She squinted at the dark yellow leaves blowing in through the broken window, scattering to the corners of the room. She’d never had any friends and she had her translucent white skin and pink eyes to thank for that. Never attending school didn’t help her social status, either. Yet, on this night, she found herself huddled on the freezing floor of an abandoned hunting shack, surrounded by girls she’d passed near the woods. She startled when the one of them leaned forward, and spat, “Truth or Dare?!”

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)  

The real question stabbed her conscience, and poured from her lips. “Whose time is it?”

These three girls with their conspirator camaraderie giggled at the question. “Truth or dare!” they exclaimed in unison.

Lucinda threw another glance at the broken window and leaves brushing the walls with their swirling, silent dance on the late autumn wind. Her time. Her place. Her curse.

“C’mon Lucy! Answer!” the petulant one, Makayla, pleaded. The group’s leader, Makayla’s green eyes complimented her fiery red hair.

Lucinda flinched at the alteration of her name. These girls would take even her last vestige of life.

“Lucinda. You will use my name properly.” Her words tumbled somber and soft, brimmed with malice.

The girls tittered.

Hannah offered, “We just want to get to know you.”

Makayla’s eyes twinkled with curiosity. Those deep green eyes. So vibrant. So warm. Lucinda felt the chiffon touch of thermal, toasty air envelop her like a familiar sweater.

“Why do you want to know me?” Lucinda barked at Theresa. The girl’s slight recoil delivered a rush of heat into Lucinda’s blood. She did not need to look. She felt the glow under her skin.

Theresa recovered her wits. “Because I’ve never met a ghost!” she blurted.

“I’m no ghost.”

“So you choose truth!” Makayla exclaimed. “Since we know nothing about you, each of us gets to ask you a question and you must answer with the truth.”

“No lying,” Hannah added.

“Yeah. No lying,” chimed Theresa.

“You children do not know what you’re dealing with. Go home to your families.” Lucinda again glanced into the corner, eyes searching for parched, burnt yellow leaves pirouetting on the breeze. Instead, she noted a tidy, well-kept room.

“You children? You’re a child too, aren’t you?” Makayla puzzled. The comment jerked Lucinda’s stare back.

“Is that your question?” Lucinda thundered in response. Fear from the three girls satisfied something within her. Something primal. A memory. A desire.

“N-n-no. No.” Makayla recovered. “Just a point of clarification so we might ask better questions.”

“Who is playing with truth now?” Lucinda asked in a softer tone.

“What do you mean?” asked Hannah.

“You said three questions. Now you say you get more questions in order to ask questions. What is the truth for you?”

“Ok. Ok.” Makayla cut in. “I withdraw the question. Theresa, you go first.”

Lucinda turned her gaze to the thin girl with blond curls and a reluctant soul.

“Ok. Ummm. Why are your eyes so pink and how does your skin change color like that?”

“This sounds like two questions,” Lucinda stated. The darkness of the room dissipated. Theresa stiffened as Lucinda bathed in her incandescence. Lucinda withdrew, slightly sated. She returned to her accustomed luminescence.

“I will answer anyway, since the two are related.” Lucinda stated flatly.

“Go on! Answer!” Hannah pleaded.

“My skin does not hold warmth, like yours. My eyes. I see their reflection at times in the broken glass when the moon is high. My eyes hold what little life remains.”

“Ooooo!” all three girls sang in low, excited voices.

“Hannah. Your turn,” Makayla directed.

“Ok. You mentioned broken glass, warmth and lack of warmth in your skin, and your eyes, which are barely alive.” Hannah pondered a moment. “You are not a ghost. Hmmm.” Hannah’s demeanor brightened. “Are you dangerous?”

Lucinda rushed at the plump, brown-haired girl. She soaked in the flow of heat from Hannah’s increased heartbeats. She felt the girl’s involuntary shudder as she siphoned precious life-force from beneath the girl’s skin.

The collective gasp from all three drew Lucinda back, her own skin now dominated by reds and browns and yellows.

“Am I dangerous? What kind of question is this? Of course I am. I exist where you cannot. I desire your lives. Your warmth. Your…breath.”

Lucinda faded back to translucent cold, satisfied that fear raised the room’s temperature.

“So. You need our warmth. You are dangerous. I want to ask if you are going to hurt us. I also want to run but I cannot. I imagine this is because you hold me…us, here,” Makayla mused.

“Whose time is it, you asked earlier. I must assume you are not living in our time. When are you?”

Lucinda shuddered slightly. The effect left little but her eyes visible to the girls. She knew this from past encounters with warm people.

“My time. I cannot remember when I am. Years mean nothing to me. I only exist now to draw warmth. Without warmth, I will fade into oblivion.”

Lucinda moved forward, enveloping the girls, yet positioned so each could see her eyes. She reveled in their warm bodies. Terror rose in each girl. In each throb of a heart.

“When am I, you ask?” Lucinda paused to gather more tension. “The better question stands as this ñ when are you?”

Lucinda could feel their panic as she slowly drained their bodies. She felt their remorse. Their confusion. Their realizations of decisions made. Their resignation to fate.

At this point, she paused. Familiarity touched something ancient within her. Some truth. Some reluctance. Resignation. She stroked the frozen tears on each of their faces…

Broken glass reflected her haunted eyes as withered leaves settled into their corners. Loneliness returned, chill as the perpetual autumn wind…