Prologue

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            It happened on a night like any other really, except it wasn't like any night I had experienced in my short twelve years of life. I listened to the sounds of slamming shutters and locking doors that echoed in the normally oppressively silent town that I lived in. I should have been joining them, but my big brother James wasn't home yet, and I didn't want to lock him out with the monsters. Setting my hairbrush down after knocking all the leftover brown strands out of it and smoothing my hands over my cream-colored nightgown, I moved into the living room to stand by the front door. Should I open it and peek out to watch for my brother, or should I lock it and wait with my hand on the knob ready to open it again when he comes pounding on the door? He really should have been home by now, it was going to be dark in a matter of moments. It was a black moon tonight. The monsters were always stronger when the black moon was out.

My hand reached for the knob, just one little peek to make sure he wasn't running for his life. If he was then I could help him. I just had to open the door and look out into the darkness. I didn't like the dark, but James was the only family member I had left. Our mother and father were killed two years ago. My hand just needed to be a bit closer to the doorknob, it was almost there.

The only warning I had was the jiggling of the round metal beneath my hand before the door was wrench open, knocking me back a step. In tumbled James, brown hair messy and breathing heavily. He looked mad at me, madder than I'd ever seen him, actually.

"Bee! What did I tell you about locking the door?" He huffed, slamming and locking the heavy wooden door behind him. I took another step back, avoiding his gaze by studying the flattened carpet. I didn't understand why James was so angry with me. My big brother was safe, he should be happy, but he looked scared, tugging his long hair anxiously.

That's when I saw it. The Shadow. It clung to my brother's back like a smoky monkey.

"James?" My voice shook with fear, even whispering. "A shadow." Suddenly defensive, James crouched in front of me, putting the nightmarish gray creature a few feet in front of my face. It turned to me, looking me in the eyes before smiling wickedly.

"Where Belle?" He used my full name, showing his urgency. Tears ran down my cheeks as I pointed right at the thing, even though James couldn't see me.

"Your ba-" The Shadow made a hissing sound, vaguely reminding me of rushing water, cutting off my words and returning me to fearful trembling. My brother didn't get to say anything either before the thing stretched out, completely covering my sixteen-year-old brother, and sinking him completely into the brown carpet.

I dove onto the spot where I had last seen my only remaining family, knowing that he was gone, but reluctant to believe it. Though only sixteen, my brother far exceeded most of the other kids his age in height; they couldn't have just disappeared into thin air. However, after a thorough inspection of both the carpet fibers and our entire three-bedroom house, I finally believed that he was gone. Forever. I fell asleep in the spot my brother had stood, crying for my loss.  

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