Chapter 1

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It's a new day. Though to me there is no day or night, for me it is continuous. But to the mortals I walk with, the day is new as dawn arrives, the sun coming up slowly in the east. Soon the streets will be full of people, the roads full of cars. Children will be on their way to school and parents to work, it is a day I have been dreading the last few weeks.

There is going to be a fire at the local high school today. It will burn to the ground. The only person who will survive is a teacher that stepped outside to get a package from a delivery man. I will have to claim the lives of all the students and teachers in the building as the flesh melts from their bones and their lungs fill with smoke. It's not the first time I've claimed the lives of children, or the first school fire I've seen. There has been dozens of them over the decades.

I don't like having to do it, yet it is my duty. I've learned to deal with the fact that its in my job description to take the lives of mortals. I was once one myself, centuries ago. No longer and never again. I'm not mortal anymore, but part of my humanity remains. I walk with them when I feel too distant, try to imagine life as a human again. They go about their day to day business not knowing how long they have left, yet I walk with them and can tell you exactly when and how each and every one of them is supposed to die.

And in about four hours, 500 men women and children are going to burn and suffocate to death. Its not something I want

to do, but its something that has to be done.

I close my eyes and focus, then open them again. I'm no longer in the dark domain, the place I call home. I'm in the yard in front of the school whose time is slowly ticking away. Students pour into the building, cars pull up, children laugh and smile. Some of the older students are on the front steps with books open in their laps, others with headphones on or talking to other students or teachers. Each one of them will die today, except for one. The high school history teacher, his name is Ted Washburn. He stands with a group of students around a tree, talking, gesturing with his hands and smiling. A perfectly normal day, for now.

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