My name is Melody
. I’m laying on my death bed this very second. I’m fourteen…and dying.
I was your normal girl; active, athletic, and just happy to be alive. Then I started getting tired, and everything—even the simplest things like breathing—would take so much effort. The doctors informed me that I had Mitochondrial disease. I won’t live much longer because of it.
?” my best friend, Dylan
, asked tiredly. He had been here for weeks, only leaving to go to the bathroom. He had bags that were black instead of purple under his dark brown eyes. His dirty blonde hair was in messy curls as he seemed to never take care of it anymore. He was nearly reduced to skin and bones, famished, but unable to eat as he saw his best
friend fatally ill.
“Yes?” I managed, even though it was still beyond breathless. I knew Dylan
would hear. He had been straining his ears for over a month now.
“How yah doing?”
“I should ask you. You need to sleep.”
“I’m not gonna sleep while my best friend is laying on her death bed.”
“Death is unpredictable,” was the last thing I said. My final breath.Chapter One: Initiation
My eyes fluttered open to the most beautiful place I had ever seen. If you asked me what it looked like that second, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything logical. The structures surrounding me were blazing with a blinding light that was so intense that, for a moment, I thought I had been transported to Hell. As my eyes focused, I realized that the buildings weren’t on fire, but were merely made of gemstones that glittered fiercely in the dawn. At least, I’m assuming it was morning.
“Hello,” a man said. He stood over me with a smile. He had dark hair and penetrating blue eyes. He had a bit of stubble across his chin and was very muscular; he appeared to be African American. He leaned down with an overgrown hand outstretched welcomingly.
I accepted his hand and let him pull me up to my feet. “Hi,” I croaked.
“What is your name, sweetheart?”
I tried to remember. For whatever reason, I found it difficult to remember who I was, where I’d been, and anything else that may have given me a clue to my identity. I ran a hand nervously through my golden blonde hair. Golden blonde. I stared at my hair for a couple of seconds as suddenly my life unfolded before me. “Melody
,” I whispered. “My name is Melody
“What a beautiful name.” His kind smile reassured me that this compliment was genuine. “My name is Elijah
, leader of the Lightnings.” He gestured around us.
I looked around at everyone who had gathered. I was suddenly very self-conscious in my pajamas that had stains. I felt my cheeks heat up at the realization that I probably looked like street trash.
said. A girl with caramel hair and lavender eyes stepped forward, a smile on her face. “Please prepare Melody
for her Initiation.” Jolie
nodded and grabbed my hand. I kept my distance from the rest, aware that I hadn’t showered in the past week due to lack of energy. “First thing’s first: Bath. You reek,” Jolie
said. I blushed. “But don’t worry, I’ll have you looking and smelling amazing
I nodded. “Thank you, I guess.”
She smiled at me. “You’re pretty. You’re my new model.”
I blushed. “Uh…”
“Don’t worry. Roxana
will show you the works.”
I nodded. We came to a stop in front of an amethyst cottage, and Jolie
swung the door to it open. “So, I hope you don’t mind smelling like coconut—”
“I’m allergic,” I said immediately. “I’m allergic to coconut milk.”
“That’s a weird allergy, but okay,” she said, pulling me into a large, luxurious bathroom. “How about vanilla and lavender?”
I nodded. “That’ll be fine.”
“Great.” She smiled. “You’re super pretty, and you seem sweet enough. What are some of your hobbies? Oh, and strip.”
“Take off your clothes.” She rolled her eyes. “Relax, we’re girls.”
I nodded and began taking off my stinky pajamas. The smell had a resemblance to toxic waste. She gestured for me to get into the bubble bath that smelled heavenly and began scrubbing and shaving me.
“When was the last time you shaved your legs?” she asked as she lifted my leg above the water, nearly succeeding in drowning me.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly.
“Well, they look like monkey legs.”
I giggled at her choice of comparison. “I have monkey legs! Ooh-ooh, ah-ah!”
