Chapter 1

He sat back in his cell, not knowing exactly what he was waiting for. He needed some excitement; being in prison was very boring, after all. He closed his eyes and listened. Someone was coming.

"I'm telling you, I didn't!" I protested. "You have to let me go. You can't do this!"

"Shut up," the guard said. He continued dragging me through the dull hallway.

The footsteps were getting closer. He realized that whoever was approaching was coming straight towards him. He heard voices now. As he listened, he identified one of the voices as a guard and the other as a prisoner. He knew he would not be alone much longer.

The cell door opened and the guard threw a young girl into the room. "Here," the guard muttered. "Make friends." Then he slammed the door closed and left.

I pounded on the door, screaming. "You can't keep me here! You know full well I didn't do it! This whole place is corrupted!"

I knew no one was coming. I kept pounding for a few minutes, then gave up. I was still in shock. I couldn't believe I was being held here. It was so obvious that I couldn't have done it. Why did no one believe me? In my twelve years of life, I never imagined I'd be accused of something so horrible.

"Hello there," said a voice behind me. I whirled around. I saw a boy about sixteen, with light brown hair and blue eyes. The boy wore a white shirt under a light blue suit jacket and black pants and shoes. He had a light blue hat on. He was standing up; he was very tall. He wore a genial expression on his face. "The name's Clive. Pleased to meet you."

I backed away. I didn't know what he did, but I'd heard he was one of the worst criminals in the district. To be this polite, he must have some kind of ulterior motive.

My silence seemed to entertain him. "A shy girl, are you? That's alright. I'll try not to bother you."

He sounded pretty convincing, but I wasn't sure. I didn't usually trust people right away. It just wasn't natural for me.

I continued backing away, pressing myself against the wall. I was sure I was shaking. I mean, I didn't know him at all. I couldn't help being afraid.

He sighed, his smile fading for a moment. "I assume they told you a lot about me, then. I promise you, most of it is exaggerated."

"Um, actually, sir, they told me nothing," I whispered. I watched him nervously.

"Oh really? Nothing at all?" he sounded slightly amused. "Well, that's interesting." He smiled again. "So, what did you do?"

I shrunk back. "I-I can't answer that."

His smile turned sympathetic. "Alright then. I'm not going to force you to tell me anything you're uncomfortable saying."

I said nothing. I just kept staring at him, hoping he wouldn't notice how scared I was, but knowing on the inside that he undoubtedly did. It made me uneasy how he was being so friendly, trying his best to keep a conversation going, even though he was pretty much talking to himself. I wished he wouldn't pay so much attention to me. I wished he'd just ignore me like everyone else did. I wished more than ever that I could just disappear.

He had stopped talking now, and was looking at the nameless girl. He thought she looked about fourteen, and was very small. She was also very pale, and she looked delicate. She wore a light magenta vest over a white blouse, and a skirt of the same color. Her hair was her most interesting feature—short in length and dark magenta in color. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, and shining with fear.

He felt horrible. He did not want her to be afraid; he wanted her to be comfortable. The last couple of weeks had been very lonely. He had not spoken to anyone since he had gotten to the prison. He had been longing for someone to talk to; he had been longing for a friend. And this girl seemed… different, somehow. He could tell that she was not a criminal. But if she was not a criminal, what exactly was she doing here? Who was she? Why was she so afraid of him?

He decided he would find out. He would have all of his questions answered, but he would not pry. He refused to do anything to upset the poor girl. She was upset enough as it is.

He would start by finding out her name. Then he'd move forward from there.

With his plan set, he decided to get some rest. Tomorrow, he would put his plan into action. He would finally have a friend.

Chapter 2

I was sitting in the corner of the cell now. The boy Clive was sitting more towards the middle of the cell. He looked so… comfortable. So relaxed. I couldn't understand how a person could be that comfortable in prison. His calmness only made me more uneasy. What was he planning?

He gazed over at me and smiled. I pulled away, extremely uncomfortable at the thought of him watching me. He seemed to notice my discomfort and he looked away. He shifted his weight, in embarrassment or anticipation I couldn't tell.

I never took my eyes off of him. I needed to be sure he wasn't planning anything… but how?

He did not want to risk looking over at her again. The last time he did she seemed to get even more afraid, though he wasn't sure how that was possible. It made him feel bad that she was so scared of him. He wished she would be more comfortable with him. After all, he didn't want to hurt her.

He knew she was watching his every move. It didn't bother him, though; maybe she'd realize soon that he wasn't about to try anything funny. All he wanted was a friend.

He stole another glance at her. He hoped she wouldn't notice, but she was watching him too carefully to miss it. She cowered away, turning as white as a ghost.

He sighed. Why did she have to get nervous so easily? What had he done to make her so terrified of him? He hated to see her so upset. Was there anything he could do to comfort the poor girl?

Then, he remembered something. The plan! Of course! He would put it into action today. He would start by making some kind of conversation; he'd slowly get the information out of her. He'd tell her about himself as well, of course. In fact, he would tell her more than she told him. He decided that he would gain her trust by showing he trusted her first.

She must have noticed his sudden burst of excitement. She stared at him with a mixed expression of curiosity and fear. He flashed her another sympathetic smile, hoping to encourage her to say something. She shrunk back again.

He was disappointed. He could tell this was going to be very, very difficult.

I was still staring at Clive. I had noticed something that made me dreadfully anxious. He was sitting there quietly, as he had been most of the day, when he suddenly seemed to become… unnaturally enthusiastic. I caught him looking at me for a third time after that. He smiled at me again. I pressed myself against the wall. I could trust no one.

I couldn't help thinking he was up to something. And whatever it was, it included me. I had to make sure I didn't fall for his trap. Whatever that was.

He thought over the conversation he had been planning out in his head. He understood that the girl would probably say little or nothing at all. He would have to keep the discussion going himself. Now he just needed some excuse to start talking…

Just then, the girl suffered from a coughing fit. She seemed to be appallingly sick. He didn't want to abandon the pitiable girl, but to make her at ease he had to keep his distance. He got up and approached her slowly, making no sudden movements.

"Are you alright?" Clive asked. He spoke in a voice soft as cotton and sweet as honey. It also had a soothing tone to it. I realized I was starting to compose myself. My coughing died down and I noticed that I was a little sleepy. I guessed that my coughing fit must have exhausted me.

"Miss? Are you alright?" he repeated. His expression was one of tremendous worry.

I nodded, refusing to say a word. I didn't know if he was feigning his fretfulness or not. He sounded fairly credible. His calm, soothing voice was now laced with alarm. His face was shadowed with worry. Yet in his eyes, I thought could see an extremely faint sliver of satisfaction, but it was gone the next moment. I knew I had most likely just imagined it, but I couldn't help wondering if he had some kind of unsavory motive.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked. "You look sick. Do you need me to get you something? Water? Medicine? Anything?"

She shook her head no. She was staring up at him. She was no longer coughing, though she still looked notably fatigued. He worried she might lose consciousness. It was possible. She was weary enough.

He did not want to risk getting any closer. He knew that just one wrong move could set her off. He felt guilty to admit it, but he was actually a little glad that she had started coughing. He hated seeing her look so feeble, but he had found an excuse to talk to her now. Now was his chance.

"Well, if you need anything, you can always ask me," the boy said hopefully.

"Uh, thanks," I whispered. I didn't want to be deceived, but I found myself trusting Clivemore than I should have. I mean, he was just a kid, after all. What's the worst he could have done?

He was still hovering over me, his eyes clouded with concern. After a little while, he reluctantly went back to his spot in the middle of the cell and sat down. He was still staring at me, fretting over me. His fretfulness made me uneasy. Was I really as sick as he made it seem?

Just then, the door opened and two guards walked in. Their expressions were cold, hard, and merciless. One of them was smaller, with an unnaturally large jaw, and pasty skin that looked almost grey. The other was much bigger, with a small head and what looked at first like a third eye. He was very tan. It was uncomplicated to tell: they were pure evil.

I could feel the blood drain from my skin. Even Clive, who was usually rosy and cheerful, including when a guard walked in, had an uncharacteristically uneasy look to him.

"Where's the girl?" the bigger one asked him.

Clivewent pale. "Huh?" he mumbled. He seemed too panicked to say anything else. Instead he gestured my little corner, shooting me an apologetic glance. He looked ashamed of himself for revealing my location.

The guards looked over at me.

"She looks unharmed," The smaller one commented.

"Good. Let's bring her in."

The bigger of the two men came over and grabbed my arm. "Come here, girly. We're having an interrogation."

I struggled to get loose, but he was too strong. The smaller one laughed at my helplessness. He grabbed my other arm and they dragged me away.

