Addie Mersh is a singer. Well, sort of. Her recording manager won't even let her record a single song, and when Addie tries to find out why, a horrible car accident stops her.
Now Addie's vocal cords are beyond repair. She can barely speak, let alone sing. Her dreams no longer have a chance to become reality.
But then she is offered a magical shell, which gives her a voice again. Confidence restored, Addie auditions for the X Factor, where she wows the judges with her stunning voice.
But is there more to Addie's new voice than a beautiful sound? There is something deadly and sinister about it, and Addie is about to find out why she was ever given the shell at all...
For the X Factor competition!


5. Chapter 5

"Help!" I squeal, writhing around in my captor's grasp. "Get away!"

"Shut up!" says a familiar voice. "I'm here to help you!"

"Who are you?" I look around. There is nobody holding me. What if a ghost has captured me? "Are you dead?"

"Dead?" asks the ghost, sounding puzzled. "Why?"

"I can't see you," I say, trying not to panic. "Are you a ghost?"

"Oh! Whoops, I forgot I was still like this." There are a few muttered words.

"Like wha--" The words slip away from me as my mouth hangs open. A girl begins to appear, slowly but surely, fading from thin air.

Finally, she is completely visible. I can't see her face properly, though, because it's so dark.

I see a light switch on the wall next to me. I hit it, then whirl around to face the girl.

It can't be...


Oh, no.

Oh, yes.


It's my sister.

My sister.

"Krysha?" I stammer, not trusting my voice.

"Hi, Addie," she says, smiling nervously.

"But-- but how--"

"It's a long story, and I have to tell it to you. You have to listen to me carefully, all right? It's to do with Steve." She spits his name at me like it's a piece of chicken fat.

I raise my eyebrows. "I'm listening-- but oh, Krysha, I've just missed you so much, and I thought-- I knew I would never see you again!" I hug her tightly, my eyes watering, and only when I feel water dripping onto my shoulders do I realize Krysha is crying, too. 

"I missed you too, Addie," she murmurs. "You were only ten when it happened, but you were already so passionate about singing. That is what allowed you to go and see Taylor Swift when you were only ten. I can't believe... I was so stupid..." She pulls away and runs her hands through her hair. "Remember, Mum and Dad asked me to go along with you, to be a chaperone, since Mum had broken her leg when one of my old "mates" pushed her off the fence she was balancing on. It was all my fault. She had gone onto the fence to go after me, when I was in a spot of bother with one of the gangs, remember? Maybe I should have died in the fire as well. I'm a freaking murderer. Mum and Dad couldn't get out of the fire because of Mum's leg. They died because of me."

I just stare at her. "That's not true, Krysha," I murmur, finally. "If anything, it's Craig's fault. He was the one who pushed Mum off the fence, remember?"

"Yes, but Mum was only there because of me," she wails.

"Tell me how you survived," I say, wanting to change the subject.

Krysha looks at me and breathes out shakily. "It was Steve," she says quietly. "I was going to die. I was right in the thick of the fire. I was so afraid, Addie. Then a piece of wood fell on my head. It set my hair on fire. Look." She gestures toward her hair. Some is missing, never to grow back again. Her face, now that I look closely, is also covered with a number of tiny burns. She smiles grimly when she sees me looking at them.

"I was ready to die, Addie. I knew there was no escape. I only prayed that you and Mum and Dad were safe.

"Then Steve appeared. He jumped through the flames like they couldn't harm him. He smothered out the flames on my head, grabbed my hand and said, "Krysha, if you want to live, come with me." I nodded.

"Then he told me, "There is a catch. If I save you, I can also make you famous. I can make you a pop star. But you also have to renounce your family. To them, you will have died in the fire."

"I shook my head, then. I would rather die with Mum and Dad than become some ditzy pop singer.

"But Steve told me, "You have no choice." He grabbed my hand and he pulled me into the fire, which now didn't seem to harm me either. I screamed. "Let me go! I would rather DIE!"

"But he still kept on pulling me out of the flames. When we got out of the house and into the woods behind us, I begged him to save Mum and Dad. I told him that, if he didn't, I wouldn't go with him. I would refuse to accept fame, or whatever he wanted with me.