She laughed at me. “How old are you, Melody
“Fourteen,” I said proudly. “How old are you?”
“Never ask a woman her age,” she said vaguely with a seriousness to her tone.
There was a moment of silence as Jolie
scrubbed my hair with sweet-smelling lavender. “Where am I?” I asked quietly.
“What do you mean?”
“Is this Heaven…or Hell?”
She smiled at me as if she found me amusing. “Neither.”
I looked at her confusedly. “What’s this place called?”
“Fallen,” she answered immediately as she squirted more shampoo onto her hands. “Home of the Riddles.”
“Riddles. We’re not Angels, and we’re not Demons. We’re something between the two.”
I took a minute to process what she was telling me. “I’ve never heard of a Riddle before.”
“We’re rare, that’s for sure,” Jolie
“Obviously,” I muttered, taking a handful of bubbles and blowing them away. I couldn’t remember a time when I had felt this pampered. Jolie
quickly finished and began toweling me off, no matter how much I protested. Then she sat me down in front of a vanity, beginning to put makeup on me.
“I don’t feel comfortable wearing a lot of makeup,” I said, fidgeting as she put blush on.
“I’m not going to put too much on, Melody
. Just the necessities.”
In the end, she caked me with makeup.
She surveyed her work and shook her head. “No, no. That won’t do.”
So, she wiped it off with a scented towel and started all over. “The problem is that your skin tone is so different from mine. Hmm… Just a little more eye shadow.”
She wiped vigorously at my eyes, nearly scooping them out of their sockets. Ouch, that hurt!
“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” Jolie
Oh no, am I thinking aloud again?
“Yes, you are. Is it a habit?”
“It’s only been happening recently,” I admitted. “Do you think there’s a cure?”
She laughed. “Oh, sweetie, there’s no cure for voicing your thoughts. But boy, I wish there was.”
I laughed a little with her. “So, you’re a fashion designer?” I asked.
“What do you design?”
“Sweetie, the easier question would be what don’t
I design. I make dresses, tops, bottoms, shoes, hats, and other accessories for every size and age, boys and girls,” Jolie
said proudly. “And you, sweetie, you’ve got it going on.
That’s why I want you to model my clothes. There’s only two other girls—oh, don’t worry, you’ll meet them—and I’ve only convinced one of them to model.”
,” I said.
,” she corrected. “Close, but not exact.”
I nodded, repeating, “Roxana
,” a couple of times to get used to it. “What does Roxana
“Oh, she’s this adorable little redhead from Kansas,” Jolie
said. “She’s horribly short. She prefers ‘petite’ though, so watch it.”
She eyed her work on my face. “Hmm… No, no. This just simply won’t do.” She sighed and began wiping again. “Perhaps it will be easier if you’re wearing the dress.”
“Dress?” I asked. “I haven’t worn a dress since my fifth grade graduation.”
“Well, you’ll be modeling plenty of my dresses, so you better get used to it,” she said, smiling in a reassuring way, reminding me of my mother. “I’ll be right back.” She disappeared from the bathroom mirror.
I started humming to myself, swinging my legs back and forth. That took a lot of energy though, and I soon found myself feeling dizzy.
Luckily, when Jolie
returned she brought me a plate of cheese and crackers to munch on as she fitted me into the dress. She had me stand on a pedestal as she cut and sewed the fabric to her liking. She adjusted it so many times to make sure that it flattered my slim frame.
“Have you eaten at all these past few months?” Jolie
asked as she pulled the dress off me for another trimming.
I thought about it for a minute, before shaking my head. “I haven’t had the energy to eat anything.”
said rather uncomfortably. “What was wrong with you?”
“I had Mitochondrial disease.”
“It’s an energy deficiency. My body couldn’t produce the normal amount of energy that most people do, and I slowly began to die because of that.” Jolie
gasped. “You poor thing!”
There was silence as she concentrated on the dress. She nodded to herself, murmured something, and then pulled the fabric over my head once more.