Chapter 3

His heart was pounding in his chest. He recognized the two men easily. They had worked for him during his time as an unrestricted criminal. And now, they were against him. He tried desperately to mask his panic, but the fear was overwhelming and he failed miserably. He wished he hadn't told them where the girl was. He knew they would have found her soon enough; it was a small cell, claustrophobic, even. But now he knew that if anything happened to the poor girl, he would be accused. And of course, he would feel guilty as well as being forced to take blame. He would most likely get a longer sentence.

He slumped over, filled with guilt, shame, and worry. When Fisheye and Lockjaw were captured, they had sworn to get revenge against him. Now he feared the girl would pay the price.

Revenge is very powerful. Once it takes over, it can cause unimaginable damage to not only those whom it is used against, but also to the revenger himself. He knew about this. He knew all too well about the uncontrollable madness brought on by revenge. He knew about the shock felt at that terrible moment when you realize what horrible things you've done. He knew about the way that remorse overwhelmed you, eating away at your conscience until you become so weak with culpability that you can no longer stand and you collapse, hating yourself for what you've done.

He shuddered. He did not want to think about that now. Instead he thought of the girl. She was shy and mysterious, made even more secretive by her strange trepidation for everything. But more than anything, he was very fascinated by her hair. Her enigmatically colored hair. Her puzzlingly, perplexingly, curiously colored magenta hair. It couldn't possibly be dyed; it would have worn out by now. But how could it naturally be that color? The thought of it captivated him. He had seen her every day since she arrived, yet her hair color still puzzled him so. Maybe it was dyed, after all; he would have to ask when she came back. If she came back, that is.

The guards brought me to a dull room with a table and some chairs. It was just as dull and grey and depressing as the rest of the building. They asked me some questions about my case, which I answered truthfully and cryptically. Though I wanted to be proved innocent, I did not want to cry in front of them. They would laugh. I knew they would. After about a half hour or so, they were done with the interrogation. I was actually pretty bored through the whole thing. And it's not like it mattered. No one would believe the truth. No one except maybe Clive. I hated to admit it, but I was starting to like having him around. Maybe we would be friends after all.

"Hey, you. May I give ya a bit of advice?" It was the bigger guard, Fisheye.

"Uh, I-I guess." I mumbled warily.

"Don't get too close to that Clive boy ya share a cell with. He's not the kind of person ya wanna get caught up with."

"Huh?" I didn't understand. He was so nice. "Why not?"

"Ya may not wanna know. I wouldn't wanna scare ya."

I was very confused by this. Clive wouldn't hurt me… would he?

"If ya must know, that kid's a killer. I wouldn't wanna trust him if I were ya."

I felt myself go pale. I suddenly felt lightheaded. Clive?A killer? I couldn't believe it.

"He acts like he's softened up, but truly he's never been cured. It's all a scam. Ya get too close, ya pay the price."

And to think I was starting to trust him.

I couldn't imagine him actually killing someone with a knife. He must have found other methods to do it. Like poison. Now I was glad I hadn't let him get that glass of water. He probably would have tainted it.

My cellmate was a murderer. I would need to be careful. Very, very careful.

He must have dozed off, because when he awoke the girl was back. She was sitting in her little corner as usual. Watching him as usual.

"You're back!" he called out. "Are you alright? Did they hurt you? Oh, thank goodness you're back."

He stopped as he saw something startling. She was scared stiff of him now, as still as a stone statue. She was petrified with panic, as pale as a piece of paper. It was quite queer.

"What happened? What's wrong? What did they do to you?" he asked in a quiet tone.

"Was-was it something I said?" his voice was now filled with distress. Why wouldn't she talk to him? What had he done?

She would not answer him. She just watched him weakly, frozen with fright.

It made me sick how he could feign innocence like that. And it looked so real, too. I was further sickened by the realization that this was one of his methods. He would first try to gain my trust, then he'd betray me when I least expected it. Sick, just sick. How could he be so cruel?

It hurt to learn that the first friend I ever almost made was a murderer, his friendliness as artificial as… as… I couldn't even think of words to describe how artificial it was. It was sick, twisted, vile, abhorrent, warped, crooked, shady, gruesome, repulsive, foul, disgusting, enraging, inflaming, vexatious, and just plain horrific. He was a terrible person. He was not to be trusted.

Though I was angry, I was also more afraid than ever. I knew I could be killed any second.

I refused to say a word, no matter how distressed he seemed. I wouldn't let him win.

"Miss, please say something, anything, I don't care what it is." Clivewas begging now. He appeared to be very distraught. That'd show him.

"Miss, I need you to say something. I need to know that they didn't harm you. You can't possibly continue disregarding me like this forever!"

I paid no attention to his insignificant pleas. I prohibited myself from conversing with a murderer.

He sighed in exasperation. "Will you at least tell me your name so I can stop calling you miss? I told you mine, and nothing's happened. It's not that big of a deal."

Silence.

Finally, he gave in. "Fine. Go ahead and be that way. That is, if your actually there. For all I know you could be a hallucination. Maybe all this time alone has at last driven me mad. Completely and irreversibly mad." He smiled at the floor, laughing at himself. "That's it, isn't it? I've gone mad. The second I get out of this confinement, they'll send me straight to an asylum. I've been isolated so long, I'm imagining people."

I know I shouldn't have, but I started feeling truly repentant for what I'd done to Clive. He was in such a sorry state, I almost forgot why he was in prison. The poor, pathetic, pitiful thing. I knew it was risky, very risky, and I was probably feeding into his plan, but I had to do something.

"You're not going crazy, Clive. I'm not an apparition, or anything like that. I'm just not supposed to talk to you. That's all.

He lifted his head. "So you're real, then? I'm not dreaming?"

"No, Clive. You're not dreaming," I reassured him.

"Good. But why aren't you allowed to talk to me? Did the threaten you? Blackmail? They didn't hurt you, did they?"

I shook my head.

"Then why?"

I shifted uncomfortably. I couldn't tell him. If he knew that I knew that he was a murderer, he would have to kill me, even if he wasn't planning on it now.

He started getting upset again. "Oh, no. Please don't shut me out again. It was bad enough the first time; I couldn't stand it if you did it again!"

"I can't tell you, ok? Calm yourself. I'm perfectly fine."

He seemed to calm down after that. "Sorry about all the fuss I was making. I was worried sick over you."

I knew I should have been grateful for his concern, but it infuriated me. "What do you care?" I demanded, standing up. "You don't know me. What difference would it make to you if I died right now?"

He was astonished and hurt by this comment. This was not at all what he had expected her to say. He was left speechless for a while.

He must have hesitated too long, for the girl was eyeing him with a countenance of great impatience. "Give me an answer. What difference would it make?"

He stared at her, not knowing what to say.

His silence seemed to verify her statement. "I didn't think so," she said. She sat back down in her little corner and leaned against the wall. After a few minutes of staring at him, she put her head down and fell asleep.

He watched her for a while, dumbstruck. Did that really just happen?

He slowly started to understand what he had just done. He had just completely demolished any chance he had of friendship with the girl. His heart sank as he realized that he had an opportunity to gain her companionship, and he threw it out the window.

He cared an awful lot for the girl, though he didn't understand the reason. He did not want her to think otherwise. She already thought that it wouldn't matter to him if she died. But he felt the opposite. He would be devastated if something happened to her. She was so innocent. Too innocent. He found himself wondering again how she had ended up here.

Chapter 4

I woke up the next day to find myself alone. Clivewas gone. Not that I cared, of course; it didn't matter to me where he went. Yet still, I couldn't help wondering where he had gone off to. I was especially confused because of one, small detail: this was a prison. How could he have gotten out?

Unless… he was released? No, someone who had committed the kind of crimes that he had perpetrated would surely be in custody for longer than that.

Maybe he had escaped? No, he would have been caught.

An interrogation, possibly? At this hour, though? I doubted it. It would have had to have been the night before. And he would have been back by now.

So the only explanation left was that he… no. No. He couldn't have… could he?

The only explanation left was that he was dead.

No. That couldn't be possible. The last time I saw him, he was in perfect health.

Even though I knew it was very unlikely, I couldn't help worrying. After all, the place was corrupted. What if they had killed him?

When they took me in for questioning, Clivehad looked scared. Maybe that was why.

He was walking through the hallway, his head down, knowing Fisheye was behind him. The last thing he wanted was for Fisheye to know that he was afraid of him.

The only reason Fisheye was there was because he was not allowed to leave the cell without a guard. And Fisheye had decided that he would be his guard—permanently.

"So, whatever happened to that girl ya share a cell with? Ya getting friendly with her yet? Seems like she don't like ya."

"She's just shy," he said defensively. "She'll get used to me eventually."

The guard laughed. "I doubt it. She's never gonna get used to nobody."

