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Chapter One

When she began to stir from her deep slumber, she had no idea she was buried under several feet of moist, dark earth. Curled into a tight ball with one hand over her face, she shivered as her brain slowly switched on. Flashes of random memories full of distorted images burst through her mind.

Time to wake up, a voice whispered.

Her eyelids fluttered.

Before she could fully awaken, her body was seized tight in a spasm of pain. Her body contorted in on itself as her hands trembled around her face. The seizure released her and, slowly, she opened her eyes.

Darkness greeted her.

Trembling, she strained to see into the blackness that enshrouded her. She could barely make out the outline of her fingers curled over her face. Something heavy and moist was pressing down on her.

Suddenly claustrophobic, she thrust her left arm upward in a desperate attempt to throw off whatever was covering her.

Dirt poured into the tiny space around her face and filled her mouth and nose. Terrified, she plunged her arm into the earth, trying to push it away. She tried to roll onto her back and shoved upward with her other hand. Warm, wet earth pressed down all around her body.

For a horrible moment, she had no sense of up or down and feared she was frantically tunneling deeper into the ground. Shoving fear aside, she clawed at the dirt desperate to be free.

To her relief, her hands and arms broke through the soil and into the empty space above her. Managing to get her feet under her, she shoved her body through the earth. She broke the surface of the forest floor and stood, blinking in the moonlight. Standing in what was left of the hole that had been her prison. She raised trembling hands to sweep back her raven hair. Her blue-gray eyes blinking hard, she tried to take a deep breath. She choked and gagged, then fell onto her hands as she threw up streams of muddy liquid. Coughing, she wiped her mouth with her dirty fingers and let out a whimper.

Around her, the night whispered softly. Tiny animals scurried through the underbrush around her. An owl hooted in a tree nearby. The moon shone down brightly, its full face glowing in the sky. Falling onto her hip, she lay in silence for a long moment.

Try as she might, she could not draw her thoughts together. She wasn't even certain of her name. How she had come to be buried alive in the forest was beyond her comprehension.

Pulling her legs slowly out of the grave that had entrapped her, she lay on the ground shivering.

Her long, milky-white fingers clawed at the ground beside her and she looked at her hand in dazed confusion.

Need to go home, she thought.

Slowly, she rolled to her knees and bowed in silence, almost appearing to pray. Pressing down on the ground with her hands, she slowly rose to her feet. Her muddled brain took in her soiled jeans and boots slowly. Her white T-shirt was caked with dirt and what appeared to be dried blood. Her hair fell unfettered to her waist, full of clumps of dirt, twigs and bugs. Shaking her head vigorously, she tried to get the forest crude out of her tresses.

“Home,” she whispered.

Her own voice startled her.

Her first step was hesitant. She wasn't even sure her legs would support her, but amazingly, they did. Slowly, she made her way down through the trees. Her stride became increasingly steady as she walked forward in the direction that felt “right. ”

Her hand fluttered over her hair as she walked. She could not remember her name, but a dim memory of extraordinary pleasure filled her mind. Scrunching up her nose a little, she hesitated and stood looking around her in confusion.

A glow over the treetops called to her.

Home lay that way.

Feeling a bit steadier, she trudged on. Her jeans were stiff with all sorts of crap. She craved a hot shower.

My brain isn't working. This isn't how I should be reacting.

She wasn't sure what her own thoughts meant.

As she reached the bottom of the hill, buildings bathed in soft light swam out of the darkness.

The college, she thought.

She stood at the edge of a pool of light and gazed dreamily through the limbs of the trees. Voices whispered in the distance and, somewhere, music was playing. Suddenly, horribly aware of her appearance, she decided not to venture down to the sidewalk below. Home lay nearby, but she could reach it by staying in the shadows.

Not certain how she knew where she lived, but not her own name, she frowned deeply. Once more, she ran a hand over her soiled hair, then moved down into the shadows of the large red brick buildings of the college.