Authors: Mary Fan
US copyright ©2014 by Mary
All rights reserved. Printed
in the United States of America on acid-free paper. No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any informational storage and retrieval system, without permission
in writing from the publisher, except for inclusion of brief
quotations in a review.
Published in the United
States by Glass House Press, LLC, 2014. GLASS HOUSE PRESS and
colophon are trademarks of Glass House Press, LLC.
Library Of Congress
Cataloguing-in-Publication is on file with the
Cover by White Rabbit
Designs and Creations
Inkstain Interior Book Designing
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3
Light floods my
, but there’s no warmth in it, and I
shut my eyes, wondering where it’s coming from. The darkness
returns, and not just the darkness of my vision, but something far
deeper, a terrifying abyss that freezes my heart.
The darkness in my mind.
I know I’m lying on a hard
surface, and that I woke up here a moment ago, but before that,
there’s nothing –
Just a yawning maw of blackness gaping across my
thoughts, a monstrous beast that hollowed out my head, leaving
emptiness where memories should have been. Coldness wraps my entire
being like an icy blanket; even the air in my lungs chills me.
Questions assault me, a million flaming arrows aiming for my heart,
and one strikes its target with the greatest impact:
Where am I?
I sit up and blink, turning my face
away from the whiteness that blinded me before. And all I see is
ice. Ice and iron. Thick bars stretch up from the ground before me,
reaching for the dark ceiling, with frozen water filling the narrow
spaces between them. The frosty, pale blue wall glimmers,
frightening and mesmerizing at once. It looks so sturdy, it might
as well be a mountain, cutting me off from any hope of escape in
that direction. Only a small, round window – the source of the
light – breaks its otherwise solid form. The cold floor stings my
bare feet as I stand and approach it, hoping a glimpse outside
might help me figure out where I am. But the window is barely
bigger than my hand, and all I see outside is a vast stretch of
snow and the pale, empty sky above it. Nothing that tells me
anything except this: I don’t belong here.
I belong? I sense a
great shadow looming over me, as if an invisible knife hangs over
my head, and hug my arms. But the gesture brings me no comfort, for
these pale, slight limbs look foreign, though they’re parts of me.
I realize I haven’t even a memory of my own appearance – whether my
legs are long or short, whether my face is heart-shaped or round,
whether my eyes are black or blue. Who or even
I am. The very body I inhabit
might as well be a stranger, and the unfamiliarity sends a new
chill racing down my spine. If I don’t even know what I look like,
how can I hope to discover who I am? Where I came from? Or how I
ended up in this icy prison?
A shiver runs through me at
the thought, giving my whole body a violent shake, and I clench my
jaw in an attempt to stop it. There must be a clue around here
somewhere, and I might find it if I can just pull myself together
long enough to look. Glancing down, I see that I’m wearing a thin,
azure dress that barely reaches my knees, with a top that hangs
loosely over my torso from a knot at the nape of my neck, leaving
my back and shoulders exposed. I inhale, reminding myself that even
this detail is
; it tells me that I must
have come from someplace much warmer.
I knit my eyebrows, searching for
memories – how old I am, who my family is, what skills I’ve learned
… a cascade of questions tumbles through my head, each yelling for
attention and demanding to be answered. What is this place? And why
can’t I remember how I got here?
But though I scour my mind, only an
empty void greets me. I don’t even know my own name.
My pulse crescendos with fear, and the
shadow of danger grows even darker, closing in around me. I draw a
long breath, firmly telling myself to stay calm. I can figure this
out if I just focus on one question at a time.
Then something glints at the edge of
my vision, and I realize it’s my own hair. I reach behind me and
pull forward one long, straight lock. It’s as pale as my hand,
tinted with only the faintest hint of gold. Is it almost white
because I’m old? I run my fingers across my face, and the
smoothness of my skin gives me the answer to that question: I must
be young. Narrow nose, high cheeks, slim eyebrows … I trace each
contour with my fingertips, and try to envision what I look like.
Part of me says that it’s not important – a frivolous detail
compared to the larger questions looming over me – but I can’t help
fixating on it.
I look down and take in
what parts of myself my eyes can reach – slight shoulders, small
chest, narrow hips. Twig-like legs. Bony wrists. Long, straight
hair that hangs to my waist. This is
, and I shouldn’t have to feel
strange in my own skin. If I could just find that one thread
connecting what I see to what I remember, maybe I could follow it
and recover at least one piece of myself.
So I paint a self-portrait,
based on what I’ve observed, and concentrate on the image. The face
remains a dark shadow, though, and I focus on that. Surely I must
have seen my reflection in the past, in a mirror or a window or
even a bucket of water. If I could just recall that single
, I’d have an
answer, and maybe that would lead to more.
Because if I can’t even recall this
simple detail, what hope do I have of escaping the dreaded
Closing my eyes, I put all my focus on
this one simple task and nothing else, trying to sharpen the
self-portrait and fill in the blank face with what I puzzled out by
touch. The ache returns, and part of me wants to throw up my hands
and yell, “This is hopeless!” But I press on, concentrating so hard
that I barely feel the coldness surrounding me anymore. I’m so
Suddenly an image flashes through my
head: a slender girl with sky blue eyes and long, straight hair.
And, most importantly, a face. Perhaps … could it be? Is this
skinny, bird-like girl, whose wide eyes seem to radiate naïveté,
Please let it
, a desperate voice whispers in my
Please say my efforts led to
something real …
A great feeling of
familiarity strikes me to the core, and a glow begins to enter my
mind, as if a crack has appeared in a cloud-covered sky and
revealed a ray of light.
. The knowledge feels as certain as the
sun shining outside that tiny window, and sudden relief envelops me
as I realize I’m one step closer to being whole again. So I
after all. Small as this victory is, it tells me there are more
triumphs to be had if I work for them.
. I have to know who I am, and
where I’ve come from. How I came to be here. How to get
But my sense of victory is
short-lived, for the invisible knife, the danger I can’t identify
but whose presence I feel with every nerve, still hangs over me. If
I’m to escape it, I need to uncover more recollections … starting
with my name. That could be the next marker in a trail of memories
that will lead me home. I know I have one. I feel it in my
innermost core – a sense of self whose presence was once as sure as
the stars. But now there’s only hollowness within, as if someone
stole a piece of my soul.
Still, there must be
left, and if I
defeated the darkness once, I can do it again. I just need to find
a thread, like I did with my appearance, that will lead me to what
I seek. So I whisper random syllables, hoping the sound or cadence
of one will somehow trigger the memory of something more. “Tah …
Roh … Kee …”
Sudden white-hot pain fills my head,
like a burning blade slicing me, and a million tiny daggers lance
through my skull, each stabbing me with such force that I feel as
if my whole body might shatter.
I cry out in shock and grab at my
hair, as if ripping at it might tear away the pain as well. I claw
my scalp, knowing it’s useless, but unable to keep myself from this
vain attempt to stop the great fire. Before I can do anything
further, my legs buckle beneath me, and I collapse to the
The impact of the hard metal floor
shakes the flames away, and I gasp at the abrupt relief. My knees
and shoulders ache from the fall, but their throbbing is nothing
compared to the agony I just felt.
I breathe hard, and my
heart hammers in my chest.