All eyes were on this woman – they eyes of the young and the inexperienced. They stared, enthralled, enchanted, their eyes glistening and glittering with awe and blissful innocence. She stood before them, gazing out at all the children. There were so many. The entire courtyard, lined and guarded by a tall fence was packed with them. However, the woman was not fazed by the presence of so many pupils. In fact, she looked not at all surprised, perhaps even expectant.

She was a fairly tall woman, her legs longer than most would deem normal. Her skin was golden tan, matching her honey-brown hair. As if she'd been drenched in rich gold, her eyes were a vibrant, light brown, complimenting her skin. Lean, she stood her ground, gazing. Her slender form was wrapped in a bright, yellow sun dress that came down past her knees. She held a clip board in her hand. Her hands were clasped tightly in front of her.

"Go," she said, her gentle voice tickling the ears of the children. They were all heading to go inside the school-like building, but they all disappeared. At least a hundred children had stood in that courtyard, but now they were all gone, with only one remaining. He froze, unmoving and confused. He looked lost, his brown eyes taking in his surroundings, expecting to see all the other children.

It was dark – very dark. It was hard for him to see three feet in front of him. While he could barely see where he was going, in the distance he spotted something moving – something white – twirling in the open space. Drawn to it like a moth to the street lamp, he began to move forward, eyes glued to this strange, glowing phenomenon.

Then before he could take a breath, he seemed to be falling endlessly. He opened his mouth to scream, but not one note left his lips. It was as if his breath had been stolen from him and locked in Pandora's Box, only to be opened out of curiosity. He didn't know how long he'd been plunging into darkness – it felt like ages in seconds – but when he finally reached the bottom, his body was enshrouded in water. The cold pinched his entire body, the shock making it difficult to breathe, and he was panting and panting. He started to feel numb as he fought desperately to stay afloat, his arms flailing, his legs kicking. If only he could reach the surface, but it felt as if something was pulling him down, some force preventing his head from going above water. It felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, pushing him down.

However, all of a sudden, he was pushed up by some unknown force and his head was above the water. Without thinking, he took in air greedily, breathing in the air that was essential for his survival, for living. He didn't know his body could feel such relief by taking in air, but doing something his body did automatically in every moment of every day.

He swam. He didn't know where he was swimming because again he felt that unearthly force pulling at him, and he was already far too exhausted to fight it only to fail miserably. It felt as if he'd been swimming for hours, and he had to wonder if he was even getting anywhere. However, he soon felt a sharp pain in his knee and if traveled throughout his entire leg. Taking in a gasp, his lungs were filled with water as his head was momentarily under water. It all happened so fast. One moment he was sinking, his knee stinging where the floor scraped it, and the next he was out of the water, lying, drenched on marble flooring.

He coughed uncontrollably and soon his throat felt raw. He'd completely forgotten about the cut on his knee and when he turned around, he felt dizzy at what he saw, or really, what he didn't see. Where he expected to see some kind of moving body of water, he saw not that, but instead a long, pitch black hallway that seemed endless, dry and empty. He just wanted to burst out screaming from frustration and confusion.

Had he been in water? Did he really go through all that exhausting work? Well, the evidence was there. He felt cold, like he was wet, and his clothes were heavy as if they were filled with water. He also felt those droplets of water on him.

However, when he looked down at his body, his clothes were dry, and he wasn't sitting in a puddle of water. He pressed his hands against himself and he felt perfectly dry clothes. Water, he felt water on his face. Frantically, he brought his hands to his face, and yes, he felt moisture, but then the smell of sweat hit his nose. He eyes began to water in panic. What was going on? Had he not fallen? He hadn't the faintest clue.

His knee! What about his knee? Quickly and with shaking hands, he yanked up his pants leg and he saw the blood with its vibrant, red color. It seemed to glow in the dark hallway, but it was his watering eyes playing tricks on him. He brought a hand to his supposed wound and he wiped away the sticky blood, but there was nothing beneath. His skin was untouched, unscathed. The blood on his fingers was clear evidence, and yet nothing marked his skin, not a single wound or scratch, gash or injury.

