I woke up screaming. I felt as if I were burning alive, even if I'd known in the dream that I was someone else. My flesh
was on fire, the blood in my veins boiling, and I was screaming and writhing. Something was there, next to me, trying to hold
me down, but I just screamed some more and lashed out. They pulled away, thankfully, and I shoved my blankets off, dimly aware
that the door was opening. My mother was there, and the light was on. I sobbed into her shoulder as she hugged me and rocked
me back and forth.
It was so horrible. I couldn't save her. I wanted to save her, that little girl, but I couldn't. She'd burned to death,
I knew she had, and it was all my fault. I couldn't save her. Oh, God...
"Miranda..." The voice was soft, so gentle, and I latched onto it, anchoring myself even as my fingers clutched at my mother's
robe. When had I sunk to the floor? I was on my knees, but I didn't remember getting there.
"It's okay, Mir," Mom was saying, rocking me. "You just had a bad dream, sweety, it's okay."
No, no, no. You don't understand. I want to tell you... You don't understand! I could have saved her! I felt her hand in
mine! If that beam hadn't fallen, I could've... could've... should've... I cried harder, holding my mommy close. I would've
saved her, dammit. I knew it. Why did I have to wake up? Why did that beam have to fall on my arm? "I wish I hadn't woken
up," I whispered.
Mommy didn't hear me.
I think it was then that things truly began to change. In me, around me... If I'd been paying attention at the time, I
probably would've felt the shift that I now know must have happened. I was changing, and my world would not ever be the same.
If only I weren't so blind, I wouldn't have missed it...
Finally, I convinced Mom and Jake that I was fine, and they went back to bed. I closed my door and stared at Yoru-Ssori,
who pushed away from the wall he'd been leaning against and approached me. He only stood there, though, so I lowered my gaze
and fought down another wave of tears. "Sorry," I mumbled.
He touched my cheek, tilting my face up to look at him. "You have nothing to apologize for, Miranda," he chided softly.
I sniffed and looked down. Had to be strong. "But... You're upset. I can tell." I didn't know how I could tell, but...
I knew it.
He was quiet a moment. "Miranda..." He sighed and stepped close, hugging me (I am beginning to realize that he's either
seriously touch-deprived or a very huggy person). "I am... confused," he muttered. "You... called for me, but... when I tried
to help you, you pushed me away."
I tilted my head back to stare up at him. "I called for you?" I didn't remember doing that... Huh. Must have done it while
I was asleep, then. "I'm sorry for worrying you."
Yoru-Ssori hesitated, but then nodded and held me closer. "It is fine. Do you want to tell me what your dream was about?"
"No." I buried my face in his chest, trying to quell my shaking. "I was someone... And I loved this little girl so much.
There was a fire, and I was trying to save her, but... But a beam from the ceiling fell on me, trapping my arm, and I had
to watch her burn to death."
He leaned back, his eyes searching my face, and then sighed. "Miranda... I do not know what to do. I wish very much to
help you, but I cannot. I know not how."
I nodded. "Yeah. I know. It's okay, Ssori... I... I don't mind."
It struck me hard then, just how much I didn't understand. Here I was, allowing myself to be so completely ignorant, with
this... this demon and all these things surrounding me. And I didn't care. But... But if things like that kept happening
First on the bridge, then after he'd saved me and now... now this. Why did I always have to see such horrible things?
Why did I have to see things period? It just wasn't fair!
Trust me when I say, back then, I had it easy.
Day four since meeting 'Ssori opened up bright and sunny, and I just wanted to sleep. But, with many misgivings and annoyance,
I obliged the banging on my bedroom door.
Yawning, I pulled my robe around me, holding it closed with one hand, and unlocked the door. No sooner had I than the door
was pushed open, nearly knocking into me. I yelped and stumbled back, wide-eyed as I took in the distressed look on my bedraggled
best friend's face.
"Clare? What's wrong...?"
She threw her arms around me and cried harder than I'd ever seen her cry. Concerned, I lead her to my bed and urged her
to sit before sitting down beside her. I held her much the same way that my mother had held me the night before, patting her
back and rubbing it, murmuring nonsensically in an effort to calm her down.
Yoru-Ssori tiptoed out to give us privacy (which was weird as she couldn't see him anyway, but whatever). I gave him a
grateful smile as he closed the door behind him, then turned my attention back to Clare.
"Hey, you alright?"
She sniffled and pulled back. "Abbey died this morning. Somebody poisoned her food! It's horrible."
"Oh, no," I murmured, pulling her into another hug. "Poor baby... I'm so sorry."
Before I go on, I should probably explain who the heck Abbey is. Abbey was Clare's Husky/Wolf/German Shepperd, five year
old dog and one of the sweetest animals I've ever had the fortune of meeting. She was super smart, too. Clare had got her
five years ago from her older sister that lived in Chicago for Christmas. It was a case of love at first sight for both of
them, and Abbey had been Clare's best friend for all that time. If she'd been human, I'd probably be knocked to second-best.
