Your head is spinning, pounding. Your nose is stuffy, your eyes are puffy, and your neck is swollen. You haven't been to school for the last two days, and it feels like this torment will never end. The only positive side to this whole mess is the fact that you've managed to wiggle out of school (and will likely be able to continue to wiggle out of school), and your parents are treating you like royalty.

Well, they were treating you like royalty. For months now, they had planned an early graduation celebration for you. Graduation was only a couple of months away, and they wanted to beat the crowd.

Unfortunately you had gotten sick with what was possibly the worst flu of your life. It was too late to refund the tickets and everyone had so been looking forward to going. You insisted that they go without you. They put up one hell of a fight, but when you reminded them that their anniversary was only a week away and that this could be their vacation, they eventually folded.

Your mom had popped her head into your room right before they left, and made doubly sure that you didn't want them to stay with you. She was wearing the little black dress she reserved for only the most special (and kid-free) events. She made sure you had all the medicines you could need within arm's reach, gave you a copy of all the numbers and addresses they could be reached at (this made you smile. She still thought of you as such a kid.), then bid you love and farewells.

After what feels like an eternity of trying and failing to fall asleep, you reach over for your water and some more cold pills. If you can't get comfortable in your own bed, you have no choice but to go with your old standby – the couch.

You grab your pillows and comforter and head downstairs, nearly tripping once or twice along the way. As soon as you're done arranging your pillows and comforter just right, a strange noise catches your ear. It's coming from the kitchen. It's probably just the medicine that's put you on edge, but the noise is really making you anxious. After all, no one else is home. There's just you.

Feeling like a scared little kid, you tip toe to the kitchen and peek around the corner, only to see your cat. Laughing, you say, "You big dumb kitty!" In response, he jumps onto the table and starts meowing at you. It's his very clear and demanding way of telling you that he's hungry. You laugh again. "Okay, boy. Let me get you something to eat."

The cat food is on the tallest shelf in the cabinets. Thanks a lot, Dad. You think half smiling, half exasperated. You stand on your tip toes and reach as far as you can. You even prop yourself up on the counter with one arm, your feet dangling just above the floor. You wiggle and will it and at last feel one of the cans slip into your hand. "Gotcha!" You cry in victory.

As you relax back onto your feet, you feel something caress your hip. This gives you a genuine case of the heebie-jeebies. You can think of nothing – nothing – that could have caused the sensation. You turn around, and are met with nothing. Though you continue on as if you aren't completely terrified and convinced that your house is haunted, you can't put the thoughts of ghosts out of your mind.

You pop open the cat food and set it down on the floor for your poor, hungry kitty. Then you head back into the living room for some good, forget-the-ghost T.V.

After hours of cartoons, ludicrous reality shows, crime dramas, and, lastly, a documentary on Japan, your eyes are drooping. As you drift off to sleep, your mind is on Feudal Japan. How interesting would it be, to have lived then? It certainly would have been more fun than middle-class America, high school, and homework.

Unsure of what was happening, you open your eyes. You see absolutely nothing. You're pretty sure you're not still asleep. You can feel the cool night air against your cheeks. You can even feel the gentle blow back of your own breath against your nose when the wind blows. You can hear insects in the distance. Though you can smell plants and even the sweet scent of night flowers, they are foreign to you.

Your arms are bound above your head, and while your feet can touch the ground, you can't do too much moving around. What the hell is going on here?

Something caresses your hip. It feels exactly the same as earlier. You inhale sharply. You aren't sure what's going on nor how it's happened, but you're going to figure your way out of it. You just need to take a deep breath, relax, then focus.

You blink hard a few times, then look up. For a moment, all fear and confusion is lost to the beauty and wonder of the clear night sky. You can't be anywhere near the city, for there isn't any light pollution to ruin this absolutely perfect view of the stars. Never, not once in your whole life, have you seen something something so beautiful, so awe-inspiring -

A man suddenly comes into your line of vision. Your eyes have adjusted to the starlight enough now to make out his face. He has handsome features – very handsome features – but what strikes you most are his intense, red eyes. They're so hypnotic, in spite of the cruelty you see behind them. His long, dark, wavy hair flies in the sudden gust of strong wind. He's tall – so much taller than you.

"Who...?" You trail off. Who, what? Who are you? How does that help this situation? Before you can quite gather what you're wanting to ask this handsome stranger, he grabs you by the neck and lifts you above his head with one hand. You struggle against your bindings to free yourself from this man, but to no avail. He smirks, and you are startled to discover it turns you on.

His hand tightens around your throat. Your vision is blurry around the edges. Thinking these surely must be your last moments, realizing that all of you've said all of the last things you'll say, seen everyone you love for the last time, a tear rolls down your cheek. Your eyes roll up toward the heavens.

But how can you be afraid or sad, when you're staring up at proof that everything in this world will be just fine?

It's so beautiful. You think. Your eyes drift down. You don't remember telling them to. They settle on this man, this handsome man with gorgeous eyes. This cruel man. He's looking at you thoughtfully, the same smirk still on his face. Those beautiful, calculating eyes taking you in, inspecting you.

If this is death, you think, it's not so bad. It's like drifting into a warm and lapping ocean.

Darkness engulfs you.

But you can't be dead, can you? Did dead people have any sort of perception? As you... sleep?... you have a vague understanding of what's happening around you. Or to you, at least. You can feel yourself being carried away quickly. By what, by whom? You couldn't say. Am I on a motorcycle? You wonder drowsily. Before you can continue with your thoughts, you fall into a deeper, dreamless sleep.