"Huh?" the boy looked up at him, confused. "What do you mean? Why not? What are you planning on doing with her?" He could hear the anxiety creeping into his voice.

He laughed again, a cruel, menacing laugh. "Nothing that bad. But it'll be enough… for her"

What? They couldn't do that! They wanted retaliation against him. Why did they have to bring her into this?

"Leave her alone," he demanded. "She has nothing to do with this."

As he watched Fisheye smirk and laugh and sneer at him, he felt himself growing exceedingly angry. Fisheye obviously enjoyed toying with him; he knew that the guard wanted to see his reaction. He could not let that happen. Instead, he calmed himself by convincing himself that the girl was safe.

When the guard saw that his torments were not having as much of an effect as he had anticipated, he tried a different approach. "You know," he said, leaning in close, "We may hurt the girl pretty badly, but it'll be nothing compared to what we'll do to you."

He tried to back away, but Fisheye grabbed his arm and twisted it. He cried out in pain.

"I'm sorry, am I hurting you?" he continued laughing as the boy fought back tears. It was plain to see that this man enjoyed nothing more than seeing him in pain. He tried to pull away, but could not succeed. Fisheye was just too strong for him.

"By the time we're done with ya, ya'll be so deformed that ya won't even be able to recognize ya self. And that girl of yours? We'll kill her. And just to torture ya further, we'll make ya watch."

Fisheye continued dragging him throughout the hallway, making sure to take the longest route possible so he did not have stop torturing the boy. "As for your punishment, ya'll be begging us to kill ya. But we ain't gonna kill ya. We're gonna just keep torturing ya 'til ya can't take it no longer. Ya won't be able to endure it forever. I promise ya that. "

He glared at the guard. "I don't care what you do to me. Just leave her out of this. She's done nothing to you, she doesn't deserve it."

A flash of pain shot up his arm as Fisheye tightened his grip. "Ya think I care? She's nothing but a distraction. She's there to make sure your life ain't completely miserable. And we can't allow that, now can we?"

"I-I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, stumbling along as Fisheye dragged him back to his cell.

"No use lying to me, kid. I see how ya light up when ya see her. I see how ya get all cheerful when she decides to talk to ya. I see how ya get scared when she decides not to. And since ya seem to love her company so much, we got no choice but to take it from ya."

The guard was holding him so tightly that he could no longer feel his arm. He tried not to let Fisheye see that his words hurt him. "But why do you have to hurt her? Why can't you just get your revenge? Why do you need to get the innocent involved?"

"Don't ya get it? No one is innocent," he muttered. "No. One."

The guard's voice seemed to get deeper and grimmer as he said it. The harshness of the man's voice scared him. And it scared him even more that Fisheye had meant what he said. He truly believed that no one was innocent.

I was still waiting for Clive to return when the cell flew open. It was the smaller guard, the one whose name I did not know. He searched the cell before asking, "Clive back yet?"

I shook my head. "Do-do you know where he is?" I asked timidly.

He shrugged. "No clue."

"Then how do you know he left?" I asked

"Simple. 'Cause he's not here."

"Not what I meant. I meant how do you know he's coming back?"

"'Cause he has to."

"But—" I was tempted to ask more about Clive, but I stopped myself. I didn't want to seem interested. "But how do you know he's coming back? How do you know he isn't trying to escape?"

The guard laughed. "Clive would never try to escape. He wants to atone for his actions. Or so he says." He sounded doubtful.

I don't know why, but his doubt enraged me. "If Clive says he's trying to make up for what he's done, I'm sure he means it!" I said loudly.

He shrugged again. "Whatever you say, missy. Just wanted to give you this."

He held out a sword. My sword. The one my father had given to me as a child.

"I thought you weren't supposed to have weapons in prison." I said.

He shrugged for a third time. "I dunno. I just do what they tell me to do. Besides, you're up against Clive. You're gonna need it."

I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I took it anyway. It felt so natural. The feel of it, the heaviness, the coolness of the handle… it just felt… right, somehow. Like it was meant for me.

"Also, I was told to give you these." He handed me my notebook, a pencil, and my computer. He also handed me a second notebook, labeled 'personal thoughts'.

"Thank you," I said. "I thought I lost all this."

"Yeah well, your father told me to bring this to you. There's a spy program on the computer, so you can see the cell from the security cameras. You know, in case you wanna learn something. Something that a certain person might not want you to know." He winked as he said it and I knew that he was talking about Clive.

I flipped through the pages of my notebook, remembering every word of everything I had ever written in it. I was so glad to finally have it back. Most of the writing was illegible, but all I needed was the first word or so; I had the rest committed to memory.

"I gotta go." The guard said. "When the kid gets back, though, be sure not to listen to him. He's crazy, got no idea what he's talking about."

His statement annoyed me, but I decided not to say anything. If I defended Clive, the guards might start to think that something was going on. So I just said "ok," and went back to my little corner.

He stumbled along behind Fisheye, waiting as patiently as he could to get to his cell. The taunts, insults, and death threats did not cease even for a moment. He said nothing, only listened and absorbed the hurtful words spoken by his former associate.

He could not be more relieved when they got to the cell. Fisheye seemed as if he could not be more disappointed. He threw the door open. "Next time. Next time you'll pay." The guard kicked him as he entered the cell, almost knocking him over. He turned to glare at the guard, but he just laughed intimidatingly and slammed the cell door.

I was surprised at how happy I was to see Clive.I mean, I was glad he was ok, and I had hoped he was safe, but it wasn't like I really knew him. Why was I so happy that he was back?

He went to sit down in his normal spot, but I noticed that he was sitting a little closer to me than normal. This made me curious. After a few moments hesitation, I decided to ask some questions.

I tilted my head curiously. "Where were you?" I asked.

"The breakfast hall. They let us out every morning, but you need a guard to be with you. I would have asked you to come, but I didn't want to wake you." He smiled at me, that same friendly, shy, sympathetic smile he always uses.

I didn't smile back. "The guard was looking for you. The small, pale one that's always with Fisheye."

"Huh?" he asked, more from nervousness than confusion. "Wonder what he wants." He gazed at me, his voice suddenly becoming solemn. "His name is Lockjaw, by the way. He and Fisheye are out to get me. I only took longer than usual because Fisheye took me. He dragged me throughout the hallway threatening me after I was done. "

"Why?" I asked inquisitively.

He sighed. "It's a long story," he replied. Then he looked at me, dismally and uneasily. "Listen to me; you need to stay away from Fisheye," he said pleadingly. "I can't risk you getting hurt, I just can't. Lockjaw has always been soft, he won't hurt you. He wouldn't be able to. But Fisheye…" he shook his head, as if the thought was too horrible to say.

"If he's out to get you, then why would you go with him?"

"I didn't have a choice. He forced me."

"But won't he get in trouble for hurting you?"

"Unfortunately, no. This is no ordinary prison. Otherwise, we would be in uniforms, and given food that is actually edible. It probably would taste horrible, but at least it would be fit for human consumption. I've heard that some people have been poisoned eating the food here. Not to scare you, but it's probably safer not eating."

I decided to change the subject. "But why are they out to get you? And what do they want with me?"

"I told you, it's a long story. They're probably only after you to upset me."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked suspiciously. I noticed again how he was closer to me than usual. A lot closer. I compressed myself into my little corner, not wanting to be so close to him, or to anyone for that matter. He was still a good three feet away, but still. I needed my personal space.

He sighed, noticing my discomfort. He got up slowly, walked equally slowly to the corner opposite me, and sat down. "There. Does that make you more comfortable?"

I did not acknowledge him, though it truthfully did make me more comfortable. A lot more comfortable. But I just stared at him, hoping he wouldn't start asking me questions.

Unfortunately for me, that's exactly what he started doing. "So, what is your name?" he asked.

I shifted uncomfortably. "Do-do I have to answer that?"

"Huh?" he said, confused. Why did she refuse to say her name? It was out of trying to be polite that he asked. He did not want to call her 'Miss' anymore when he knew that obviously was not her name.

She looked embarrassed. Was it because of her name? Did she even have a name?

"You-you do have a name, don't you?" he inquired, realizing it never occurred to him to ask.

She shook her head. "No. No I don't." she looked away.

"Oh. I-I'm sorry I-I didn't know," he murmured.

"That's ok. You couldn't have known." She kept her head down.

For some unknown reason, he felt compelled to keep the conversation going. "So what should I call you then? Just Miss? Or is there something else you'd like me to call you?"

I wasn't sure why he wanted to know my name so badly. I truly wouldn't be on edge telling him—that is, if I had one. Since he looked desperate, I decided that I needed to come up with something swiftly. He had been very patient with me so far, but who knows how long that would last?

