• I used to think that life itself was nothing to be afraid of. That nothing bad could ever happen to me.
    Until that day.

    A simple day with my best friends, Arissa (Riss) Rowe and Britney (Brit) Darcangelo, after school walking home. The topic of our discussion almost predictable; what we would love to do to our worst enemies.

    “You know what I would do to Justine? I’d make her swallow broken glass. What would you do to Bella?” I said one day after school after I tied insanely long black hair into a tight bun at the back of my head and readjusted my blue tank top with a Happy Bunny logo that said “It’s all about me. Deal with it!”
    “I would love to like, bind her up and shove her under a steam roller. That would be awesome. Brit, what would you do to Felicia?” Riss said with a sick smile on her fair face, her auburn hair tucked behind one ear and the rest in a sloppy ponytail at the nape of her neck. She had worn her v-neck t-shirt and a pair of fading black cargo pants.
    “Hang her on a tree and snap her spinal cord. Instant revenge,” Brit said, a devilish smile sliding across her peachy face. Her blonde hair cut short so she could keep cool during the summer. Her outfit consisted of a tight brown and white horizontally striped dress, a pair of tight blue jeans underneath. It was obvious she was listening to Monty Python’s song, Big a** Rock, way too much.
    “Nice,” Riss laughed.
    “Yup. We should make a Saw movie. Except a true story. We’d probably go to jail for forever though,” I said.
    “Probably?” Brit said sarcastically.
    “Duh, Sam. You’d want Justine to go to jail or burn in hell if she did that to you wouldn’t you?”
    “I don’t give piece of chicken crap what Justine wants,” I said.
    We laughed at my metaphor then went silent. Something rustled the bushes that we were walking past and I heard a twig snap behind us and a cold sweat went down my spine like a bolt of lightening on a big metal pole.
    “Did you hear that or am I going nuts?” Brit asked with a look of worry on her face.
    “I heard it. You’re not nuts unless I caught some of your crazy too,” I said looking at Riss.
    But Riss wasn’t walking with us anymore.
    I looked at Brit, but she wasn’t walking with me either.
    “Oh come on guys, knock it off! That’s not funny!” I said; they had done this to me twice before and now it was getting old. But this time was different. They didn’t jump out and say “Dang it you got us!” they just kept hiding, “Okay, I know that you two are just trying to scare me again. Where’d you guys go?”
    Something grabbed my mouth with a damp cloth that smelt like a grass covered with chemicals and I lost consciousness.


    When I came to, I couldn’t see anything. At first I thought I had gone blind and through a fit screaming “I’m blind!” when I came to find out that I was just blind folded. I attempted to take the blind fold off but couldn’t move my arms, let alone feel them. As anyone might have guessed, I through another fit; just hollering this time. A painful stinging feeling like someone had smacked me swelled on my cheeks and a harsh voice that followed the feeling said “Oh shut up you worthless skank.”
    “Excuse me?” I said without thinking.
    “I said shut up!” the pain rose again and realized that someone was smacking me.
    “Make me! I ain’t shuttin’ up till someone tells me where I am and who the frick just smacked me!” my cheeks were getting really numb by now.
    The voice responded familiar and inaudible. It was unmistakably female.
    “Are Riss and Brit here? Tell me where I am!” I hollered.
    “Sam? Is that you? I can’t see a thing-these God forsaken blind folds- are you okay? Ouch! What the heck?!” Brit’s voice called from somewhere to the right.
    “Yeah did they just smack you too? Getting old isn’t it?” I called back.
    “No that was the first time they smacked me and it really hurt! Do you know what happened?” she asked worried.
    It took a while for me to respond because I had to guess what might have happened to us, “I don’t know but I think we were kidnapped!”
    “That’s right. You need to learn to keep your mouth shut you little slut!” the voice said.
    “Okay, buddy, the name calling is getting old and not getting to me. Could you give it a rest?” I asked.
    They smacked me again.
    “Hold up. Keep our mouths shut about what?” Brit asked.
    The voice said nothing but I heard a crisp smack and Brit yelp in shock and pain.
    “You’re interfering with our rights you know. Freedom of speech is one of our rights,” I said logically.
    “Sam, have you heard Rissa say anything?”
    “No have you?” a stupid question to ask, but I had to try.
    “No,” my stomach flipped as the smell of the room was recognized. It smelt strongly of salt and rust; blood.
    “Shut up!” a different voice said.
    The ground heaved and jolted underneath our feet and I screamed, so did Brit.
    “Big babies,” I heard the second voice murmur.
    “A bunch of wusses right Justine?” my jaw dropped.
    “Felicia!” Britney gasped at the sound of her name.
    “God, you’re so stupid,” said a new voice.
    “Shut it, Bella,” uh oh.
    “What? Who’s there?” I knew this voice immediately to be Riss, whose voice came from my immediate left. Her voice sounded slow and sleepy; drugged.
    “Rissa!” Brit and I chorused.
    “OUCHY!” Riss screamed when she was smacked for the first time.
    “Welcome to Hell, Riss,” Brit congratulated.
    “Someone just smacked me! Don’t think I’m gonna take that sittin’ down!”
    “Oh Lord,” I said. Riss has a tendency to take it too far. Way too far. She bit someone once when he went to hug her. Bad thing was, he was her crush. He never came within a ten foot radius of her for at least a year.
    “Watcha gonna do ‘bout it?” Bella taunted.
    “Bella,” I informed.
    “What?” Riss said acid in her voice.
    “How many times do we gotta tell you to keep you’re trap shut?” Bella said, her breathe blowing on my face.
    “Oh my God! Your breath reeks!” I complained. Her breath smelt of cabbage and manure. Gross.
    Silence came from the sewage breather in front of me as everyone else laughed and Bella stood in front of me, still blowing warm gusts of stink into my breathing canals.
    I held my breath until I turned blue then couldn’t hold it anymore, then I found a fault in the ropes my hands were bound by and quickly took advantage of it when Bella backed off.
    I ripped my hands free, yanked the blind fold off and looked around.
    The room I stood in wasn’t a room, but the back of a van. Why is it always vans that people kidnapped with? It was dark and stunk of, rust and salt, witch was just that. The walls of the van were rusty and the floors were covered in salt. I knew it was salt because there was a tipped over wash bucket that had a sticker on it labeled “Icsalt! Melt Ice Fast with Icsalt!”
    Justine ripped my arm back and I made a pathetic noise when a terrible shredding sounded from my left shoulder. I swung my free arm around to grab her hair and pulled as hard as I could until she let my arm go and the clump of hair I had in my hands came out. I looked at my hand and looked up at Justine, whose eyes seemed to turn red with pure hatred and pain and doubled over laughing when I saw the new bald spot on the right side of her head.
    “Sam!” I heard Riss call from behind me and turned around to find that she had undone her bindings too.
    “Wicked. Help Brit-“
    “Excuse me?” Brit said. I turned to face her and she was standing behind me with Felicia in a headlock.
    “Nice one, Brit, keep her there! Riss, you grab Bella! Justine! I’ve got a surprise for you!” I instructed when I got to my purse. My purse has a lock on it and I kept a gun in there for situations such as this. I unlocked it and grabbed the gun out of it.
    “Let. Us. Go” I seethed, annunciating each word carefully.
    “You’re pathetic,” she said and through something at me.
    Before I could realize what was happening, she, too, had a gun in her hand and it looked like it had a lot more fire power than mine. I worked on my poker face and let a smile hide my terror.
    “Is it even loaded?” I asked, shifting my weight, witch seemed pointless, it didn’t need to, and letting my gun drop to my side.
    Her face colored a little bit before stuttering, “Yeah isn’t yours?”
    “Duh, what would be the use of having a gun when it isn’t even loaded?” I said matter-of-factly.
    She stammered and swayed and fell backwards.
    Then, as if that was the signal, at least ten new people with masks over there heads came swarming through the back of the van and I realized that we had stopped.
    “SAM!!” Riss’s voice came screeching from behind me and I turned around to see that Brit had been gagged and Riss in the process of kicking the crap out of any one that tried to come near her. She didn’t see the masked figure behind her and slit her throat.
    “RISSA!!!” but I was too late.
    The ten back-up-is spun in my direction and stocked, forebodingly, towards me.
    They were most of them pretty tall and dressed in all black. Not like ninjas but black jeans and long sleeved black shirts. It seemed like their eyes were red, but that could have been from my terror of them.
    One of them stabbed my stomach, I shrieked. Another stabbed my left arm. Then my collar bone, then my right thigh, then the right side of my chest, then my heart, then, finally, my neck.
    It was, by far, the worst day of my life.
    The pain was excruciating.
    All I saw was red.
    All I heard was my own shrieks and the gouging of the blades penetrating my bloody flesh.
    Then, then, it was finally over.
    My friends and I, Riss, Brit, and Sam, are now gone.

    Or so I thought.

    chapter 2

    Okay, I know that this may sound strange on just about all accounts of death. But, in truth, heaven wasn’t as cheesy as I thought.

    As soon as my soul left my body, I knew that something new was about to take place, and braced for the bright lights of the golden gate. It started out as a tremendously painful… well… pain. In life, when I was twelve years old, I was stung by ground bees thirty-four times in the span of two minutes, but this pain was how I imagined being struck by lightening twenty times at once. But the pain continued, not for a split second, but for what felt like hours.
    Finally, it was over. I was blinded by the pain so that I couldn’t see the bright gates that I was walking towards.
    “Sam!” a voice echoed my name behind me.
    I turn around and see Brit holding her puppy, Missy.
    A cat meowed familiarly at my feet and I look down to see my cat, Boo, circling my feet. I pick her up and run over to where Brit stood. Riss was now standing next to her with her little puppy, Amber.
    “Are we dead?” I asked.
    “Yeah, Sam, my throat was slit. Remember?” Riss said.
    “And I was suffocated. You didn’t see. I was choked because I was busy watching you get torn apart. I’ve never screamed or cried so hard and loud in my life,” Brit said wincing.
    “Were you guys electrocuted on your way here?” I asked.
    “No. It felt like I was being burned to death,” Riss told us.
    “I was unconscious. I honestly have no idea,” Brit admitted.
    “Hey!” a voice coming from the gate shouted, “You comin’ or what?”
    “I guess we should start moving if we want to get good seats to heaven, huh?” I said.
    “Yeah,” Brit and Riss said together.
    When we got to the gate, the attendant was older looking with a friendly look on his face and a tux on said, “You have to leave out your pets. No pets allowed,” he pointed to a sign on the right side of the gate that said “No Pets Allowed! No Exceptions!”
    “Oh, then I think I’d rather go to Hell. I’m bringing my cat if it’s the last thing I do!” I said; I love my cat!
    “Sue it yourself. Nothin’ worth speakin’ of there,” he said and opened the gate for my friends.
    “I’ll go to Hell with Sam if I can’t bring my dog,” Riss said. I knew she would say that.
    “I’m with them. I love Missy and I’m not going into the unknown alone,” Brit decided.
    “Whatever. Not gonna like it much over there,” he said closing the gate again.
    We walked the opposite way and were confronted by a regular looking door that said “The Real Deal.” An oddly familiar young man was sitting in a chair on the right side of the door.
    “Hey,” Riss said.
    He looked up, “Hi. Figure out that the door over there was Hell yet?”
    “No. I thought that this was Hell. That guy over there wouldn’t let us take our pets.” Riss replied.
    “How did our pets even get here?” I whispered to Brit.
    She shrugged her shoulders.
    The face at the door suddenly gained an identity. It was Jay from Junior High, or Riss’s long-lost obsession.
    “Oh! I know who you are!” I said.
    “Huh?” his eyebrows pulled together.
    “Your Jay!” I said and Riss’s back straightened up when I said his name.
    “Yes and who are you?”
    “We’re Riss, Brit and Sam. Don’t you remember us?” I asked.
    “From…” he urged.
    “Junior and High school. You seriously don’t remember?”
    “Oh yeah. I remember Riss. Didn’t you call her Rissa not Riss?” he asked.
    “Yeah, she’s Riss now. I respond to Chris but don’t push it,” I said. It’s true, I go by Chris when I’m with my grandparents because that’s what they call me. Chris is short for my middle name, Christine.
    “Chris? You’re not a dude,” Brit implied.
    “My middle name, Brit. Christine?” I reminded her.
    “Oh yeah,” she did remember. I’ve only told her my middle name all of a hundred times.
    “Britney?” Jay asked.
    “Hi,” she said turning to him.
    “You’re talking to me again?” he asked confused.
    “Yeah. How long have you been dead?” she asked.
    “I’m dead?” it appeared he thought he was still alive.
    “Yeah. We all are. Well, we were murdered. Redrum!” I joked. Redrum is pronounced red rum. Say it backwards and its murder.
    “Man, I didn’t even know I died. I don’t even know how! Or why… or when!” he seemed a little peeved by his lack of knowledge of his own death. Then again, I would be too.
    “Naturally, the thick-headed idiot we all know and some of us love,” Brit joked. She was referring to Riss when she said “some of us love”.
    “Love?” Jay looked at me with a smile playing at his lips. I don’t need to be a mind reader to know what he was so happy about.
    “Dude, I hate to be a kill-joy, but you’re looking at the wrong chick,” I told him pointing to Riss. Her face colored up and Jays smile vanished.
    “Oh. Never mind. I was gonna say something, but never mind,” poor Riss!
    Something tugged me back so harshly that I almost fell backwards. I look backwards and Riss is tugging me behind a cloud-rock. This little area between heaven and hell is very large.
    “What!?” I asked, “I didn’t know he was gonna react like that!”
    “He doesn’t like me since I told him I drew him in fourth grade! That would kind of weird you out wouldn’t it?”
    “Yeah, but you came on too strong! Not my fault you had the balls to do that in seventh grade! You said that to him the second week of Junior High! I’m just surprised he didn’t run off screaming! I would have had someone told me they drew me my second week in a new place! It’s like going to like Russia or something and having some dude speak to you in plain English asking you to go to Rome with him when you never saw him in your life!”
    Correction, I’m never going to Rome for the simple fact that I had a bad dream in freshman year of high school when I went to Rome for my sixteenth birthday and a dude was stocking me wanting to ask my permission to rape me. Then when I got home to America, he had stocked me home and had planned to kill me if I didn’t give him what he wanted. Scary? Very! Me go to Rome ever? Hell no!
    “That was really random,” she burst into a fit of laughter.
    “Ugh, Riss you give me headache when you change the subject.” I said, joining her in her laugh attack.
    “Let’s go join grumpy and Brit,” I said grabbing her arm and pulling her towards the group.
    “Hold on,” Riss said pulling me back witch flung me on the ground.
    “Ouch! What? Hold on what?” I said hitting on her arm. I heard Jay laughing. He was watching. Hmmm. I suppose that would be funny to watch; I almost laughed.
    “Where are our pets?!” she asked suddenly panicked.
    “Huh?” I said looking around for my cat; in my arms, under my feet, behind the rock, behind me, behind Riss, behind the cloud-rock…
    “What the heck are you two doing? You look like your looking for something,” a hand landed heavily on my shoulder making me jump a foot and scream at the top of my lungs, turn around and slap whatever made me do that. I wound up smacking Jay so hard he flew backwards.
    “Oops,” I said.
    He got up and ran towards me, taking my hand and pulling me in another direction; the direction he flew towards. He pulled me through the gate to heaven. I turned and saw Riss and Brit running after us until I was pulled behind a building in the realm. Then I couldn’t see them and I turned to Jay and his back was to me and we were still running.
    When we finally stopped, he said, “All I ever wanted since I saw you was to see you smiling. All I ever wanted was to make you mine. I know that I love you, oh baby why can’t you see, that all I ever wanted was you and me?”
    “Basshunter All I Ever Wanted?” I asked. I knew the song he sang; he had some sort of talent, or lack of, for making me second guess my sanity.
    “Dang it,” he said. I guess he thought I didn’t know who Basshunter was.
    “You know what? I think I’ll be le-“
    I was cut off when his lips were suddenly pressed to mine. My eyes went wide and he still didn’t let go of my face; his eyes closed in concentration.
    When his tongue started to go into my mouth, I bit down as hard as I could till I tasted blood that wasn’t mine.
    He backed off; “Ow! You bit my tongue!”
    “Your tongue bit my innocence!” I shot back.
    He gave me an awfully confused look. He opened his mouth about to say something before I walked away and started calling for Riss and Brit.
    “Riss!! Brit!! Where are you?!” I called. I realized finally that it had gotten dark in heaven. I never thought that heaven could get dark.
    No answer.
    “Hello?!” I called into the night.
    An answering voice said; “Who is it?” in a threatening voice.
    I spun on my heels to look at the hooded figure standing but two inches behind me and screamed in surprise. The creature had a long, seven and a half foot tall stick with a sharp blade at the tip. There was a small chip taken out of the middle of the sharp edge of the blade. His cloak was a deep, deep black with an over-sized hood at the back but covering the strangers face. I could only see his eyes witch were a blazing deep, beautiful blue. He was standing in front of a large, elaborate manor with wrought iron gates.
    “Oh, my names Sam and I’m looking for my friends,” I said looking straight into his eyes.
    “I’m sorry I must have frightened you. Don’t mind the scythe, I’m looking for someone too,” my face must have been of total fear when I was feeling like nothing but a mushy oatmeal-brained fool, “I’ll help you look for them. First, do you want to come in and have some ice coffee?”
    “You’re…Not gonna… swing that, are you?” I asked pointing to the deadly looking weapon in his hand.
    “No. I use it but not on people who don’t deserve it.”
    We walked into the manor; the walls are an almost-white blue, in contrast to the boy in front of me.
    “So… What do you do? Like as in work or something. Do you have to have a job in heaven?” I started by trying to break the uneasy silence once we walked into the simple kitchen that had beautiful cherry red cabinets and a very large fridge. For a guys' home, it was very well-kept.
    “I’m called the Grim Reaper, but my name is Blake. I don’t know what my last name is,” he said as if he were admitting to a crime-wait…
    “Grim Reaper…? Interesting occupation…” I said leaning ever so slightly away from him; he noticed anyway.
    “You're already dead. I can’t rape you,”
    I choked on my coffee, “Rape?!”
    “I said reap. Grim Reaper; not Grim Rapper,” he corrected himself.
    “Were you thinking rape?” I said leaning farther away and looking into my glass of coffee.
    He didn’t answer.
    “I guess I should get leaving, you know find my friends?”
    “Oh yeah, could you help me find the person I’m looking for?”
    When we got outside after he finished up the dishes (witch I’ve never in my life seen a dude do) he said with apology heavy in his voice, “I didn’t mean to say rape. I’ve just had a hard time since I got here. I… I died that way.”
    It took me a minute to respond because I was concluding the awkward conversation when he said it that all of a sudden everything just clicked, “Oh. I guess that makes sense, so when you think of dying, you think of being raped then murdered?”
    “Yeah, something like that,” he took out a half sheet of paper and looked at it then looked at me.
    “What? There’s no way that that piece of paper could have anything to do with me, could there?” I was shocked by his expression when I saw it; pure astonishment.
    “How did you die?” he said his eyes still holding the same expression.
    “Murdered,” I said nonchalantly.
    “What’s your name?”
    “Sam,” I said again thought I already told him that.
    “Full name,” he said.
    “Samantha Christine Jessup,” I said.
    “Oh no,”
    “Oh no what?”
    “I’m looking for you.”

    chapter 3


    “Hmm, I wonder where Sam must have gone. Didn’t Jay run off with her somewhere?” I said; Sam was dragged into the new realm of witch we were either to go into or take a detour to hell.
    “How am I supposed to know? She was dragged behind that building wasn’t she? Poor Sam,” Brit said unsympathetically.
    “Brit, you don’t feel any concern about her?”
    “No not really,” I knew she would say something like that; I, for one, am absolutely terrified for her. I had no idea what was going to happen to her and I just hoped that she was okay, that’s all I could do right now till we found her and Brit was obviously not concerned to any measure.
    I sighed.
    “What’s your problem? You know that Sam is more than capable of kicking Jay’s a** if she had to. You’ve witnessed it happen and she walked away with a broken finger while he walked away with a broken arm, leg, and rib,” Brit reflected.
    “True, but I just can’t shake the feeling that she’s in trouble and needs or help,” I admitted with a sheepish smile.
    As soon as I finished that sentence, Jay came wobbling out from behind a building with a terrified expression on his face as if he were being chased and I thought that maybe Sam was his pursuer.
    “HELP!” He shouted gaining speed in my direction and not seeming to even attempt to slow down, then he was right in front of me; now we’re on the ground.
    “Riss, there’s someone chasing me. Hide me!” he begged in a low voice even thought I’m sure that Brit could hear him anyway.
    “Who’re you running from?” I asked shoving him off when he started to look at my chest.
    “This person in a black cloak! He all of a sudden started chasing me for no good reason! Hide me!” he said more urgent this time.
    “Don’t tell me he had a scythe,” I said accusingly.
    He nodded.
    I huffed.
    “He had a chick with him but I ran too fast to get a good glimpse of her,” he said with spacey eyes.
    “A chick?”
    “Yeah, like a girl?” he clarified.
    “Okay…” I said slowly, “Are they chasing you now? How do you know that they were even chasing you?”
    “Because he looked at me!”
    “Yeah, I’d look at you too if you were in my way,” I said.
    He groaned.
    Just then, like Jay had described, a figure I a dark cloak ran out from behind the building that Jay had run from and shortly after followed by a small girl with long black hair wearing a blue shirt and jeans; the clothes Sam had been wearing.
    It is Sam!
    My eyes went back to the cloak and I saw that there wasn’t a scythe to be seen and looked at Jay skeptically, “He doesn’t have a scythe!”
    “He did when he was chasing me!”
    “And the girl with him must be Sam!” I screamed.
    The cloaked figure came over to us and his hood fell down. The boy uncovered had the most beautiful shade of blue and his skin had a gentle, fading tan. His hair was stark white with blue-black streaks that just added to his already heart-wrenching good looks. He must have been one of the most mind-numbingly attractive people I’ve ever seen.
    “Hiya guys!” Sam said reaching for the cuties hand and he willingly gave it to her with the most brilliant crooked smiles I’ve ever seen.
    “Who are you?” Brit asked looking at the mystery heart-throb.
    “His name is Blake. No, not Ortiz,” she said when she saw that I made a face at myself then relaxed it when she finished.
    “Blake?” Brit said with a look of awe and amazement.
    “I know!” she mouthed with a huge, goofy, so-Sam-smile on her face.
    Blake turned around to look at Sam with a bewildered look; she apparently squeezed his hand too hard and he was curious why and she turned a deep red.
    I looked down and choked back a burst of laughter at Sam’s embarrassment.
    When I looked up again, Sam and Blake were locking lips as if they had been going out for years. I envied her.
    She saw me looking at her in her peripheral vision and did something to make Blake back up.
    “What? What’s wrong?” he asked her quietly.
    She said something too low for us to hear.
    “What?” Blake asked, apparently he didn’t hear her either.
    “I said, otnay erehay,” Sam said in pig Latin: Not here.
    “Oh, sorry,” Blake replied blushing.
    Sam smiled and moved a little closer; I looked at Jay.
    He had a look of utter confusion animating his face as he put the brief facts together.
    “Oh! Blake, tell them what you told me!” Sam said jumping up and down.
    “Huh?” He had a look of terror on his face that, me and my perverted mind, made me think that he said something to her that he didn’t necessarily want to tell her friends of whom he knows not their names. I didn’t blame him.
    “Oh my God, Blake, not that! That other thing! You know about helping us with our ‘problem’,” she said clarifying for him.
    “Oh, I offered to help you guys to get revenge on those chicks that mur- I mean killed you. And I wanted to introduce the girls to some friends of mine,” Blake said.
    Britney jumped up and down in either excitement to meet this hotties friend or to get to enact her plans to make Felecia’s life a living hell.
    I couldn’t blame her there.
    “Are you serious? That would be awesome!” I exclaimed.
    “What? Introducing you guys to my friends or helping you out with the girls?”
