The boy called Ryan Cullman stood on rickety old step, suddenly unsure.

He was on Roster Street, and standing still in front of an old house labeled 235 in gold characters on the door.

Taking several deep breaths, he told himself, this is it, don't back down, dude.

There was something eerie about the house, no doubt about that. But he took a step, and knocked on the door.

He had barely rasped his nail once on the wood before an attractive woman, about twenty-three, answered.

Indeed, she had an air of beauty and an appearance of splendor, but she had bags under her eyes, and she looked as if the world itself resided on her shoulders.

Just seeing her made most wish to weep.

"Hello ma'am, I'm-"

She cut him off. "You're Ryan Cullman, no?"

"Um, yeah. I mean, yes ma'am." he knew what kind of chance this was, he knew how many kids and journalist-wannabes dared to come in here, coming out with nothing. He knew, and he wasn't going to mess it up.

"Yes, yes." Her voice was wispy. Vague, even. "Come, come in, please, have a seat."

She led him to a room that looked like the kitchen. Everything was wood, as far as he could tell. The chairs, the table, the walls. But the stove seemed to be made of metal, modern.

All in the room looked like it belonged, as if it were in its true place. Everything but the woman, of course.

He sat down in a seat that looked like it would break any second. He traced the perplexing carvings on the armrest. Ryan's finger followed a vine, a leaf, and a flower drooping down…

"Tea?" the woman's voice cut off his pointless musings.

"Excuse me?" he felt like an idiot.

"Would you like tea?" the woman was polite, and Ryan had no choice but to respond, "Yes, that would be nice."

The woman raised an eyebrow, as if she knew he didn't want tea.

It was a bit obvious, really.

He took a sip of the scalding drink and found that he'd enjoyed the taste. But the words of the female across from him distracted him from this particular thought.

"You are here for my story, it seems."

"Yes ma'am."

She nodded slowly, tiredly.

"Can I ask a question first please?"

"Of course."

"Why me? There were so many who've asked you before, and you've never even responded to them." It was part curiosity, part accusation.

The woman had clearly expected this question. "Well," she started, "your age for one, not too old to disbelieve, not too young to misinterpret."

"I'm sixteen." He was suddenly confused.

"Yes, yes you are. But it was one sentence in your letter that made me wish to tell you my story. The line, 'I don't wish to spread a story, I just wish to know.'" She paused. "Do you believe in this sentence? Do you still accept your previous judgment? For what you say, you cannot take back, my boy."

Ryan was suddenly startled. Here this woman was, only a few years older than him, a human everyone claimed was crazy, yet she was so… wise, so sure.

"Yes, yes I do."

"Good. For my life has been confusing. My life has been unbelievable, even. Everything I tell you is true, but it seems as if something from a cheap science-fiction novel. You must tell no one, and you must find the true meaning, Ryan. Do you still want to stay and listen?"

"Yes." He was suddenly as sure as she was.

"Good. I suppose it started, then, just when I was a few years younger than you. I was in the laboratory, doing my daily 'exercise,' as they had called it…"

I ran through a maze, not even breathing hard. If I'd had a human pulse, it would've been beating wildly.

Too bad I didn't

The maze had walls, a couple of feet thick, and made of some material I couldn't break. Mad scientists, who I fondly called Mad Asses, designed the labyrinth specially. It was to test their experiments' survival, or skills.

This was where the saying, 'survival of the fittest,' took place. Only the top could survive, only the best could live. That wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Getting through the maze itself was no problem, it was the animals and obstacles they'd put in my way that scared me.

I took a needed right turn making sure nothing was there. As far as I could tell, with my extraordinary hearing and sight, nothing alive was in my direct way.

Taking slow, careful steps, I was fully aware of the cameras watching me, the mad asses watching me.

I wondered if they had popcorn.

A/N: Go me, I've finally got it up! I'd like input.

For old readers, what'd'ya think?

For new ones, "Who buddy, someone's voluntarily reading!"

Okay, for old readers, I've changed the character pictures, so check out my homepge/website thingy. The link's on my profile. For new readers, you might wanna do the same. It helps with the imagination or whatever.