She woke in the dimly-lit place, her arms and face smeared with dust and grime. Her body hurt. Her head spun. Her vision was blurred. She couldn’t control her breath, inhaling and exhaling in sharp gasps.
There was a door.
She knew the door was there – she just couldn’t see it from this angle. She forced her arms to move, pushing her body upright. Her fingers encountered slippery layers of gauzy pink fabric; she was wearing a ball gown, a beautiful, obscene mockery of her grey surroundings.
Ignoring everything, she stumbled upright and staggered forward, hands blindly outstretched. She found the steps, clutching at the railing as she ascended. The hazy outline of the door grew clearer.
There was a key.
She groped at the wall beside the door, her hands finding the small key on a string. It was exactly where she remembered. The key slid into the lock with ease.
As she turned the key, she felt the first pangs of stiffness in her ribcage. Her breath caught like cloth on a barbed wire.
“No,” she gasped. “No.”
Her legs folded underneath her, and she sagged against the cold metal steps. Her joints – shoulders, knees, wrists – slowed in their movements, becoming as unresponsive as stone. Her fingers grew numb. Breath sluggish. Panic building. No oxygen. Vision dimming.
The key slipped from her grasp, bouncing on the concrete floor.
Oh dear… So close this time, said a voice nearby.
Wind her up again. I like watching her run.
Georgia Atkin was born in Croydon, England, but grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 2013, she won the Joyce Barkhouse Writing for Children Award from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia for her novella manuscript Secrets: A Strange Tale. Atkin is a poet as well as a prose writer, and volunteers her time as editor for Open Heart Forgery, a free grassroots poetry publication based in Halifax.
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Words © 2018 Georgia Atkin. Image © 2018 Kit Sora.