It was so sad that poor Abbey was gone now, and I felt really bad for Clare. Poor Clare.
"Are you gonna bury her?" I asked once Clare had calmed and just sorta lay there against me. I'd moved so that I was laying
back on the bed to be more comfortable, and she'd all but curled up next to me.
Clare nodded. "Yeah. Daddy said he'd come home early so we can. He'd already been at work by the time I found her." Her
lip trembled. "She was already cold..."
I clucked my tongue and squeezed her in another hug before reluctantly getting up. "You wanna see if Mom'll let you play
hooky over here?" I asked.
Technically, Clare had her own mother, but Mom had always been more of a mother to Clare than Victoria – Clare's
mother – had ever been. Victoria was a drug-addict and rarely ever called. She and Frank, Clare's dad, had divorced
seven years ago, and mom had all but adopted her by then anyway.
Sometimes, I forgot how much of a God-send my own mother was.
Clare sighed heavily as I went through my closet for clothes. "I don't know. You're going to school?"
I nodded, pulling a pair of jeans off a hanger. "Yeah. I have to. Micheal warned me about a pop-quiz in Mr. Hickory's class
today, and you know he doesn't do re-takes."
Clare grimaced. "I should probably go too," she said, sounding unenthusiastic about the idea.
I smiled at her over my shoulder. "Um... if it makes you feel better, I'm going to ask 'Ssori if he'll be able to... um,
come over today."
My best friend perked at that. "Really? Oooh, babe alert!" she said, grinning.
I just knew I was red. "Ah, yeah. Right." The worst part was, I was pretty sure he was standing right outside the door.
After all our fuss, Clare ended up playing hooky after all, which was fine by me. Though it did make school go by agonizingly
slowly. Luckily, I passed the pop-quiz in Mr. Hickory's class.
Without laughing when 'Ssori got bored and started mimicking the teacher.
Lunch came by and I went into the bathroom by the gym (no one ever used it). As soon as we were in there, I turned on him.
"Are you trying to get me in trouble!?" I demanded, trying to be angry (It was rather hard since he looked strangely innocent).
"No," he answered, shrugging. "I was bored."
"Right. Well, quit it." I slung my bag up onto the counter and dug through it for my make-up bag. "'Cause you're going
to end up getting me in trouble, and I don't like being in trouble. And I think that Mr. Hickory has it out for me."
"Would you like me to take care of him?" he asked, looking oddly eager.
I stopped what I was doing and stared at him through the mirror. "Are you serious?" I asked, gaping. He couldn't
be serious... could he?
Yoru-Ssori stared right back at me for a long, drawn-out moment before, with a little huff, he muttered, "Fine, I will
not." He really did look heart-breakingly disappointed.
"You'd better not," I said with false bravado as I fixed my mascara.
He looked even more sullen at this. "... well, now I definitely can not."
I paused and stared at him in the mirror. "Normally, I'd ask 'why not', but... At the moment, I don't want to know."
Yoru-Ssori rolled his eyes. "You are the most un-curious person I have ever met."
"At least I'm not emo," I replied reasonably, putting the mascara away and getting out my eye-shadow.
"What is 'emo'?" he asked, looking mildly curious.
I sighed and didn't answer as I finished redoing my eye-shadow, then put everything away. With a contemplative frown, I
turned to look at him. I then launched into a five-minute explanation on 'labels'. He ate it up like candy.
"... and thus, I am not emo," I finished, nodding as if that would convince him.
He thought about this for a moment. "You are correct. I believe the term would be 'prep'."
I gaped at him. "What!? No!" I gasped, stunned. "I am not a-" I cut myself off as a girl walked into the room and stopped.
She stared at me for a moment and then cleared her throat. "Um... Hi, Miranda. Remember me? I... I was the third person
in your's and Clarissa's group for last month's chemistry project..."
I blinked and thought back, but came up with a blank. Sheepishly, I said, "Er... Yeah," I lied. "I remember!"
She looked relieved. Until I added, feeling somewhat guilty, "Uh... what was your name again?"
She deflated. "Oh. I... I'm Becky. Eh- Rebecca. Summers." She shifted and looked down, fumbling with the hem of her shirt.
"I... I sit behind you in... In Reading class, too. And... and to your right in Mr... Mr. Hickory's History class..." She
trailed off, grimacing. Looking up, she added hurriedly, "But that's okay! I'm... I'm sure you're just..." She gestured. "Just...
busy. Or occupied. You study hard... Or something."
I laughed sheepishly, embarrassment coloring my cheeks as 'Ssori adopted a knowing smirk. I fought the urge to scowl at
him. "Oh, yeah." I vaguely recalled that there was someone that sat in those places, but had never realized that it was the
same someone. "That's right. So... um..." Damn. I felt really bad all of a sudden. Not to mention this was a very
It wasn't my fault, though! She was really quiet. I just never noticed her, I guessed. "Do... do you wanna go eat?" I asked,
hoping to make up for being such an inattentive airhead. I didn't really have any obligation to her, but... It was rude of
me to have just... ignored her all this time. Bad Miranda.
