• Chapter 1 (mostly)

    Michael wasn't a very lively person. He had always thought he was rather dull. Regardless, Michael always imagined himself doing something amazing one day. Something no one would ever forget. He knew that deep down inside of him an ember lingered; one which was waiting to burst into flames any moment.

    Clouds hung low in the dark foggy sky. The moon was hidden in the mist of the fog. The rain made a thin river that flowed into the gutters on the side of the road. Michael’s bulky green pickup strolled down the gray street alone.

    He had on his favorite oldie’s station, and sang along with the melancholy tune humming from his aged car radio. He looked forward to returning to his small apartment after a long day of college and work. The rain patted the street in sync to the song playing.

    His lights fought trough the thick haze. Michael turned on his windshield wipers, and the water was pulled away like a curtain in a theatre. When his window was clear, his eyes widened. A fragile figure stood in the road, motionless.

    Life was put into slow motion. In a panic Michael slammed onto his brakes, and his car skid with a loud scream until it was too, completely still. Gray, breath-taking eyes stared at Michael in the blinding darkness. Terrified eyes. And he was hypnotized, drawn to her alluring gaze, and marveled right back. The car’s engine grew silent. The young woman’s features were incredibly stunning. She had a perfect angel face, and umber hair that dangled innocently to her waist. Her white dress was worn and covered in mud, but looked as though that at one point it had been beautiful as well.

    Michael lingered, and hoped the young lady would move so he could leave, and act as though he had never seen her before. Minutes passed and she remained as still as a spider waiting for its prey. He worried. Was she lost, or maybe even delirious? They continued to eye each other. Michael’s fingers drummed on his steering wheel. He grew impatient, and reluctantly climbed out of the car, and grabbed the umbrella from the passenger seat, “Are you alright?”

    She trembled. Hesitantly she replied, “They’re coming. They’re after me.” Her voice was barely a whisper. She hunched forward, and her hair draped over her face. “You can’t be seen with me. Go away, or they’ll get you too. Hurry.” She was nearly lifeless, as though some one had tried sucking the life out of her.

    Thunder roared as Michael spun his head around in circles. "Who is after you?" he inquired taking a cautious step near the woman. She shot her head up. The color in her skin deteriorated. It looked like white wax was poured onto her bones.

    "Go. Now." Her murmur echoed quietly, weaving through the shadows. "Leave, they're coming," Another crack of thunder echoed in the wind. She weakly cried in desperation, "Please! I don't want anyone else to get hurt because of me." Pain rippled in her features, like a shock wave.

    Michael walked closer to her and noticed a skin crawling wound on her neck. It still looked raw. He winced, and averted his eyes in a natural reaction. He suddenly felt full-hearted sympathy for the girl. Someone wanted to hurt her, and he wasn’t going to let them, whoever they were. He took a second to breathe while taking in his new responsibility, “Listen. I can take you home if you want, or wherever.” He directed his attention to the truck. “I’ll take you somewhere they can’t find you.”

    The girl stood silent. Her look was confused, and beholden. "I-I..." She trailed off, glancing over her shoulder as if expecting someone to be there to tell her what to do. When her face returned she looked concerned. Her brow wrinkled, “But you’ll get-“

    Michael raised his hand to stop her, “Come on. It will be ok.” He held out his umbrella beseechingly. “Please,” he breathed. White steam rose out through his teeth, as the rain created a shimmering wall around his umbrella.

    The woman skeptically advanced towards Michael. Before she bowed under the umbrella, she gleamed at him with gratitude. He walked her to the car, and helped her in.

    As he started the car he cautioned her with a low voice, "It's going to be a bumpy ride so buckle up" The engine began to purr, and it huffed exhaust into the air like a pipe. The car began to gently roll.

    The girl looked down at her knees covered by her white dress. Her arms were folded together as if trying to keep herself warm. Michael turned on the heater. Shelby slouched over so her hair fell forward. Feverishly she shook, and strange petrified noises came out of her mouth. “Are you cold?” Michael asked. She didn’t make any acknowledgment that he had said anything. He tried again, "Well...I guess I should tell you my name. I'm Michael. Who are you?"

    She wavered, "I’m Shelby," She responded quietly. Shelby leaned against the door, still quavering. "And by the way-thank you...." She spoke like soft velvet.

    "No problem." Michael sighed and continued, "So, where do you live?" he asked, “I’ll drop you off.” He scratched the back of his head as they neared a red light. Michael held the brakes, and the car thudded.

    Shelby shook her head. "I don't have a home. I’ve never have.” She shrugged off Michael’s shock as if it was no big deal. Like it was a normal part of everyone’s life. “I guess you could say I have a place where I live, but it’s not a home,” resentment veiled her words.

    “So, you’re running away,” he stated. He wondered if the scar on her neck was from her family. If that was the case he didn’t blame her for leaving. Shelby relaxed slightly, and let her arms fall to her sides, “I’m sorry Shelby.” Cold silence. “Can I help? Can I take you somewhere? A hotel?” Michael felt ridiculous, but what else was he supposed to do? Leave this poor woman on the side of the street? Something told him that was not the right way to go. “I’ll give you some money, and…”

    Her voice trembled, and she gradually spoke faster, “Michael. Listen. I don’t care where you take me. But just get me somewhere where I’ll be safe.”

    He could feel fear, beyond comprehension, intoxicating the air in the car, “Shelby, what is going on?” Michael’s heart pounded in his ears. Shelby was quiet. “Tell me.” She stopped breathing. “Tell me!” Shelby cracked.

    “Someone is trying to kill me!” Every detail of her face radiated with absolute dread. Her mouth quivered, and she hissed, “Don’t ask me any questions right now. Just get me out of here. Now.” The last word was spat out roughly and she shifted so she could look right at Michael to make herself clear. Her forehead creased slightly, and her pupils were as small as the tip of a pin. Thunder howled, making her demand finalized.

    Michael bobbed his head weakly, and a sweat drop fell off of his nose. He was flabbergasted, and he couldn’t make anything come out through his lips. The light turned green, and the car pressed forward. “You’ll stay at my place.”

    Shelby bowed her head, “You’ll keep me safe.” She didn’t ask.

    Michael nodded. "No one will touch you."