    “The girls, thanks!” I said.
    He smiled back at me and I could have sworn my heart melted.
    “So… where are your friends?” Brit said impatiently.
    “Come on, I’ll show you,” he said turning around, grabbing Sam’s hand and running in the opposite direction.
    We ran around the entire little neighborhood like place until we were at a huge wrought iron gate. It was dark out, so I couldn’t see what was behind it.
    “Here’s my place. I live here with my two best friends, Tadase and Kukai,” Blake took out a key from an unseen pocket in his cloak and unlocked the gate and let us in. I didn’t see the huge mansion until we were right on top of it and I tripped over the steps up to the porch.
    “Oops, careful,” Sam said grabbing my arm to steady me.
    “Thanks,” I said when I noticed that the porch had sharp cornered steps.
    Blake unlocked the front door and let us in. When we were all in, he turned on a bright light and it illuminated an obscenely large hallway. The walls seemed white until one looked more closely; they were a very light blue. There were mirrors on the walls in front of French doors leading to other plainly large rooms. Underneath each mirror, was a small oval table with vases of different flowers on each table. It severely contrasted to Blake’s wardrobe. The floor was a beautiful, deep red wood with decorative area rugs in between each door. The hall overall was very welcoming. I wondered if a girl really lived here until I remembered that we were in heaven, not earth.
    “Tadase, Kukai! I have some people who want to meet you!” Blake called after closing the door behind him. I didn’t notice before, but the door was very, very large.
    “Is it that chick you were supposed to kill and her friends?” said a maturing voice that seemed too old to have any relation with this Blake character.
    The floor vibrated and I heard a pounding somewhere down the hall and was immediately worried. Did he own an elephant too? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did; he already had enough room in the hall to hold at least ten already. Why wouldn’t he own one besides the fact that they stink.
    I was almost surprised by the atrociously gorgeous guy, who was the source of the pounding, which now stood before us. He even outshone Blake witch seemed near impossible. In that instant, I remembered Jay. I wondered where he might be.
    The elephant’s eyes were so dark they were almost black and his hair so black, almost blue. He wasn’t very tall, but he was muscular. So beautiful, that word illegal came to mind. He wore a black shirt that accented his muscles nicely and it had a logo on it that said “It’s only funny till someone gets hurt. Then it’s freakin’ hilarious!” and baggy pants that didn’t seem like they fit him around the waist at all. Now I believed we were in heaven. He had a belt with black studs on them and it seemed, if nothing else, and accessory. They didn’t hold his pants up and I’m sure it was on the loosest notch.
    “Hey,” the boy said, my head snapping up from looking at his shoes witch seemed as if they might fall of they were so loose, “I’m Kukai. What’s your name?”
    His smile was so beautiful I had trouble speaking, “Arissa but you can call me whatever but profanities.”
    “How about what your friend calls you. Riss?” he asked.
    “Sure,” I said.
    He smiled and waved me over to his side. I wasted no time getting over there. He put his arm on my shoulder and pulled me into another room that seemed to dwarf the hallway and I felt my jaw drop.
    “This is my room,” he sat down on an enormous bed that looked as if it could hold at least five people comfortably, and patted the space next to him.
    I sat down and looked around, “And I thought the hallway was big. Wow.”
    “Well, it used to be a lot smaller. But we had to work a bit to get it this big. We’ve only been here about a month. In the next month or so, it’ll get bigger,” he laughed.
    “How can it possibly get any bigger than this? Your bed’s big enough for everyone in the place to take a long messy nap. Do you take up the entire thing?” I said disbelieving.
    He looked down and away but didn’t say anything.
    I giggled. He must be a messy sleeper, “How can it be bigger?”
    “I don’t know but I do know it’s too… uh… small.”
    “What kind of dreams do you have anyway?”
    “Scary ones,” he said stretching his arms out to tickle me before I could stop him.
    “What are you guys doing in here?” Sam came in with Blake right behind her followed by Britney.
    Then I realized that Kukai was on top of me, paused on his tickling; I knew what it must have looked like. I pushed him off, stood up and ran to the other side of the room.
    “Okay… I’m going to forget I saw that and say what I was about to say. Blake wants Riss to meet his other friend, Tadase. Or were we interrupting something…?” Sam asked cautiously.
    “He was tickling me!” I defended.
    “Like that? It didn’t look like tickling to me,” Brit said.
    “Yeah, I know that’s not what it looked like, Brit,” now I was getting annoyed.
    “Ugh, Brit, your worse that Phoebe. Take a chill pill will you?” Sam referred to one of her friends she made when she switched schools. Apparently Phoebe was really perverted.
    “Don’t insult my intelligence,” she said turning around.
    “Or lack of,” I murmured.
    Thank God she didn’t hear.
    Then my thoughts wandered back to Jay and thought about how I used to think that he was heart melting. That thought seemed ridiculous now. If he had ever liked me, my fascination with him was officially ended. I wondered if one of Blake’s friends had a sister that might appeal to Jay; I looked at Kukai and suddenly didn’t care.
