I woke facedown on the floor.
My ears buzzed and throbs rolled along my body in never-ending waves. As I clambered onto hands and knees, a blinding ache along my left rib cage triggered the glint of a memory. Only a feeling. A deep, dark twist in my stomach. Nothing more.
A studio apartment. Not mine, as far as I could recall. Yet I was alone. If I was a visitor, there should be a host.
My home would never be kept this sloppy. Crumbs on the counter, clothes heaped around the hamper, bed unmade. Definitely the dwellings of a man.
I racked my brain for my arrival here, or anything familiar. Nothing turned up. No premeditated invite, no acquaintance with a new friend. Not even a name. Not just this mysterious tenant’s name. No name for me either.
My heart cracked against my damaged ribs. Managing a deep breath through the panic, I peeled my shirt up to reveal a blended palette of purples and greens across my skin. The sight alone made me wince. Bones were likely broken. I needed a hospital.
An outturning of my pockets found no phone. I hobbled around the apartment. No cell phones lying around. No landline. I would have to find help on my own.
Dragging my maimed, crumpled self to the exit, I jerked at the knob. The air in my lungs iced over. The knob refused to turn. Pressing the locking button in the center of it yielded no results. The chain hung limp and unlinked above. The door was clearly unlocked. But never budged.
I dove to the one window and wrenched the curtain away. A square of sunlight stamped the carpet beneath me. Pedestrians skipped along, taxis honked at each other, vendors advertised greasy snacks. All at least ten stories below me.
Despite the impossibility of climbing down, my fingers scratched at the seam of the frame. I could shout for help, wave a hand out. I pried with all my might. No give, as sealed as the unlocked door.
My elbow drove into the glass over and over, jarring every joint. It never cracked.
I crumbled in place. Dizziness swarmed my vision. I was broken. I could die. And no one would ever know.
After a minute of hysteria my feet stumbled into the adjoining bathroom, instinct carrying me right where I needed to go. Mold clung to the toilet seat. I swatted my hair away and retched to discover nothing in my stomach. My mouth ran dry.
I braced myself on the sink with the mirror glaring back at me. More bruising around my collarbone. A yellow stain dribbled down my shirt front. Then my face.
The bags under my eyes drooped and puffed up red. A shallow scratch stretched from my ear to my chin. And my mascara, completely clean of my eyelashes, trailed down my cheeks in blackish blue streams, still sticky and damp from long lost tears. I hadn’t cried since I awoke. I had cried sometime before. I had no name, no previous life per my memory. But I was a woman and I had cried.
If someone locked me in, maybe I got scared, maybe I cried. I needed proof. Or a way out.
The mirror swung open to reveal shelving. Two toothbrushes. Two separate brands of shaving cream. Two hair brushes. Our renter wasn’t alone.
I swept the shower curtain aside. Two razors. One dark gray, designed toward men. One pink. Not just roommates. Likely lovers. Another woman lived with him.
Or I did.
I pinched the pink razor between two fingers, studied the four blades, familiarized myself with the grip. The memory never came back to me. If it was mine, it wasn’t a notable part of my life.
A whiff of smoke lured me into the kitchen. My fingers slipped into mitts that already waited on the counter. A casserole dish simmered in the oven. I slid the charred dinner onto the stovetop. Through the blackened ooze, I detected macaroni noodles and possibly bacon. I wafted away the heavy steam billowing from it.
Through the burning fumes I detected a trace of the original, scrumptious dish. And my heart seized up in fear. The hint of memory tugged at me again, the pit in my gut. No mental image, just the same feeling. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Horror.
With the heat of it all, I stuck myself in the fridge to cool down. Besides salami and ranch dressing, only a case of beer crowded the shelves. Five of six bottles left. Budweiser.
My fingers curled around the neck of one. Droplets of condensation chilled my palm. My breathing slowed. My pulse levelled out. I had no intention of drinking it. But my hold on it made me feel safe.
Several thuds on the ceiling ripped me back into apprehension. Dust flurried down like snowfall. Noisy upstairs neighbors.
If I could hear them, maybe they could hear me. Maybe they could help.
Or they were in on the trap.
Taking the chance, I scrambled around for a broom or umbrella long enough to reach. This man seemed to own nothing of actual use. As I pulled out a nightstand to search behind it, a solid square crackled under my step. A picture frame, now shattered.
I brushed away shards. Only half the frame was filled with a photo. The photo was of me, of the woman I faced in the mirror. Smiling in front of Rockefeller Center. The edge of the picture was warped rather than frayed. It wasn’t cut in half. It was folded.
My nails plucked through the glass and snatched it up. I bent at the crease to straighten it out. I blinked, seconds away from answers.
Then I woke facedown on the floor.
Ears buzzing, throbs rolling through, blinding ache across my ribcage. The gut wrenching after effects of a distant memory. All as I was when I awoke before.
Wincing all the way, I crawled to the fallen picture frame. Now intact and unshattered, as if my foot never tread across it. I flipped it up to face me.
The frame was empty, the folded photo gone.
To be continued in Untold 2...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber