CHAPTER ONE

The icy wind whistled around the tombstones and picked up dried and crackled leaves from the frost-covered dirt, swirling them around and around until some settled on the leeward side of the looming cement blocks and others stuck themselves between the bare branches of surrounding towering oaks. The moon was blocked out by heavy clouds overhead, which hid the natural light of the night sky. The only illumination which cast long shadows over the cemetery was a dim streetlamp over the brick wall, flickering to stay alight.

The graveyard, quiet save for the chirping of nocturnal insects, stretched far across the hills, holding hundreds, maybe a thousand bodies that would never again awake. One tombstone, which had the words "Daniel Forrester. 1983-2005. Forever remembered" engraved into the polished marble, stood from the rest. The earth in front of it was fresh, and wilting flowers littered the lonely site.

Six feet under, there lied a young man with a pale complexion, slack skin rubbery and lifeless. His white lips were set straight and appealed to nobody, now. If his eyes were to be opened, they would be deep chocolate with dancing pupils that opened his emotions to the world; happiness and horror, the strongest. His short-cropped brown hair, once lively with a bright and mesmerizing sheen, was limp and dull. Daniel was dressed in a suit he'd worn once before, one which he would find uncomfortable to wear, except for in death.

Two men, shattering the respectful silence with their lightly chatting voices, made their way over a hill, shivering and holding their arms tightly around them. The taller one, who was called Roy, was over six feet high, holding a flashlight while tramping down the frozen pathway, faltering not from the howling wind of the late November cold. He was older than his friend and had a head of blonde hair and a well-trimmed mustache that made his muscular face look stern.

The shorter one, Toby, standing five foot eight, darted his swift blue eyes back and forth among the tombstones, anxiously. His build was soft and light, hair black and unkempt as it was whipped around by the breeze. He was especially superstitious and constantly imagined monsters of all sorts slithering out from beneath the ground, shrieking at him or clawing at his neck from behind.

The pair, having been looking for the very grave previously described, stopped shortly in front of the new, marble headstone.

"Is this his grave?" Roy asked, voice carrying far into the silent night.

"I can't see. Give me the flashlight… Yes, that's it. Daniel Forrester. Twenty-two years of age. Stabbed to death," Toby recited robotically, nervous about his surroundings and jumping when a toad croaked loudly, nearby. The croak echoed, and the toad called out once again.

"Any family?" the taller man continued, ignoring the amphibian and its effects on his friend.

"His father," Toby replied, looking his comrade in the sharp, lighter blue eyes for the first time since they entered the cemetery. "He and one friend went to the funeral."

" Only two people?"

"His mother is dead and his blood relatives are all either passed away or are unable to be found, buried among multiple family lines."

"And now he's buried," Roy snorted, carelessly running his finger along his mustache after it prickled his upper lip from chuckling.

"Well, we've got to dig him up," Toby reminded him under his breath, causing Roy to gain his composure back, immediately.

"Dirty work, this is," Roy sighed, spitting on his hands and rubbing them together as if he meant business. He strolled toward one of the bare oak trees and pulled a rusted shovel from amongst a pile of dead leaves. He pushed the blade into the soft earth after tapping away the light layer of frost that had formed over it, took a large scoop, and easily swung it over his shoulder.

"This is much better than digging up that Ledger man," Roy grunted in comment as he worked. "The ground seemed to be solid ice, then, remember? This piece of junk didn't stand a chance against the old frozen ground. This cheap handle kept giving me splinters."

"Let's just get this over with," Toby snapped, eyeing a shadow suspiciously.

"I wonder about you," his friend said bluntly, stabbing his shovel into the dirt. "We've done this enough times that I would think you'd have gotten over your fear of the cemetery."

"It's this specific place," Toby said indignantly, in defense. "There's something not right about it. Like something is going to happen that shouldn't. Something big. As if we're stirring up the wrong spirits." He shivered and sighed so that his breath was visible. "And it's a damn cold night."

"You should be used to it," Roy continued in his gruff voice, his eyes fixed on his work. "Over a hundred years and you're still complaining about the cold, your monsters, your - whatever else… It's driving me crazy."

"I'm not complaining," Toby muttered, shooting Roy an offended gaze.

His friend didn't answer, but instead kept his steady process, gradually digging deeper and disappearing further into the ground. For many minutes, Toby stood in silence, watching the muscles straining in Roy's arms as he heaved each load over his shoulder, scattering it into the surrounding grass. By the time he hit the polished surface of the boy's coffin with a dull thud, the moon was beginning to fade and a blue-purple haze had formed on the horizon. Finally, Roy gave a soft sigh and tossed his shovel up and out of the grave.

"Ready?" Toby asked, alerted by the noise.

"Yep."

Toby reached into the hole and held out his hands, allowing a pair of sweaty, grimy palms to grip his own. He tightened his grasp and helped Roy from the grave, a disgusted look forming on his face as he inspected his soiled hands.

"Shut up," Roy said, anticipating a complaint and wiping more dirt and sweat on Toby's jacket for good measure.

Toby rolled his eyes and hopped into the hole in Roy's place, running his fingers through his hair habitually in his apprehension. He didn't want his partner to know his unease, yet at the same time he was finding it hard to conceal.

