This post is part of the First Page Review bloghop. The idea is simple. On your own blog, post your first 1,000 words of
something you're writing or have written then sign up on this page,linking your 1,000 word post. Visit other people on the list and
read theirs, then leave a comment to let them know if you liked it, what
worked, what didn't, and if you'd keep reading.
Chapter 1 Journal entry
Two years is a long time to
not exist. At least to not exist on Earth. Technically, I was missing, but I may as well
have not existed since I have no memories to explain where I went, or where I
was. I’ll get right to the nuts and
bolts of it. I was one of those “vanished without a trace” stories. The rub is,
I returned without a trace, too. One minute, I was in a park playing hide and
seek with my two year old, and the next I was in the desert alone. I’d just
I’m not a liar. And that’s exactly what I told the police when
they found me. For all the good that
did. They focused on me. On me! Instead of trying to find the person who took
I could cry, but there aren’t
any tears left. Just confusion, and anger. Oh, and the dreams that pretend to be memories.
Are you sure about this—I mean,
are you really sure you know what you’re getting yourself into Rayanne? I’ll
never be right until I find that baby. I’ll never be right until Ted lets me
see Gavin. I need to get my life back.
Marissa closed the journal Rayanne had given her, then slid it into her backpack. The late-afternoon sun reflected on the water as she
picked her way along the riverbank toward the crumbling, red-brick factory she
called home. She didn’t know how long she’d have it—her pauper’s refuge. They
were vanishing faster than age and neglect could replace them. City
revitalization—a blessing and a curse.
Turning away from the river, she followed the sidewalk
toward busy streets full of women in high heels and men in business suits.
Where did they go? To dinner, on dates, to gyms? “Home.” The word caught in her
throat, cutting through her the whole way to her heart. She wondered how many
people treasured it the way she knew she would if she ever had a real home.
A bus pulled up next to her, its brakes puffing and
hissing as it came to a stop. The doors folded open like floodgates, spilling
passengers onto the sidewalk; they zigged and zagged, avoiding the herd of
people rushing into the bus. It was a crazy sort of dance these commuters did
every day. She was on track to be one of them, a lifetime ago. The bus lumbered
away, swallowing her in a cloud of smoke
As she meandered from
Allegheny Center toward the stadiums, an endless stream of people avoided her.
Just as well. Clearing the crowd made it easier to slip behind the hot dog shop
and rifle through their garbage.
It was a good day; she had a lucky find. Must have been slow
sales, and they’d tossed out a dozen over-cooked hot dogs. No buns, but food
was food. She wished she had the nerve to go inside and grab a couple packets
of mustard. Just the thought made her mouth water. But it also made her
cringe—thinking about the looks she’d get, no doubt meant to discourage her
from being inside.
She tucked her bounty—all twelve of the hot dogs, into a
scavenged shopping bag and put them in her backpack. Her stomach growled, but
there’d be a better place than this to eat them. In this world—the world of the
homeless and the desperately hungry, a food squabble might not get anyone killed.
But too often, someone ended up bleeding and bruised.
An hour later, in her home—the third floor office of the
dilapidated factory, she sat on the sill of the open window watching the river
laze by. Somewhere upstream a train whistled, shattering her darkening world
with a sound so lonesome she thought of the dead bell in the church at Somerset. Moments later, the
powerful diesels roared past, shaking her where she perched.
The first hot dog evaporated in her mouth. She didn’t slow
down until she was on her third. As she chewed the fourth, she felt sort of
queasy, unsure if it would stay down if she swallowed it. But it
made no sense to not eat them as quickly as possible. It wasn’t as if she had a
fridge to put them in. After twisting the shopping bag around the rest, she
placed them in an old rusted file drawer. It wasn’t mouse-proof, but it’d at
least keep the rats out of her breakfast.
Her bed, no more than a pile of dirty rags, old coats, and a
tattered blanket felt welcoming as her tired bones relaxed into it. Survival
was hard work. She rolled onto her side and gazed out the window, her eyes
adjusting to the deepening night. The few brightest stars appeared. Looking at
them, she was overcome with hope.
Maybe this time. Maybe Rayanne was right. Gavin, her missing
baby, a job, looking in a mirror without shame staring back. Her life. “Please…if there is a god--and you’re listening, help me find my way
back to the world of the sane.”
Her eyes grew heavy. Her fists were curled tightly beneath
her chin when her breaths came even and deep. Sleep took her.
Chapter 2: To Dream or Not to Dream?
Marissa didn’t dare chance the movement that taking a breath
would cause. Huddling in a cloak of motionless and soundless fear, she squeezed
her eyes shut, willing herself to vanish. If
only willing it were enough. She needed to wake up, right away. But she
couldn’t. Maybe it was really happening? Please let it be a dream.She opened her eyes when she felt something nudge her.
Tucked in next to her, an old woman in tattered clothing turned green eyes her
way. The wrinkled face softened as she whispered, “It is a dream, Rissa. But
you must know these things; you must remember."
Marissa turned her head toward the sound of steps. Before her, rage
burned in a woman’s eyes where she paced mere inches from Marissa’s hiding
place. The woman’s boots made a trail where she shuffled dust and grit on the
worn, wood floor. Her voice, a screeching complaint, made the hair on Marissa’s
neck stand on end. “ Her fists clenched at her sides when she said, "A king must be of untainted blood.”