My fingers fluttered. At least, I think they did. I've read about people who have lost limbs and they experience sensation, even pain, in their missing parts. I can only guess that is what's happening here.
What preceded that flutter was the most intense burning pain. I know I had to have screamed and screamed because I can't imagine that anyone could stay silent through something like that. All I can think is that he must have set me on fire. The man who attacked me. All of it felt hazy, muddy even, unreal. All that seemed real was this, the slight movement of my fingers, the feel of the still air on my skin. I tested my eyelids to see if I can open them.
The stars in the sky seemed endless, the kind of clarity you only get away from city lights. I felt my brows knit together as I realized that I saw so many more stars than I ever thought possible and then I wonder if it is ever night in heaven. I had never thought about it before. I must be dead, right? Pain like that is just weakness leaving the mortal body. I am dead and this is what it's like to be in heaven.
But my fingers touched dry leaves and I smelled something sweet off to my right. I hear movement to that same side and panic clutches at me. Before I can register or even contemplate what it is, I am on my feet and look straight into the eyes of a man sitting on a log.
In the fraction of a second that movement must have taken, my conscious mind was incredulous at the fact that a movement so sudden should have made me feel dizzy, especially after lying on the ground for so long, but I'm not., My body was straight and tensed, as if ready for fight or flight. As I looked at the man, I realized that he is not my attacker. He looked tall and slight, with short hair and a slight smile on his face. I even saw the auburn glint of his hair, though I knew I shouldn't with so little light. Starlight shouldn't make it this easy to see him.
"You're awake," he observed, seeming amused by my confusion. "It's about time. I was starting to worry about you."
I looked closely at him, taking in his appearance. He wore jeans and a leather jacket, with a button-up shirt and t-shirt peeking out. He looked familiar, disconcertingly so, but I couldn't place him. My mind flitted between my last memories and now, trying to remember who this guy was, where I was, and how I had gotten here.
"Who are you?" I asked and the sound of my voice disturbs me. Should it be this clear after all of the screaming I must have done. "Where am I?"
He stood and walked toward me, holding out his hand as if to shake mine. I just looked at him, at his hand, and shook my head. There was no way I was moving out of this defensive position. Everything in my body said "Danger!" and, without any other information to help me, I had to listen to instinct. He pulled his hand back and moved away, hands up, as if understanding my hesitation.
"My name is Paul. We are outside of the city, in the most rural area I could find. I needed to get you away from people for the moment."
"Why? What happened to me? What do you know?" Could I trust him to tell me anything? I guessed I could listen to his answers and then decide what was next. If all else fails, I could run, right?
"You were attacked. I found you bleeding and picked you up and brought you here. I saved you."
"You saved me?" my brows knit together again and I looked over my body. Again, the muddiness returned as I tried to remember what had happened to me before this. I closed my eyes, allowing my hearing and smell to keep a watch on the stranger.
I walked to my car as usual. I left the library and headed toward the parking lot, keys in hand, walking quickly like I always did. I knew that a student had been assaulted near the brushy area I passed recently, but it seemed like an isolated incident. All I could think about was getting home to my husband and the kids, even though I knew they would be in bed. Off to my left, I see the movement of a shadow, like an object in front of a light, and my breath speeds. Do I run for the car and hope that I don't attract attention or do I keep walking at this pace so that I don't seem so panicked? Before I could decide, two arms grab me and push me down into a clump of trees. I feel a punch across my face and near my ear, both stunning me. Then I feel my body being dragged. Clothes ripped.
Panic closed my throat and I felt a sob rise from my belly. I gritted my teeth as I felt my nose and cheekbones, expecting to find some sort of damage, swelling or blood. My hand came away with nothing. The sobs continued, but I felt no wetness on my skin. I looked at my hands in the starlight and notice that my clothes are different, that my skin, which I had remembered being scratched and bloody, was clean and pure white.
I looked up at Paul and saw the same pure white in his face and hands. I saw the whites of his eyes with the same clarity that only daylight should bring. I saw something in his irises that clinched at my heart and sent my body yet again into defensive mode.
His irises were red, blood red.
And I screamed.