    “You coming or you going to stay here and make googley eyes at each other?” Sam asked.
    “We’re coming,” I said looking away from Kukai.
    We walked into the hall way, witch seemed very small compared to Kukai’s bedroom, and saw yet another highly attractive boy sitting in an arm chair in another room reading what looked like a magazine with a girl sitting on the arm of the chair. The two seemed oddly similar; same eyes, hair color and face shapes. The boy looked up and gave a quick movement with his hand witch passed as a wave and the girl looked up and smiled.
    He had messy blonde hair that hung in his face; his eyes were kind of tired looking and a milky chocolate color; he wore a blue, torn to heck plaid tank top that showed a little too much had he been a girl and a pair of faded blue jeans that seemed like they fit him better than some of the kids at school. His smile was just as bright as Kukai’s and Blake’s, and he seemed to look at Brit most of the time instead of the girl next to him who seemed a little preoccupied by Jay who didn’t glance at her once; he was too busy shooting daggers at Blake through his eyes.
    The girl had pretty brown hair in pig-tails and a sugar-sweet smile that didn’t seem to interfere with the crusty Blake didn’t notice he was getting but she kept smiling anyway. She had on a semi-tight, lime green tank top that went well below her waist, a purple skinny tie, and a pair of dark grey skinny jeans. She walked over to Jay and he looked at her and his crusty seized immediately.
    “Hey,” she said moving her hair out of her face.
    “Hey,” Jay seemed to completely forget that only a few seconds before, he was in love with Sam.
    “What’s your name?” she said.
    “Jay, what’s yours?” Jay replied.
    “Amu; can I show you something?” she asked, and then I stopped listening a paid attention to the new boy and Brit.
    “Tadase,” the boy said and I took it that the new boys name was Tadase.
    He seemed like he was on the same level of humor and immaturity, making a perfect couple-plus, Tadase was cute and Brit was pretty attractive, so it would work out just fine.
    Then, something happened.
    My spine trembled and a cold sweat seemed to envelope the room.
    Knock, Knock, Knock.

    chapter 4


    “So, when did you get here?” I said, making my first attempt at flirting.
    “Same as the rest of the guys, a month ago, you? I haven’t seen you around,” he said back. He had smiled at me a few times now and deserted his lady friend to talk to me and I thought that might means something along the lines of preference. But for all I knew, she could be his sister, witch seemed highly likely.
    “Really, I just got here,” I said, “if you don’t mind my asking how you died.”
    “Rape and murder, how did you die?”
    “Murder,” I said nonchalantly. I love that word. Nonchalantly… sounds like another way to say not slant-y.
    “By…” he prompted.
    “My worst enemy and her group of wanna-be-ninjas,” I looked at my feet.
    “I’m sorry. I meant how like by what?” he corrected him self apologetically.
    “Hands,” I looked at him again with a frown, “and my neck.”
    “Ah. I was raped by my neighbor then murdered by him too.”
    “Ouch,” I said sympathetically.
    I realized then that the room had gone silent as the word slipped from my mouth. I remembered that they had never heard me be sympathetic for years and ever.
    “Brit did you hit your head?” Sam asked.
    “She must be sick. Do you have an extra room she could stay in?”
    “Maybe she’s gone crazy!” this from Riss.
    “Possessed by the devil maybe?” Sam suggested.
    I was hoisted up by many arms and brought into a room at the end of the hall and set on an extra, yet very large, bed.
    “Guys I’m fine,” I said but they didn’t hear me.
    “What’s wrong?” Tadase’s voice sounded confused and worried.
    “She hasn’t been concerned or felt sympathy or even acted like she cared for years. Something must have been knocked loose,” Sam explained.
    “Oh, really?” Tadase said surprised.
    I heard a giggle from the other room and turned to look; Jay was smiling and telling the girl something intelligible. She could just have been flirting and I knew that Jay was though it didn’t bother me. I turned to Riss and she eyed me curiously.
    “What’s wrong?” she asked.
    “You aren’t about to kill Jay or that girl are you?” I said sarcastically, she looked completely content by Kukai’s side.
    “No, why would I?”
    I motioned my head in the direction the other room and she just rolled her eyes like it didn’t matter any more. I wasn’t going to argue, it was about time she moved on from her junior high crush.
    “Are you okay?” Sam asked.
    “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not that rare for me to show some feelings is it?” I said.
    “Brit, the last time you shoed any sympathy for any one was in freshman year of high school when Robbie dumped you for Cassandra. That was three years ago, so, yeah I’d say it’s pretty rare,” Sam reflected.
    “Yeah I guess, but you remember that vow I took don’t you?” I asked.
    “Yeah, about not showing that I care anymore, that it’ll only get my heart broken again?” I was getting a little on the grr side of things.
    “Oh right! You said that it would expire when hell freezes over twice. It hasn’t even frozen over once that we know of!” she seemed to be getting a little irritated too.
