenses before putting them on. She notices they weigh almost nothing and yet are super strong.

“Wow, impressive!”

“The frames are hardened spider silk and the lenses are from melted crystals. I had them made in Airrah, for reading.”

“Airrah?”

“I'll tell you in a minute. Feel free to put them on any day now.”

“Oh yeah, right!” Anica slowly puts them on and notices everything becomes so much sharper and crisper. Colors seem more vibrant and everything is pleasant to look at, as if she was looking at a dream.

“Oh WOW…” She inspects her hand and is amazed that the glasses automatically magnify anything she focused her eyes on.

“COOL! I can see my hand like it’s under a microscope!” Anica says, a big excited grin on her face.

“Now I'm zooming in… Everything's small… Now it’s BIG... Wow, this is so cool!”

Lonnie clears his throat to get Anica’s attention back from her fixation with the details of her hand.

“Oh, right... Fairy wings! I…Uh.... OH WOW!!! That’s beautiful!”

Anica sees Lonnie and R'dell's fairy wings. They flutter back and forth in a gentle motion, emanating a beautiful glowing light. Lonnie’s wings are round and long and R'dell's are angelic like, with thousands of white feathers that sway gently in the slightest breeze.

“Your wings are so beautiful!!!” Anica says in awe to R'dell.

“Thank you. I've lived a good, honest life.” R'dell replied.

“Can I keep these glasses? Please? I’ll take good care of them, I promise!”

“I’m afraid I can’t, they’re not made for extended use by humans. Your eyes will go bad if you wear them too long,” Lonnie states, extending his hand, waiting for Anica to return them.

“Awww. Well thank you for letting me use them,” Anica says, giving them back hesitantly.

“You're welcome,” Lonnie replies, putting the glasses back in his front shirt pocket.

R’dell asks Anica, “Honey, I hate to change the subject but what do you remember about the incident that happened the other day?”

Anica stops for a second to focus on remembering.

“Everything is still a little blurry. I'm starting to remember being thrown from the car, being pulled off my feet by my shirt and the taste of wet mud in my mouth. I remember grabbing a piece of metal but then nothing. I think I remember seeing some kind of creature that jumped into me. It filled my lungs and made me feel tingly inside but that's all I remember. I must have passed out because I don’t remember the rest. Hey, you said the guy I killed in self defense was a Dark Fairy, right?”

“Well based on his wings and the magic that came out of him, we're pretty sure.”

“And you said these guys have a history of killing and stealing magical spells and abilities from other fairies, right?”

“Right…”

“And whoever survives gets all the magic from all of the dead fairies that came before him.”

“Correct”

“Then I should have all kinds of magical abilities right?”

Lonnie and R'dell looked at each other uneasy.

“Well, we don't know yet, since you're not a fairy. You’re a human,” R'dell says. “We've never heard of a human killing a fairy before, so this is a first for us.”

“Come to think of it, I don't ever think any human has ever killed a fairy before, so you're probably the first,” Lonnie adds.

“You'll have to talk to the High Council and see what they want to do. They are a few days from here at Castle Alveydor.”

R'dell gets up to get something. “Excuse me, I'll be right back.”

She walks out of the room. Anica takes advantage of the alone time with Lonnie.

“You said we're going to go to Castle Alveydor, right? Please don't take offense to what I'm about to say but aren't you guys a little too old to be driving around?”

“What are you talking about?” Lonnie asks.

“You said that I have to go to the High Council, which is a few days drive from here.”

Lonnie laughs. “Anica, nobody's driving or flying where you're going, and we're NOT coming with you. Sorry if you thought we were.”

“What do you mean 'where you're going and not coming with me'?”

“Exactly that: we're not coming with you!”

“Then how am I supposed to find this High Council by myself? I don't even know where I'm at; much less know where the nearest coffee shop is.”

R'dell walks back into the room, putting something in her apron pocket as she comes back to the table. “I'll answer that question if you first answer a question for me… How many worlds do you think there are?”

“One, I guess?”

“That's a good guess, and you're half right.”

“Why am I half right?” Anica asks, confused.

“Would you believe me if I said there are many worlds around you right now?”

