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Someone was shaking Anna. She could hear the faint sound of screaming. It took her a moment to realize that the screams were hers; Anna was screaming Donna's name.

Something quickly blurred in front of her eyes. It wasn't until her cheek started to sting that she snapped out of her hysteric screaming. A short plump co-worker looked shocked and began to apologize profusely. Anna guessed it was that co-worker who had slapped her across the face. She knew she should feel peeved from the physical assault, but she was too deep in shock to feel much of anything.

Anna's supervisor had appeared out of thin air and took Anna's headset from her. She could see him speaking into the headset. Anna didn't think he had gotten an answer because, within only a few minutes he placed the headset on the corner of Anna's cubicle. Anna glanced at her phone and saw it didn't have a green light anymore. Instead it was a solid red light. He had shut her phone off.

To capture her attention, the supervisor snapped his fingers in front of her face. Anna numbly looked up at him through glassy eyes. She could barely see his lips move through the black spots swimming in front of her. All she could hear was Donna's last words. This had to be some sort of sick joke. There was no way Donna had actually killed herself. At least that was what Anna wanted to believe.

After her supervisor had taken one look at the state Anna was in, he decided to send her home. The drive home was a blur and when she arrived there, she wandered about like a zombie from room to room.

Better clean up this mess, Anna grimaced as she looked at the still remaining disarray from yesterday’s break-in.

Her mind, however, was far from the task at hand, still in her cubicle trying to process Donna's phone call.

Anna had been given the week off but wasn’t concerned about that. The bills piling up on her counter meant nothing anymore. All she could think about was how she might have handled the call better.

Stop beating yourself up; you don't even know if she did kill herself.

Anna gave a small shake of her head to snap herself out of her funk. Obsessing over Donna wouldn't do her any good. And even if she wanted to go back to the hotline before the week was up, it wouldn't matter. Anna would just get turned away. She had been through a traumatic ordeal after all and would need “time” to process it.

They really didn't know her if they though making her stay home would miraculously heal the numbness she were feeling from the failed call. Had they taken the time to get to know Anna, then they would have known that staying home for a week would only maker dwell on the call more. It would have been better if they had let her come into work.

Over the next few days Anna got her home back in order. Now, with nothing more to do and no TV to use to distract her restless mind, she paced the floors of her tiny efficiency for hours. If she stayed in that apartment for one more second, she swore she would call the hotline herself.

Needing anything to distract her from the call, from Donna, Anna decided to get some fresh air and take a drive hoping to clear her head. She attempted to lock up her apartment forgetting that the door had been busted and her attempts would only be futile.

At her car, Anna found it was having some issues and she couldn't get it started. She swore and kicked the crap out of it, but all that came from that was a bruised toe. Driving was now out; she would have to foot it.

She ended up walking a few blocks to the closest convenience store. Anna had only intended on getting some chocolate and a fountain pop to cheer herself up with but while she was standing in line, she happened to glance over at a newspaper.

“Oh. My. God,” Anna slowly said.

Completely oblivious to the line in front moving forward, Anna only saw the big bold headline. The words blurred in and out making her dizzy. Then her candy bar and fountain pop fell to the floor, the lid popping off upon impact, and causing the sticky liquid to spew everywhere, on the polished floor and up the hem of her jeans. Not noticing that her feet were now soaked with the caramel liquid, her stomach sickened as she focused on the newspaper: A Suicide on North Street read the headlines and below that was a picture of a beautiful eighteen year old girl. Anna scanned the article, her heart sinking to an all-time low. Then, a wave of guilt rose up in her and tears stung her bright blue eyes as she read:

Donna Jackson was found dead in her home Tuesday morning by her boyfriend, Kyle Winston. Police say Donna Jackson died of self-inflicted wounds. According to the Lafayette Police Department, Donna had slit her wrists while taking a bath sometime Monday night. When the police questioned the boyfriend, he had stated that he wasn't aware Donna was contemplating suicide and that she seemed like any other eighteen year old girl.

Mr. Winston told the police that Donna had appeared happy last time he was with her and that he saw no warning signs, no cries of help. Only Donna had called for help. At some point, before she took her life, her phone record shows that she had called the Crisis Hotline for help.

When we tried to contact the Crisis Hotline for commentary, we were met with vague information. The only thing we know is that the person who took Donna's call was given a week suspension. However we at the J&R Times think this punishment is not enough. The person who handled Ms. Jackson's call should be fired and have to personally explain to Ms. Jackson's boyfriend, friends, and any family she had, how they could have dismissed her call without giving her the help she desperately needed.