"Steve went back to the house and leapt into the inferno. But just then, the house collapsed, and Steve shot back out of it.

"I think I woke up every single animal in the forest that night with my screams.

"Steve took me to his house, where I grieved for weeks. I didn't know what was going to happen to me now. I begged to see you, but he refused me every time. I wanted to die. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw an ugly creature, burned all over, with no family.

"Steve could sense this, so one day he told me, "You will see your sister if you agree to sing for me." I had no other hope, so I sang. I recorded songs for him, but few people bought my album."

"Wait," I interrupt. "You have an album?"

Krysha nods shyly. "You can buy it in HMV. It's Frozen Fire, by Krysha C."

"C? Why C?"

"Our last name means Seaswimmer, did you know that?"


"Well, now you do. Anyway, I wanted to call myself Krysha S-e-a, but Steve didn't think it was a good name. I don't think Krysha C helped the sales much, either."

"Krysha... I've been through HMV hundreds of times. I know ever single album they sell there. I even got a summer job there... and Frozen Fire doesn't exist."


"I think I know why it never sold. Continue, please."

Krysha eyes me warily, but she starts talking again. "When my album didn't sell, Steve sent me here, to the X Factor, to get more publicity. But my "ugliness" posed a problem, so he gave me this." She pulls something out from her pocket. It's a beautiful clear blue stone bracelet. "When I put this on, I can change my appearance to anything I want. That's how I turned invisible before. Steve also explained that he had an object that made him invulnerable. That was how he had rescued me from the fire.

"I went onto the X Factor, got past auditions, bootcamp, and judges houses. I made it to the live shows.

"By then, I knew Steve's gift had come with a catch. The judges didn't just seem to like me: they were mesmerised by me. They favoured me. My singing was never as good as yours, so I knew it wasn't that. So I concluded: it must be the beauty. I decided to test it.

"During my first live show, I threw the bracelet off. The judges eliminated me after that. I knew it: my singing wasn't the most amazing in the world. The X Factor really wasn't for me. It was the charm of Steve's gift that had kept me on the show for this long.

"After the show, Steve and I fought. He told me things I was sure he would want to keep secret. He told me that he had wanted me on this show for revenge. He told me that, a few years ago, he had auditioned for this show and they had eliminated him around the same time they eliminated me. He knew "for a fact" that his singing had been better than his opponent's. So he wanted ME, his employee's daughter. He wanted me to win. Once I had won, X Factor--and all the people who watched it-- would be completely under my power, because of the beauty charm. And, because I was under HIS threat that he would harm you if I so much as disobeyed him"--I gasped--"most of the country of England would be under HIS power.

"I was right that he would want to keep these things secret. Right after he told me these things, he tried to kill me, but I turned invisible and slipped away.

"All these years, I have been watching you, trying to keep you safe, since I knew Steve would want you now. He had no way to force you to obey him, so he just waited, not allowing you to record anything, waiting for you to decide to audition by yourself. But this time, when you did, he wouldn't fail. He would make sure the judges loved your voice. So, he took away your old voice in an accident." She buried her face in her hands.

"Are you saying--"

"I should have saved you, Addie. I should have shoved you out of the way. But somehow, I missed you. I called your name over and over afterwards."

"That was you!"

"Then Steve gave you the shell, and a better voice, and today I couldn't stop you before you went on, so now I have to tell you-- at your first live show, get rid of your shell. Expose Steve. I'll help you."

My head was reeling. I didn't know what to think. But I nodded. "Krysha... Steve never sold your album, you know that, right?"

Krysha nodded shakily. "I had suspected that. But why?"

"So you could go onto the X Factor believing it was your only chance."

Krysha clenched her fists. "Just another reason for me to hate him. Addie, promise you'll do what I've just told you? At the first live show, not before, not after. Only do it then. Trust me."

I nod. "Will I see you around, Krysha?" I ask.

She nods, and I see a tear trickle down her cheek. "Be brave for me, Addie," she whispers. "I'll look out for you...

"I love you."

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