Author's Notes: Should I really be doing this? Probably not. I'll level with you. Some of you reading this are probably wondering when I'm going to update the rest of the stuff I'm working on. The answer is, eventually. The fact of the matter is that I'm working these days, and most of my time is spent of writing screenplays, books, music, and other things that are supposed to make me money. I'm going through my starving artist period right now, so I can only eke out a few fic chapters here and there.

This chapter here is the start of an idea that came about during a conversation with DigitalPhantom when I was being a snobby prick about writing good fantasy. Can I put my boasting where my mouth is? We'll see.

Daniel D'Phantom

Chapter 1 - The Night at the Theater

The cobblestone streets of Amity Park were as alive as ever. People went about without a care, exchanging only pleasantries and smiles. It was a typical facade, as fake here as it was anywhere else. Everyone knew that the stranger they passed by on the street with a nod and a cheerful grin had just as many skeletons in their closet as the next person. They kept it all quiet of course. Just because these things happened didn't mean there was any reason to talk about them, certainly not in public of all places.

Of course, no one knew of this menagerie better than Samantha. She had spent her whole life growing up in the court and knew exactly how to play the perfect courtier. She just chose not to when it served her purposes. She was out walking with her sister, Jasmine. Many found it hard to believe that they were sisters as the two looked nothing alike. They were on their way to the theater that afternoon. "Simberg's production was awful," Samantha contended.

Jasmine naturally shook her head, refusing to back down. "It may seem slow, but he had to bring out the rich subtleties of the characters. That takes time."

The argument could have lasted until the opening of the first act when Samantha noticed a new poster on the facade of the theater. Unlike the other posters, all very colorful and ostentatious, this one was done in charcoal. A young man stood in eveningwear holding a glass of wine. A small devil sat on his shoulder and spectral images of women in gossamer gowns danced about him. "Daniel D'Phantom" it read simply.

"I've never seen this before," Samantha muttered to herself. Something about the figure in the poster intrigued her, not simply because of the borderline scandalous artwork, but there was something more...

Jasmine stopped to look at the poster herself, equally intrigued. The Woolencroft Theater was known for being host to a number of unique and cutting edge plays and performances. They obviously put this poster up with the intent to intrigue and mystify. Why else would it stand out and tell so little?

A portly man with a bushy moustache strolled by them and noticed the poster they were looking at. He cleared his throat in gruff disapproval. "Dear ladies, I'd advise to avoid that rogue's show."

"You saw the performance already?" Samantha asked curiously.

"Indeed I did," the man replied. "Just last night, as a matter of fact. This... D'Phantom character claims to communicate with the dead and other such nonsense. No God-fearing man in his right mind would continue to patronize such an act."

"Thank you," Jasmine said demurely with a small curtsy. As soon as he walked off with a tip of his hat, the pair went back to looking at the poster. They looked at one another and went to see if any tickets to the next performance were still available. This would be of great interest to their parents.

-x-

That evening, Samantha and Jasmine found themselves settled in on a balcony overlooking the stage. They were lucky to get front row, and it seemed the house was filling up fast. The crowd was buzzing with talk of the mysterious performer who was set to take the stage. Rumors about his identity were spreading like wildfire, but the two sisters kept quiet and waited patiently. Why feed the rumor mill when all would be revealed shortly?

The house lights dimmed and the crowd went silent. For a long, tense moment nothing happened. The stage was still, the lighting dim.

Finally, a black-clad figure strode onto the stage. A handsome young man, the same as in the poster. He bowed deeply to the audience who all applauded. He held up his hands to quiet them and regarded the assembled crowd carefully. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said at last, "thank you all for coming here tonight. My name is Daniel D'Phantom. I have spent most of my life a traveller, seeking answers to questions we all have but are afraid to ask." The audience hung on his every word, and Samantha leaned in to get a better look at him.

"Death... The ultimate equalizer. Rich or poor... old or young... black or white, we all must die eventually. It is a frontier from which there is no turning back. Or so we believe." A young black man, about the same age as Daniel, carried a shroud-covered table onto the stage. Daniel lifted the shroud to show nothing underneath. Two chairs and a ball were brought forward. Daniel sat in one and his eyes swept the audience.

"I would like a brave volunteer to help me begin the experiment."

For a while, no one said anything. At last a sandy-haired young man stepped onto the stage. Daniel greeted him with a soft smile and a sincere handshake. "Please have a seat and take this bell from me." The man did as he was asked, but apprehension seemed to be setting in. "I assure you, sir. No harm will come to you. Tell me, do you know how to take a man's pulse?"

The young man seemed a bit suprised but smiled. "Why, yes! I'm training to become a surgeon actually."

Daniel smiled at that. "An honorable path you've chosen, dear friend." He cleared his throat and began rolling up his sleeve. "If you will, find the pulse on my wrist and ring the bell everytime you feel it."

The youth seemed puzzled but did as he was told. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Samantha looked over to Jasmine, uncertain what was going on, but as she did so the space between the rings of the bell began to slow. She snapped her head back to the stage to notice that Daniel's eyes were sagging closed and his face beginning to pale. The rings continued to slow down. His head lulled like a marionette's before hanging limply over his chest. The rings of the bell slowed... and stopped.

The young doctor was starting to look very alarmed. Mere seconds had passed, but it felt like hours. The crowd was getting anxious. Just as those in the front row stood to get a better look, a scream rang out.

What Samantha saw at that point was only the beginning of a chain of events that would turn her entire world upside-down.