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WELCOME TO STRANGELY (THE OTHERWORLD #1)

In a suburb in New York, the residential street is empty, quiet of the noises people make. Houses stand dark and silent on either side of the road, all washed in the eerie, yellow glow of the streetlights.

In one of the houses on this affluent street, there are five doors leading to five separate rooms. The entrance hall to the house is large and bare of any furniture except for a small desk pushed against the far wall on which photographs and candles are laid out.

It looks like a shrine.

A shrine to the father of the son who hangs on a crucifix against the wall above the desk.

The young people who appear in the photographs smile happily. They all have an expression of optimism.

There are still traces of the holes in the corners of the photographs where they were stapled to individual job applications.

Five young people.

One in each of the rooms of this dark, chilling house. Lured here with promises of lucrative jobs, they now lay shackled to a metal bed, and when they die of starvation or worse, there are always another to take their place.

Once they die, they are moved to another room.

A room below this room.

A room filled with bones.

Two days ago, in a town in the North of Ireland, Jenny was standing in a corner at her local pub. Her elbow rested on the bar counter to her side and she held the purple slash pink slash green drink in her other hand. She had not yet taken a sip, feeling nervous tasting alcohol for the first time. She was here with her friend, Veronica and Veronica's boyfriend, Karl.

Jenny wished with all her heart it could have been just her and Veronica, seeing it was the first time she had stepped over the threshold of a pub. It was a week past her eighteenth birthday and even though her parents knew where she was, she still had a strict curfew of ten o'clock, so she wanted to make the best of the time she had. Her parents were firm believers that running the streets until god knows what hour only bred more people depended on benefits. They wanted Jenny to use her God-given talents to become so much more and Jenny shared their dreams.

Now, she was standing here listening to Karl going on and on to Veronica about his shelf-packing job at the local supermarket. Veronica looked interested. They had only been going together for two months, so it was still young love, and everything was new and exciting.

Then, across the room, Jenny saw him and for a second, maybe two, she had a feeling that the fabric of her life was rippling. She had had a crush on him since primary school, then she was accepted at Grammar and their paths never crossed again. His hair was auburn brown, the glint of the dull lights in the pub on his hair emphasised the red hues, and it was still cut in the same style. From all the way over here, she could see his amazing blue eyes and it looked like while he was away, living his life, he had been going to the gym regularly.

As Veronica and Karl continued to talk, Jenny studied him across the room, his face, his body, and when she imagined him naked, just for a second, she felt her cheeks warm up. Once the image flashed in her mind, she could not stop herself, though. She imagined his hands touching her breasts, her stomach, her hips...

Then, his eyes caught hers and all of a sudden, the chatter and noise in the pub faded away and it was just the two of them.

Jenny felt an intense excitement when she saw him move away from the crowd of people he was standing with. He edged past the crowd which separated them, but she did not want to get her hopes up. Surely, he was not crossing the room to get to her. Was he?

When he reached them in the corner of the pub, he smiled a brilliant smile, and Jenny smiled in return.

"Hey," he said.

Jenny replied, "Hey."

"Karl," Sebastian said, turning to face him. "Why don't you ask Veronica to dance?"

Veronica eyed Jenny concerned. "Would you mind?"

"Not at all," Jenny replied.

Karl smiled and he took Veronica's hand, pulling her with him to the small dance floor on the far side of the bar counter.

"Veronica and Karl look happy together," Sebastian said, watching them walk away.

Jenny nodded her head a little. "It looks that way."

"You don't think so?" With a questioning look on his face, he turned to look at Jenny.

"I think two months isn't long enough to know if you're happy in a relationship or not."

He raised his eyebrows a little as he looked her over, and then he smiled a crooked smile. "You're all grown up. The last time I saw you, you were... What? Ten or eleven and now you're standing here in my local as if you belong."

"Time stands still for no man," she said, feeling indignant.

"I saw you checking me out," he joked.

Jenny felt mortified. She stood up a little straighter. "You saw that?"

"How could I not, Jenny?"

Jenny looked down embarrassed.

"But only because I was checking you out from the moment you walked in with Veronica and Karl."

Jenny did not know what to say, so she brought the glass up to her lips to take a sip but then let her arm go back to the position it had been in all night.







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