Teaser Tuesday #2

Here’s a sneak peek form the beginning of Madness Method #2.  Chapter 2, actually, which is Hayli’s first chapter.

The stupidest thing I ever did was try to run from Dr. Kippler’s men.

I can’t remember how far I’d got when I heard the gunshot.  Obviously I hadn’t got far enough.  I know I saw the front door of the Science Ministry standing open at the end of the corridor, still too, too far from me when I went down.  Then I didn’t see anything else until I woke up, in the dark, in the cold, alone.  They’d bandaged up the hole in my side and put me in a cell like a hospital room except the door locked from the outside, and left me without any notion of where I was or how long I’d been out.

Maybe I’d only been out a few hours, or maybe days had passed and Shade was already dead.

And the worst part of it all was, she wouldn’t talk to me.

For so long now, I’d got used to having the crow there in my thoughts, with her smart comments and the way she saw the world so clearly.  But now, no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, I couldn’t lure her out again.  I couldn’t Shift, and my hands weren’t even tied.

Some months ago, if I’d thought I might be free of my Shifting, I might’ve been glad.  I wouldn’t have missed the sky and the wind and the glow of color that I saw through her eyes.  Now the thought of losing it all was the most terrible thing I could imagine—save one.  Save the fear that somehow I’d put Shade in danger.  Shade, and Derrin, and Coins…if any of them got hurt because of me, I’d never forgive myself.

I struggled to sit up on the narrow bed, pain gnawing at the ragged edges of my wound.  Luckily the bullet had only grazed my side, but it felt like I’d got a hole punched straight through my ribs.  I gritted my teeth and clamped one hand against the bandage, using my other hand to shove and pull myself upright.  A minute and I just sat on the edge of the cot, taking shallow breaths while a red haze pricked my vision.

Come on, I thought, prodding at the corners of my mind, searching for the crow.  Where are you?  Dan you go leaving me here by myself!  

I bit my lip and waited, but nothing happened.  She didn’t answer.  When my sight cleared up I staggered to my feet and shuffled, careful-like, through the shadows to the door.  I could barely see it, just finding its outline by the pale gleam from the city lights filtering in through the tiny vent of a window behind my bed.  The door had a window in it too, but the hallway beyond it was unlit, leaving nothing for me to judge my situation by.

I reached for the door handle, but my hands faltered over smooth metal and found nothing to hold.

“Oy, that’s not even fair,” I muttered.  I hesitated, wishing I could kick the door, knowing how stupid I’d be to try.  Instead I pushed my fists against the metal and shouted loud as I could, “Hey!  Is anyone here?”

For a second nothing happened, then suddenly someone let out a scream so terrible the hairs on my arms stood straight on end.

“Get away!” the voice shrieked.  It sounded like a man’s voice, even pitched high with terror, and it came from close by, maybe the room next to mine.  “No, no, no, I’m not here!”  The voice died a little and moaned, “I’m not here, I’m not here…don’t look at me!”

“There’s a grobbing wall between us,” I hollered, once my heart had slowed down a tick.  “How would I look at you even if I wanted to?”

“The voices!  Oh God, the voices are calling me again…”

I limped over to the wall and pounded on the plaster as hard as I could.  “I’m right next to you.”

The man shrieked again and something crashed on the other side of the wall.  “The ghosts, the ghosts, the ghosts…ah God, thayoi in the walls coming to eat my soul!”

He’s insane! I thought, though I think I knew that all along.  Well, that just figures.

“Listen, mate,” I said.  “I’m no thayo.  My name’s Hayli.”

“They’ve never had names before!” the man said, so quiet I almost didn’t hear the words.  “Must be she got trapped here…poor soul!”

I ground my teeth and slumped back onto the bed.  “I’m nicked away in a cell with a lunatic for company,” I muttered, out loud because it didn’t much matter.  “I’d rather talk to the voice in my head.  Blimey, maybe I’m just as much a nutter as this bloke.”

“Little voice, are you still there?” the man called after a few moments, tapping softly at the wall behind my head.  “Little Hayli person?”

“Yeah, still here,” I said.  “Don’t suppose you ken how to get out of here, do you?”

“Well, reckon you got killed by some fellow, so now you can’t figure a way out…”

“I’m not dead!” I cried.  “I’m sitting in the room next to yours!”

“What room?” he asked, sounding alarmed.  “There is only this room.  Nothing else exists.  Maybe I’m imagining you.  How do you know you exist?  You’re just in my mind.  Why are you tormenting me?”

My mouth dropped open, then I closed it again and scowled a bit.  “I’m not here to torment you, and you’re not imagining me!”

“You just want me to think that!  It’s a trick.  My mind is playing a trick on me.  Testing me!  What are you trying to prove, mind?  I won’t be fooled by you!”

For half a second I just sat in bewildered silence, then I tipped my head back against the wall and laughed.

“Ha!” the man shouted triumphantly.  “I told you it was a trick!  Defeated you!  I win!”

“Yeah,” I called.  “You win.”

Silence.  Then, “Hog monkeys!  She’s still there.”

I’m going to go nutters if I listen to him much more, I thought.  Unless I already am, of course.

“You’re not a bird, are you?” I asked.  “Because I lost the bird in my head a while ago and I’m not sure if she’s coming back.”

I waited, and waited, but for the longest time the man in the other room didn’t answer.  Then he said, a bit slowly, “Young lady, sounds like you need help.”

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