01 | Piggy Who?

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A HARSH tingle cut through my scalp, jerking me from my unconsciousness

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A HARSH tingle cut through my scalp, jerking me from my unconsciousness. I moaned, the tingling morphing into a full-blown pounding.

"Ouch," I whispered, eyelids feeling like two anvils.

Fuck, did I get drunk last night?

Eyes still closed, I swatted my arms around, trying to lift myself out of bed, but my soft pink sheets weren't under my fingertips. A cracked hardwood floor scraped my palm instead, the stench of old paper and sour musk curling in my nostrils.

This wasn't my bedroom.

My eyes shot open, slipping to half-mast because of my throbbing head. Blurry images laced my vision, dizziness clouding my brain.

A rough sigh slipped from my lips as I placed two fingers on my temple, hoping to ease the tension, but something slick brushed my fingers. Tape.

A thick line of smooth tape plastered my forehead. What? Snatching it off, a stinging pain radiated through my pores, mixing with my headache. I almost screamed but ended up biting my lip.

Panting through the agony, my vision cleared, and a dark abandoned room swam into view. I looked down at my dirty hands, seeing that the tape wasn't alone. A piece of parchment paper was stuck to it. Neat black writing ruined the clean white surface.

It said, "What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you, Betinia?"

The blood in my cheeks chilled, eyes blinking. That question brought me back to a dark time in my life. My therapist asked me that same question when I was seven.

From the look on her sickeningly happy face, she expected me to say, "My mother killing my whole family" so that she could lead into discussing my traumatic experience.

But instead, I said, "When I was five, I used my father's knife to cut my hand to see what color my blood was, and he got really mad at me. It made me really sad."

That answer got me put in a psych hospital for a year, and the only reason I left was because of my sister Angie. During a visit, she gave me the best advice of my life — fake it or be here forever. Act normal. Create someone new.

Six months later, I got released, but only on the condition that I would continue seeing my therapist. That was fine since I just continued lying to her and everyone else in the world, making sure to keep up my fake persona.

But if she were to ask me that same question again — right now at this very moment, ten years later, my answer would be, "Waking up in an abandoned room with no memory and a note attached to my face."

It was a true nightmare.

Or was it?

Think of it this way, have I ever told her the truth?

Instead of feeling overwhelming dread or panic, a thick glob of curiosity bumbled in my core. My dark brown eyes surveyed the unknown surroundings, analyzing everything in the grungy box-shaped room.

Nothing registered as familiar.

Racking my brain for possible memories of how I may have gotten here, nothing surfaced. It didn't feel like I forgot, but more like everything had been erased.


A tiny iota of myself — the Betinia part of myself or the normal part of me — told me to scream, but I stayed silent. Panicking never helped anyone.

The rotten floorboards squeaked under my weight when I got to my feet, a thick patch of dusty grit coating my palms. Just as I went to walk, something heavy held down my left leg.

Pulling at the hem of my jeans, a beeping black belt covered my ankle. It resembled the ankle monitor my sister had to wear when she got put on house arrest years ago, which meant that someone was tracking me.

Hmm. I moved around the room, trying to piece together my last memories. Everything came forth in fuzzy, jagged puzzle pieces — kissing my boyfriend goodbye, getting on the subway, seeing Angie...

Was that even the right order? I smacked my head. Did any of this even happen today? Tubes of blackness jabbed at my brain every time I tried to probe deeper for more memories until everything just crashed, and I winced.

I must've been drugged somehow. That's probably why I woke up disorientated and can't remember how I got here.

A grimy bulb flickered from above in the middle of the room, hanging from a tattered string that looked like it was ready to collapse at any time. It wouldn't be long before it went out completely, submerging me into absolute darkness.

Taking in the locked door, the bolted shut windows and the cement walls slathered in crusty floral wallpaper, I closed my eyes, breathing in the foul stench of my current prison while trying to piece together everything.

The ankle monitor. The memory loss. Whoever did this to me had something special planned, and whatever it was, I wasn't going to like it.

That realization brought the first sliver of icy fear up my back, mixing with the wild curiosity that bloomed within my tummy. Fear won out.

The foggy bulb twitched again before becoming dimmer, basking the atmosphere into deeper shadows. Time was running out. I needed to escape. Now.

I tried the door again, but no luck. Banging with my fist a few times, the door creaked and moaned but no give.

Next, I attacked the dirty wallpaper, hoping to find a secret door or a hole. Crumbles of decaying paper and thick craters of filth rained down in fistfuls, smothering my body and the entire room. I coughed into my pink blouse, clearing my airwaves before surging on.

Pulling off the wallpaper only revealed more cement walls and more steel-bolted windows. The bolted windows appeared brand new. The clean screws and shiny steel contrasted with the old, rundown décor.

My brain hopped on this new information, coming to a couple of conclusions. This new equipment wasn't cheap, so my captor must have money. Lots of money if he could waste it on things like this.

"Shut up," I whispered to myself. This wasn't the time to get distracted by my own rambling thoughts.

Making it to the last wall, a bloody red book bag nestled the corner. Was that there the whole time? Rummaging through it, three items bumped against my knuckles: a propane lighter, a frayed picture, and a discolored, stuffed pig.

A sharp whimper scratched at my throat. The picture and the stuffed pig Piggy were from my childhood. Pricks of dread etched up my neck, and my heart sped up, whacking my chest until I couldn't breathe.

The blank stares of my once perfect family — me, my younger brother and twin sisters, my parents and my older sister — leered up at me in the photo. This image represented a happy time, a time before my mother murdered everyone, except her two oldest daughters.

My mother gave me Piggy on my third birthday because I was so obsessed with Charlotte's Web at the time, but I threw him out years ago. The picture too. I didn't want to latch onto the past. I wanted to forget.

But how did they both get here? What was going on?


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