Just then, a strand of my hair fell in front of my face. A strand of my magenta hair. And that's when I got an idea.

"Magenta," I said. "Call me Magenta."

He smiled at me. "Ok. I will." He gazed at me, and I kept an eye on him. Neither of us looked away for a long time. When I finally looked away, he shifted in discomfort, upset that I was no longer watching.

"Have you eaten at all since you got here?" he asked, looking up at me.

I realized that I hadn't. "No," I said. "No I haven't."

"That's not good. It's been three days." He looked serious.

I looked down shyly. "I know. I guess I was just too upset to eat."

He nodded knowingly, staring at the floor. "I know exactly how you feel. During my first week or so here I almost starved myself I was so upset." Then he glanced at me. "It's not healthy, you know. You need to eat."

I nodded. "I know that. I just don't know… well, pretty much anything else," I admitted.

"Hmm." He watched me for a while. "Well, you won't need to worry about that much longer," he said.

"And why is that? I asked.

"Because they're changing the system. Soon enough we won't be allowed out our cells for even a second unless told to by a guard. All food will be brought straight to the cells." He smiled at me. "Tomorrow is our last day of half-freedom. Would you like to go with me?"

I hesitated. I knew he was only trying to be friendly, and I felt bad refusing. But I still couldn't shake the feeling that he knew something I didn't. A lot of things I didn't.

After a few minutes, I realized he was still waiting for an answer. I nodded yes, figuring I could always back out later.

He grinned at me. "Then it's settled," he said. "But I'll warn you, you'll have to wake up very early."

I thought about it. "I think I'll be ok," I said.

"I'll wake you if you'd like," he offered.

I decided to just go with it. I could always change my mind later if I got uncomfortable. "Ok," I replied, and it was set. I'd get my first prison meal tomorrow. Truthfully, I wasn't sure if I should be looking forward to it or dreading it.

He had seemed to be satisfied when he suddenly grew rigid. "Wait. If you haven't eaten, does that mean you haven't had anything to drink either?"

I shook my head. "They gave me water during the interrogation. They gave me food too, but I didn't eat it. I was afraid it was poisoned. I did drink the water though."

He looked relieved. "Thank goodness," he said. "A person can only live three days or so without water. You've been here three days exactly now, have you not?"

I nodded. "But I haven't had anything since then, and that was yesterday."

He looked down. "I don't intend to be rude, but you'd better start getting used to it. We don't get much attention here."

I knew he was being honest. I doubted they would even treat a severe injury with their lack of supervising. They just didn't care.

Then I started thinking. Was that why he was being so nice to me? Was he just desperate for attention? He was desperate, alright. But for what? I added 'attention' to my mental list of things that Clive might want from me.

He tilted his head curiously as he noticed my computer and notebooks. "What's all that?" he asked. "They allowed you to have your possessions with you? That's an extremely rare occurrence." He smirked at me, as if asking how I'd tricked them into letting me have my stuff.

I scowled. "I didn't trick them. They just gave it to me."

He rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Miss Magenta."

Though I was a little annoyed that he didn't believe me, I was happy that he had used my name. It felt right. I would no longer be called 'Miss', or 'Girl', or 'You'. At least, not by Clive.

I decided to play along with his little game. "Actually, it was Lockjaw who gave it all to me. That's one of the reasons he was here. The other, of course, was to find you."

He went pale. "Oh," he whispered. I had him now.

"So, now do you believe me?" I asked craftily.

"Uh, yes, of course," he said, still whispering. He was staring at the wall in front of him, as if there was some kind of invisible object that only he could see. It was like he was in a trance.

"Clive? Are… are you ok? Come on, snap out of it." He still didn't move. "Clive, if this is part of your little game, then you win, ok? If you're just trying to scare me, it's working. You can stop now." He sat there like a stone statue, white as a ghost and not even blinking. "Clive, please," I whispered. "You're scaring me."

Then he shook his head, the color returning to his face. "What? Oh, of course. Terribly sorry. I-I lost myself for a moment there."

"What happened?" I asked. The anxiety in my voice was unmistakable.

"It-it's really nothing. Don't worry about me." His expression was one of great discomfort.

I decided to drop the subject for now. I gave him a suspicious look, then asked him, "So, why were you so surprised that they gave me my belongings?"

"Well, usually they never give anything to anyone. They only take away everything that's important to you." His voice took on a bitter tone.

I could tell he was no longer talking to me. He was lost in his own world of agony and resentment.

"Clive?" I spoke softly, hoping not to anger the boy. I only wanted to calm him down. I needed more answers.

"Huh?" he looked at me as if it were the first time he'd ever seen me.

"You started getting really upset. I'm sorry if I troubled you. I just can't seem to find a topic that isn't off limits."

He sighed. "It's quite alright. You deserve to know the truth." He gazed at me sadly. "Though I suppose it is considered something of a sob story. If you think you can handle it, then I will be glad to tell you."

His words had a different tone then his countenance. He tried to force a smile and tried to make his words sound uncaring, but I knew that it was the last thing he wanted to talk about. I let him keep his secrets. After all, I had so many of my own that I couldn't very well criticize him for it.

"I won't make you tell," I told him.

He looked relieved. "I'll still tell you what you want to know, but if it's all the same to you then I'd prefer to keep the more personal parts to myself."

Completely understandable. I felt the same way myself.

"Well, my behavior before was because I was frightened by the information you gave me."

"Wait—what information?" I was confused.

"About Lockjaw looking for me. I got scared." He stared at the floor. "I've been terrified of them ever since I got caught. They take every chance that they get to torment me in any way imaginable. It's like they live solely to harm me."

I felt horrible. I knew he was telling the truth.

He gazed at me. "I-I should probably stop. I don't want to frighten you."

I laughed in amusement. "After everything I've seen, I doubt that you could scare me."

"Oh really?" he raised his eyebrow.

"Try me."

He looked uncomfortable. "I-I'm not sure I want to do that."

"It's ok. I'm sure I can handle it."

He shook his head. "No. I can't even handle it. There's no way you can handle it. I can't even handle it. Don't make me say it. I can't even handle it." He gazed at me pleadingly.

"You-you do know you said that three times, right?"

"Sorry. I-I just—well, you know." He blushed.

"That's ok. I understand if you don't want to talk about it.

He couldn't have been more relieved. The horrors he had experienced were permanently imprinted in his memory, and it was useless to try to erase them, but the last thing he wanted was to reveal those horrors to Magenta. After all, she was only… how old was she again?

"Magenta, I don't mean to pry, but how old are you?"

"Twelve," she replied.

"Twelve? You're only twelve!" he exclaimed.

She nodded. "How old did you think I was?"

"I always thought you were at least fourteen! I can't believe this! Twelve! Are you really that young? How could this be?"

She shrunk back a little.

When he saw that she was growing nervous, he stopped.

"My apologies, Miss Magenta. I-I didn't mean to obsess. I just—I thought—oh, I don't know. He looked down, ashamed. Why had he made such a big deal over her age? He had probably made her uneasy and self-conscious.

She didn't speak to him after that. She was obviously done talking for today. He wondered if she would ask him more questions tomorrow, and how he would answer them. He didn't want her to ask questions only to be disappointed with the answer. He felt awful having not answered her, but it was just too soon. He was not ready.

He looked over at the corner to see Magenta staring at him. Her eyes widened and she looked down, turning bright red.

He smiled. He could tell that she was the kind of person that wanted all of the details, even the sick, twisted ones, even the tragically sad ones, even the cruel jokes of life that twist the story into something awful. She was the kind of person that rehabilitated others; the kind of person who could calm down anyone. He was glad that she was so caring, even when she was nervous.

As he glanced back over at her, he noticed that now she was looking at everything and anything but him. His heart sank. What had he done? Had he embarrassed her? Was she mad at him? He hoped not.

He tried desperately to get some sleep, but he couldn't manage to calm down. Instead he leaned back against the wall, wondering what he'd done wrong.

Chapter 5

I was not yet satisfied with what I had learned. I had found some things, but I still didn't know everything. At least I had a start—I could have been left knowing nothing. As I tried to wrap my head around what I'd learned. I realized that I was writing. I looked down and saw that I was holding the notebook that Lockjaw had given me, and I was writing down everything that had happened since I had gotten to the prison. I was so surprised that I stopped at first, but then I realized that it was a really good idea, and I continued writing. I wrote not only events—that would have been boring. I also wrote about people, like Fisheye and Lockjaw and Clive, and my opinions on everything that had happed so far. I knew something was going on; something that included me, though I wasn't sure how. I was missing something—that I knew. I just didn't know what.