He couldn't hold it in. Suddenly, he let out a shrill cry that seemed to shake the hall. Out came the evidence of his frustration and anger at the situation he was now in. It seemed like a riddle he could not even comprehend. This jigsaw puzzle left him bewildered beyond belief, and it sent him in dizzyfying circles. Around and around he went, not knowing how to stop.

Where was he?

Call and response. It was a common tactic. When his cry finally ended, it was echoed. Not by the halls, but by something else – something different. The pitch was higher than his own and it didn't last as long. It almost sounded as if it was startled by the boy's cry of frustration and confusion. It made him go silent and rigid. Was he supposed to run away? Should he go investigate?

No, instead he stayed where he was – one the cold, marble flooring in the dark hallway, staring wide-eyed into the distance.

It seemed to get colder.

A character appeared, a tall, looming shadow drenched in black. It thin, lengthy legs were wrapped in striped pants – black and white. Yin and Yang? In one hand it held a cane, though it didn't look as if it was weak with old age. It seemed it was only for decoration, or to make this tall, lanky character seem wiser or more important than it really was. The old were always looked upon as wise, knowledgeable when only they had more experience to talk about and relate to. On top of its head was a large, long, black top hat. It cast an unnatural and unearthly shadow over its face, making it look only like a pitch, black hole. Though the boy couldn't see its face, he could still feel the weight of its eyes on him.

"What are you doing here?" it spoke, bewilderment obvious in its tone.

The boy opened his mouth to speak, but he wasn't about to get out a single word. His breath was caught in his throat as he gaped in amazement. This humanoid figure looked to be about eight feet tall.

"How did you find your way here?" It paused. "Was it that siren of a woman? Did she let you in here?"

The boy nodded.

"I'm not surprised," responded the figure grimly. There was a long silence. "My name is Damien," it finally said in a cheery voice. "And yours is?"


"Well, Sssimon, it's a pleasure to meet you." Simon nodded, with his mouth still hanging open. Damien leaned on his cane, both hands clasped on the tip of it, one hand over the other. He lowered himself, leaning down to get a better look at the boy. Though Simon still wasn't about to see any contours in Damien's face, he was able to see the tiniest speck of gold twinkle where and normal, human's left eye would be.

"P-pleasure," Simon stammered. Damien extended a gloved hand and Simon looked down at it. His fingers were lengthy, reminding him of spiders, and they were thin. When Simon took his hand in his, he noticed that they were cold, ice cold. Chills ran up and down Simon's back and he could almost feel Damien's smirk. Abruptly, he pulled away, nervously wiping his hand on his jeans.

"No need to be uneasy…" Damien suggested with a calm tone. Simon didn't respond. "I bet you're wondering what's going on here." He didn't bother to pause that time, "not that I can really tell you what's going on. I've been here for over a decade, put in the same position as you thirteen years ago, and I still don't know anything about this place. I've just been wandering around really."

To Simon, Damien seemed too genuine. He spoke with ease and as if the situation bothered him none. He couldn't see how this character could be so indifferent.

"A girl lives here though," he continued, and Simon raised his head in question to look up at him. "She's always here, and I don't know how long she's been here, but it's been longer than me – much longer." Damien was watching Simon carefully, but again, his eyes were shielded by the shadow of darkness created from the poor lighting and also enormous top hat. She's an interesting character, though I've never sat down with her and talked over a cup of tea." His voice lowered and became grim and weary as he added, "For she doesn't leave much room for talking kindly, or even talking for that matter." Simon heard him chuckle and it sent shivers up his spine.

"Do you know how to get out of here?" Simon question impatiently.

He didn't want to listen to Damien anymore.

Damien took a moment to recoil at Simon's sudden question before saying, "no, no, I do not."

"Okay, thank you." Clenching his fists, Simon stormed passed the stricken Damien. He really didn't feel safe with him behind hid back, but Simon just wanted to get away from him.

"Be careful," Damien called after him, leaning on his cane and watching Simon walk off. "You never know what lurks behind those dark corners," he added softly, but Simon didn't hear his last words, for he was too far off by then. "She's everywhere…"

End of Part I