Title: Broken

Chapter 1: Nocturne

The light from the streetlamps, cold and gray, filtered through the window, casting grainy shadows on the girl. She thrashed about, even in sleep, the soft white sheet tangling about her legs like a percale serpent. The face of the small silver alarm clock showed 2:16 AM. There was no noise save for the whimpers and half-cries of the girl on the bed and the occasional passing of a car.

Dreams. They came more and more frequently now. Never her own, but of those she had touched, absorbed, taken into her more intimately than a lover. It seemed there was no room for her own; they had been crowded out by the cacophony of voices in her head. And as if the universe were playing some exquisitely cruel trick on her, it was usually the nightmares that surfaced first. Unimaginable pain. Searing loss. Crushing grief. Paralyzing fear.

"It appears that the most vivid memories – those strongest in the minds of those you've absorbed – will appear first, and most frequently. As you integrate them into your own psyche, you should experience them less often." Cold comfort at two in the morning when you wake up terrified and alone.

In this dream, her bones were taken, every piece drawn out and replaced with icy metal. The pain was excruciating. It would never stop. She could see herself, crying tears of blood. She could taste them, salt and iron on the tip of her tongue. They left sticky tracks down her cheeks. The pain filled her up, bored into her, crushed her. She trembled violently. She would never be warm again.

She woke, screaming, to a strange room, a strange bed, and a stranger standing next to her. Then, a gentle brush across her brow. "Lie back, chere," drawled a low, soft voice. "S'okay. Go back t'sleep."

Weak, shaken, she slid into sleep once more. The gloved hand brushed a tangled curl away from her face, soft, soft. "Dream well, p'tite. Dream well." The heavy down comforter was gently smoothed and tucked around her. And the tall, slim figure, eyes glowing like banked embers, slid silently from the room.

She dreamt again, this time of a cool green room and the quiet rustle of the wind over water.