First Chapter Read by Author
About the Author
I leaned forward because all of a sudden my chest was killing
me. I was stuck in a truck-sized vise, my ribs squeezing together,
body compressing. My lungs throbbed and I couldn’t breathe,
not even a little. My arms and legs felt numb. Do something, I
thought. I pushed myself to stand. Something is wrong with the
game, stop the game, my mind urged. But I couldn’t. Lights
exploded behind my eyelids and I had to pay every shred of
attention to the task of breathing.
It occurred to me that I was having a heart attack.
My mother’s face flashed by. I wanted to shout for her, but my
lungs had quit for good, my tongue a rigid piece of meat. She’d
find me in the morning dead on the carpet. My sight turned
foggy then black. I was passing out. I sucked frantically and
drew in a bit of air. Slowly with each breath the crushing
Blinking away the haze, I wiped my sweaty forehead. I
should make an appointment with the family doctor.
Something moved ahead. There at the edge of a clearing
cowered the man in rags holding his right elbow. He trembled
and now that I was closer, I saw blood dripping from his wrist.
The three riders had surrounded him, their blades pointing
toward the man’s neck. One rider dismounted, his face shadowed
by a half helmet and curled brownish beard, his hands covered
by steel gauntlets like lizard scales. The other two sat motionless,
waiting. I tried to get a better view of what the horsemen were
doing when I looked down.
I stood on the root of an oak tree. Surely I imagined things.
But those were definitely my Nikes I’d forgotten to take off when
I returned home. I moved my foot. Leaves crackled. A twig
snapped. Something terrible had happened, something I couldn’t
wrap my mind around. I blinked and looked to my right. Trees
and undergrowth were losing themselves in the gloom. I remembered
the mouse in my right hand, but when I lifted my arm, my
fingers came up empty—except for the smear of something sticky
on my palm. I was bleeding.
The bush next to me was covered in blood. Not mine, I
realized with relief. Disgusted I wiped my shaking hands with a
fistful of leaves and turned to look behind me. The woods
stretched into darkness—shadows within shadows nearly black.
My room was gone.
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