Chapter one of Amnesia
|June 16, 2017||Posted by Cambria under Uncategorized|
CHAPTER ONE SNEAK PEEK
E D W A R D
The water called. Like a siren on a foggy night, singing beautifully to lonely boaters, luring them closer. Promising companionship but ultimately dragging them deep into the dark depths until life faded away and the onyx, cavernous water swallowed them completely.
The lake at night was an eerie place. The sound of the water lapping softly against the pebbly shores, the damp scent of the air, and how the sky seemed so much closer to man because of the way thick fog hung low, skimming over the ever-bobbing surface. Those things weren’t necessarily eerie to some, but they evoked a darkness within me. A mood always lurking beneath the surface, beneath the ready smile I wore for people on the street or members of my own family.
Though the mood was unpleasant, I couldn’t stay away. It was a strange sort of addiction, at times an intense craving. They say those with a dependence are only addicted because they get something out of it. Whatever it is they crave fills a need, satisfies some kind of void in their lives.
It was true. At least for me.
Besides the sound of swaying water and a steady breeze, it was quiet down here, save for the occasional call of a bird or the repetitious croaks of frogs. The shoreline was usually vacant when I walked along because usually it was dark, well past the hours of socialization. The side of the lake I was drawn to most was less populated. Night parties and bonfires, parking and necking took place on the other side, where there was more of a beach.
I preferred the seclusion of this shore, the way my thoughts went undisturbed in solitude. Thoughts and memories to be exact. How something so long ago could be so innately ingrained in my mind was sort of eerie in itself. Details that should have faded over time, feelings people said would dull to the point they would merely be background noise.
People were ignorant, talking about things they knew nothing about. I let them entertain their obliviousness. After all, it was easier. For them and for me.
The bottoms of my feet were almost desensitized to the uneven, sometimes jagged pebbles. I never walked with shoes down here. I preferred the cold, boney fingers of the water, when it washed up over my foot, momentarily swallowing my skin. I felt a sort of kinship with the rocks underfoot, the way they sat haphazardly, always keeping me slightly off balance… But oddly, the unbalance made me feel more stable.
The end of summer was drawing close. Soon, this small, touristy lake town would grow quieter. The autumn breeze would bring in a crisp chill, and the year-long residents would close in ranks around one another, creating a community so tight it was almost suffocating.
A wind colder than those before wrapped around me, ruffling the hair around my ears and whipping it into my eye. Instead of pushing it out, I turned my face, gazing out at the wide expanse of the lake. The still-blowing wind tugged the hair out of my eyes and pulled it back off my face completely.
Fingertips beginning to sting a bit against the cold as the water lapped over my bare toes, I shoved both hands deep into my white jeans. My fingers curled into my palms. I stood stock still, water soaking into my ankles, wind pushing and pulling at my hair and clothes. It was dark, fog hanging low, and the stars and moon were lost in the night. Even still, I could make out the shape of the island that seemed to always float on the surface of the lake about a mile from shore.
I didn’t know how big the island really was. No one did. No one ever went there; no one was ever invited. All I knew was the way it appeared to float was an illusion, because if it had truly been floating, it would have drifted off years ago… but it remained.
Chained in place by roots and earth that likely reached far down into the bed of the water, creating an anchor only Mother Nature herself could provide.
The island and the house built upon it was a mystery. And so was the person who lived there.
Everyone here in Loch liked to speculate about that island. Rumors and theories swirled. Whispers floated through the streets, especially when the woman who lived out there came to town on a rare supply run.
I heard all the speculation but kept my own to myself. If I did speak up, I wouldn’t be able to explain how my eyes always wandered to that unsettling mound of land shrouded by fully mature trees and distance.
Another gust of strong wind blew in from the side, pushing in even thicker fog, creating an opaque shroud and blocking what small view I had of the island’s outline. It felt as if someone had drawn a curtain over a window I’d been trying to peer into.
Water splashed up my calves, drenching my jeans, weighing down the fabric. Ignoring it, I turned, hands still tucked deep in my pants, and half walked, half waded through the shallow water farther down the shore.
I should go. The sliver of time I allowed myself to spend down here each night was over, yet the pull tonight was even stronger, almost painful, and it kept my feet anchored on the coast. Tucking my head toward my chest, I settled into a slow, wandering gait.
I felt as though the wind pushed me along, and though I had muscle, I was powerless against its insistence. As I walked, I noted the way my pants seemed to glow in the dark, no less bright even at the bottom where they were drenched.
Memories washed up the back of my throat, or maybe it was what would have been. Whatever it was tasted slightly salty even though the lake water was fresh. I told myself (only because it took years of conditioning to form the argument) I had no way of knowing what might have been because it was ripped away… or rather buried somewhere out there in thirty-five miles of water.
Wallowing in the water but also in thought, I moved along, not noticing how the fog wrapped around me like a sick hug. An odd feeling crawled up the back of my neck, tightening the muscles and creating a rippling chill. My feet stopped, but the movement of the wind and water made me feel as if I were still moving.
Not far in front of me but a little farther from shore, something bobbed in the waves. Blinking, thinking it was only a trick of the mind or maybe of the lake itself, I gazed that way again.
