I look back on my past life often from here. It's quiet and allows me to gather my thoughts. That's been a hard thing to do these past six years.

When I permitted myself to be introduced to an extreme spectrum of existence at a sullen age of sixteen, my conscious mind would not allow me to think it over. I suppose that this was the intent of my captors, whom I eventually allotted a section of my heart to. If I'd known what was in store for me, I would have never consented.

So, I suppose it's fortunate that I haven't done any gathering up until now, really. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much of a story left to speak of.

xxx

"Alright, now if you'll turn to page 44, you will be able to witness a true heart-wrenching miracle at work as the male grasshopper beginnings his courting ritual with an unsuspecting female."

I cast a look around the room. A less inconspicuous slumber could not have found anywhere else in the country; James had been staring at the edge of his desk unblinkingly for the entire double period and begun tearing, Marla was listlessly doodling large insect genitalia in the margin of her notebook, and Grace had begun meditating.

War could have erupted and Mr. Moors plowed on. "See now, in figure fourteen dash seven you have a perfect visual diagram of the nasal structure of the female grasshopper once she is stimulated and, subsequently, excited." He prodded his textbook with a bit of green chalk, but did not once glance at his students. He was a slightly-stooped man with horrendous vision. His blue eyes were somewhat glazed over, and he never looked at anyone directly.

Mr. Moors had always been something of a venerable joke in this school. His nicknames were numerous and often used. School children are cruel; this is common knowledge, but I had once heard my Calculus teacher incredulously exclaim, "Moorsenstein hasn't retired yet?" For no reason that was apparent to me at the time, I became upset. I wasn't really sure why, since I found his class incredibly dull just as everyone else had. Yet, there was something about the passion he held for his subject that captivated me.

"Amazing, isn't—" He was abruptly interrupted but a message over the intercom.

"Will Mr. Moors kindly send a student down with his puce attendance sheet, please, I repeat, will Mr. Moors kindly send a student down with his puce attendance sheet, please. Thank you."

There was a swift change in the classroom atmosphere, and all of a sudden, every student's hand was up, something revolutionary in the Biology Laboratory of Moors.

Harrumphing quietly, but distinctly, Mr. Moors ignored the sea of hands and consulted his attendance sheet to choose a student at random. With as much imagination as he could muster, he chose Aldrofsky, Layla, the first person on the list.

I flashed two fingers of victory under my desk at my friend Marla. Marla replied with one less finger and turned back to her artwork.

I rose from my seat and walked up to Mr. Moors to collect my prize. The class had quickly fallen back into their stupor as soon as they saw their hope dance back into its faraway abyss.

It seemed safe enough, so I allowed an encouraging smile at my teacher. Mr. Moors squinted down at me, and turned back to his book.

"Looking at paragraph four of page 45, you will find several characteristics that a healthy male grasshopper will seek in a female…" Oddly unperturbed, I turned around and opened the classroom door.

I continued smiling to myself as I walked down the North Wing staircase to the first floor. I sighed contently. I was never really like that, honestly, but today I was beaming hard enough to possibly set fire to the banister that I was clutching at just as enthusiastically.

The dream that I had had the night before was probably at fault. What had it been about anyway? Oh yeah. It was a dream that I had had often, but this time, there was something new.

xxx

I was sitting in a large field of wild pure white daisies. I had looked around and found among them a single flaming iris that had never been there before in all my trips. I had smiled in a perplexed sort of way, and then reached down to pick it. This was when another new event occurred. Someone had reached down and stopped my hand. I remembered clearly: it was a slender and pale hand with frosty white fingernails. I thought it to have belonged to a woman, but when I turned around I saw a young boy dressed in a pearly ashen-colored suit. He had such light blonde hair that ruffled despite an absence of wind. I found myself entranced in a pair of such deep blue eyes. They looked as though they were made of tears all on their own.

He smiled brightly. I realized that he couldn't have been more than ten years old. "I'm sorry miss, but you shouldn't be picking those. They're no good. They bring lots of tears." What surprised me more than the word 'tears' was the sad frown that replaced his radiant smile. "In fact, they shouldn't be growing here at all," he said softly. He stared grimly at the flower, which in turn seemed to shiver. Then he smiled again, in my direction this time, and helped me to my feet.

"You're Layla, aren't you? I knew you were going to come again tonight," the boy said eagerly. Then he giggled at my look of surprise. "I watched you a couple of times. I heard you were coming soon, so I came to see you before we could actually meet." A baffled smile seemed to creep across my mouth, but the boy ignored it. "But I never thought that those were starting to grow here, though, and I had to stop you." Then he sighed. "I guess it's a sign though." He shoved his delicate hands in his pockets and tapped his left foot against the ground innocently.

My confusion became more evident, and this time he noticed. "Hehe. It means I'll be seeing you again. Really, really soon."

My mouth had begun to open, as if to pose a question, but at that very moment, the dream had chosen to end, thanks in part to the miserable time-keeping device on my bedside table.

But the boy had said we would meet again, and there was something about him that made me wish nightfall was here already. I loved the place in my dream. It was so beautiful and always so quiet and unlike any place I had ever been in. If I chose to close my eyes there and fall back into the flowers, I could feel as though I were floating. And now I had a companion to look forward to.

I could have never guessed that that night was the last I would see of that place for another six years.

I finally reached the first floor corridor and proceeded to the South Wing to drop off the sheet in the attendance office. I was so aloft that I had not even noticed that the halls were absent of the kids who normally roamed them, skipping class and evading the security guards.

I reached the South Wing staircase when some shuffling jolted me out of my daze. I heard something thud. Mildly interested, I continued up the stairs.

Someone moaned, causing me to freeze. I hoped that I wasn't going to walk in on anything that was going to scar my vision of this staircase forever.

Then came another noise, this time sounding metallic. The moaning stopped and there was silence for a moment. All of a sudden erupted an ear-splitting scream that shook my eardrums. The scream shocked me into place. I wasn't sure which way to move. My instincts were begging me to run the other way, far back the way I had come. But there was a stronger side of me that did not listen. It wasn't curiosity that had taken over the smarter side of me. It was a sudden burst within my chest, swelling to epic proportions. I couldn't ignore it.

I whipped around the barrier that had been concealing my presence. The scene I was expecting was not this. I fell back in horror, crawling towards the wall, but I couldn't tear my eyes away. There was a girl with long auburn hair, lying on the floor, covered in dripping gashes. The bright blue walls were now splotched with crimson flicks. The girl's pale face was lying at eye level with my own. I looked into her eyes and almost cried out. They were so blank and clear.

But I could not cry out, because at that very moment, something above the girl moved. It was a slender figure, moving utterly unsupported and as though it did not need it. Though I did not want to look further, I could not really see the figure at all. I mean, I knew it was there, but it seemed that when I focused on one of its features, they slid past my eyes.

The figure had begun to move away from the girl, noticing me by the wall. It was at that moment that I chose to find my voice. I screamed, louder than I had ever done in life, louder even than the remainder of the girl before me.

And then I collapsed.