Excerpt Dark Glitter by CM Stunich
My years of torment ended with a sharp gasp, my first breath of freedom tainted with the stench of rat shit and stale urine. That’s what woke me from seemingly endless torture, the urban stink of a city.
Of course, I couldn’t remember any of it.
As I blinked myself awake, my damaged mind pulled a curtain over the memories, a veil to shroud me from the pain. It wasn’t something I had the energy to fight—or that I’d even want to if I could.
I peeled my heavy lids apart, the motion like the scraping of sandpaper against eyes too used to absolute darkness. It had been a long time since I’d seen even the dim, depressing lighting of an alleyway. How long, I didn’t know. My memory was fractured glass, the pieces scattered and sharp.
I let out a small soundless scream when I came face-to-face with the wicked dark eyes of a rat. My back hit a dumpster as I scrambled frantically to get away from the small creature, my panicked gaze flicking around my new environment like a trapped animal. Tall brick walls rose up on either side of me, framing the navy velvet of a night sky.
Where the fuck am I?
It was dark, but streetlights and glowing neon signs lit the neighborhood outside of the alley I was crouched in. Shadows shrouded me, giving me a temporary feeling of security while I frantically searched my memory for where I was … or who I was.
My wrists and ankles ached and I could see thick bands of bruising and raw wounds around them, like I’d been held prisoner somewhere. Surely that would be the sort of thing that was impossible to forget? What the fuck had I done to deserve being held prisoner? It must’ve been something awful though, for me to feel this sick, this detached from my own body.
Hot iron, burning my flesh, scalding me, making me bleed.
I blinked and the random flash of memory was gone, tucked safely away from my fragile mind. It wouldn’t do to dish up the demons of my past just yet. Closing my eyes against a wave of fatigue, I sucked in shallow breaths of the stale air, the scent of garbage tainting my tongue, and put a hand to my side. There was a burning sensation there, like a blade buried between my ribs. It made bile rise in my throat as I fought to control the churning of my stomach.
It was hard to decide which was worse off: my body … or my mind.
Fractured memories from different times and places assaulted me in waves. A rowdy bar, a peaceful glade, the sun shining on the sea. But they were puzzle pieces
with no reference, just bits of color and shape I had no clue what to do with.
Had I been in jail, punished for a crime? That would explain the marks on my wrists and ankles, wouldn’t it? But my clothes weren’t like any sort of prison uniform I’d ever seen, just a dirty, bloodstained cotton dress and no shoes. The clothing didn’t seem anywhere near appropriate for the weather; it was cold enough that I could see my breath misting in front of me, so I clearly hadn’t planned to be out here …
My quiet panic was abruptly intruded on by a heavy metal door clanging open just feet from where I was crouched. A young girl in a greasy waitress uniform stepped out and propped the door open with a stray brick before lighting up a cigarette.
Terrified, I remained frozen to the spot, both figuratively and literally, praying she wouldn’t see me. How on earth would I explain what I was doing out here? It was clearly the middle of winter and I was dressed in little more than a nightgown.
Oh yeah, and I had no memory of who I was let alone who it was I was running from.
“Hey, girl,” she said, spotting me, “what the hell are you doing lurking in this shit-filled alley?” The woman took a drag on her cigarette, blonde hair gathered back in a messy ponytail, stray strands curling wildly around her face.
She took a couple of steps closer to me, and I found myself preparing for a fight, awaiting the first blow with pursed lips and a defiant lift to my chin.