    “Drop the subject. We died. The vows we took when we were alive should have expired from minute one of whatever this is, except the vow to always stay by each other’s sides. That one stays active for forever.”
    “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I think I’ll have a hard time adjusting back to the Brit before the dump,” she smiled a relieved smile. It was about time, I was beginning to permanently harden up and that would have been no fun.
    “So she’s alright now?” Tadase asked looking up to Sam and Riss.
    “Yeah, she’s all yours now.”
    The sound pounded down the hall ominously and we all froze in preparations for dinner witch was to be spaghetti, salad and barbequed chicken (for the guys).
    “I’ll get it,” Sam said with a sigh.
    “I’ll come with you,” Blake said, following her out of the room.
    An uneasy silence enveloped the kitchen as we listened to the door open at the other end of the hall. No other noise was made after the sound of the lock on the door unlatching.
    Suddenly, a loud bam and a thump came from the door and Riss, Kukai and Tadase were on their feet immediately while I sat still at the end of the counter, frozen in slicing tomatoes for the tomato sauce for the spaghetti.
    Riss stepped into the hall and immediately fell backwards and landed on her back. Kukai gasped and I looked down at my friends’ now shocked and unconscious face. I choked back a scream. There was a barely visible needle stuck in her throat.
    I wanted to see who, or what, had done this to my friend. I stood up and walked sideways toward the door to the hall and was pulled back by Tadase. I looked at him and he had a look of sincere worry across his face; I knew he didn’t want me to, but I was the cat and whatever out there was curiosity.
    “Curiosity killed the cat. I’ll take my chances,” I said quietly putting my hand on his shoulder in reassurance.
    He nodded as I turned once again toward the door to the hall and I felt Tadase follow behind me.
    I took a deep breath, close to the door of the hall and it stuck in my throat as a cold sweat shivered down my spine and footsteps echoed down the hall toward us. Slow and steady they came. Thank God the hall was abnormally long, long enough for me to turn to Kukai, careful not to knock my hair into the view of the approaching being, and motion for the serrated knife in the knife block behind him. He handed it to me with a knowing look and the footsteps stopped. I slowly turned around and raised the knife that I knew full well was very, very sharp. Sam had sharpened it. I wonder what happened to her…
    I gather my failing courage, take a deep, silent breathe, raise the knife, and slowly turn the corner.
    The knife raise in my hand, but I couldn’t move. It felt as if my feet at been gorilla glued to the floor and they refused to do as I willed them to.
    The figure was large, bulky, dark, and scary; eyes that glow red in the lit hall as if it were as dark as the darkest part of the ocean. My eyes were so glued to the upper portion of the body; I did not see the rest of this foreboding creature before my arms fell limp at my sides.
    My arms feel dead. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My legs feel like noodles stuck at the bottom of a hot pan, I couldn’t move; petrified. Scared stiff by the stiff I was standing in front of.
    I feel myself sway and my eyes roll back into my head.
    I hear an unsettling bang and am pushed back by an amazingly small, painful, but strong force and loose my grip on reality.

    The blackness surrounded me, and in that moment, I thought that we were, indeed, not in heaven, but Hell. Alone, once again; my only companion a crushing darkness.
    It was a single voice that saved me from falling under the spell of second death.

    “I-I don’t understand. How could she be dead? She’s already died once, and we’re on heaven! That makes no sense!” a familiar, crushed voice sounded from the blackness.
    It wasn’t as dark now, only as if I had my eyes closed. But, if this was one of the creatures' tricks, I would not fall for it again!
    “Well, technically, you’re not in heaven. You have to work your way there. ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.’ It isn’t all peaches and cream. You died a few weeks ago, your not in Heaven or Hell, you're in the far-planes,” an unfamiliar voice told in a knowledgeable voice.
    “Oh, how would you know? She’s dead! In… In… Wherever the hell this is! It’s not logical! We’re already dead! How could die when you’re already dead! It doesn’t make any sense!” the familiar voice, I recognized as Tadase, said harshly.
    “Now, let’s not be uncivil. You know we can still die even when were already dead now, why don’t you, uh, put me down and I’ll see what I can do to bring your companions back?”
    There was heavy breathing, but other than that, total silence as he rolled this idea around in his head.
    “Fine, if you can’t bring her back, you have no idea what I will do to you. Bring my brothers back. Bring them all back or you will have hell to pay,” his voice was very stern as he made his threat.
    “Will it hurt her?” Tadase asked after a few seconds of the guest rummaging around in something to the left of me.
    “You tell me, she’s dead,” the man said.
    “If she was alive I mean.”
    “Well, she isn’t is she?”
    “You know what I mean!”
    “Yeah, if she was alive, this would be enough pain to kill her.”
    With that I bolted upright and jumped off the table I realized I had been placed on and into Tadase who, when I looked at his face, was purely terrified.
    “I wasn’t dead! I’ve been listening to your conversation for like fifteen minutes!”