Chapter One: The Dream

"Jaden, why won't you play with me?" a young, child-like voice chimed. The voice had hints of humour, malice and sadness that coloured its tone. A light giggle followed, echoing around the empty desert area.

In the desert, laying face down, was a young, teenage boy. He didn't look to be older than seventeen. Groaning as he woke, the boy lifted his head tiredly and braced a hand over his eyes to protect them from the swirling sand.

His two-toned brown hair lay in a shaggy mop on his head with some coming down to make bangs hanging just above his eyes. He was dressed in a bright red jacket with white trim, tight white jeans and red sneaker-boots with white lining. Underneath his jacket, he wore a slightly loose, black t-shirt. The boy stood at about 5'9'.

"Jaden," The voice called sweetly, still with undertones of malice and grim satisfaction, "Come and play with me." The boy, Jaden, spun around, searching for the source of the voice. He didn't see anyone around him in the desert. But the sand was still swirling in the air so it didn't mean that someone wasn't out there with him.

"Jaden!" a second voice screamed, this one full of fear. Jaden narrowed his eyes in the direction of this voice and saw a teenage girl, not much younger than himself, running toward him. Her bright green eyes were filled with terror and were impossibly wide. The girl was dressed in a dark blue skirt with white trimming that fell to her mid-thigh with a matching jacket and also flat, dark blue boots that went half way up her calves. Her deep brown hair fell to her waist in light curls. Her bangs felt to just above her dark green eyes which made her eyes seem even more intense. She stumbled slightly when the toe of her boot caught on a raised part in the sand but she quickly righted herself and charged toward Jaden again.

As she reached Jaden's side and grasped his wrist in her long, nimble fingers, Jaden looked at her with an expression of confusion. "Who are you?" he whispered.

The girl's head snapped up to meet his confused gaze with a hard, frightened stare in her eyes. She grasped his face between her hands and gazed deep into his eyes. "You know me, Jaden Yuki," she said, "You know me!"

Without waiting for an answer, the girl pulled Jaden along with her and sprinted off towards a rather large upward sand hill. They stumbled up the hill from trying to run when their feet submerged within the sand. When they reached the top, the girl barely stopped to let Jaden catch his breath before she continued to run and pull him along with her. She glanced over her shoulder and gasped, terror grasping a cold hand around her heart. Pulling on Jaden's wrist, she urged him to move faster, nearly tripping over her own feet in the process.

"Jaden, move!" She cried. "It's not safe! Move!"

Jaden stumbled over his own feet again before righting himself and continuing after the girl. They ran across the desert, over smaller sand dunes and down into the dips in the unstable land, their hands never leaving the safety of the other's grasp.

Finally, they paused to catch up on some much needed breath. To them, it felt like they'd been running for hours. They felt the strain in their legs, the ache in their lungs, heard the blood rushing through their ears and their hearts pounding in their chests. Slowly, carefully, their heavy breathing reduced to a light wheeze, making the pressure on their lungs reduce along with their breathing. Neither realised that they were still holding the hand of the other, their fingers intertwined in a show of comfort and support, and a sign of drawing that comfort from the other.

Suddenly, a gust of wind picked up a cloud of dust and sand, blocking some of the desert from their view. The wind was less intense around the two of them but more intense about ten feet from them.

The girl gasped, already knowing what was about to come. Her mind screamed at her to run, run far away until she barely had the strength to move. But she was already just so tired, so exhausted from running, from her fear, from being unable to see a future that didn't include succumbing to this fate.

But now it was looking like she wasn't being given an alternative.

The girl looked at Jaden, tears of fear shining in her green eyes. And with just that one look, Jaden felt his heart sink to the bottom of his stomach. He opened his mouth to scream, just as her body began to fade into a dull grey, her mouth also open in a silent scream. Her fingers woven into Jaden's turned cold and rough, a texture that reminded Jaden of unpolished stone and wet sand. "No!" He screamed, the terror he felt in his heart voicing itself through him.

Stepping back, his fingers ripped from hers, causing her fingers to crumble, reducing them to the tiny grains of sand that made up this lonely desert. Further and further up her arm, more grains of sand fell to the sand beneath their feet, until she no longer had that arm. The same pattern happened with her other arm, legs, body and head, her eyes still piercing into him even as they disintegrated into billions of grains of sand, forever lost amongst the desert sands.

Tears of anguish slipped from Jaden's eyes. He cried silently. A piece of his heart fell from him, just as the sands fell from the air, revealing the secret they kept hidden. Jaden moved his tearfully shining eyes up and gasped, more tears slipping out.

In front of him were all of his friends from Duel Academy. Frozen sand statues, the wind having left them unharmed for the moment.

Jaden's eyes locked with Chazz' frozen orbs, then Syrus', Hassleberry's, Zane's, Jasmine's, Bastion's and finally Alexis', each as dull as the next. A scream tore from his throat so unexpectedly; it caused him more pain than he thought. He fell to his knees before his friends. He reached out a hesitant hand towards them, frightened of what might happen should he make contact.

In the end, it didn't matter anyway.

Just before Jaden came into contact with Chazz' fingers, Chazz began to disintegrate, blowing away in the sudden gust of wind that came from Jaden's left, followed by Syrus, then Zane, Hassleberry, Bastion, Jasmine, Mindy and then Alexis.

A final scream of despair tore from Jaden's throat as a joyful, malicious giggle sounded through out the lonely desert.