QSFer Christine Danse has a new FF paranormal book out:
Nameless and without an identity, she wakes on the streets of Shapertown, an abandoned city that defies the laws of physics. She’s fleeing a threat she can’t remember. One woman holds the key to unlocking her memories and the dangerous truth: She is the threat.
The Mi’hani Wards, Book 1
I didn’t dream.
I existed in a black space where for a time I almost had a family and friends, school, the everyday pleasures of domestic life. I drifted close to the shores of memory but didn’t make landfall.
The sound of voices pulled me out again, a man and a woman. They drew me out to sea and up into the sky, into my skin.
I came to on my side under the warmth of covers. Home, in my bed.
But no, not my bed. Not my room. No room I recognized.
Instinct told me to kick to my feet and bolt, but like a small animal, I felt safe under cover.
I scanned the contents of the small room. White dresser, table against the side with two chairs, one door. No more than that.
I made another pass with my eyes just to be sure, but there was only the one door, so only one way out. The voices came from just on the other side of it, so I wouldn’t be slipping out unseen. I would have to wait this out. I had no choice. It had nothing to do with the fact that the pillow was soft under my head, the blankets a bank of clouds atop me. A comfort like home, which I hadn’t known for…
For a long time. The feeling didn’t quite come with a memory, but a strong sense of hard surfaces and shivering sleep.
“I realize,” the woman was saying. She spoke in a hushed tone, but I could just get her words.
The man responded in a low rumble I couldn’t make out.
“I know that,” she said. “But you must understand the position this puts me in.”
Something about her voice made me uneasy. Maybe her tone. There was an edge to it, a wariness and also a weariness.
“I’m retired,” she said at last, flatly.
Nothing after that. They might have moved off, leaving me, forgetting me. But I didn’t move, just lay with the blanket pulled up to my eyes and held still, waiting for something, because something always came.
The rattle of the doorknob warned me just before the door opened. The man entered first. Tall, with dark brooding eyes and a presence like a storm cloud compacted into a man’s shape. But it was the woman at his elbow who scared me. Thin, with straight brown hair and luminescent blue eyes. Beautiful but tired, mouth in a line like it had never known a smile.
I sat up and clutched the blanket, never mind that I was clothed. I pushed back my curls.
“You’re awake,” the man said. He drew out a chair and sat. The woman stood leaning back against the doorframe with her arms crossed, seemingly impassive, but our awareness of each other pulled like a taut string.
“I’m Nero,” the man said. “And this is Natalia.”
After that came a pause. They seemed to be waiting for something. I looked between them, fingers curled around the top edge of the blanket. My gaze caught the woman’s and snagged.
He prompted: “Can you tell us your name?”
I opened my mouth and— “No.” I felt an instant pulse in the air, like a throb of hostility from them, and added, “I don’t know.”
The man’s eyes flickered. The woman shifted from one leg to the other and propped the foot against the wall.
“I don’t know,” I said again. “I don’t know my name.” The edge of panic crept into my voice.
They exchanged a glance.
The man asked me more questions. It was a terror and a relief not to have the answers. They could get nothing out of me. I could betray no one.
He seemed to get the same idea. He stood and exchanged a conversation with the woman that consisted of a look, a subtle glance in my direction, a scowl, and a tight nod. Then the man told me that Natalia would make me comfortable.
“I’m comfortable here,” I said. At that moment, I would have rather been huddled in the corner of that crumbling building like a dog behind the dresser.
The woman, Natalia, dredged up a smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes but also wasn’t unkind, and held a hand up, gently beckoning. I couldn’t decline.
Christine lives with her writing partner in the wilds of urban Oregon, where they raise weeds, worms, and eyebrows.