Disclaimer: Holes and Zero (unfortunately) do not belong to me but to Louis Sachar.

Living a Nightmare

Chapter One

The bronze skin woman hummed, her wrinkled hands clasping a small, delicate red rose blossom, the stem discarded on the ground. Her dark brown hair was pulled up in a tight bun on her head, a scarlet shawl draped over it and cascading down her shoulders.

"It appears that you have forgotten Madame Zeroni," she sighed, vibrant honey eyes staring into the woods bordering her house. "Why have you forgotten?" The wind rustled in the trees, the weeping willow stationed at the edge of the river groaning as its weight shifted.

"The curse is now upon you and your family. It would not have been if you had carried Madame Zeroni up the mountain and let me drink from the stream. But you have not done so." The old woman sighed again and glanced down at the flower in her hand.

Gasping, she threw it to the ground, eyes suddenly wide and fearful as she looked at the innocent rose, which lay on the hard-packed earth. Moving slowly forward, her purple skirt blowing in the breeze and her gold bracelets tinkling as they hit each other, the fortune teller knelt down and picked the flower up again.

"Why has this happened? What does this mean?" she asked softly, carrying the blossom over and dumping it into a bowl of crystal clear water on her small table. Immediately, the liquid turned pure black, the petals of the rose soaking with black. Acting quickly, Madame Zeroni picked it out of the water and set it down on the cloth.

"Danger is coming," she murmured. "Something will happen. But not to me…not to me," she repeated. "But to someone else of my line. They will fall prey to evil…but what can I do? I am an old woman and will not be able to reach my son, all the way in America."

Sitting down heavily in her chair, Madame Zeroni placed her head in her arms, hoping, praying, that an idea would come to her. And come to her one did. "I will not be able to stop it," she murmured, cupping the rose in her hand and pulling off each petal, "but I will help."

Placing each black petal in a small, earthen bowl, the woman poured in some clean water followed quickly by a lock of her own hair. Picking up the bowl, she set it against the hot coals of her small cooking fire, waiting until the liquid began to bubble.

As soon as steam had begun to rise into the cloudless sky, Madame Zeroni picked it up with tongs and put it on a flat rock next to her steps. Adding in a sprinkle of herbs and a drop of her blood, the woman smiled as the liquid turned into a deep green.

Raising it to her lips, she drank, gagging slightly at the foul taste. "It is done now," she whispered, placing the empty bowl on the table. "Let us be protected by our loved ones. Let them help us in any way they can and let us do our best to serve them so they may accomplish their goal."

These lines said, the woman toppled off of her front step to land next to the rose's step, her eyes closed in eternal sleep, her deed now done and her family saved. One day her descendants would require help, and they would receive it.

Dry, golden colored dirt flew through the air, landing on top of the growing pile behind Hector Zeroni, more commonly known as Zero. The bucket hat that normally protected his head from the hot Texas sun had fallen down to hang down his back as he took a gulp of water from his canteen.

In the hole to his right was Stanley Yelnats the fourth, whom the camp referred to as Caveman, though Zero still preferred to call him by his real name. He was the newest recruit that had been delivered to Camp Green Lake, about two months after Zero had arrived.

And still, after about five months of digging, Stanley had yet to master hole digging. Zero jumped out of his completed hole and glanced at the sky, blinking at the harsh light the sun gave off. 'Just past four,' he smiled. 'By the time I help Stanley finish it should be around five…then we can go back and he can help me learn to read.'

Walking over to his friend's, his only friend, hole, Zero jumped down into the three feet deep crater. "You're not doing so hot," he laughed. Noticing that Stanley's canteen was empty, Zero handed his over and the boy took a long swig.

"I'm almost done," Stanley grinned good-naturedly. "Just about another foot wide and then some down."

"What letters are we going to work on today?" Zero asked, digging his shovel into the dirt below them.

"I think we'll go for 'N' through 'R' today. And we can work on some words again and what sound they make."

"Sounds like a plan," the mocha skinned boy agreed. As he lifted the shovel again, his hands froze and his eyes focused on the far corner of the pit.

"Zero? What's wrong?"

"Rattlesnake," he whispered. "Don't move…it's right behind you."

Stanley froze completely, his eyes darting from Zero's face to the shovel clutched tightly in his hands, which he was preparing to throw at the snake. In a burst of movement, the object soared free and crashed into the snake, blood splattering the walls.

"It's…it's okay now," Zero said shakily. Stanley moved away from the body and stood next to Zero, himself feeling slightly weak at the knees.

"That was close," he remarked. "Good aim, Zero."

The younger boy simply nodded and went over to the snake carcass to throw it out of the hole. None expected what would happen next.

The rattlesnake came to life in Zero's hands and lunged at the boy's arm, fangs bared and glistening with blood. The next second, two screams sounded. One from Zero as the teeth pierced through his orange uniform and dug into his flesh and Stanley's from the surprise and shock.

Zero ripped the snake from his right arm with his other hand and threw it against the wall, where it fell to the floor and was buried beneath a pile of rubble, instantly dying. The other boys from the D-tent were attracted over and they peered into the hole, where Stanley was kneeling next to Zero, who was slowing fading to unconsciousness.

"SOMEBODY GET HELP!" Stanley shouted, shaking the small boy. No one on the surface moved, though many exchanged uneasy glances. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU?"

Lying Zero gently on the ground, Stanley jumped out of the hole and ran over to Mr. Pendanski, who had ignored the scream and was leaning against the water truck, watching idly at the frantic boy coming at him. "Sir! He needs help! He's been bitten by a rattlesnake!"

"Slow down, Stanley. Now, slower, tell me what happened."

Stanley stamped his foot on the ground in impatience. "Zero got bitten by a rattlesnake! He needs medical treatment!"

"Zero?" Mr. Pendanski walked over to the edge of the hole and looked down at the still form, which was beginning to convulse slightly from the venom. "Now normally we send the victim home if they've been bitten. But Zero doesn't have a home, now does he?"

"Which way to the medical tent?" asked Stanley, jumping back down and scooping Zero into his arms.

Mr. Pendanski smirked. "Zero doesn't need a medical tent. Why don't you go pick out a nice grave for him instead? There are plenty of spots open."

"What…what do you mean?" the brown haired boy asked, hugging the boy, still a child, to his chest. "He can be treated, right?"

The other boys on the edge of the pit were exchanging glances once more. They knew that once someone was bitten they were taken to the Warden's house and treated…Barf Bag had gone there and then gone home. Why wasn't Zero?

"Oh, he can. But he won't. Zero doesn't have anybody to come looking for his body. Zero doesn't have anyone who will wonder what happened to him. Because Zero isn't anybody."

"He is too somebody!" Stanley yelled, carefully climbing out of the hole so he was across it from Mr. Pendanski. "He's a person, just like me and you!"

"Zero is a nobody and no one will miss him when he's gone. Best go find a grave for him, Yelnats. He won't last past sundown."

Author's Notes:

Yes, I know, quite short. But I decided to write an opening and see if anyone's attention has been caught before I dig myself into a hold so deep I can't stop writing. :P Your comments would be wonderful and reviews very, very welcome.

Also, if you'll notice I have quite a few other stories. So if you don't see updates for a while; don't panic. I haven't forgotten about the story n.n