I wasn't sure how long I had been writing. I looked over at Clive once to see if he was still awake, but the shadows cast from the light in the hallway covered his face and I couldn't tell. I kept writing until I fell into a restless sleep.

…I was running. My heart was pounding. There was lots of noise, but all I could hear was the tick-tick-ticking of the bomb. I needed to get out.

All of a sudden, there was a loud, booming explosion. I was thrust backwards by the force of the blow. All I could see was smoke. I held my breath, my nose burning with the smell of the fumes. There was gas and smoke and ashes surrounding me. I knew that it was too late to escape. I was out of time.

I heard many people screaming in the chaos, but I recognized one voice right away. It was Clive.

After the smoke had finally cleared and I could breathe again, I started my search for Clive. He was easy to spot, and I found him almost immediately. He was hurt, but he was alive. I knelt down and tried to help him, but he was unconscious and I couldn't do much of anything.

Suddenly, he stirred, as if he was waking up. I jumped up immediately and hid behind the remains of a small pillar. It was almost completely destroyed, but it was just large enough that I could remain out of sight.

"Magenta?" he whispered. "Magenta? Is that you?"

I said nothing, just stayed where I was, hidden from view.

His voice took on a panicked tone. "Magenta! Please! If you're there, please come out! Please help me!"

I started to emerge from my hiding place, but it was no use. Everything was fading, turning bright white, and I couldn't see anything anymore. All I could hear was Clive's voice echoing in my head, screaming, "Magenta! Please help me!"…

I woke with a start, and out of habit grabbed my notebook. I had always considered it my good luck charm, as nothing's ever happened to me when I was holding it. The bad things happened when I lost it, or when it was stolen, or when a page was ripped out, or something like that.

I looked around to see if Clive was ok, and was surprised to see that he was hovering over me.

"Magenta!" he whispered urgently. "Magenta, please!"

"I'm awake," I said.

He looked relieved. "I-I'm sorry for waking you, but—"

"A bad dream?" I asked.

He looked at me sheepishly. "How-how did you know?"

I shrugged. "I guess because I had one too."

For a moment, he just sat there awkwardly. "Well, I know it's childish, but—well, I just—oh, I don't know. I guess I just wanted to, you know, talk about it."

"Was it about the bomb?" I asked quietly.

He froze. "How—" he stopped, unable to continue.

"Because I had the same one." I spoke softly, hoping to calm the both of us down. I knew it wouldn't work. There's only one reason why we would have the same dream:

It was going to come true.

I could see that he was trying to remain calm, probably for my sake. I hadn't been harmed in the dream. Why did he look so scared?

Then I realized—I hadn't been harmed; he had.

My fear diminished as I saw how helpless he looked. I had to do something. I had to help.

"It's ok, Clive. You're safe. Nothing can happen to you right now."

"How can you be so sure?" he whispered.

"Shhh." I said.

Complete silence.

"See?" I said. "You're safe.

He looked confused. "What does that prove?" he asked.

"Listen," I told him. "There's no ticking."

He paused for a few moments, then nodded, realizing it was true.

"It's just—I-I saw myself, lying on the ground. Then you were searching for me, and you didn't find me, and I was sure I was dead."

I stared at him in confusion. "What are you talking about? Of course I found you."

He returned my confused stare. "You-you did?"

I nodded. "Yes, Clive, I did. I found you, and then you woke up and I ran and hid, and then you were calling for me, and I was about to come out when I woke up."

He gave me a halfhearted smile. "Thank you, Magenta, but you don't need to make up stories just to humor me."

"But I'm not making it up. That's really what happened," I said, hurt.

"Don't lie to me, Magenta. Please. Don't lie to me like that."

"I'm not lying." I felt deflated. Why didn't he believe me?

"Really, Magenta, I appreciate it, but I'd prefer if you told me the truth. I know what's going to happen to me. It's no use denying it."

"Why don't we just change the subject?" I said crossly. Go ahead and think you're going to die. Stress yourself out over nothing. See if I care.

"I guess I should go now," he said unenthusiastically. He looked reluctantly over to the corner opposite me. Then he gazed at me hopefully.

I sighed, smiling despite myself. "Fine. You can stay."

His face lit up.

"On one condition." I said.

He froze, waiting.

I waited for a few moments, until he started fidgeting with impatience.

"What's the condition?" he finally asked.

"Try, just try to keep some distance."

He nodded vigorously. "Yes, of course," he said. "I can do that."

"Good." I said.

I could tell that I was in control for now. Clive might be four years older than me, but he was like a lost child. He needed someone to rely on. And with nobody left, he was relying on me.

Holding onto that thought, I curled up in my little corner and fell back asleep.

Chapter 6

"Magenta," a voice whispered. "Magenta, wake up. It's morning."

I lifted my head sleepily. "What do you want now, Clive?"

"It's morning. You need to get up."

"But why?" I whined.

"You promised that you'd go with me to the breakfast hall. It's our last day, remember?"

"Fine. I'll get up." I grumbled.

Clive was smiling at me, his usual half-friendly, half-sympathetic smile.

"Stop looking at me like that," I said in annoyance.

"Like what?"

"You know, like that. The way that you always do."

"Wow. That explanation was really helpful," he said sarcastically.

I ignored his sarcasm. "So are we going or not?"

"We are, but we have to wait for a guard to take us."

Five minutes later, the door opened. "Anyone for the breakfast hall?" said a familiar voice. It was Fisheye. Lockjaw stood beside him, and they both stared directly at Clive.

Clive went pale. He turned to me, and I knew I had to take over. I rolled my eyes, but all I said was, "Actually, both of us," and then I stepped out into the hallway, with Clive right behind me.

"I'll take Clive," Fisheye told Lockjaw. "Take the girl."

Clive looked positively white. Before Fisheye could grab him I stepped in front, blocking him. "Um, actually, Fisheye, I was wondering if we could switch."

Fisheye looked annoyed. "Why?" he demanded.

My mind went blank. "Well, um, I wanted to ask you a question," I blurted.

"Ask it now."

I glanced over at Clive, suddenly nervous. When I looked back at Fisheye, he seemed to notice my discomfort.

"Ah. So ya wanna get away from the boy, do ya?" he said, misinterpreting my discomfort.

I nodded. Not because it was true, but because I knew Clive would be more comfortable if he was away from Fisheye. I needed to do this for him.

He felt a small twitch of panic. What was she doing? She would be so much safer if she went with Lockjaw.

She looked over at him again and her eyes locked on his. At that moment, he realized—she was doing this for him.

He stared at her apprehensively, silently willing her not to do this. She stared back at him, and he knew that she would not listen to him.

She turned back to Fisheye. "A moment, please?"

Fisheye nodded and she walked over to him.

He grabbed her arm. "Are you insane!" he whispered fiercely.

She pulled away. "I was trying to do you a favor. I know how much Fisheye scares you, and I thought you would be more comfortable with Lockjaw."

"I'd be more comfortable knowing that you were safe," he told her.

"Clive, I'll be fine. Just calm yourself, will you?"

"I will not calm myself!"

She rolled her eyes at him. "You're too sensitive."

"I'm not being sensitive, Magenta! You don't know what Fisheye is capable of! He could kill you!

He could even kill me!"

"I'm sure he could, but he's smarter than that."

He looked down at her curiously. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that Fisheye isn't just going to kill me. He'll try to gain my trust first. He would have killed me already if he didn't have some use for me."

"Maybe so, but he could still do any number of things to you."

Clive was really annoying me now. Why did he have to be so apprehensive all the time? And I thought I was nervous all the time.

He grabbed my arm again, pulling me close. "Listen to me," he whispered viciously, "You are not going to risk your life like this, you hear me? You will do as I say and stay away from Fisheye. Got it?"

I tried to pull away, but I couldn't.

"No!" he said. "You are not going anywhere until you promise not to go near him. I will not let you out of my sight unless I know that you are safe."

"C-Clive, you're hurting m-me. P-please, s-stop!"

He loosened his grip, but his gaze held mine. I was more afraid than ever.

He let go. "Just be careful, ok?" he said quietly. Then he walked over to Lockjaw and I walked over to Fisheye.

"See? What did I tell ya," Fisheye said. He glanced at Clive disdainfully. "Keep as much distance from him as possible. He's like a koala all sweet and innocent looking. But if ya get too close, ya get scratched."

I nodded silently and followed. "Why do we have to be separated? Couldn't we all just go together?"

"What? Who?"

"You know, Clive and Lockjaw. Why do they have to be separated from us?"

"The hallway starts to get really narrow. There's not enough room for four of us to fit."

I nodded and said nothing for the rest of the walk.

He walked slowly, his head down. Lockjaw was not as terrifying as Fisheye, but he was still an enemy. He would have to be careful.

Lockjaw seemed just as nervous as he did. "So, uh, Clive. How've you been?"

