December 30th, 2004
It was my eighteenth birthday, and like many of those birthdays which preceded it, it wasn’t going well.  It was evening already by the time I got a moment to myself, standing in my mother’s old slippers outside where I had retreated to stare unseeing at the stars.  I would like to say I was thinking, enjoying the moment of solitude and peace, but I wasn’t.  All I could feel was an angry ball of sorrow deep in my stomach that held me motionless, muscles clenched with internal pain that made the cold of the December air a welcome distraction.  I don’t know how long I stood there, with the sounds coming from inside blocked to nothing by my own personal need.
Eventually the sounds from the night around me intruded, and I was frozen still for a new reason.  I couldn’t tell what it was, exactly, but I was pretty sure that someone else was outside, further into the woods.  The darkness had never held fear for me, but I was always aware of the possibility that someone else could be out there where I couldn’t see them.  Curiosity won out in the end, and I stepped off the house’s walkway and into the snow.  I regretted it immediately as I remembered that my slippers were made mostly of old cardboard and a bit of hopeful terry cloth.  I didn’t have long to worry about what my mother would say when I went back in, because I only took two more steps before I saw someone standing just at the edge of the woods.  There was a flash of metal, and the sound of someone’s footsteps behind me.
I held my breath.
“Don’t move.” A man’s voice whispered from just behind me.  I staggered forward, and was grabbed by someone else.
“No!” I hissed.
“Relax, kid, you’re my ticket out of here.”  I was dragged backwards, and I stared at the man who’d been behind me.  He looked like someone out of an anime- white hair, trench coat, boots, sword….  Were there LARPers in my aunt’s backyard?  His eyes caught and held me, an unreal emerald-green.
“Let her go, she isn’t involved!”  He took a step closer, his arms spread wide.
“Stop!  Come closer, and you know I’ll …”  The man who held me hissed, and I felt something cold at my neck.  Who were these people?  Real LARPers would never use real metal weapons!  I was dragged back further and further.
“Fine, fine, just let her go…”
“Oh, I can’t do that.” I could hear the smile in his voice, and I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t dare turn to see with what must have been a knife at my neck.  “And now it’s too late for you to save her.  Doesn’t that just burn? One more mortal’s neck on the line just because of you…”
The knife nicked my neck and I gasped, but my attacker’s hand held me tightly as he fell backwards.  The last thing I remember is hitting the not quite frozen water of the stream and a swirling flash of purple before everything stopped.

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