Chapter One : Concerning Rabbit Holes and All That

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When Mary comes to, she is lying face down in the grass beside the road.

Her first conscious thought, beyond Ow ow ow, is How long have I been lying here? Followed closely by Ouch and Am I really so unimportant that nobody has helped me? and Ouch and Where am I? Followed again by Ouch as she tries to get her hands under her shoulders and push herself onto her knees.

Rain has pooled in her upturned left ear. Her toes are frozen. Everything aches. Her head throbs. Her knees and her palms burn. Her left arm and left leg are bleeding, both from jagged gashes right above the joint that look way, way grosser than anything she's ever seen people sporting after a visit to the Effects Makeup trailer. There's grit in the long cut, and when Mary flexes her fingers, she can feel the sickening grind of grains of dust against her muscles. It feels disgusting, the way that frogs squashed by a little boy's shoe is disgusting, with that sort of oozing pop.

The Craft Services van that hit her is nowhere to be seen. The studio is gone, too, even though she was pretty sure she hadn't run that far. Something warm and salty stings her left eye.

She's on a street she doesn't recognize, at night, with streetlamps that only mostly work. They cast an amber glow over the glistening pavement, so perfectly moody that it looks like something out of a cinematographer's wet dream. There's grass between the sidewalk and the road, and it's wet from a storm that must have passed over her while she was unconscious, if her wet hair and ear are anything to go by. The air smells of...nothing.

Nothing at all. For reasons Mary can't fathom—reasons which make her heart beat faster, her shoulders ratchet up to her ears—this unnerves her. It's unnatural.

There's no one on the barren street. It's a strangely harmonious mix of residential and storefronts made out of the converted ground floors of houses, all dark and closed up for the night. There is, by some strange cosmic luck, or fate, or universal synergy, a phone booth less than a block away, on the corner. Mary hasn't seen a phone booth in years, but she doesn't own a cellular phone herself because she never wanted to be distracted at work. She hates her coworkers when they tap away with their thumbs, instead of paying attention to who is going in and out of the studio gate like they're being paid to do.

It takes Mary a few minutes to get upright. She is reminded unpleasantly of the cliché about the wounded gazelle on the Serengeti: weak and tottering, but too afraid of attracting the wrong attention to bleat for help. Her head throbs again, and then a very stupid realization bubbles up to the surface of her muzzy brain: she is alone.

Totally alone.

There is no one on the street. There doesn't even seem to be anyone in the houses. The Craft Services van driver, her boss, and her co-workers have all just abandoned her, left her for dead on the side of the road. Clearly, nobody came after her. Nobody even stopped to make sure she was alive, as far as she can tell.

That says a lot more about how they think of her than Mr. Geary's horrible insults about her scripts. The ungrateful...jerky jerks! Mary thinks, clutching at the gash on her arm.

She has given City By Night two goddamned years of her life. She just wants the show to love her in return. Is that so very much to ask?

Apparently, it is.

Anger fuels her enough to get her over to the phone booth, helps her exchange pain for momentum. Clutching at the scarred metal frame of the door to stay upright, she stares in stupid incomprehension at the coin slot for a second. Her left hand dips unconsciously into her empty pocket, which is its own sort of special agony. She nearly cries when she realizes she has no quarters. It takes her a few more fuzzy, swimming moments to realize she can probably make emergency calls for free. Hopeful, she fumbles up the handset and dials zero. The operator—female and far too perky for Mary's dark frame of mind—comes on and asks what she needs or where she would like to be connected. "I need help," Mary says into the handset. She can practically hear the operator frowning, because, duh, why else would she be talking to one? "I was...I think I was hit by a car. A van. Whatever."

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