Rebirth I: Truths

Chapter 1

"Everything isn't what it seems."

The words floated toward his ears on the chill, wafting wind, sending shivers down his spine. The glittering town of Sweet Valley was spread out in front of him, and the serene sea stretched out beyond, toward the horizon, and the moon's rays reflected softly off it. The voice sounded again, deep, rich and ethereal, repeating what he'd just heard.

What does that mean? He wondered.

He stepped forward on the tall building he seemed to be standing on, mesmerised. The stars above twinkled down on him, almost teasingly, as if holding the secret he wanted so desperately to know.

"Who are you? What do you mean? Show yourself!" he shouted into the night.

"You wouldn't want to know, but you'll know soon."

"Huh?" His head throbbed and supernovas seemed to flare behind his eyes. He reached out in front of him, his fingers flailing in nothing more than the chill night air. "I want to know!" he shouted, and stepped further. His sneaker skidded, and the ominous cracking of the stone he was standing on sounded. Suddenly, it crumbled to nothingness, and he toppled over, slowly, the wind playing with his dark-brown hair.

The ground rushed up at him…

The voice sounded again, melancholy and enchanting. It was feminine.

"My son…"

His lips parted to take in a gasp, before the darkness enveloped him completely.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Seventeen year old Steven Wakefield sat up with a start on his bed, to be greeted by the pleasant sight of early morning sunlight streaming into his bedroom-- quite opposite to the strange dream he'd just had. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, relieved that it had all been some crazy dream.

Wonder what I had for dinner last night. He hugged his knees to his chest, closed his eyes, and rocked himself back and forth for a few minutes, pulling himself together. Finally, taking a few deep breaths, he got up from the bed and entered the bathroom.

He splashed some water on his face, and stared at himself in the mirror above the basin, noting the messed-up hair, red, sleepy brown eyes and pale skin. Thank God Tanya can't see me now, he thought, smiling ruefully, thinking of his beautiful auburn-haired girlfriend. Nobody looked good after having just got up from bed, but this morning he looked especially ugly.

He started brushing his teeth, already thinking about the day at school. As long as his Biology teacher didn't kill him for the incompletion of his latest project, it looked as if it was going to be a pretty normal day.

Somehow, deep down, however, he didn't think so.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

"Good Morning, everybody," Steven announced cheerfully as he entered the kitchen.

Jessica, who was already at the table, shot him a rather sour look. "Good Morning," the fourteen year old mumbled.

"Why the long face, my dear sister?" Steven asked with a smile, as he sat down at the table and his mother placed a plate of pancakes before him.

"It's none of your business," Jessica snapped, attacking her own pancakes savagely with the fork.

Steven grinned knowingly. He tapped the fork against his cheek. "Let me guess… you have a Maths test today, and you didn't study for it… as usual."

Steven knew he'd hit the nail on the head when Jessica scowled in reply and turned her attention back to her breakfast.

Their mother frowned disapprovingly. "You've been out too much this weekend, Jessica. Maybe I should introduce a curfew…"

Steven laughed at Jessica's look of absolute terror.

Just then, Elizabeth, Jessica's identical twin, and their father entered, and wished them all. Though Elizabeth and Jessica were alike in appearance, with golden blonde hair and blue-green eyes, their characters were opposite. Where Elizabeth was calm, thoughtful and academically-oriented, Jessica was impulsive, active and much less academically-oriented, though no less intelligent.

As the family settled down for breakfast, Steven found his thoughts drifting further and further away from the conversation. They would inevitably hover over the dream. He sighed and reached out to pour some syrup over his pancakes. What did it all mean? Was it some kind of omen?

He was snapped out of it when Elizabeth's amused voice sounded. "I didn't know you liked pancakes with orange juice, Steven. But they do make an… interesting combination."

Steven looked down with a start at his plate, where he found his breakfast drenched with orange juice, a glass of which he was holding in his hand. Damn, I mistook the juice for syrup!

Jessica giggled with wicked triumph at Steven's embarrassment, while their parents were more concerned. "Steven, are you all right?"

Steven stared at his soggy breakfast in silence. For the first time in his life he didn't know what to say. He definitely felt that something was not right, but he couldn't possibly say some crazy dream was troubling him, could he?

He pretended to glance at his watch and gasp. He grabbed his backpack and strode toward the door. "I should be going to school," he said.

Ned, his father, looked up. "But isn't it a little too early right now?"

"I- er- have some extra work to- er- catch up on."

Before anybody could say anything else, Steven was out the door and on the sidewalk, on the way to school. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and strolled casually. His legs carried him automatically along the way, while he stared at the ground and thought. The uniform white tiles passing below him seemed to induce some sort of hypnotised state within him. Suddenly he wasn't really aware of the physical world around him, and his mind slipped into a world of its own.

This time, it was different. He was walking down a long, dark, narrow corridor which seemed to have no end. Suddenly he spotted it- a dark, brown door half shrouded in the black. He just knew that he had to open it- that it would hold all his answers; that his life depended on it. He broke into a run. The corridor seemed to close in around him as he ran; the door receded further and further and a sweeping sense of claustrophobia overwhelmed him.

