My ears are ringing, my head throbbing in time with my heart, my skin, my… Where am I? I open my eyes, lifting my hand to shade the sun’s glare. The light hurts, and I feel sick, the bile rising harsh and acidic in the back of my throat. Trees all around, their bushy heads touching the sky, roots dig into my back, and I roll to my side, clutching my belly and trying desperately not to vomit. It’s a battle I lose, throwing up little more than the last precious ounces of fluid in my stomach.

I want to cry, go all weak sister and sob my heart out. Not today, not now, I tell myself, forcing my arms to push me up. They tremble, threatening to give and I steel myself, slowly lifting my head and feeling the world swim in front of my eyes. What the fuck happened to me? I remember my date, I remember going back to his place…. The door read 669 and I joked that I would have broken and run had it read 666. He looked at me so oddly before his face softened and the smile spread across it. Where is he?

It’s so quiet, my ears strain for any sounds of civilization, a human voice, a dog for fuck sake, something that told me I wasn’t far from humanity. I wasn’t anywhere near humanity, the loudest sound was a squirrel chittering from a tree limb somewhere. I hated those fucking things, rabid little bastards, a plague of the fuzzy tailed little lunatics. I feel my sanity slipping away, and throttle it back into place, wondering what was coursing through my veins to cause this. How had I ended up here? Me? I’m not some Suburb Samantha, I don’t belong to the PTA or volunteer at the local arena. I’m a monster and I am top of the food chain. Or not, apparently.
My purse has been destroyed. It lies a few feet away, ripped shreds of the linking scatter in the wind, the threads catching on the dead leaves that litter the ground. The leather looks like it was put through a blender. Around it, my identification, or what remains of it, the cards shattered into tiny shards that glitter in the filtered light, the papers turned into confetti. I cannot stand, not yet, and so I crawl closer to my wallet, snatching it closer to me and rifling through it. The money is gone, down to the last cent, the pictures are ripped to pieces, and I feel my heart pound harder as I search through the tiny compartment under the change purse. I catch the edge with my nail, and pull the thick paper out of brightly coloured wallet. It survived, whomever did this obviously didn’t check properly.

I run the tip of my finger across the faded photo, before tucking it into my bra for safekeeping and flinch as the paper touches my bare breast. The darkening handprint on my skin startles me. What the hell. I almost hear a voice, in my head, and the implied tone sends a finger up my spine, causing me to twist and arch my back. My dress is torn and ruined the bodice all but hanging off my shoulders. Handprints across my skin, some burn as though they were branded on, others ache and pulse, and all make me queasy.

He was to be my first, i chose him, the moment of our meeting was something I’d dreamed of for months, played out over and over in my mind as the time grew closer. Girl meets boy, Girl fucks boy, Girl kills boy. The perfect love story. Imagine my surprise when he came to me, carrying a black coffee with 3 sugars and a knee-loosening smile, and I knew he was perfect. His name was Errol and I smirked slightly, looking away and thinking, “how dashing” sarcastically as usual. He was so sweet to bring me coffee, and I didn’t’ want to hurt him yet. “My parents were the original weirdos. My brother’s name is Cary Grant, don’t laugh, it’s true. My sister lucked out though, she got Faye after Mom’s favourite actress. You know, King Kong/” he said, pounding his chest and slopping coffee all down the front of his t-shirt. I couldn’t help it, and started giggling like a fucking idiot while ripping off paper towels and patting his chest down with a wad of the damned things.

He kissed me then, softly then harder, pulling me hard against him as our tongues danced together. The little flame I could occasionally drown, flared up and ignited the desire I’d been fighting to squash. “Go out with me. Tonight. I’ll pick you up at 7. Dress in red.” Had I been in my mind at all, i would have refused, but I was dazed and dazzled and simply nodded my agreement. He placed his hand on my cheek, and his thumb caressed my bottom lip, before he dipped to kiss me again, a light shivery kiss that left ny nerve endings shivery. “see you at 7,” he whispered before striding confidently to the door. He didn’t look back and It didn’t occur to me to be concerned until just now. I didn’t give him my address. He had so little offered information. So How? My legs are aching and I attempt to rise to my feet as I ponder my net move. First things first, I needed to be up on my feet. I placed my hand on the rough bark of the nearest tree, and pushed my self to my knees, wincing at the sting of my abraded skin. Setting one foot flat on the ground, I pushed up with my hand still on the tree for support.

He was so handsome, showing up at my door promptly at 7 and wearing a fantastic black suit, with light red pinstripes through the well made fabric. What a shame I’d have to slice through that wonderful thing. Maybe I could have him undress first. I was dressed as requested, my form-fitting crimson dress was made by Maiden’s Delight, a very exclusive designer, and his eyes travelled over my body, feather light, before meeting my eyes. “Shall we?” he asked, reaching his arm around my waist and drawing me forward. He really was the perfect first.
I’m trapped in some kind of natural prison, a nearly perfect circle of thick thorny bushes, with no apparent way out. Baby steps, I tell myself, as I slowly scan the treeline for some kind of hole or hidden exit, despair growing in my heart. How the fuck did I get in here if there is no way in or out? There must be, has to be or he is some kind of otherworldly creature. The thorns are huge, the smallest the length of a key, the largest could puncture through my arm. A glimpse of light about 25 feet from where I stand, there, gone, there again.