More details on page 6.

“Miss? Hey! You all right?” The sales clerk waved a hand in front of Anna's face. He had a look of concern that matched the tone of his voice.

Her head snapped up from the newspaper to stare at the clerk. She half debated telling him that she wasn't all right and that she would never be all right again. The newspaper had said it all, Anna was responsible for a young girl taking her own life. She had had Donna on the phone, but instead of helping her, Anna had ended up not doing enough as she listened to Donna's last words.

What she was feeling at the moment, she wouldn't wish upon her worst enemy. To know that she could have said something and saved a person's life but instead she had let her own petty emotions get in the way. Now, she was the one responsible for the suicide.

To make matters worse, Anna hadn't been given a week off to deal with the traumatic call like she thought. No, the paper had said she had been given the week off because she had been suspended. Her boss had known she didn't handle handle the call well, and she was now sure that when she would go back to work, she would be fired on the spot.

What is wrong with me?

A girl took her life while on the phone with her, and here she was worried about loosing her job. She should be fired. Hell, she should get a lot worse than just being fired.

She inhaled deeply before she could answer the clerk looking at her, and even when she was able to speak, her voice was choked.

“No. I'm not all right. I'm so sorry about the mess, please forgive me.”

She pushed past him and ran out of the store.

Anna needed air and she needed to talk to someone. The problem was she didn't have anyone to talk to. She didn't have friends. She didn't even have family, unless you wanted to count a verbally abusive foster mom as family. No boyfriend; no one.

Anna had always pushed people away before they could get close to her. She knew she couldn't trust people. She wanted to trust and be like others, but the truth was she wasn't like other people; her scars ran deep.

Anna knew what she knew about people. She learned early on that others were nice to her it as not out of the kindness of their hearts. No, they had always wanted something from her.

Anna's last relationship had been like that. She had loved that man unconditionally, but he had used her for her money and when he got it (leaving Anna with nothing), he had split.

Her foster parents hadn't loved her. They had only used her to get the pitiful check the government had sent them every month for housing her. And as soon as Anna had turned eighteen and the checks stopped coming, they had kicked her out without so much as a dime. She was made to fend for herself and so she did things she wasn't proud of just to earn a few bucks for a place to live.

To be honest, any friends she had tried to make early on had all been a bust. They had all wanted something or other from her and whenever she needed them, they weren't there. Sure they had given her some convincing bull crap, but after so many excuses she realized she wasn't important to them at all. So Anna had become the way she is, not trusting and pushing others away. People made her skittish. People made her sick. Yet she still wanted to help them. (Hence, she works for a Crisis Hotline.)

Kyrain watched Anna run from the store. He had been shadowing her for years, waiting for just the right moment. He sensed that moment was close and that she was almost ripe for the picking. He would be the one to take her soul when the time was right, and she was ready. But that time wasn't now exactly, though he wished it was.

He would have to catch up to her later, but, for now he had much more pressing matters. In fact, the book he carried with him was threatening to set his pants on fire, glowing red hot in his pocket, demanding his attention.

Kyrain gave Anna one more glance.

She is so beautiful, and one day I will make her my own.

He became momentarily side tracked by her long honey blonde hair flowing behind her as she ran. Her long lean legs made him think inappropriate thoughts, and the way her body flowed gracefully with her fast pace only made him want her all the more

Kyrain pushed his lustful thoughts aside. He wouldn't get anything done if he followed her all day. He shoved a hand in his burning pocket. Strangely enough, as soon as his fingers brushed the book, it cooled immediately.

Kyrain wrapped his fingers around the book and pulled it out. It fit perfectly in his palm.

“Well, go on; show me then!” Kyrain muttered to the book.

The book glowed with affection in his hand. It enjoyed having a purpose. The book opened its own leather-bound cover and let a few tattered pages flip by until it found the page that would make its master most pleased. It waited for Kyrain to read the page, barely containing its ever growing excitement. The book vibrated in its master palm, impatient with his taking his time.

Kyrain chuckled at the book. He shook his head and glanced down at the open page. As his blood red eyes roamed over the bold words, a wide grin spread on his handsome face. His finger caressed the name that had been carefully imprinted on the page. Shivers ran down his spine as he read the date. Oh yes it was perfect.

“Very nice. You have done well.” Kyrain said.

If the book could smile it would have done so for it was bursting with pride for its master's smooth voice had felt better than a caress.

