“The queen is missing.”
I awake to whispers from a fading dream haunting my thoughts. Remnants of that other reality ripple through my body. The howls of the beasts roaming outside these thin walls have startled me from my sleep, but the world that I have just departed from beckons me to return to the comforts of its enchanted realm. When I finally recall where I am and that the horrid world that I truly belong to surrounds me on all sides, my breath becomes ragged and my heart nearly fails me. Heavy, deep sobs and sighs burst from within the tightness of my lungs. Silent screams were the worst to bear, so I allow the dark depths of my loneliness and agony to fill the air all around me. My cries are silenced by the sound of heavy banging from the other side of the wall behind me. My neighbor must have become annoyed with listening to my strangled tears. As soon as I grew quiet, so did he.
In the very next moment, I realize that there is an unbearable burning behind my breasts, like the white-hot flame from a blowtorch was crisping the soft tissue of my skin to shriveled shreds. When my mind finally clicks back into the borders of sanity, I understand what is causing the pain and immediately recoil. Lifting my thin legs from the edge of this shabby mat I call my bed, I quickly yank them back and hug them to my chest then push my entire body back far enough so that I can pin myself to the coolness of the wall. Once my skin and blood finally cool to a tolerable temperature, I use the backs of my shaky hands to swipe away a heavy layer of sweat and oil from my brow.
With my back pressed against the chilly and chipped plaster, my eyes cautiously watch the cause of my mania. The last beams of daylight were slipping through the thin, rectangular slit that was cut into the side of the wall facing the outside and used for ventilation. The burning orange beam stretched out and slid its deadly finger across the space of my single-room quarters. The power of this single streak of light was strong enough to cause a gnawing pain behind my eyes, forcing me to cower deeper into the darkness of the corner I was now trapped in. Seeking desperate relief from the glow spilling into the assigned room of the apartment building, I shut my eyelids tight and bury my head between my knees. I have no need of a clock or other timepiece. Every cell in my slim frame can sense the time of day that holds me hostage. There is at least another full hour of torment to endure before the last drops of early twilight disappear from the sky. Only then will sweet relief finally come to me.