Chapter One

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Something was wrong. It felt like there was cotton in my mouth, all the moisture sucked away for some time. The bed I was on felt stiff and uncomfortable, like it was made of plywood. Or rocks. Either way, it seemed like I'd spent several weeks with a stick stabbed into my back.

Where was I? With much more difficulty than it should have taken, I opened my eyes, staring up into the starry night sky in surprise. Obviously, I was missing something.

Think, Bridge. What's the last thing you remember? Wracking my brain, images of school flashed by, followed by a fight with my mom. I'd left to go out for a milkshake then, hoping we would both cool down in my absence. What had we been fighting about?

That's right-my algebra grades. Math came easy to Mom; it did not for me. I was failing and she thought it was a sign of rebellion. That's why I went out during Mardi Gras, something I definitely wouldn't have done under normal circumstances. There were lots of Locos-that's what I called crazy/drunk/high people-hanging around during the festivities, not to mention gangs trying to keep their turf under control. New Orleans could be a very scary place in February.

But why didn't I remember getting the milkshake? In fact, I couldn't remember anything since I walked out the front door. Groaning, I adjusted myself, suddenly aware of how stiff my entire body was. Even when I licked my lips, it felt like my tongue had cramped up and hardened.

"She's waking up!" A voice nearby whispered.

"Quiet! You're going to scare her!"

"She's going to be scared anyway, you idiot."

"All of you, cut it out! You remember what it was like; let her handle it herself."

The air felt warmer than I remembered it being. Something was definitely off, but what was it? And who the heck were these guys? What couldn't I remember?

Anxious, I tried to sit up, failing miserably. I couldn't even lift my head without massive force.

"I can't believe I got suckered into doing this. The one night I could actually go see anyone and I'm out in the middle of the woods, waiting for some dead girl to come back to life."

Freezing, it seemed like I'd stopped breathing completely. The people, whoever they were, weren't talking about me, which meant I'd probably somehow managed to get myself accidentally mixed up in a gang war gone wrong. Perhaps if I didn't move and waited for them to scram . . . Closing my eyes, I remained as still as possible, barely any breath moving through me.

"Shut up, Drake," one of them said bitterly. It was the same person who had told them to stop earlier. His tone held an air of authority to it, but there was also reluctance in it, like he very much wished to be anywhere but with his companions.

"I wouldn't have to if you'd done your damn job, Tommy!"

The group fell silent at that, but I continued listening hard, waiting for sounds of them leaving. After a few minutes, footsteps shuffled close to me and I tried to still my racing heart, praying they wouldn't see me.

"Oy!" Drake yelled right over me. "Get up!" Kicking my leg, he made a growling, impatient noise that covered up the exclamations of whoever was with him.

Shrieking, I flung all of my strength into rolling away, which was surprisingly little, and shifted onto my stomach. Already, I was out of breath and felt like I couldn't move.

"I didn't see anything, I swear!" Was that scratchy voice mine? It felt like I hadn't said anything in years! There was no time to worry about it now, though. Maybe it would help disguise me from them. Covering my head with my arms, wincing at the tightness, I spoke into the ground. "I didn't see any of you either. I won't be able to tell the cops anything."

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