"Let's do this," he muttered under his breath. Without another thought, Toby gripped the lid of the coffin, placed his fingers over the latches, and forced it upwards; the casket swung open. Had anyone other than Roy witnessed the scene with some sense in their head, they might well have thought Toby to be not of this world. Just as well, he did have the capacity to pry open that which is impossible without the proper tools.

A shiver ran through Toby as he surveyed the body of a twenty-two year old young man.

"He's here," he whispered. He cleared his throat and repeated, louder; "He's here."

"Take him, already," Roy retorted from above.

"After years of this, you'd think I'd feel nothing," Toby said to himself but letting his voice drift to Roy's ears. "But I still feel for this boy. I know what he's going to go through. I remember it myself, when I came back. It's still with me sometimes, it lingers. That feeling of emptiness, of yearning, of being just a small part of an infinite entity… You feel so useless. It is quite terrible."

"Just get him out," Roy snapped.

Toby hoisted Daniel up by his armpits and handed the stiff figure to Roy, who grabbed the kid up clumsily and splayed him out on the ground. He busily positioned the boy so that his face was turned to the sky and his body was straight, while Toby leapt up and dug his fingers into the earth to pull himself out of the grave, alone.

"Hey. Danny. Kiddo. Wake up." Roy gave the boy a smack across the face. Toby snorted and shoved Roy aside, taking Daniel gently by the shoulders.

"C'mon, Daniel Forrester," he said, shaking him. "Listen to us, and come on out."

The wind stirred the trees, birds chirped and shuffled in their nests, and leaves tumbled down the path.

Daniel pried his eyes open and stared into the hazy dawn of the cemetery. At first he just gazed at the sky before sitting up slowly. His body didn't follow, but he didn't realize that.

"Hey, Daniel. How are you feeling?" Toby asked, warily.

Daniel whipped around toward the voice and saw a man that looked as if he hadn't gotten enough sleep and reminded him of a frightened, little mouse. There was another man standing next to him in a way that gave Daniel the impression that he was the leader of the two.

"Who are you?" Daniel asked, slowly. His voice didn't sound his own. "Do you know where I am? Where is Lauren?"

"I'm Toby, and this is my partner, Roy," Toby said, giving his friend a shrug.

"Look around you, kid. You know where you are," Roy added. Daniel turned his head slowly to the right, then to the left, looking as if he were somewhere else and not really seeing what was in front of him.

"Now, look down," Toby instructed, gravely.

Daniel, instead, turned his eyes up to the sky. "This is wrong," he said, his eyes searching. "I don't want to look down."

"Be brave," Roy mumbled.

Daniel closed his eyes and tilted his head down. Squinting, he looked at what was giving him a strange prickling feeling. When he discovered what it was, he widened his eyes and gaped.

"How did this happen?" he asked hollowly, unable to turn his gaze away. He shook his head as an afterthought and snapped; "Never mind. Where is Lauren?"

"She's alive," Roy said. Toby elbowed him in the side. "What! She is."

"Am I, though?" Daniel asked, standing shakily and stepping out of his body. "I can feel my feet on the ground. I can think. Am I alive?"

"Technically, yes," Toby said. "But not in a human sense. Your feeling will leave with your memories. As of right now, you merely think you're feeling your feet on the ground, but you really cannot. It's like a missing limb itching. Same concept. You give yourself the form you understand, which is this human body, but you are not limited to it, anymore. I know this is hard to contemplate, but you will know and get used to it in time."

"I'm dead," Daniel uttered dumbly, not hearing a word Toby had said.

"Only your body," Toby assured him.

"I'm dead," he whispered again, peering down at the body and raising his hand in front of his eyes, turning it back and forth and feeling his face, which was solid.

"Okay, you deal with him," Toby grumbled to Roy, pushing past him and grumpily leaning against the nearest tree.

"Hey, Danny. What do you remember, kid?" Roy asked, stepping toward the confused boy.

Daniel turned to Roy. "I remember… it was dark." He paused and his eyes drifted past Roy and focused on nothing. "I remember walking and thinking of Lauren. Lauren… Are you sure she's unhurt? I remember I was there for her because I overheard them saying they were going after her, so I followed them… There was so much blood…" He unexpectedly weakened and staggered to the high brick wall for support, both hands against it, not facing the strange men. "She didn't even know… She thought I killed myself…"

"Stay strong, kiddo," Roy warned him, voice devoid of any emotion.

"I wasn't strong enough," Daniel shot back, icily. In his life, he had never been rude. It was strange to hear himself speaking in such a way to an authority figure, but for once, he couldn't care less. "I feel dizzy… I can feel where they stabbed me… I want out of this, I want to wake up… Get me out of here, will you? Let me see Lauren."

"Calm down, Danny. You can't see Lauren. Not yet. But you will, all right? I promise," Roy said. He sidled up to Toby and asked in a low voice; "Who's Lauren?"

"His-"

"My girlfriend," Daniel said over Toby's voice. He turned around to face the pair, eyes a bit bloodshot, yet glaring, at any rate. "How did you know?"

"Looked it up," Toby said distantly, nodding his head. He clicked his tongue and smiled, warmly. "Don't worry, Daniel. You'll get used to this."

"So I'll see her, soon?" Daniel asked, adamantly.

"Yes. But for now, try to think about the present issues. Why we brought you back," Roy said, also reminding Toby.

"Well? Why'd you bring me back?" Daniel inquired.

Toby ran his fingers through his hair, bit his lip, then said; "Follow us."