Prologue


"Ouch..." I muttered as I rubbed my right palm. I glanced down at it and noticed that it was now covered in several tiny scratches. Sox had really done it this time...

Sox, my cat, yawned lazily as he stretched on my bed before laying down and staring at me from my seat at my desk.

"Listen, Sox," I winced as I looked at my left hand, which bore several similar scratches. "You've got to get a handle on your own strength. I was just trying to get you cleaned up, you know." Sox only blinked in response. No use in talking to a cat, I suppose. Sox rolled over on my bedspread, which had a black-and-white checkered pattern. I really liked the checkered design, so much that the carpet on the floor matched the blanket, actually.

I took a quick look around my room for the umpteenth time. My desk was parallel to my bed, so I had a nice view of Sox's backside from where I was sitting (very nice...). I also had a TV in my room, and above the TV was a rather large window. I also had two bookshelves. One of them was full of books, consequently, but the other one housed a different kind of reading material. The second bookshelf was filled with catalogs. Watch catalogs, to be exact.

I collect watches. It's an odd hobby, I know, but there was something about clocks that just seemed to fascinate me. I was thinking about getting a part-time job so I could afford the watch that I really, really wanted.

...But tomorrow was my birthday, so I might just get it from my folks instead. I'll try to casually float the idea past Mom later on.

I'd just gotten back from school, so it was still light outside, for a change. This was probably because I came straight home instead of stopping at Chronos. Chronos was a cafe that I visited pretty regularly, usually with my friends, Vin, Ben, and Morris. We all grew up together.

I absent-mindedly reached over to pet Sox, but he hissed when my hand drew near him. Uh-oh, he was ticked off again. I'd better leave him alone for now, I thought as I scooted back towards my desk in my swivel chair.

"Ethan!" My mom was calling me from downstairs. "Time for dinner!" Was is time to eat already? "Coming," I called on my way out of my room.

Sox then suddenly jumped up, nosed the window above the TV open, and bolted outside. "Sox?" I called after him. "Where are you going?" I followed Sox by taking the long way; stairs and doors, both of which seemed invisible to Sox. When I'd finally made it outside, I'd found that Sox had simply gone out to our front driveway, and was sitting on the tall-ish brick wall that surrounded our house.

"What are you doing here, Sox?" I asked as I scratched between his ears. It was dark now, but the moon was barely out, shyly peeking out from between the clouds.

Suddenly Sox started hissing at something in the distance. I looked in that direction and saw a shadowy figure approaching, heavy, ominous, footsteps accompanying it. "Sh! Sox!" I tried to calm him down by stroking his black-and-white patchy fur.

The approaching figure was closer now, and I could get a better look at him. He was a tall man, with a strong build and a serious-looking face. He also had long, wavy, gray hair and a bit of a goatee on his chin.

"Could it be...?" The man said with a glint in his eye and slight awe in his deep voice.

"Why, you-!" I yelled at him and took a step towards him as soon as I saw his face. But I suddenly stopped myself in my tracks. What on earth was I doing? What just happened was almost instinctive, it was like a part of me just started moving on its own. After all, I didn't even know this guy... right?

"G-good evening," I stuttered, slightly embarrassed at what I'd just done, but the man seemed unfazed.

Still... he seemed awfully familiar...

"...Indeed..." The man was looking me over, as if studying me for some reason. He then promptly turned around and walked back in the direction from which he came.

...I've seen this guy before... Where was it...?

Sox meowed, startling me from my thoughts. I chuckled and gave Sox a pat on the head. I was probably just imagining things. Maybe that guy just had one of those familiar-looking faces.

"C'mon, Sox," I said as I picked him up. "Let's get back inside. Dinner's waiting."