Little Doves

Releases January 10, 2023

PROLOGUE 
Something is wrong with her eyes. She can’t see anything, but there are shadows. 


Her nose is trying to help, offering a flood of smells, none of them good: sweat, dank and oniony. Something earthy lies underneath, but not the good kind of earthy, like in the woods. This is a sweet, musty, sour scent. Rusty. Metallic. And under all of it, urine. 


She tries to sit up. She can’t. Her body isn’t working. She attempts to raise a hand, but it stays on the floor, rough, damp concrete under her fingertips. She tries to roll onto her back, and a shriek of intense pain lights her body like fireworks. She stops moving. 
Did she scream? She must’ve screamed. If she didn’t, she should. She breathes in and reaches down into the depths of her, tries to express the intensity of the pain gripping her, but no sound comes out, not even a whisper.


Her brain clicks as if she’s changed a channel on the TV. She’s not where she’s supposed to be. She was in the parking lot of The Madalena. There were happy voices. Girls laughing. Boys goofing around and showing off. Parents yelling at their kids to hurry up. When was that? A few minutes ago? A few hours ago? When?

There are no happy sounds here. It’s quiet. Too quiet. Creepy. She hears soft shuffling noises. The sound stops, then starts again. Her brain tells her what the sound is, but she refuses to accept what her heart knows to be true. It’s definitely not rats. No, definitely not.
Somewhere close, the click…click…click of liquid hitting metal, It’s going to drive her crazy if she focuses on it. Is that what Chinese Water Torture is? She doesn’t think so, but maybe. 


Is she sleeping? She thinks she must be, because it feels like she’s waking up from a bad dream, the kind you have when you’re really sick. Maybe that’s what’s happening. Maybe she’s got a bad flu, so bad she doesn’t even remember. That would explain why she doesn’t understand anything. But why can’t she see? What’s wrong with her eyes? And where is she? The answer to both of those questions seems important. 


If she’s sick, she would be at home, or if she’s really sick, she should be in a hospital. She should not be on a concrete floor, and the concrete under her is the one thing she’s absolutely sure of. She’s cold. Why is she so cold? It’s summer. She should be hot, not cold. She tries to move her hand again, and this time it cooperates, almost in slow motion. She tries to rub her arm to warm herself. Her arm is bare. Her legs, too. All of her. She’s naked. Why is she naked? Why is she naked?


Panic washes over her. Her instinct is to jerk up and away, from what she doesn’t know. But her muscles and bones aren’t prepared for that much activity. The best she manages is a small wiggle that sends more shooting pain through her hips and belly. 


She’s not in a hospital. She’s not sick. Something is wrong. She’s not where she’s supposed to be. She’s scared. Very scared. Tears start.


Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, and that just makes her cry harder. Get up. Get up and run.


But her body won’t cooperate. Everything else is… fuzzy. Fuzzy and disconnected and slow. 


Dear God, whatever I need to do to make it be all right, I will do it. I’ll be a better daughter, a better sister. I won’t argue with my parents. I’ll do extra English homework even though Ms. Scott always assigns boring books. I’ll volunteer to pick up trash on the side of the highway. Anything. Anything to make this be a terrible dream and let me wake up. 


A new sound, a terrifying sound, makes her suck in a breath and hold it, as if her breathing is so loud it will block the part of her brain she needs to use to understand. Footsteps. Slow. Intentional. Coming toward her. Closer. Closer. Here. 


The footsteps stop. She can’t tell exactly where, but they’re too close. Somehow she knows they’re not friendly footsteps. If the owner of the feet is kind, they’d be speaking, asking if she’s all right, asking why she’s naked on a concrete floor. But the person isn’t speaking. They’re looking, right? They must be. That’s what they’re doing, if they’ve stopped moving, and aren’t talking? They’re staring at the naked girl on the floor. But they’re not trying to help her.


Another sound. A click. The shadows change, and she thinks the surrounding space has become brighter. Lights? Did the person turn on lights? Maybe they didn’t see her before! Maybe now they will, with the lights on. Why can’t she see? What’s wrong with her eyes? She raises her hand up and discovers there’s a strip of fabric around her head covering her eyes and forehead. 


She tries to say, “Help,” but the word comes out as nothing more than a grunt. 


What she hears next crushes her.


“Hello, little dove.” He laughs.