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!


7. Chapter 7

I take a deep breath as I step out of my house. This is it. My "date". My very first.

I'm sixteen, but suddenly I feel like I'm twelve again.

The street is silent. I adjust my scarf around my neck and step out of the house.

Instantly, all other houses melt away. Fog rolls in, gray as storm clouds. It seeps out through the cracks in the concrete. I try to turn, to bolt back into my house, but it too disappears before my eyes.

I clutch at my clothes and shiver helplessly, knowing what is going to come next.

Sure enough, a figure stands near the end of the street. As I watch, it begins to come closer. All the while, I wriggle around, trying to unstick my feet from the floor.

When the figure is three meters away, my feet free themselves. I don't hesitate. I bolt for the other end of the street.

But it feels like I am running through water. I can't move fast enough. The figure is gaining on me.

I turn around and almost find myself nose to nose with his glassy eyes, his rotting corpse body.

I manage three more steps, then I feel his hand on my shoulder.

I scream this time, but it does no good.

I go down.


I stand on the porch steps, shuddering as the memory of last night's dream comes back to me. I've never had recurring dreams before. I wonder why it's happening to me now, and why it has to be this dream.

Don't worry. You're not dreaming this time. Thomas will meet you in--I check my watch--two minutes.

I look down the street and see a figure coming towards me. For a second, I am sure I am dreaming again.

Then it comes closer, and I see it is a boy. An alive one. I recognize him from the picture Sanny showed me. It's Thomas.

I jump down from the porch steps. "Thomas!" I call excitedly. Then I bite my lip. Should I have said that?

But he's waving to me now. "Addie!" he calls. I can see that he is smiling just as much as I am.

We walk to greet each other, then stop awkwardly. "Hey," I say.

"Hey," he says back. There is silence. Then he chuckles. "We were talking so energetically on the phone yesterday, and now look at us. It's like... why, it's like we've just met!" He pulls a face of mock horror.

Just like that, the ice is broken. I laugh along with him, and we begin our stroll down the street. As we do, I look around me carefully. I can't see her, but Sanny promised to follow me, just in case Thomas doesn't turn out to be Mr. Nice Guy after all.

"So..." I say, turning back to Thomas, and elbowing him playfully in the ribs. "What's your favourite color?"

Without missing a beat, he looks straight at me and says, "Green."

"Like your last name?" I smile, thinking this is a joke.

"No," he says. "Like the color of your eyes." He leans in slightly closer to me than before.

Oh gosh. This isn't one of his jokes. He's deadly serious.

My palms begin to sweat and my heart beats quickly as I meet his gaze. His eyes are a shocking shade of blue, dark and deep like the sea.

"I could swim in your eyes," I suddenly blurt.

Thomas leans back, breaking the spell. "What?"

"My last name, Merschwimmer. It means Seaswimmer. You eyes are the exact color of the ocean."

He raises his eyebrows slightly, but doesn't comment. All I can think about, as we continue silently down the street, is how stupidly awkward I've just been. I mean, I could swim in your eyes? I should have said something witty, like I could lose myself in yours all day.

But why would I say that? Then he probably would have kissed me. And I'm not ready yet. Who would be? We've just met, for goodness' sakes!

I'm so confused. Sanny would have known what to do, I think.

"Hello? Anybody home?" Thomas waves his hand in front of my face and I blink. "Did... did you say something?" I ask, turning to face him.

Thomas smiles at me affectionately. "Yes, you daydreamer. I said, do you want a drink?"


"Yep. There's a place right there."

"Yeah, The Java Joint. I know, I go there all the time."

"You do?" Thomas says, surprised. "Why haven't I seen you there then?"

"I normally sit out back, in the little loft." I giggle at his expression. "You thought you were King of the Coffee Shop, huh? Well, I can see I've got a little bit of show and tell to do."


"This way." I lead Thomas round the back of the shop, to a little hidden door in the kitchen, waving to staff as I go.

"I used to work here, and I did a few gigs here last year," I say to Thomas, as we enter the loft. "That's how I know about this." I find the light switch in the dark and flick it on, to reveal a room full of books, cushions and a laptop with music equipment next to it.

"Woah," Thomas says, amazed. He looks like he's just found a diamond underneath his bed. Maybe that's something close to the truth.

"How come I never saw you at my gigs?" I say, wanting to change the subject. The look on his face when I showed him this was so full of raw emotion, it had made me uncomfortable. I cross over to one of the beanbags and sit on it, gesturing to Thomas to come over.

"Oh, well..." Now it's his turn to look uncomfortable as he sits down beside me. "I've never been one for pop music. I've never watched the X Factor before in my life."

"How did you see me auditioning, then?"

"I guess I was just curious. People were making so much fuss about you. Your name was everywhere, yet I had never once seen your face. So I joined my sister when she watched it. When I first saw you, when I first heard you sing... that's when I knew you were different."

That's when I knew you were different... The words seem to resonate around me, filling my ears with their perfection. And that is the moment I realize that Thomas is different, too.

"Different in what way?" I murmur, trying not to shiver as I feel his arm snake around my shoulders.

"Just different."

My first kiss happens in a secret loft, on a beanbag in the back of a coffee shop, from a boy with the most amazing eyes.

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