He did not answer right away. After a few minutes hesitation, he said, "You don't have to try and make conversation, Lockjaw."

"I-I know that. I was just trying to be friendly. You know, show some respect."

He stared. "You do know that you don't work for me anymore, right?"

"Of course I know that," he said indignantly.

"Then why are you acting so nice? I thought you were trying to kill me."

"That's more of Fisheye's goal. I'm just in it for the pay."

He froze. "Fisheye is… paying you?"

Lockjaw nodded. "Sure is. And it's a whole lot of money, too."

He felt the blood drain from his face.

Lockjaw peered at him. "You ok, kid?" he asked.

He shook his head. "The punishment is always worse when there's money involved." He turned to face the guard. "What do you want with her," he asked hoarsely.

"With who?"

"Magenta. The girl. What are you going to do to her?"

Lockjaw shrugged.

"You have to know something!"

Lockjaw shrugged again.

He sighed. He had forgotten just how stupid Lockjaw was. He was stupid and ignorant and easy to manipulate. That had been why he had been able to recruit Lockjaw in the first place.

"Lockjaw, that girl means a lot to me. She's my only chance of ever having a friend again. You can't possibly be so cruel as to take her away from me!"

"That's not my choice, kid. It's Fisheye's. If it were me, I wouldn't hurt her. I mean, she's just a little girl. She can't fend for herself."

He could feel the anger rising up inside of him. Magenta was most certainly able to fend for herself! She had been able to when he couldn't. That proved just how capable she was!

"I think she can fend for herself," he growled. "As a matter of fact, I know she can! I just know that Fisheye is very powerful, and she might not be able to fight him. If I can't, I don't know if she can."

"Calm down, calm down. No need to go berserk, kid."

"Stop calling me that." He was starting to get very annoyed with Fisheye and Lockjaw calling him 'kid' all the time. He hated that nickname more than anything.

Finally, they made it to the breakfast hall. Immediately he broke away from Lockjaw, and started looking for Magenta.

I was walking through the breakfast hall. I had no clue what to do. Why had I agreed to this anyway? My stomach growled and I remembered why. I had been starving. Literally.

I had somehow been separated from Fisheye. Though I had been somewhat relieved at the time, now I would have been relieved to have someone, anyone with me.

I couldn't find anything that looked edible. I was so busy searching for food that I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and I crashed into someone.

"Oh my gosh, I am so sorry!" I said. Then I saw him.

"Barton? Is that you?"

"Miss, how good to see you again." Barton looked pleased.

"Barton!" I cried. Seeing the officer again made me so happy. Barton was one of the two officers that were working on my case, and one of the only people I knew that believed in my innocence. He was a short man, and slightly round, with brown hair and a moustache.

"Sorry to disappoint, Miss, but we have yet to find any evidence. I'm afraid this is taking much longer than we had hoped."

"That's ok, Barton. And please, call me Magenta."

"I see you've made a friend," said a voice from behind me.

I jumped. "Don't do that, Clive! I almost had a heart attack! You could have killed me!"

Clive laughed.

"It's not funny. I'm being serious!" I cried.

"Alright, alright. I promise I won't do it again."

Then he turned to Barton. "And you are… oh." His face fell. "You."

Barton glared at him. "You."

Clive shifted nervously. "M-Barton. F-funny meeting you here." He reached up and grabbed his hat. "Uh, thanks again for recovering this for me."

"You're welcome," Barton replied warily.

There was a definite tension between them. I decided to intervene.

"So, Barton," I said. "How's Chelmey doing? Is he still yelling at you all the time? Why, with all the work you do, he should be the one getting yelled at! He sends you to do all the hard work, and then he takes all the credit! You deserve some kind of reward for that!"

I could see the small man's face turn bright red with embarrassment. "Well, Chelmey is being a little nicer lately, mostly because I haven't messed anything up for a while."

Chelmey is the other officer working on my case. He is of a higher position then Barton and tends to yell a lot. He is taller than Barton and has black hair. He also has a moustache.

"Well, why don't we see if we can find you some food, Magenta? Or have you eaten already?" Clive's voice had a slightly nervous tone to it.

"So, how do you two know each other," Barton asked, completely ignoring Clive.

"Uh, we, uh," Clive stammered.

"We share a cell," I interrupted, flashing Clive a look that said "Let me handle this".

He nodded and stepped behind me.

"How do you know Clive," I asked nonchalantly.

"I worked on his case," he answered. He wasn't looking at me when he said it. I realized he was staring straight at Clive.

Clive grabbed my arm. "Let's find you something to eat," he said again, and he led me away from Barton.

Barton didn't take the hint. Instead, he followed us. "Yes, you do look very thin indeed, Miss. We ought to get you something to eat."

I followed them to the line, which was empty except for one person. Again, I saw nothing. Then I looked again and I saw a plate with a blueberry tart on it. It looked perfectly fine, not like something that would be served to criminals.

Clive saw me staring. "Don't," he whispered.

Figures. It was probably poisoned.

In the end I settled for just a glass of water and something that looked like oatmeal. None of it tasted good, or even edible, but both Clive and Barton insisted I eat it. I noticed that Clive himself didn't eat anything. I wondered why.

"We should probably go back," Clive whispered.

I turned to ask why he was whispering, but the terrified look in his eyes stopped me. "Are-are you ok?" I spoke softly, wanting to reassure him.

"I-I'm fine. Don't worry about me." He glanced nervously towards Barton.

"Wait a minute—are you… are you scared of Barton?"

He turned red. "A little," he admitted, lowering his head.

"But why? He's so nice."

"Maybe to you, but he hates me. He's the one that arrested me." He reached up to touch his hat again. "When I lost my mind, I left my hat behind. Then the building was destroyed, and I thought I had lost it forever. I wanted more than anything to get it back. It-it reminded me of what it was like to be sane. Most people say that I hide behind it; use it to disguise myself. But I don't. I just—I feel like it's the only part of me that wasn't consumed by my madness."

I was unable to respond. He was so emotional about it. Poor Clive. Whatever he had done, it must have really scarred him.

"Ready to go back?" Barton chirped.

Clive jumped, grabbing my arm. For once, I didn't pull away.

"Yeah, I think so," I said.

We walked into the hallway, which, by the way, most certainly did not get narrower. Clive stood behind me, still clutching my arm. Barton was looking at him suspiciously.

"Clive, why don't you let go of Miss Magenta. I believe she would be much more comfortable if you released her."

"Uh," he said, reluctantly releasing my arm. He still stood very close to me.

"Now back away," Barton told him.

"What? Why! Wha-what did I do?" he whimpered, his voice panicked.

"You're too close. I don't trust that you won't try something."

"What?" he whispered. "Why-why would you think I would—I would never—how could you say that?"

"It wouldn't be the first time you've hurt an innocent kid," the officer said, glaring.

The words stung. He had never meant to hurt anyone. Everyone considered him a monster, a fiend, a cruel person. He hadn't meant for any of this to happen. How had he been so wrong?

"Huh?" Magenta pulled away from him.

"Magenta, no," he said quietly.

She looked up at him nervously, and he knew that she would never believe him.

"Magenta, please," he whispered. "I would never hurt you." He tried to get closer.

She backed away. "Get-get away from me," she whispered. Her eyes were shining with fear.

He lowered his head. "I'm sorry, Magenta. Please forgive me."

She said nothing.

He felt crushed. He couldn't believe this. He couldn't bear the thought of her hating him. He needed her. He needed someone on his side and she was all he had left. He trudged through the hallway with his head down, saying nothing.

I was on edge after that. I needed to be very careful. What Barton said had scared me. But Clive had seemed… so offended; he had looked so hurt. I didn't know who to believe.

Barton had always been a caring person, and I knew that he was a little too cautious sometimes. He was probably worried for my safety, but most likely didn't have much of a reason.

But Clive was a criminal. He had done things that I didn't know about. How could I have trusted him so soon? I should have waited.

But he acted so innocent. So sweet. So helpless. I couldn't be mad at him. He needed me.

"What did the girly do?" said a loud, booming voice. It seemed to come out of nowhere.

I jumped, screamed, and hid behind Clive. As I peered out from behind him, I saw a huge man in a cell, laughing through the bars of the small window in the door. I cowered behind Clive, shaking in fear.

Clive smirked at me. "Well, I see you're finally warming up to me."

I backed away. "Wha-what? No! I-I just—"

He smiled at me, that stupid half sympathetic smile again. "No, no. It's quite alright. I never said I minded."

My face felt hot. I turned away, ashamed.
He put a hand on my shoulder. "It's ok, Magenta. I won't hurt you."