Becky perked at that and smiled. "Sure! I'd... I'd love to," she said eagerly, then back-tracked and added, "If... if it...
it's not too much... t-trouble."
This girl had a serious stuttering problem. Poor thing. … was that my fault? Oooh, bad thought. I sure hoped not.
"No way! It's cool!" I said.
"Nerd," 'Ssori said thoughtfully. "She is a nerd. That is why you never noticed her. Because preps do not think about nerds."
This time I did scowl. Luckily, Becky had moved over and was entering a stall, so she didn't catch it. I glared at 'Ssori
and poked his chest. "Jerk," I mouthed.
He shrugged, and I scowled more at how... smooth he made it look. "Semantics."
"Really. You are such a jerk," I insisted softly.
"Miranda?" Becky said from the stall. "Are... are you talking to someone?"
"Cell phone," I lied, taking mine out of my pocket and pointedly clicking it shut. "Clare's sick today, so I was checking
Soon enough, the three of us (or two, depending on if the observer was me or not) left the bathroom on our way to the cafeteria.
About halfway there, 'Ssori paused and I stopped, pretending to be adjusting my purse-strap.
"Miranda... What you said this morning, to Clarissa..."
I gave him a curious look as Becky stopped, realizing I wasn't following. She turned and gave me an anxious look. "Are...
are you coming? I mean, it's okay if you're-"
"Of course!" I said, grinning. "My purse was just bugging me, that's all."
"About her seeing me," Yoru-Ssori continued, ignoring Becky. "Do you want her to be able to? It would mean that everyone
else would as well."
I blinked at that and nodded, stepping forward and mumbling, "Yeah, that's cool."
"Did... did you say something?" Becky asked, brow wrinkling in concern.
"Just muttering about my purse!" I lied, beaming.
She smiled timidly back at me. "O-oh. Okay." She turned and continued toward the cafeteria and I glanced back at 'Ssori.
He smiled slightly. "Then your wish is my bidding. I will meet you back at your home after school."
I blinked and before I could think of a sneaky way to ask him what he was talking about, he turned and trotted down the
hall. Shaking my hand in wonderment, I flash Becky a grin and decided to ask him later. Poor girl was so friend-deprived that
she'd take me, even if I was sitting here talking to myself.
After we sat down at my table, my usual friends gave me strange looks. "Um... Miranda?" Emily Sharon said, staring at me.
"Why are you sitting with a nerd?"
Go figure; 'Ssori had pegged her quite well. Smiling sweetly, I leaned across the table. "Um... Emily? You've got spinach
in your teeth." She did, too.
Her baby-blue eyes widened as she reared back, looking like I'd struck her. Quickly, she pulled out a mirror and gasped.
"I'll... be right back," she said, sounding out of breath. "I... I've gotta brush my teeth."
The other girls and David (who still sat with us even if Clare broke up with him) watched her go before about half the
girls starting giggling. Becky was staring at me with wide eyes. "Wh-why? You... you could... could have... you know, like...
stopped being popular... or something!" she whispered.
I snorted. "Please. Seriously? They get their so-called popularity from me. I'm the rich one, here, after all."
"But... but why?" she asked, looking uncertain.
" Because you're a nice girl," I replied, honestly confused. Really, was it that hard to imagine...? But it probably was.
She was a nerd after all.
She shook her head. "No I'm not! I... I stick my gum underneath the seat in class, and... and I get... like, Bs and...
I started laughing. She was just too cute. "Okay, first of all, the gum thing is just gross. Bs are not a bad thing; I
get Cs and Bs but I get away with it because I'm the richest girl in school. I'm your friend, so deal with it," I said, reaching
"R... really? P-promise?" she asked hesitantly as my hand touched her shoulder.
"Yeah, friends forev... er..." The silly grin melted from my face as I had a vision, my hand resting on her shoulder.
Behind me. Someone's behind me. I just know it. I can feel their gaze. I know it. Don't turn around, don't turn around,
don't turn around. If you do, they'll be real, just like the monster under the bed; if you see him, it means he's really there,
so if I don't turn around-
"Don't worry. It won't hurt a bit. But you must take the fall. For the Seer, and her pretty little prince."
And just like that, I feel something sharp, like a knife, stabbing through my lower spine. It hurts, it hurts... "You
said it wouldn't hurt," I whimper, my knees slowly giving out.
He chuckles. "I lied."
And then the ground opens up and swallows me whole.
"-anda? Miranda? A-are you okay?"
" What did you do to her? Get away from her, you freak!"
"Oh my god, Miranda? Are you okay?! Miranda!"
"Holy- Miranda. Hey, snap out of it!"
The shoulder underneath my hand was jerked back and I cried out, reaching and grabbing ahold of it. I blinked my vision
clear and realized I was crying. I was crying because... Because I'd just felt poor Becky die.
And I knew it was all my fault.