Despite that he ran, ran, and ran… until he tripped. He fell face first on the rough harsh ground; momentary pain tore up his arm, but he didn't mind. Only one thing remained fixed in his head: The door…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

"Steven, man, you OK?"

Steven opened his eyes to see the rough white tiles of the sidewalk underneath him. He was lying sprawled on the pavement, and he could see a pair of sports sneakers next to him. He hoisted himself back on to his feet, momentarily confused.

"Steven?"

He glanced to his side to see the owner of the sneakers- his best friend, Joe Howell, standing next to him, looking at him with concern. Steven went red in the face. At this rate, the whole of Sweet Valley's going to think I'm a klutz.

He pasted a casual smile on his face. "Hi, Joe," he said.

"Yeah, hi," Joe said, smirking. "What's wrong with you, man? One moment you're running as if dogs are after you, and the next you're lying face down on the ground."

Wish I knew. Steven sighed. Joe's eyes flicked to Steven's elbow. "That's a nasty scar there; you'd better fix it up."

Steven glanced at his elbow, to see a long, bleeding gash. He gently ran his finger along it, almost fascinated, ignoring the pain. He saw his own blood come off on his finger, and as he stared at its smooth, deep red texture, he found his mind returning back to the door. Had it all been a hallucination, or was it trying to tell him something? What was beyond that door?

"Hey, Steve? Snap out of it. We might not make it to school on time if you're going to stand around day-dreaming."

"Yeah, whatever," Steven murmured, adjusting his backpack.

They walked in silence for a few moments, before Joe asked, trying to maintain a straight face, "Say, Steven, have you submitted your application for that exam yet?"

Steven stopped and his eyes widened. He remembered so well his teacher looming over him, saying:

"Well, Mr. Wakefield, if the application comes to my office a minute after eight thirty, consider waiting another year to enter into a college."

He glanced at his watch. Eight twenty.

He took off in a sprint toward the direction of the school, while Joe laughed. "I knew that'd wake him up."

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

He went through the rest of the school day very much pre-occupied, to the annoyance and concern of his teachers and friends. He was usually a brilliant student, but somehow, today, his mind wasn't in it. He sat through class after class as if in a daze, all the time thinking about the mysterious visions he had experienced. After thinking about it for so long, he was sure that they hadn't been dreams. He was sure that they were trying to tell him something. But what?

At the end of the day, he heaved a sigh of relief as he closed his locker; finally, he would go home, where he could think in relative peace. "Hey Steven!" a familiar voice called.

He looked up to see Tim Gaskell, a fellow team-mate of the SVH basketball team, striding toward him. Steven smiled, rather tiredly. "Hey Tim. What's up?"

"Up?" Tim eyed him incredulously. "Basketball practice is what's up. Have you forgotten?"

Steven bit back a groan. Of course. Basketball practice. He had completely forgotten. Being the star player of the team, the Coach would never forgive him if he missed even a single practice. All that 'setting a good example for the juniors' crap.

"So, Steven, you coming?"

"Of course." Steven opened the locker to take out his gym clothes with unnecessary force. "Like I have a choice."

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

"Look sharp, Wakefield!" the coach called, as Steven missed yet another easy pass.

Steven wiped the sweat from his brow, frustrated with himself. What's happened to me? How can I let a stupid dream distract me from basketball?

He stood prepared before the basket, ready to intercept the ball as a player dribbled the ball toward him. Suddenly, the gym began to contract and darken, and one by one everyone disappeared until he was the only one left. The bleachers merged into long dark walls; the whole gym into a corridor that was all too familiar. And at the end of the corridor…

The door!

He ran forward… he was close enough to reach out and touch it… his fingers closed around the cold knob… he threw the door open. He came to a stop, hands on knees, panting heavily. When he had regained his breath, he looked up to see he was in a large, circular white marble room, lit by an enormous chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling. The candle light caused eerie shadows across the large room, and little droplets of sweat coursed down his spine.

Finally, his eyes rested on the object present in the centre of the room. It was a large, raised slab of marble that reminded Steven of a simple tomb. Something glimmered upon the tomb. He walked over to it, his breath caught painfully in his chest. Something was written on it, with what looked suspiciously like…

Blood!

Alisa McClaire.

Here lies the professed saviour of the Magic Clan.

The rebirth of the clan awaits the true heir…

Steven ran trembling fingers over the cold, unrelenting marble. What does that mean? What is the 'Magic Clan'?

"This is your first step toward your true destiny."

That voice again! Steven swirled around. "Who are you?" he yelled. "Show yourself! Please!" His voice echoed off the unsympathising stone walls. Then—

"If you wish…"

Suddenly the tomb glimmered, and… something… rose out of it. Steven's jaw dropped as the mist emanating from the marble materialised into the ghostly form of a beautiful woman. Her sad, soulful green eyes lifted to meet his, triggering off a star flare in his chest that dropped him to his knees.

"What…?"

Suddenly he couldn't breathe… everything blurred and a headache paraded within his skull… he just caught a glimpse of the strange, beautiful woman stroking his forehead with a hand cold as ice… before darkness dissolved everything.