“You mean planets?”

“Okay, let me rephrase it… many Realms.”

“Since I've been here, you've shown me anything is possible so I guess.”

“Here, let me demonstrate.” R’dell gets up and parts the drapes to the kitchen window, allowing the morning sunlight to shine brightly on the yellow tablecloth.

“Okay, you see the sunlight shining on the table, that light is all one color right?”

“Right!” Anica answers pretty confidently.

“Are you sure?” She asks, looking at Anica.

Anica raises an eyebrow, trying to follow along. R'dell reaches in her apron and pulls out a triangle glass prism which she places directly in the sunlight on the table. The light shines through it and casts a rainbow of colors onto the table.

“Do you see all different colors of the rainbow and how they are separated from one another? It's because of the prism refracting the light into all of its true colors.”

“Okay...” Anica listens.

“Now imagine that the green color is your world and that's where you exist. Let's say the yellow is our world, the fairy world where all fairies exist. For grins and giggles we'll pretend the other colors are worlds too. We’ll say the red is for Vampires, the blue for the elemental worlds. Do you see how all the worlds follow along the same path, even though they are separated? They coexist nicely in their own little colors or “worlds.”

“Mmm hmm,” Anica acknowledges.

“Take away the prism and all our worlds blend back together nicely, still following the same path. Even though there seems to be only one world, you now know there are many worlds that exist, still separate from each other! Think of the different colors as realms. Every once in a while, someone from a different world will cross over.”

Anica has a confused, lost look on her face, so R'dell backtracks for a second.

“Think of going from one color to another, for whatever reason. That's why your history books are chock-full of sightings of ghosts, fairies, werewolves, vampires, etc., and yet not a single person can prove any of these creatures exist! Do you know why? Because when things get uncomfortable for whoever crossed over, they simply go back to the safety of their respective realms and you can't follow!”

“Okay, so let me see if I understand correctly. There are parallel worlds or realms as you call them that exist side by side with this one. Like a Vampire realm, a Fairy realm, yada yada… But someone, say in the Fairy Realm, can jump over and exist in this Earth realm if they wanted to?”

“Correct, Look at us as an example! We're from the Fairy realm, born and raised there, but we crossed over to the Earth realm to spend our retirement years, because we like it here.”

“You like the Earth realm better than the fairy realm? That's odd”

“Not much odder than you being from the US and visiting Europe.” Lonnie says.

“I think that makes sense now.”

“But wait, it gets better! This is only the tip of the iceberg. To see the High Council, you're going to have to leave the Earth realm and cross over into a realm where ALL the colors blend into one.” R'dell says with excitement in her voice.

“You mean to a realm where Vampires, Ghosts, Elementals, Humans and Fairies all co-exist in the same space?” asks Anica.

“Yes Anica, pretty much everything exists in this place! We call this place Airrah and to get to it, you're going to need this magical ring I'm going to give you, but don't put it on just yet! It's real important you understand, don’t put it on until we say to!”

Anica repeats it. “Don't put it on, got it.”

R'dell takes out a beautiful gold ring that has a unique design unlike any she has ever seen before. In the middle of the ring swirls mystic dark blue, green and aqua colors, like storm clouds captured in a tiny globe of glass.

“Wow, it's beautiful. I've never seen anything like it.” says Anica.

“Listen. When you put it on, everything around you is going to change instantly! You will no longer be in the world that you know of. Instead you will instantly be in Airrah! You'll notice it's very similar to this realm in some ways but very different in so many other ways. I can't describe it, you'll just have to see and experience it for yourself.”

“I don't know if I'm crazy about this idea,” Anica says with an uneasy look on her face.

“What are you uneasy about?”

“Well for one, leaving this Earth world and going to a place where real monsters exist and might eat me the second I get there. I've already had enough adventure to last me a lifetime.”

Lonnie laughs. “Don't worry; we'll give you a fighting chance.”

R'dell hits Lonnie in the arm for making that remark. “What?”

“You guys aren't instilling confidence in me. So if I understand correctly, I put this ring on and magically just like that, I'm in a place called Airrah. A world where all kinds of creatures exist in one place.”

