-2- The Room

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An icy surface, chilling her cheek. Silence. Darkness. The flood of memory washes over her: the park, Willow and the tree, the car—and nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

She thinks so hard that it hurts, but there's still nothing after the car. What happened? She has no clothes on. The empty air envelops her and she feels the bite of it down to her bones.

Was there a wreck? Is she waking up in the morgue on a cold slab?

Her mind flashes to a freezer filled with dead bodies, waiting for their transition between a horrible death and a funeral. Waiting for their autopsies, or having recently finished them, with a giant cut on their chests, their lips blue and their veins empty. She feels her chest for a crudely stapled Y shape, but finds only goosebumps. But are others, ones that are dead, in the dark there with her? Why would she be put here? She should be in a bright hospital, with the scent of sanitizer surrounding her, not here, with the scent of...death.

Her lips are cracked and her tongue is dry, but she tries words.

"Help!" Only it comes out in a feeble, broken whisper. "Ee-ppp."

I'm not dead, she wants to say. Or was she? Was this hell?

Instead of being surrounded by dead bodies in a pitch-black morgue, couldn't she be in hell, surrounded by dozens of demons who are able to see in the dark? They could be gathered around, enjoying her confusion, her fear. They could be silently laughing, with their mouths spread wide, poisonous saliva oozing, pooling below her.

"Nooo!" she cries. It can't be.

Demons aren't real.

She's not dead.

She's not dead.

She's not dead.

It's time to stand up, she tells herself, and she rises. She's on a metal table for sure. Her legs hang over the side, the way a child's hangs over a bed. It's too dark and she can't touch the ground, even though she stretched her leg as far down as she dare to. Only air exists below her.

Her heart is hammering. The awful thought that this was all happening inside her head occurs to her. It's all a dream. And in dreams, you always wake up before you hit the ground.

Wake up! she thinks, and she jumps.

The floor isn't far below, and it breaks her fall. Smack! Her leg throbs. One ankle and both wrists sting. It feels nice to be alive. Her adrenaline is pumping good enough to keep the pains from ruling her. She stands up and feels around her.

Walls. A table? A sink? No windows or doors—at least none that she can find.

What is this place?

Her hands are out in the blackness. She's moving them over the surface of the table. There has to be a lamp or something. Her fingers slide over a rough spot on the smooth surface, but nothing more. She goes back to it, letting her fingertips feel. Letters scratched in the surface.

                                Eliza
                                wuz
                                  here

She jerks her hands back with a gasp. "No..."

It can't be. Not Eliza Acres. The pretty little red-haired, freckled girl all over the news. A-plus student. Beloved daughter and sister. Softball player.  Missing from the mall months ago, found dead last week. Here?

Not that Eliza. Please not her...

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