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!


1. Chapter 1

"I said, hey boy, sittin' in your tree,

Mommy always wants you to come for tea

Don't be shy, straighten up your tie

Get down from your tree house sittin' in the sky.

I wanna know, just what to do

Is it very big, is there room for two?

I've got a house with no windows and doors,

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Gotta let me in, hey hey hey!

Let the fun begin-- AGH!" I cough up a mouthful of phlegm. "YUCK!"

My manager sighs and bend forward in his chair, resting his forehead on his hand.

"I'm sorry, Steve," I said. "I told you I couldn't sing anything with this dang cold--"

"I thought we could have the album out soon," Steve interrupts. "Soon! But then you get this cold, and we miss the October album rush. Sorry, Adeline, but you'll have to wait until next year to get your chance to impress the country."


"Just get out. Please."

"Fine." Bundling myself up in my jacket, I stomp out of the building angrily.

My name is Adeline Mersh. Well, it's Merschwimmer, actually, but people find that impossible to say. I've got shoulder-length, wavy dark hair and green eyes. I'm fifteen years old, average height, and I'm a singer. Well, at least I want to be.

I'm an orphan. My family died five years ago. It was a fire.

I had gone with my friends to the Taylor Swift concert I had been waiting for for months. When it ended, I got a call from the police, asking me to return home straight away. When I got there, my house was flickering with twelve-foot flames and my entire family was trapped inside.

There was nothing I could do.

My parents said goodbye to me from an upstairs window, just before the flames engulfed it. My sister had already died.

They found what was left of my parents' bodies, but they never found my sister's. She had been burned away completely, both her body and her legacy fading to ashes and memories.

After that, my uncle, a teacher at a singing school, took me in. Steve's the owner of the school and a recording studio. When he found out that I could sing, he allowed me to help him with his classes. Finally, four years ago, I caught the attention of Steve, who immediately signed me to his record label.

You'd think that, in four years, I'd have actually recorded some songs. But no. Every year something wrong happens during October, the time when Steve enjoys recording. Every year I miss the "album rush", the time when many stars are meant to promote their albums before Christmas.

I've known for two years now that the Album Rush doesn't exist, but I don't know why Steve invents it.  If he did sell my album, it would certainly give the school money. Although, maybe he doesn't need it. He's got other people signed to his record label. They're mostly about my age, some a little older, and a few have become pretty big around here. That's right, Steve allows them to record songs. And what's more, they record all year round, not just in October.

I'm tired of Steve's games, but I've got no choice but to go along with him. I mean, he does own the apartments behind the school my uncle and I live in. If I refuse to do what he says, he could kick me out.

It's not fair! I think angrily. Steve is so commanding in my life. He doesn't let me fulfil my dreams. He doesn't pay my uncle enough! I thought I could help him with the sales of my album, but so far, I can't! I widen my eyes as a revelation comes to me. THAT'S probably why he won't let me record! So my uncle doesn't have the money to move out, and still pays HIM the rent! The chowderbrain! My rage also turns to wistfulness. I miss my uncle. I hope he'll be back from Italy soon. I kick the ground plaintively, scattering tiny pebbles the size of my fingernail.

I look up, suddenly realizing where I am. These pebbles only seem to exist in one part of the neighbourhood, and that's in front of my friend Sanny's house. I squint and see Sanny move around in her room in the attic. Picking up a couple of pebbles, I throw them as hard as I can. They clatter off the wall, slightly below her window, but it does the trick. Sanny's face appears behind it, and I gesture for her to come down.

Minutes later, Sanny is walking down the street with me. We are both sipping smoothies from Loose Juice, our favourite smoothie store. I slurp mine angrily, my body still trembling with outrage. 

"So what's the problem, Addie?" Sanny asks, sipping her strawberry smoothie. "Not Steve again, huh?"

"Of course it's him," I say. "Sanny, I think I know why he won't let me record an album: because if it sells well, me and my uncle might have enough money to buy our own flat and stop renting one of Steve's!"

Sanny considers this for a moment. Then she shakes her head. "I don't think that's it, Addie. Don't a couple of the others who record there live in Steve's flats? Wouldn't they want their own?"

"Maybe," I say grudgingly. "Or... I don't know... I think I know the ones you're talking about, and I've never really head them mentioning that, and you know how much they gossip."

"I do." Sanny is quiet for a moment. "Well, I don't think Steve isn't allowing you to record because of money. Then he would never allow you to have a recording session. Think about it. Really, all this time, you've just been having bad luck in October, in general. Steve isn't stopping you outright. But, I do agree that only allowing you to record in October is pretty darn weird." She shook her head in despair.

"I still think it's because of the money, though," I say resentfully. "I mean, it still seems very possible. Maybe, if I didn't have bad luck in October, he'd still find some way to stop me from recording. Maybe the one recording session I have is only there to keep my hopes up. 

Sanny shakes her head. "It makes no sense to me. I think, if you didn't have all this bad luck in October, he'd still find some way to stop you from recording. Maybe the one recording session you have every year is only there to keep your hopes up. Maybe he will never record anything of yours at all. It's a mystery." She sighs. "I have a feeling, Addie."

My eyebrows rise. Sanny is a very practical person who never acts on her feelings. If she is prepared to follow her feelings now, that must mean her feeling is a very, very strong one. Plus, what she says does strike home, very hard. So I don't disagree with her.

"Standing around here is no good. We have to get to the bottom of this," I say, my mouth set in a line. "This is my dream, and I want to know why Steve won't let me have it."

Sanny laughs. "You say that every year, Addie. And every year I come over to your place to start our "investigation", and we end up on the couch, watching Star Wars with a bowl of popcorn."

"I mean it this time, though," I say grimly. "Sanny, I need you. Will you help me? You're the best person I could ask for."

Sanny smiles. I hold out my hand, and we shake on it.

"Now," I say, "how about we--"

But Sanny isn't listening to me anymore. She's staring, wide-eyed, at the row of houses across the street from us, her lips moving soundlessly. "Sanny?" I say cautiously.

She whirls around and claps a hand to her mouth. "Addie!" she says. "You're old enough now! You could do it?"

"Do what?" I ask, slightly dreading the answer. But at the same time, I'm filled with a sort of excitement that fizzes just under the skin of my stomach, like fireworks. If Sanny's idea means I can have my dreams... then I think I can handle it. "Do what? Sanny, tell me!"

Sanny takes a deep breath and places her hands by her sides. Her eyes are full of a strange kind of happiness. They sparkle like diamonds. I'm almost ready to strangle her so she can tell me, when she does.

"Addie, you can audition for the X Factor!"

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