! Perfect!” Jolie
grinned, clapping her hands together in victory. She grabbed my arm and half-dragged me to a full length mirror. The first thing I noticed was the pale bluish-purple gown. It was long, with a train behind it. The sleeves flowed past my hands, and the entire dress seemed to engulf my entire body like a sorceress’s robe. But there was a sort of elegance about it, like a princess. I defiantly felt royal with all the pampering Jolie
had done for me.
Then I looked at myself. And I was transparent.
You could hardly tell that anyone was wearing this dress because I was so clear.
“Why do I look like that?” I asked in alarm.
“Oh, sweetie, don’t worry! It’ll go away right after your Initiation,” Jolie
I nodded, still not convinced.
I looked at her through the mirror and immediately felt envious. She was so solid looking and gorgeous.
Her hair was done in a messy bun, her makeup light and radiant, and her clothes highlighted her lilac colored eyes and set focus on her other amazing features, like her high cheekbones.
“Now we should be able to do your makeup with no problem!” she said excitedly.
She pulled me back to the chair in front of the vanity and began reapplying my makeup until it reached her approval. Which took about (or at least felt like) an hour.
There was a knock at the door, making Jolie
spill the nail polish that she had been shaking. She gasped out a breath. “Sweetie, would you go answer that while I clean up this mess?”
I nodded and left to answer the door, thankful I hadn’t gotten lost in her huge house. I’ll tell you, it may have looked like an itty-bitty cottage on the outside, but the inside was an entirely different story.
I opened the door to see probably the most beautiful boy standing there. He had dark hair, tanned skin, and liquid silver and golden eyes.
“Hello,” he said with a slight British accent.
“H-hi,” I stuttered.
“You look ready enough. Where’s Jolie
I tried to remember who Jolie
was. I ran a hand through my hair that Jolie
curled nervously. Ah
, now I remember. “She wants to do my nails.”
He sighed. “Women and their beauty,” he grumbled under his breath. Louder and with more authority, he added, “Tell her that we’re having your Initiation in ten minutes.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
He walked away, and I closed the door.
“Who was that?” Jolie
asked, popping her head into the hall.
“Uh…” Drat. I didn’t get his name. “He had dark hair.”
“What color were his eyes?”
“Liquid silver and gold,” I said dreamily.
She smiled. “That’s Kevin
. Charming, isn’t he?”
I nodded, blushing. “Where’s he from?”
“England, I think. I’m not really sure. He changes the story constantly.” She shrugged like it was no big deal. “Just don’t get your hopes up, sweetie. Kevin
hasn’t gone on a date in a very
I frowned as I sat back down. “Why not?”
“Well, I think he’s waiting for someone special. The boys think he’s an in-the-closet gay. Is that how you say it?” She began painting my nails the same color as Kevin’s eyes. “All I know is that he’s been wanting to settle down for awhile.”
“Why?” I asked confusedly. Kevin
looked just a little older than me. Why would someone that young want to get married?
“Oh, sweetie, he’s not as young as he looks. Why, he’s older than me!” Jolie
laughed as if it was funny, but I didn’t get it. She sighed. “Sweetheart, I am three hundred and forty three years old.”
I felt my mouth open in shock. “What?
” I screamed indignantly.
She sighed. “The last one said something like that, too. Except, I think her exact word was, ‘Groovy!
I gulped down my discomfort. “And how old is Kevin
“I don’t know exactly.”
seemed a lot less attractive. Okay, maybe not that much. Hot is hot.
“It’s a lot to take in, I know. I was once where you are. I mean, it’s always like, ‘Oh my gosh
! They cannot
I giggled. The way Jolie’s voice changed was too funny. It became a higher pitch, almost grating to the ears.
“I like you, sweetie. You’re just a little ball of fun.”
I grinned. “Thank you.”
She smiled, standing up as she twisted the lid to the nail polish closed. “Ah
, now we’re done. We’ll just wait a few minutes for the polish to dry.”