We were seated in a private room at a restaurant where reservations were taken a year in advance, and were much coveted. How strange that he was able to get one so quickly. “How did you get us in here? I’ve been on the list for 6 months now.” “My brother owns it. I used my family ties to get the best table in the house,” his soft toned voice caressing my girlish nature. Damn it. It had been a while and I was attracted, I could kill him after. His green eyes gleamed in the dimly lit room, and admittedly it unnerved me, enough so that I excused my self to the washroom in order to catch my breath. I could feel his gaze on me as I left the room, glad for the lessened weight of his stare.

Something is in here with me. I’m cold and I am nearly undressed, but for the tatters of my dress I’d be nude. It hurts to breathe and my ribs scream each time I take a shallow breath. Whatever is here is closer, like an animal surveying its prey and It sends a rage boiling in my blood. The light is back and I move towards dense branches, staggering slightly as my head throbs and pounds. There is an opening, barely noticeable in the tangle of thorns that nearly obscured it. Relieve course through my veins and I stumble, landing on my raw knees and screaming as a long dagger pierces my forearm, its point sticking out of the flesh on top, impaled. It snaps from its branch as I yank my arm back, It barely registers with the constant agony of my other injuries. My inner thighs are covered in purpling bruises and I ache in waves that make me nauseous.

“I ordered us some red wine,” he said as I returned to our table, standing to hold my chair for me. How old-fashioned, I remembered thinking, as I took my seat, feeling his fingers run across the bareness of my shoulders and across my cheek. This man disturbed me, sending warning bells ringing in my head that I ignored, as usual, and instead leaned my face into his palm, relishing the warmth. “Have some of this and then drink your wine,” he said, handing me a shot glass, the air-filled with the delicious astringent scent of tequila and I smiled, before closing my eyes and tossing it into my mouth. The strong alcohol seared my throat and coated it in fire, the final fruity flavour delighting my taste buds.

It’s all I can taste, and I turn away to vomit, feeling the burning bile in my throat but ridding my body of nothing. I am empty. I need to get out of here, but first this thorn needs to go. I grasp the end, feeling my fingers slip in the blood that had gathered on its edge. An imperfect grip but likely the only one I was to get and I pulled hard, feeling the wooden spike grind against a bone before coming free in a glut of blood. Four inches long, it would do to defend myself against whatever had found its way here.

The thorns are rustling, a shivery sound that sends a shiver up my spine and I stumble backwards into a warm set of arms. The scream that shoots out of my throat startles the birds in the trees, and I pull away or try to. I’m held fast, enfolded in what I suspect is meant to comfort and instead terrifies me, angers me. “Let me go.” I demand, wrestling against the bonds of warm flesh that surround me. “I’m not going to hurt you. If you fall you’ll land in those spikes and you’ll die, before I get to know you.” A soft male voice invades my building fury, dampening it to a low roar, and my body pulls in on itself in a painful attempt to hold together. “You’re hurting me. I have injuries and your arms are pressing on them. Please let me go. I really don’t want to be touched.” The embrace loosens but doesn’t let go, and I turn my head to meet a pair of cerulean eyes and a luscious smile that in any other situation would have loosened my knees.

“Who are you? What is this place? Why do you want to get to know me? Trust me, you don’t,” I spit out, as I push his arms away and move closer to the thorns. I’d rather skewer myself on those gargantuan lances than die at the hands of this stranger. I’d had quite enough of losing for one day, the very fact that I had lost before I had begun boiled my blood. “I’d rather show you, if you don’t mind. It’s a short walk to my home, if you’ll join me,” he said softly, holding out his hand, his open palm revealing an interesting web of lines. I stared at it for a long moment before lifting my gaze to meet a similarly open smile that reached his eyes. Genuine then, but why. Unable to resist, i took it, my mind running circles in frustration and confusion. Tight in my grip I held the thorn, prepared to plunge it into whatever soft membrane I could find should I feel the need. A shame to ruin one of those beautiful eyes, but I would if I had to.

He gently pulls me forward, towards the small exit I had spied earlier and I hesitate knowing there was no possible way to get through there with my skin in tact. The still gushing wound in my forearm throbs nauseatingly, and I feel my head swim. “Hold still,” he says firmly, letting go of my hand to pull his shirt over his head. “What are you doing?” My voice sounds strange and distant to my ears, interrupted by a harsh tearing sound that makes my eyes itch. I feel my knees buckle, the black butterflies stealing my sight and I gladly let them take my other senses with them.




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