At first I stopped, petrified with fear. Then I realized that he just didn't get it. He didn't understand that I was afraid of him. He thought he was helping.

I gave up. I didn't care anymore. I couldn't escape my fear. Why didn't I just face it?

We walked in silence the rest of the way. Barton glared at Clive every once and a while, and Clive flinched every time. I was uncomfortable either way, so I didn't care.

He watched Magenta, careful not to get too close; now that he knew it still made her uncomfortable, he would have to keep his distance again.

The poor girl was afraid to speak. He wanted to comfort her, but it seemed so impossible. He had tried to make her laugh; she cowered away. He tried to be sympathetic; she cowered away. He tried to be reassuring; she cowered away. He put a hand on her shoulder; she froze, too terrified to move.

He felt deflated. Why didn't she trust him? It had been four days.

He stopped. Four days. It had only been four days. No wonder she was so afraid! He had been way too forward. He would have to calm himself. Overfriendliness was usually not a problem, but if it made Magenta this uncomfortable, he would have to try to be more restrained.

Once they were back in the cell, Barton pulled Magenta over to tell her something. He could not hear, she glanced over at him; he knew that he was the subject of their conversation. Then Barton waved goodbye and glared at him one last time before closing the door.

Immediately Magenta sat down in her little corner, pulled out a notebook and started writing. He was extremely curious about this little book; he wondered desperately what was written inside.

Finally, he gathered enough courage to ask. "What are you writing?"

She shrunk away. "N-nothing," she whispered, slamming the book closed and holding it behind her back.

"May-may I read it?" Clive tilted his head curiously.

I thought about it. He wouldn't be happy with what I wrote, I knew; I had written a lot about him. But he scared me, so reluctantly I handed it over.

"If you really don't want me to read it, I won't," he said, but his voice betrayed him. I could tell that he was dying to find out all the secrets that the notebook contained.

"I-I don't really care if you read it. It's not really personal or anything. I just don't want you to get mad at me." I didn't know what he was like when he was mad, but I most certainly did not want to find out.

"Why would I get mad?" he asked.

I felt a chill run down my spine. What should I say? "Um, I-I might have written some things about you. Things you might not like."

I watched fearfully as his expression darkened. "What kind of things?" he asked softly.

I looked up at him, confused. "Why-why do you sound so calm? You-you're not upset?"

"No," he whispered. "I'm not mad." Then he looked down at the notebook. "Should-should I be scared to read this?"

I shrugged. "It depends on how you interpret it. In truth, I feel that I'm the one who should be scared."

"Nonsense," he said, slowly opening the book. "You have nothing to fear."

He read the first page, smiling as he remembered that first meeting, but slowly his smile faded. As he finished the page, he looked at her, offended. She looked away, ashamed.

Was this really what she thought of him? He read countless entries containing nasty comments about how he was a liar, a murderer, a horrible man. He almost dropped the book in despair. Magenta was no different from the rest. She likewise hated him, and would never dare let him befriend her.

He read all of the First and Second day entries, then closed the book, his face white with desolation. "Here," he said handing it back to her. "I'm done. I don't want to read it anymore."

She refused to take it. "Keep going," she insisted. "It gets better." Her eyes were filled with compassion. When he reopened the book, his hands were shaking. Magenta noticed. "It does get better," she told him. "A lot better."

Her eyes locked on his. Ashamed of himself, he looked away and continued reading.

He expected to be hit with more nauseating remarks, but was surprised to find that the next entry took on a tone of concern. He remembered all too well; that had been the day that he had been stuck with Fisheye dragging him through the hallways.

She didn't separate the Third day into different entries. She kept it all as one big entry.

As he read it, the color returned to his face. The words were much kinder, much more forgiving. He realized that it was true; it did get a lot better. He also clarified that the girl was slowly warming up to him.

He looked at Magenta. She was standing now, and she walked over to him. "You-you might want to sit down," she whispered.

He did as he was told. "Wh-why?" he whispered. "Does-does it get worse again?"

She nodded. "I'm sorry, Clive. I didn't mean it. I need to write another entry after this. I truly don't think any of that anymore.

"Anymore. That means that you did." He looked up at her, hurt.

"But I don't think that now." She spoke softly, staring down at him.

He looked away. "But-but why would you think that in the first place? I've never lied to you. I've never hurt you, or at least I've never tried to. I've always tried to be kind to you. Why would you think that I'd be so cruel?"

She sat down beside him. "I-I don't know."

He realized that this was the closest he had ever been to the girl. He was afraid to move, afraid of scaring her away. He couldn't risk losing her friendship, now that he almost had it.

I knew how forward it seemed, but I had to comfort him. I didn't think that the entries would upset him so much. I felt so heartless, so cruel, so callous, so cold. I couldn't stand it.

Clive looked so hurt. I should never have thought that he would hurt me. He had relied on me, and I had let him down.

I reached out and lightly touched his arm. "You can read it whenever you want. I'll make sure to keep it updated." I was whispering.

He looked at me now. He looked so hurt.

I felt like crying. How could I have been so heartless? How could I have been so stupid? Clive wasn't the bad guy. I never should have listened to Fisheye.

"Please, stop looking at me like that," I pleaded. "You're killing me."

"I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel guilty."

"You make it so hard not to feel guilty," I told him.

He laughed. "You act like all this is my fault. Yet you seem so confident. How do you know that this is not a trap?"

My eyes widened. "It-it's not a trap, is it?" I whispered.

"Of course not. If it were a trap, why would I tell you?"

He smiled at me, that smile again. I couldn't help but smile back.

"I-I guess that makes me more comfortable," I said.

His face fell. "Oh no. Don't tell me I've done it again."

"Done what?" I asked.

"Made you uncomfortable." He looked at me solemnly.

His eyes locked on mine.

I couldn't look away. I couldn't move. I was caught in his gaze, and I couldn't free myself. If this had been his trap, then I had fallen for it. But I didn't care. I was willing to go along with it; I was willing to help him. I didn't care that he was considered a criminal. I believed him. I trusted him.

He was staring at her, unable to look away. She still hadn't answered. What was happening? Why was he so mesmerized?

He nudged her gently. "Magenta? Are you ok?" He spoke softly, hoping she would be comforted by his voice.

She said nothing, only stared.

"Magenta, you're scaring me. Please, snap out of it."

She suddenly jumped, as if she had been startled awake. "Huh?" she said.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"Tell me what you did." She stared at him.

"Wha-what?"

"Tell me what you did." He knew from the solemnity in her voice that she meant it.

He shifted uncomfortably. "Magenta, it's really a personal thing. I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it yet."

"Clive, I hate to do this to you, but I need to know." She stood up.

"I-I can't. I'm not ready."

"You have to be," she exclaimed, clenching her fists.

"M-magenta, p-please," he pulled away, suddenly fearful.

She grabbed him. "Now, Clive. You're going to tell me now."

"Magenta, stop," he whimpered. He didn't want to admit it, but she was hurting him now.

Slowly, she loosened her grip. "I-I-I'm s-so s-sorry C-Clive. I-I didn't m-mean it. R-really I didn't. P-please f-forgive me"

"What-what happened to you?" he gasped.

"I-I don't know," I said. It was a lie.

I knew exactly why I had done it. It was the wraiths.

The wraiths had been following me for years, and they loved to torment me. Whenever I was about to learn something important, one of them took over me, made me go mad. I couldn't escape them; they were everywhere. I couldn't see them, but they could see me.

Despite what most people thought, the wraiths were solid; they had attacked me many times. They spoke in sinister, whispery voices, but as far as I know I'm the only one who can hear them.

I felt drained, as I always did when a wraith left my body. I felt myself weakening, and I fell.

Clive caught me, helping me sit up. "Are you sure you're alright?" he asked.

I nodded, but I knew it wasn't true. I had fallen victim to those stupid wraiths again.

Just then the door opened and a large group of guards walked in. They were carrying something, but I was too bleary-eyed with exhaustion

"What are they doing?" I asked.

"It's ok, Magenta. They're just putting up curtains."

"But there are no windows," I said, confused.

"Not that kind of curtain. They're separating the room."

"Oh," I said, but I still didn't get it.

There were a few minutes of commotion. I closed my eyes to try to escape the noise, which was fueling my headache. Then everyone was gone.

"Wha—where did everybody go?" I asked.

"They left about an hour ago."

"An hour ago!" I cried, suddenly alert.

He nodded. "You fell asleep. I wasn't sure what to do."

I blinked. "how long was I out?"

"About two hours. I was a little worried at first, but it gave you the rest that you needed."

I pulled away. "Why didn't you wake me up?" I said exasperatedly.

"I tried. Believe me I tried." He smirked at me. "It seems you were too comfortable to get up."

I felt my face flush. "Funny. I figured by day four you would know that I can't take a joke."

