East (Chapter Two, page 1 of 19)

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Cold. So cold. I breathed in water and choked, toppled into darkness and awoke again only for the world to appear as if I were gazing at the blue sky from the bottom of a pond.

More darkness.

More light.

And always so cold.

The cycle went on like some sort of horrific nightmare I wasn't quite able to pull out of. The first sense that appeared to work correctly was that of sound, and I heard the strangest noise, one so unusual and gone so fast, I wasn't able to capture whether or not I really heard it let alone determine what it was.

Tingling of my skin came next, followed quickly by smell. My stomach was roiling, my limbs wooden and mind either too far ahead or too far behind. Either way, I was scared.

Light burst upon me as if the sun had dawned in my face and nowhere else. At once, my senses caught up, and I reeled at the whorl of color, scents, voices, and sensation.

Rolling onto my stomach, I threw up. I blinked away tears and grimaced at the mess beneath me. It was black, oily, as if I'd vomited motor oil.

The world began to right itself, and I wiped tears from my eyes and rolled onto my side. I was on a table, covered by a blanket. It wasn't exactly comfortable.

"Your name is Moonbeam?" someone asked with a combination of cautious curiosity and disbelief.

My surroundings cleared. A warm, evening breeze cascaded through white walls, past curtains so sheer, they appeared to be silk. The sky beyond was gorgeous. Splashes of pink and orange were being gobbled up by the dark blue of night. The scent of jasmine accompanied the breeze.

"Moonbeam?" the voice asked again.

I shifted onto my back and twisted my head to gaze at him. An older man with a head wrap, long white robe and warm brown eyes sat beside me. His beard reached mid-chest.

I smelled food. Holy hell was I hungry.

"We did not think you would awaken." There was a light in his gaze, one I'd characterize as hope if anything. He looked briefly across the room at someone else before returning his attention to me. "Can you understand me?"

"Yes." My voice was hoarse and raspy.

"Are you in pain?"

I stretched my body and pushed myself up. A little dizzy, a whole lot hungry, I was again in a strange place. Fortunately, it was warm here and my surroundings appeared pleasant. Green tile lined the white walls around a hearth. The shapes of the windows and geometric d├ęcor were distinctly Islamic in style. "No," I responded, looking around.

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