Kyrain read the words once more just to be sure that he had read them right:

Name: Anna Darling

Age: 18

Location: Lafayette, Indiana

Date of death: May 5th 2012

Time of death: 2:00 PM

Type of death: Drowning

Kyrain watched as the book softly shut its pages. He was more than pleased and for once he couldn't have been happier with the book. Normally the book showed him doomed souls and too late. When he would try to collect a doomed soul, he was always sorely disappointed to have found some other collector had taken the bounty, but not this time. This one was all his and hell would freeze over before he let anyone take Anna's soul. This soul was meant for him and him alone. He could feel it.

The book slid back into Kyrain's pocket, who gave the book a gentle pat though his jean pocket.

Kyrain thought about his previous engagement. He was due to meet the underworld Queen any minute. He was expected to travel to the Underworld as the Queen refused to come to the mortal realm. His eyes shot up to the huge courthouse clock. It was only a quarter past ten am; he would have plenty of time before the two-o-clock pm, self-appointed, appointment with Anna.

Meeting Queen Shiva now would be more enduring for Kyrain, since Anna's soul would be his soon. The Queen didn't know it but her time was coming to an end, and Anna's soul was the key ingredient Kyrain needed, to cause the Queen's downfall.

However even though he would be able to endure the Queen, he decided he would skip the meeting. He would deal with the repercussions of his actions later, besides, with Anna's soul, he would become ruler. At least this was his excuse for skipping out on the meeting, and enjoying the rest of the morning.

Having freed up his morning, Kyrain decided to explore the town. Normally he hated anything to do with big cities but today nothing could ruin his mood. No, today was the day he would claim Anna and that was something he had wanted to do ever since he first laid eyes on her, before she had ever became marked.

Yes, Kyrain had always watched Anna. He watched as she tried to survive the cruelty of her foster parents. He had to admit, he admired Anna's will and that she didn't break. Not even when her foster mom had been so low as to blame Anna's lack of friends on being dog ugly. That had made Kyrain burn with anger.

It was such a shame that he couldn't take unmarked or marked souls before their time. He would have loved nothing more than to have watched Anna's foster mom wither in agony for as long as possible before he took her soul. Unfortunately, he still wasn't afforded that chance; Anna's foster mom was one tough old crone.

Anna's foster father hadn't been much better. However, Kyrain did have the pleasure of taking his soul. He reveled in the wicked pleasure of personally casting the bastard's soul into the Underworld. Kyrain had hated the man ever since he had first laid his hands on Anna. The more her foster dad had beaten her, the more Kyrain had wanted to rip his throat out. But Kyrain had been patient and his patience was rewarded.

A silver Dodge Ram truck passed through Kyrain's body. He didn't realize that he had been walking in the middle of a busy street. It was a wonder that he hadn't had a vehicle pass through his transparent body before now.

Kyrain cursed the driver of the truck even though it wasn’t technically the guy’s fault. There was only one being to blame for Kyrain’s mortal life to be cut short. And that being would get hers in the end. If there was one thing Kyrain was good at, it was revenge.

Kyrain determined that it had to be about noon for the sun was high in the sky. He had a sudden regret that he couldn't feel the sun's rays shining off of the cars that passed by him and through him, he decided he didn't care all that much. He scanned the buildings and found them nothing special to look at; this was just another normal city. He did enjoy seeing the greener of the trees, grass, and bushes, though, whenever he found some in the cities.

Kyrain longed for woods; he longed to smell the clean air of the country, not the polluted air of the city he would be breathing now, if he could breathe. He gritted his teeth. Thinking about the man he used to be wouldn't do him a lick of good; it would only bring him misery. It was the past and if he let himself think about how much he missed his mortal life....No, he would not let himself think about it, and that was all there was to that. Soon, very soon, he would hold Anna's soul in his hands, and then they could overthrow the Underworld Queen, and then he would no longer be tormented by the mortal realm anymore.

Anna was his last hope and he wasn't going to let anything get in the way of his plans for them. Once he fully had Anna, then the Underworld Queen would be in for a rude awakening and everything the skank held dear would be his and Anna's for the taking.

Even as he thought about becoming the next ruler he felt a pang of sorrow. His bond with the book was much stronger than he had even realized, and the only downfall of becoming King of the Underworld would be to lose his soul book.

If only there was another way, he thought to himself.

The book seemed to deflate a little, saddened that its master wanted to leave it. Though it would never get in the way of its master's happiness it couldn't help but feeling anger at the one called Anna. It wanted to hurt her in the way it was now hurting. If Anna and its master didn't come together, then they would remain together as they are now. But as that thought ran through the book, it felt shame. It could never betray its master, no matter how much it would gain from such a betrayal. Nevertheless, the book sometimes felt quite devious.
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