Jessica rubbed the paper between her fingers, smelling the sweet fragrance of lavender scented ink. It wasn’t just any paper, but the key to the rest of her life. It was a signal, a talisman to call forth the love of her life. She’d be rescued from her own meaningless life and routine existence, where nothing happened except the slow march of time through endless acts that amounted to yet nothing in the end.
She walked the halls of her school, a ghost among the solid people. People with solid lives, solid dreams, and solid connections with each other. She played their game, laughing and gossiping about boys and hair, but inside she cried out for more, to glimpse the world beyond her own.
Derek Holsom changed all that. He wasn’t like other boys. In fact, he wasn’t a boy at all. He’d come to her at night, appearing at the edge of her bed like some sort of dream. His skin glistened like gray steel and his eyes glowed with amber fire. And he always wore a tailored suit as black as shadows.
“You are mine,” he said to her that first meeting. “I want to make you a part of me.”
The words pierced Jessica’s heart and thawed the wall she had set around it. She felt alive for the first time just by hearing his voice, and the more he spoke, the more she fell under his spell. He knew everything about her, as if he could see right into her soul.
“What would I do without you?” she asked one night, after crying on his shoulder about yet another tragedy at school.
“You may have to find that out,” Derek said, pulling away from her. “I can’t keep coming here. The world beyond this one is calling me back… for good.”
“No!” Jessica flung herself away from Derek and stood up. “You can’t leave me! Don’t you see I need you?”
Derek stood up and held out his hand. A small leather book appeared in a swirl of black flame. “There is a way, my dear Jessica. In this book there is a spell, one that will bind us together for all eternity.”
Jessica snatched the book and opened it up. There was only one page inside and it was blank. She looked up at Derek and blinked in confusion.
“You need to write both our names on that paper,” he explained. “Then in two weeks’ time, tear the page out and set it on fire on the stroke of midnight. Until then, I will not be able to see you.”
All Jessica could do was nod as Derek vanished from the room. Then she burst into tears and clutched the book to her chest.
It had been the hardest two weeks of her life. Without Derek, Jessica was nothing. He was the spark that lit her fire, the fuel that burned in the furnace of her soul. Now all she had to get her through were memories, mere fumes that tantalized her with desire for the real thing.
“We’ll be together soon,” Jessica said, holding a match up to the paper in her hand. The fire turned blue and engulfed the paper, leaving only black soot that fell onto her bed like rain.
“I knew you’d come through for me,” Derek said from behind her, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist.
“Derek, are we really going to be together forever?” Jessica leaned back against him and stared into his golden eyes.
“It depends on whose forever we’re talking about,” Derek said, his voice rough as snapping twigs. She felt ever muscle in her limbs lock up, leaving her motionless and Derek turned her around to face him.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Derek, what’s going on?”
“Stupid girl,” he growled, as his mouth opened wide, wider than it had ever opened before, revealing blood stained teeth pointed like a shark's. “Did you really think that I was interested in becoming you soulmate?”