He laughed. "I don't think I believe that."

We just stared at each other for a while, but then Clive's expression turned grave. "What happened to you, Magenta?"

I looked away. I couldn't face him. I just couldn't. "I-I'm sorry, Clive. I didn't mean it. I know how crazy it sounds, but it wasn't me."

He stared, waiting for an explanation.

I sighed. "Ok, I'll tell you. But first, I have to ask you something, and you have to answer me, no matter how off topic it seems."

He nodded.

"Do-do you believe in… well, wraiths?"

"Wraiths?"

I nodded. "Wraiths. Ghosts, phantoms, spirits, wraiths."

He seemed to be weighing his options. "I-I don't really know. They've never been proven to exist, in a scientific sense, but they've never been proven to not exist either."

"Well, what if I told you that they did exist? And that I was being haunted by them?"

He froze. "What?"

I looked up at him fearfully, expecting to see him mocking me. But when I saw his expression filled with concern, I felt even more upset. "You think I'm crazy, don't you?"

He shook his head. "No, no. Not at all."

I decided to confide in him. I told him about how the wraiths had been following me since I was six years old. I told him that they possessed me whenever they wanted to. I told him about the whispery voices that only I could hear. I told him everything, including the times that I had spent all night talking to them, trying to befriend them, trying to get them to leave me alone.

Clive listened intently, pausing to ask questions every once in a while. I could tell that he was intrigued by the stories, wanting to learn more.

When I was finally done, he placed his hand on mine. Staring at me, he said, "Don't worry. I'll help you through this."

I was very grateful for his help. He could have laughed at me; he could have been scared of me; he could have called me insane. But he hadn't done any of those things. He had listened; he had believed me; he had cared.

His hand was still on mine, and I was surprised when I realized that he was the one blushing.

"Thank you, Clive. Thank you so much." I hugged him, elated to finally have someone I could trust.

After that, I went back to my little corner with my notebook and started writing. I had a lot of good comments to record.

Chapter 7

He was ecstatic. Magenta had finally decided to trust him. She had finally confided in him.

He felt compelled to help the girl with her plight, though he did not know how. Haunted by wraiths? How was he supposed to help her with that?

But he had to. Now that she trusted him, he could not let her down.

She was in her little corner as usual, writing as usual in that little notebook of hers. She was so engrossed in her writing that she did not even look up until she closed the book, put the pencil down, and fell asleep.

He stared at her curiously. How could such a small, sweet, innocent girl be stuck in this situation? What had she done to deserve this kind of punishment?

He had to find out. He couldn't help her if he didn't know.

Suddenly, he realized that he didn't know anything at all about this girl. Other than the whole story about the wraiths, he knew nothing. Why did he care so much about someone he knew so little about?

He shook the thought away. He knew the answer to that question. It was because she was so compassionate. She had cared about him when he needed help. She had talked to him when he was lonely. She had made him feel honest when he felt wicked.

He couldn't bear it that Magenta had thought he would betray her. It made him sick. He would never dream of doing such a thing. He knew that she needed him just as much as he needed her.

He watched her for a while, wondering about her. He watched her until he fell asleep himself, dreaming about Magenta and who she really was.

I woke up in the middle of the night. It was quiet. Too quiet. I couldn't hear even any breathing.

Suddenly, an alarm rang out. There was a flash of blinding white light. Then everything went black.

"Magenta! Magenta, are you alright?" Clive called out.

"What's happening!" I cried.

A mechanical voice sang out, "This is a lockdown. I repeat, this is a lockdown." There was a loud crash. Then silence.

"C-Clive?" I whispered, too afraid to raise my voice.

"Magenta? Where are you?"

"I-I'm over here," I said, walking forward.

I crashed into someone. "Clive? Is that you?"

"I'm afraid not," said a voice.

I froze. "Who-who are you?" I whispered.

"That's not important right now. By the time the lights come back on I'll be gone."

I backed away. "Are-are you a wraith?"

The voice did not answer.

"Magenta! Clive screamed. "Where are you? Why can't I find you?"

"Don't worry. She's safe," the voice said. I could tell now that it was a boy, about my age. It was still dark, so I couldn't see him. He spoke very fast, and it was hard to understand what he was saying.

"Who's there? What was that? Magenta, what's going on?" Clive exclaimed furiously.

"I am no one. All you need to know is that I am on your side. Neither of you have anything to fear." The boy sounded very confident.

I backed away. "Clive, help me!" I cried.

I was terrified. It was dark, too dark. They were coming for me. I knew they were.

"Calm yourself, I'll help you." said the boy. He held my shoulders and led me along.

"Are-are you a wraith?" I asked again.

"No, of course not. I shook my head before. I guess I forgot you couldn't see me."

He stopped. "Why would you think that I was a wraith? Do I scare you?"

I blushed, and for once I was glad it was too dark to see. "Not exactly," I said.

"Hmm." He pushed me forward.

Just then I felt a cold breeze. Something icy brushed past me. "You'll never make it out alive," said a sinister, whispery voice.

The wraiths. I knew they would come for me!

I froze. The boy stopped behind me. "What was that?" he asked.

"Magenta," Clive called.

"She's coming," the boy called back.

I grabbed his arm. "Keep them away," I whispered.

"It's ok, we're almost there," he said.

I could hear more of them now. The voices surrounded me, laughing at me, threatening me, taunting me, harassing me. I couldn't escape. I couldn't get away.

"Are you sure you're alright? I don't want to let go if you think you're going to fall."

"Just go. I'll be ok."

"Alright," he said cautiously.

He let go. "I have to go now. Don't worry, I'll be back."

"Wait!" I called. "Where will you go?"

"Don't fret over me, Miss. I can take care of myself." Then he was gone.

As soon as he left, I was overcome by wraiths. They encircled me, their torments too much for me to bear. I collapsed.

Someone caught me. "Magenta?" Clive asked. "Is that you?"

"Clive!" I cried, hugging him.

"Uh, don't you think you're being a little forward? I don't mind, but it doesn't seem to be in your nature."

"It's not, but they're after me. I need your help. It's so dark. It's way, way too dark!"

"I didn't know you were scared of the dark."

"I'm not scared of the dark. I'm scared of what comes with it," I whispered.

"We're back," a wraith whispered. "We told you we'd be back for you. We told you we'd come."

I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. "Leave me alone," I whispered.

The wraiths cackled, causing me to shudder in fear. "Leave you alone? Leave you alone! Don't make us laugh, you pathetic child." They cackled again, an atrocious melody of dry, cracked voices, all laughing at my expense. "We come and go as we please, girl. And right now, you're the lucky target; I only say lucky because it means that you get to become one of us."

I started crying now. "I don't care what you do to me. I will never give in to you. I don't want to become one of you."

I held Clive tighter, hoping he would take over. As if he had read my mind, he said, "Leave the poor girl alone. There is no point in torturing her like this. There is nothing to gain, no reward. What has she ever done to deserve this?"

"What has she done? She survived, that's what she's done! She should not have lived! She should have perished like the rest of us!"

The tears were streaming down my face now. I couldn't take it anymore. Why didn't they just kill me already?

Suddenly a figure appeared beside me. It was a wraith, no more than seven. I stared at him in surprise.

"Hello. I'm Seddah. What's your name?"

"I can see you," I said in amazement.

"Of course you can see me. I hate being invisible. I let everyone see me." He tilted his head. "What's your name?" he asked again.

"M-Magenta," I stammered.

"Hello, Magenta. Will you be my friend?"

The wraith was so small. He seemed so innocent. Too innocent. I decided to trust him.

"Uh, ok," I said.

He smiled a great, big grin. "Yay! Thank you so much! You're the first person who hasn't been afraid of me." His face suddenly fell. "You're not… afraid of me, are you?"

My heart melted. Little Seddah was just like me and Clive. All he ever wanted was a friend. "No, I'm not afraid of you, Seddah," I told him. "But I think I should warn you. The lockdown will probably end soon."

"So? What does that matter?" he asked.

"Listen to me, kid. You have to get out of here. Whoever sent you here sent you on a suicide mission. Soon enough, the lights will come back on, and then…"

His eyes widened. "Everybody, abandon mission! Abandon mission! We're all going to be destroyed!"

As soon as he said it, the lights came back on. Dim as they were, it was still enough. I heard a horrifying chorus of echoing screams as the entire group of wraiths transformed into a cloud of black smoke.

Clive's face was white with terror. "I never knew that this is what you had to go through. I never thought it would be this horrible. No wonder you were so scared."

I could see that he was trembling, but I knew that he was trying not to show it. I still clung to him, too afraid to let go. "Seddah," I whispered, but I knew it was too late. He was gone. Forever.