“Yep.”

“What's keeping me from getting killed the moment I get there?”

“The ring was last taken off at Marcel's home. You'll be safe there.”

“Huh? What do you mean the ring was taken off at Marcel's home? What's that supposed to mean and who's Marcel?”

“Sorry, I keep forgetting this is all new to you. Let me explain. This is important so please don't forget. Wherever you take the ring on and off is where you'll be transported to next time you wear it or remove it. It will be the same exact place you'll return to. So, for example, if you put it on while sitting at the kitchen table, everything around you will change instantly and you'll be in the last place the ring was taken off in Airrah.”

“Which you said will be inside this Marcel's home” Anica says.

“Right.”

“And if I take the ring off…”

“You'll come right back here to the kitchen.”

“But if I go to that room upstairs and put the ring on, I'll be inside Marcel's home again. And if I go to Marcel's garage and take the ring off, I'll be back in the upstairs room.”

“You got it!” R'dell smiles at Anica. “Since the ring was taken off at Marcel's home prior to me giving it to you, when you put it on, you'll find yourself instantly there. When you take it off, you'll be right back at the kitchen table here.”

“That makes sense.” Anica says.

“Okay this next part can mean life or death so please listen carefully. You don't want to take the ring off in certain places where the environment might change while you're gone. You'll be all right when you come back to your world but when you go back, if that area has changed, you could find yourself dead on arrival.”

“What do you mean? Like how?”

“Say you are in our world on a ship in the middle of the ocean. You take the ring off and instantly, you are back here safe and sound. You decide you needed to take a shower and after several hours you are ready to go. You put on the ring and suddenly find yourself drowning in the middle of the ocean! Because you were on a moving ship, the ship continued on its course while you were gone, but the ring took you back to the exact same place where you took the ring off; where the ship is no longer. Next thing you know, you're shark food.”

“Oh wow.”

“There can be any number of dangers that threaten you when you get back, so whatever you do, make sure you leave from a safe, sturdy place that will be there when you get back!”

“Okay, when do you want me to cross over?” Anica asks.

“Well, that's going to be up to you.”

“Do I have a choice?”

“You always have a choice. You're welcome to leave and go back home if you want.”

“Can I take the ring with me?”

“Nope. You only get it if you're going to cross over and see the High Council.”

“So if I go back home, I'm going to miss this opportunity to see this world where all kinds of creatures exist. Airrah? Right?”

“That's right.”

“Hmmmm. If I go back home, it's going to bug me to no end, not knowing what Airrah looks like. Plus I don't think Michele is going to believe me if I told her.”

“Who?”

“My best friend Michele. She's back in the States waiting for me to come back from my trip.”

“Then clearly the choice is made. I recommend you stay for dinner tonight, rest up and leave first thing tomorrow morning! That way you'll have time to process everything we've told you and I'll make you a good breakfast before you go.” R'dell offers.

“That's a good idea. I think I will.”

“Good call. We can fill you in on some other things you need to know as well.”

Anica makes the most of the time she has with R'dell & Lonnie, asking all kinds of questions and getting to know them. Evening comes and R'dell fixes a yummy meal that fills Anica's tummy nicely. Her eyes start getting heavy as the thought of that comfy bed beckons from upstairs. She hugs Lonnie and R'dell good night and musters up the last of her energy reserves to make it upstairs and into her bed. She brushes her teeth and gets ready, and in no time flat, Anica is ready to fall asleep. As she closed her eyes, she remembers one last thing…

“Good night Bobarall-la-lah ... ahhh what ever your name is!” says Anica, waving one hand over the edge of the bed.

“I'm gonna just call you Bob. Yeah… That's better. Good night Bob!”

Silence blankets the room for several long minutes as she drifts quickly into a deep sleep, followed by the gentle sound of soft snores coming from Anica, whose head is resting deep against a fluffy, comfortable pillow.

From under the bed, a kind reply from a friendly voice whispers softly;

“Good night Anica. Sleep well.”

 

COPYRIGHT 2017 - Steven Wolff. All Rights Reserved. None of this material may be published, copied, or used without the written permission from the author.