Prologue

I woke up to the sound of screaming The dim beam of an electronic alarm clock cast over the vacant hospital room. Fans whirred. A heart monitor beeped intermittently. An IV bag towered beside my bed, its cord running into my arm.

Three distinct voices passed through the paper-thin walls around me. One shouted above the other distant roars. "Pain… here. Alien… left… ow…!" The man's stuttering matched expressive aphasia.

I shot upright on my sheet-less mattress, ripped the needle from my arm and pushed the cart away. I didn't belong here, trapped in a room for suicide risks. I wasn't mad. I never had been, not that it mattered anymore.

"Hope you've got your things together. Hope you are quite prepared to die. Looks like…" A song chimed beneath my mattress. The tempo was upbeat considering the lyrics. The audio quality was from a cheap pay-per-use phone. It wasn't mine.

My paper gown crinkled as I slid off the bed and walked towards the corner. I reached beneath the mattress to grab the mobile. The call flashed on screen. No number listed. Not surprising, not that I needed it to know who the call was from.

The moment the phone was in my hand, the call stopped. A text message appeared onscreen. The number was redacted. Two words. "Knock, knock."

A thud pounded at the door. A silhouette stood at the frosted window, presumably for me. My heart tensed in my throat.

I sprinted towards the nurse's cabinet. It was supposed to be locked, but if I could push something out, I could find a weapon. I dug my fingernails into the crevice and tried to pull. The door rattled, on the verge of opening. I pulled again. Nothing. I hunched over the counter and braced for another tug. In the time it would've taken to blink, a knife had pressed at the back of my neck.

The blade pointed at where my brain stem would be. Cold fingers pressed around the spot. Moriarty.

"Oh, it's so easy to divert you. Keep being this predictable and you'll stop being fun," he boasted. I could practically hear his attempt at a giddy, childish smile.

I lifted my hands off of the counter and started to bow my head. Before I'd budged even a centimeter, he'd grabbed me by the neck, turned me around and pinned me to the wall. The plastic knife and his sharpened fingernails dug into my neck, nearly drawing blood.

I pressed one hand against the wall, pretending to stabilize myself. I used the other to grab the phone off the counter and hide it behind my leg. My fingers wrapped around the keypad, struggling to map where the letters were. I forced myself to keep eye contact, feigning confidence.

"There's a record I was here. I disappear, hospital'd be sued for negligence. They'll investigate. You may trick security, but I have files you won't find first. That's not a mess you want to face," I bluffed. I typed a message as I was speaking. On the last word, I pressed send. "Hospital. Come."

"Like they did for your dear daddy?" he giggled. He paced around me as a vulture to its prey, his eyes locked on mine, and traced an icy finger across my cheek to my forehead. "You're a lot like him, you know. Curious. Gifted. Eyes like a glacier, so, chilling," he shuddered in the most effeminate way he could manage, mocking me. "Pity you killed him. Would've been quite the fantasy."

I struggled not to snap. "Don't pretend that's true."

In what I could only perceive as a blur, he leaned in towards me so closely I could see his pupils dilating to black. "You honestly think the truth matters, here? That's adorable."

He lifted his hands off of me and flicked me back to the wall. I glowered. All he did was step back and smile. "Night, love."

The next second, a wave of pain ripped through my arms. I tried to move, to retaliate, but by then he was already gone. Both my wrists were sliced deep into the ulnar artery and were bleeding profusely. The plastic knife dropped to the floor, covered in my blood. It was the same type of knife they served dinner with in the hospital.

It was two in the morning. No one was near. The wounds would look self-inflicted. My hands shook, dropping my mobile from my grasp. Damn it.

I pinched the skin of my right wrist shut with my left hand and tilted my head sideways to bite the right wound shut. The taste of iron filled my mouth. It had only been a few seconds, yet a likely psychosomatic haziness seeped through my mind, blocking my thoughts with exhaustion.

I pressed myself against the wall and slid across the floor. My left foot nudged the phone. I kicked it towards my left hand and grabbed it. My fingers quivered on the keys as I fumbled through a second text. All I could manage was a word and to press send, "Now," before it fell from my fingers once more.