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Mud Vein
Tarryn Fisher

Part One: Shock and Denial

Chapter One

Day 1

I wrote a novel. I wrote a novel and it was published. I wrote a novel and it cruised onto the New York Times Bestseller List. I wrote that novel and then I watched it play out in a movie theater with a large, buttery bag of popcorn in my lap. My novel. That I wrote. I did it all alone, because that’s how I like it. And if the rest of the world wants to pay for a peek into my discombobulated mind, so be it. Life is too short to hide your wrongs. So I hide myself instead.

It’s my thirty-third birthday. I wake up in a cold sweat. I am hot. No, I am cold. I am freezing. The blankets tangled around my legs feel unfamiliar—too smooth. I pull at them, trying to cover myself. My fingers feel thick and piggy against the silky material. Maybe they’re swollen. I can’t tell because my brain is sluggish, and my eyes are glued shut, and now I’m getting hot again. Or maybe I’m cold. I stop fighting the blankets, letting myself drift … backwards .… backwards…

When I wake up, there is light in the room. I can see it through my eyelids. It is dim—even for a rainy Seattle day. I have floor-to-ceiling windows in my bedroom; I roll in their direction and force open my eyes only to find myself facing a wall. A wall made of logs. There are none of those in my house. I let my eyes travel the length of them, all the way up to the ceiling before I bolt upright, coming fully awake.

I am not in my bedroom. I stare around the room in shock. Whose bedroom? I think back to the night before. Had I—

No way. I haven’t even looked at a man since … there is no way I went home with someone. Besides, last night I had dinner with my editor. We’d had a couple glasses of wine. Chianti doesn’t make you black out. My breathing is shallow as I try to remember what happened after I left the restaurant.

Gas, I’d stopped for gas at the Red Sea Service Station on Magnolia and Queen Anne. What after that? I can’t remember.

I look down at the duvet clutched between my white knuckles. Red … feather … unfamiliar. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and the room wobbles and tilts. I feel sick right away. Day after a huge drinking binge sick. I gasp for air, trying to breathe deeply enough to quell my nausea. Chianti doesn’t do this, I tell myself again.

“I’m dreaming,” I say out loud. But I’m not. I know that. I stand up and I am dizzy for a good ten seconds before I am able to take my first step. I bend over and vomit … right on the wood floor. My stomach is empty, but it heaves anyway. I lift my hand to wipe my mouth and my arm feels wrong—too heavy. This isn’t a hangover. I’ve been drugged. I stay bent over for several more seconds before I straighten up. I feel like I’m on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair. I stumble forward, taking in my surroundings. The room is round. It’s freezing. There is a fireplace—with no fire—and a four-poster bed. There is no door. Where is the door? Panic kicks in and I run in a clumsy circle, grabbing onto the bed to steady myself when my legs buckle.

“Where is the door?”

I can see my breath steaming into the air. I focus on that, watch it expand and dissipate. My eyes take a long time to re-focus. I’m not sure how long I stand there, except my feet start to ache. I look down at my toes. I can barely feel them. I have to move. Do something. Get out. On the wall in front of me there is a window. I amble forward and rip aside the flimsy curtain. The first thing I notice is that I’m on the second floor. The second thing I notice—oh God! My brain sends a chill down the rest of my body—a warning. You are done, Senna, it says. Over. Dead. Someone took you. My mouth is slow to respond, but when it does, I hear my intake of breath fill the dead silence around me. I didn’t believe people actually gasped in real life until the moment I hear myself do it. This moment—this gasping, heart-stopping moment, when all that fills my eyes is snow. So much snow. All the snow in the world, piled right below me.

I hear my body crack against the wood, then I fall into darkness. When I wake up, I am on the floor lying in a pool of my vomit. I moan and a sharp pain shoots through my wrist when I try to push myself up. I cry out and shove my hand over my mouth. If someone is here I don’t want them to hear me. Good one, Senna, I think. You should have thought of that before you started fainting all over the room and making a racket.

I grip my wrist with my free hand and slide up the wall for support. It is then that I notice what I am wearing. Not my clothes. A white linen pajama set—expensive. Thin. No wonder I’m so damn cold.

Oh God.

I shut my eyes. Who undressed me? Who brought me here? My hands are stiff as I reach across my body to examine myself. I touch my chest, pull my pants down. No bleeding, no soreness, except I am wearing white cotton panties that someone put on me. Someone had me naked. Someone touched my body. Closing my eyes at the thought, I start to shiver. Uncontrollably. No, please, no.

“Oh, God,” I hear myself say. I have to breathe—deep and steady.

You’re freezing, Senna. And you’re in shock. Get it together. Think.

Whoever brought me here had more sinister plans than having me freeze to death. I look around. There is wood in the fireplace. If this sick f**k left me wood, perhaps he left me something to light it with. The bed I woke up in is in the center of the room; it is hand carved with four posters. Sheer chiffon is draped across the posts. It’s pretty, which makes me sick. I take inventory of the rest of the room: a heavy wooden dresser, an armoire, a fireplace and one of those thick animal fur rugs. Throwing open the wardrobe, I rifle through clothes … too many clothes. Are they here for me? My hand lingers on a label. The realization that they are all in my size sickens me. No—I tell myself. No, they can’t be mine. This is all a mistake. This can’t be for me, the colors are wrong. Reds … blues … yellows…

But my brain knows it’s not a mistake. My brain is acquainted with grief and so is my body.

Task at hand, Senna.

I find an ornate silver box on the top shelf of the armoire. I pull it down, shake it. It’s heavy. Foreign. Inside is a box of lighters, a key, and a small silver knife. I want to question the contents of the box. Stare at them, touch them—but I need to move fast. I use the knife to cut a strip of material from the bottom of a shirt, then I loop it and tie it into a knot with my teeth and good hand. Slipping my wrist into my makeshift sling, I flinch.

I pocket the knife and fumble for one of the lighters. My hand hovers above the box. Eight pink Zippos. If I didn’t already have chills, I’d get them now. I blow it off. I can’t blow it off. I can and I have to, because I’m freezing. My hand is shaking as I reach for the lighter. It’s a coincidence. I laugh. Can anything tied to a kidnapping be coincidence? I’ll think later. Right now I need to get warm. My fingers are numb. It takes six tries before I can get the wheel on the Zippo to spin. It leaves indentations on my thumb The wood is hard to catch. Damp. Had he put it here recently? I look for something to feed the flames, but there is nothing I can burn that I might not need later.

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