A light swell brought the pale-colored shape forward, then gently pulled it back as if it weren’t sure whether the water wanted to keep the object or give it up.
Starting forward, my eyes remained trained on the object, still expecting it to fade away or break apart in the water, but it never did.
The closer I splashed, the harder my heart thumped in my chest. A sick feeling unfurled in my lower belly, sloshing around like two-day-old alcohol, and threatened to reappear at a moment’s notice.
The saliva in my throat was thick and oddly dry as I forced it down. What appeared to be a strand of hair, light enough in color it contrasted with the dark water, seemed to reach out toward me, as if it were reaching out for help.
I started running. The silence of the night completely disrupted by the sounds of heavy splashing and the ominous way the water sucked at my pants, trying to hold me back.
“Hello!” I called out, half bent now, using my arms to cut through the water.
It was farther out than I first suspected. Another trick of the lake.
An intense sense of urgency hurled in my veins, causing me to drop into the water in a swimming position.
I was oblivious to the chilled temperature of the lake, the way in which the black water tried to swallow me whole. My arms and legs cut through like a hot knife in butter, and in just moments that seemed to feel like a lifetime, I had reached where the body floated.
There was a body floating in the lake. Drifting ashore like a piece of lifeless garbage.
Closing my hand around a thin and too-cold arm, I used all the adrenaline coiled inside me to yank the body close.
Pale skin collided with mine as I forced myself to my feet, slipping a little on the uneven, muddy floor of the lake. When I was fully upright, the water came only to my waist. Hefting the body above the surface, my limbs shook with cold and fear as I fumbled to cradle it in my arms.
It was so very dark, the fog like a shield, and I was focused on getting ashore. I barely glanced down at the unresponsive body. It was a woman. The knowledge threatened to thrust me back in time, but I fought it even though part of me wanted to go back there.
“It could be a child,” I told myself out loud, hoping the sound of my own voice would anchor me.
No. I didn’t want it to be a child. Not because I was some stellar guy with a hero complex and children were the most innocent victims of all. It was because I wanted it to be someone else.
Someone I knew it couldn’t possibly be. Someone who was long gone and was never coming back.
My feet stumbled when I bolted out of the water and into the too-long grass, but I didn’t fall. Instead, I dropped to my knees and laid the body before me.
Long strands of hair stuck to her face, concealing all her features. Sediment from the lake clung to her skin, and her clothing was ripped and practically see-through.
“Can you hear me!” I yelled. “Hey!”
Her face was turned away, something I couldn’t bear. Water ran down my face, dripped off my lashes, and clung to my clothes. Wiping the offending drops out of my line of sight, I made a muffled sound, grasping her chin between my long fingers.
I turned her face toward mine, holding on firmly, and brushed all the wet strands from her face.
Emotion so raw slammed into me I nearly fell back. The only thing that held me upright was the grip I still had on her chin.
Not even a hit that had my stomach roiling and vomit splashing up into the back of my throat was strong enough to make my fingers let go.
Hungrily I stared at her face until I saw the blue tint to her lips.
“No!” The word ripped out of me as if I were being tortured. Moving fast, I tilted her chin back, swept the inside of her mouth with my finger, and began CPR. I lost count of how many compressions I applied to her chest. My mind was scrambled, and the more I looked into her prone face, the more frantic I became.
Giving up, I grasped her face and blew a breath into her waiting airways. When she did nothing, I blew into her again.
It took immense mental power to rip away and begin chest compressions a second time. Just when I was about to really lose my shit, the sound of water bubbling up inside her brought me back.
Thinking fast, I turned the woman to her side as lake water spewed from her mouth and her back worked extraneously to expel it all.
When I was sure she was empty, I laid her flat. Her breathing was extremely shallow, her eyes still closed. Oxygen seemed to scrape like broken glass down her throat, making me fearsome. Tilting her head back, I gave her two more strong breaths.
They seemed to force some much-needed air into her system, and then the ragged inhalations she took seemed not quite as dire.
Practically climbing on top of her, I palmed her face. “Can you hear me?” I yelled. “Wake up! Are you okay?”
Her body was so limp I began to shake again.
“Shit!” I growled, scrambling up and lifting her into my arms. Her body was frail and her skin still almost translucent. My heart nearly stopped when she fell into my chest, and I gazed down at her face.
“It couldn’t be.” I reminded myself. Then, as I turned toward where I parked my truck, I repeated, “It’s not.”
A ragged, painful-sounding gasp scraped by her lips. I stiffened as her body moved just slightly. Her eyelids fluttered, struggling to open.
“Can you hear me?” I asked, desperate.
Her eyes collided with mine. I gasped, nearly falling. A name I hadn’t spoken in so long it sounded foreign to my own ears cut through the sound of my pounding heart and uneven breathing.
Her eyes drifted once more, refusing to open again.
I started to run, using my familiarity with this place as a GPS. Sight wouldn’t be useful right now because my eyes were incapable of looking at anything but her face.
It wasn’t her.
But oh my God, what if it was?
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*AMNESIA is book 1 of 2 in the Amnesia duet
This excerpt (chapter one of Amnesia by Cambria Hebert) is copyrighted by author Cambria Hebert. Redistributing, Copying, reposting without permission is considered a crime and is punishable by law.
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