She sprayed my nails so that they’d dry faster, and then she led me into her living room where she let me watch TV while she flipped through a fashion magazine. Three minutes later, Jolie
repainted my nails with a second coat and sprayed them again. Then we waited another three minutes.
There was a knock on the door, and this time Kevin
didn’t wait for anyone to answer as he barged in. He looked furious and hot.
“We’re waiting,” he said through gritted teeth.
“Well, wait another minute. Melody’s nails still aren’t dry yet,” Jolie
said, completely un-phased by his obvious anger.
I gulped down my fear as he looked at me. “I thought I told you to tell her that we’d be doing your Initiation by now.” Jolie
peeked over her magazine curiously. “Melody
didn’t tell me anything.”
“Sorry,” I said quickly to Jolie
. “I forgot.”
She smiled reassuringly. “It’s fine.”
“No, it’s not!” Kevin
yelled. “We’re all waiting!”
scolded. “Calm down.”
He took a few breaths, but was still shaking. “When will you be done?” he asked through his teeth.
“In just a minute or two,” Jolie
said, tapping my nails delicately. “Her thumbs take forever to dry.”
“Fine.” He stormed away angrily.
“I’m sorry about him,” she said. “He just gets worked up over the littlest things nowadays.”
“So, this is normal?” I asked, not sure how much I liked the idea of a furious Kevin
She shook her head. “He used to be the sweetest boy. I think it’s old age that’s making him so cranky.”
I nodded, though I wasn’t feeling very comfortable since learning of Kevin’s temper.
“Hey, don’t worry,” Jolie
said, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “Kevin’s still a big sweetie underneath all that anger. You just gotta dig a little for it.”
“Besides, he’s never actually hurt anyone. Severely, anyway.”
That was not very comforting.
Am I talking out loud again?
“Yes, yes you are.”
The next few minutes that followed consisted of Jolie
doing last-minute touchups to my makeup and hair, making sure my dress still fit me correctly, and a quick little lunch.
I was currently standing on a platform that overlooked the little village of cottages. The view of all the cottages was breathtaking in the twilight. The evening sunlight set the gemstones that they appeared to be made out of ablaze. There were eleven of them, all surrounding the silver cloud we floated on in an incomplete circle. It looked more like a crescent right now. Kevin
stood in front of me, blocking me from a marvelous view. There were a few other people there, too. I felt like a human sacrifice with them standing around me in a circle.
“Speak the first thing that comes to mind. Do not think of what you say, just say it,” Kevin
said, interrupting me from my trance. I looked at his liquid eyes, trying to process what he had just said to me.
“You have pretty eyes.”
There was giggling from Jolie
at that little comment.
He sighed, aggravated. “What the—”
scolded. “Be nice.”
He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. When he opened them, he looked calmer. “Okay. Let’s try this again. Speak—”
“You still have really pretty eyes.”
He started cussing at the wind, raising his fist in outrage and stomping around. Jolie
covered my ears just before the first obscenity left his lips. His tantrum continued for a good five minutes before he finally calmed down enough for Jolie’s hands to leave my pretty little ears alone.
“You have tiny, pointy little ears like an elf’s,” Jolie
giggled as she repositioned herself beside Kevin
. “Now, Kevin
. Let’s be more specific.”
“I don’t need to be more specific!” he screamed. “That’s not how the ritual goes! She’s supposed to say something smart and philosophical! Not ‘your eyes are pretty.’”
“You should be flattered,” Jolie
chided. “Now say thank you.”
“I’m not telling anyone a—” Jolie
covered my ears, “—thank you!”
,” she continued in a motherly tone. “Melody
said something nice to you. And she didn’t even say it sarcastically! Now what do you say?”
He mumbled something under his breath.
“I don’t think she heard you.”
“And why the—” Jolie
covered my ears again, “—not?”
didn’t even hear you, and I’m standing right beside you!”
“Thank you,” he said to me in exasperation.
“You’re welcome.” I grinned.
He mumbled something about sharpening his knife collection when this was done, and I looked at Jolie
to see if he was serious. She gave me the all-encouraging thumbs-up.
“Let’s try this one more time. Speak—I’M NOT FINISHED YET!” he yelled at me.
I closed my mouth.
He took deep breaths and counted to fifty before continuing. He closed his eyes and kept them closed for a couple minutes. “Now, when I ask you this question one more time, will you say something around the lines of ‘your eyes are pretty’?”
“I guess not,” I said, shrugging.
“Okay,” he said, taking another deep breath before opening his eyes again. “Speak the first thing that comes to mind. Do not think of what you say, just say it.”
“Do you ever smile? Are you always this grumpy? Why did Jolie
paint my fingernails to match my dress, but my toenails red? Why is that guy wearing an orange tux? Are unicorns real?” I asked as fast as I could.
He looked taken aback, and then angry. Jolie
had to cover my ears for almost fifteen minutes before Kevin
yelled, “THAT’S IT! I GIVE UP! LET HER DIE!”
“No!” I screamed, clutching onto his leg as he tried to walk away. “I don’t wanna die, Mr. Kevin
! I wanna live! I WANT TO LIVE!”
“Get off!” He shook his leg in the hopes of loosening my grasp. “Damn, you have a strong grip.”
“Thank you…I think,” I said, clutching harder as he started hopping around.
“What can I do to get you off of me?” he asked after a moment of hopping around and much humiliation.
“Give me one more chance, Mr. Kevin
!” I gave him my best puppy dog face.
gushed. “Look how adorable that is, Kevin
He grunted. “I just want her off of me.”
“Please, Mr. Kevin
, please!” I started crying as the realization that I might die hit me. “I don’t want to die!”
He chewed his lip as if this whole thing made him very awkward and conflicted. “Alright.”
I sniffled. “What?”
“I won’t let you die.”
“Yippee!” I hollered, pumping my fist into the air. “Thank you, Mr. Kevin
,” I said, hugging him.
He sighed and muttered something inaudible under his breath. He repeated, louder, “Speak the first thing that comes to mind. Do not think of what you say, just say it.”
“Why does the sun rise in the morning?” I offered hesitantly.
I sighed with relief, and was about to do my infamous happy dance when a dude spoke up, “Vow of Loyalty.”
I can’t describe what happened next very accurately, but what I can tell you is that it was like a rush of energy had washed over me, engulfing me in a thin blanket of power that whispered the correct words in my ear.
my wings be torn off my back if my loyalty betrays,” I said in a voice that sounded like myself, but didn’t feel
“Vow of Friendship,” Jolie
said, giving me the all-encouraging thumbs up to show me that I was off to a great start.
“We are all friends. None shall betray.”
“Vow of Strength.”
I realized that they were going in a kind of circle around me with these “vows.”
strength lift me from the ground I was once bound to.”
“Vow of Speed.”
“The speed of a thousand winds may my wings take me.”
“Vow of Wisdom
of a millennia of lives be with me.”
“Vow of Equality.”
“We are all equal. No one is higher. No one is lower.”
“Vow of Protection.”
“We all protect one another. No one is left behind.”
“Vow of Prophecy,” a petite redhead that I had a growing suspicion to be Roxie
“We follow all prophecies. Memorize them. Know them by heart.”
“Vow of Flight,” another girl said.
my wings take me far. Take me high. Make me one.”
“Vow of the Elements,” Kevin
said, staring at me like he was generally impressed.
“By Earth and Wind, by Fire and Water, by the Darkness and the Light: I call on the Elements to witness everything, and deny me power when I have betrayed.”
“Very good.” Elijah
popped out of the air beside Kevin
, clapping. “I like you, girly.” He grinned to show that he meant what he said.
I nodded, blushing. “Thanks.”
“You did great, sweetie,” Jolie
said, wrapping her arms around my shoulders and squeezing. “Now, time to introduce you to the gang.”
* * *I try to always do right. Even if I sometimes fail.
* * *