Jaime woke to the sound of sleeping. The susurrus of slack breathing; the soft rumble of a snore; the shift of heavy limbs. The sounds washed over her like a tide trying to drag her back down. She shouldn't be awake. She should let herself slip under again, give in to the dark whispering in the corners of her mind.
She knew that if she opened her eyes and let light into those dark corners, the headache would start. From the heaviness of every muscle and the twist in her stomach, she knew she'd had way too much to drink last night.
But who could she hear sleeping, and why did she feel naked?
Jaime cracked her eyes open and sat up, wincing. Yes, she was completely naked, and so were all the bodies lying around her. She was adrift on a sea of flesh, spotted with clumps of tangled hair like seaweed.
She was breathing way too fast. She swallowed and forced herself to slow down. Take things one at a time, Jaime. Don't panic. It can't be as bad as it looks. Even if it looks like the aftermath of an orgy.
One thing at a time. She was lying on a couch. She wasn't hurt, except for the hangover and a sore spot on her shoulder. A scab: had she cut herself? It ached but it wasn't bad. She got up, wobbling, and swallowed back the urge to vomit.
She really didn't want to wake these people, whoever they were. She didn't recognise a single one of them. She also had no idea where her clothes were. Her underwear, her shoes, her purse: she couldn't see them anywhere. It made her feel more naked than ever and she wrapped an arm over her breasts, as if that might help.
She looked around, trying to locate at least the blue dress she had been wearing. Details popped out of the scenery: the antique swords on the wall; the aged brocade of the furniture; the solid oak coffee table with the girl sprawled atop it; the couple twined so tightly on the other couch that it looked like they fell asleep mid-coitus. There were more bare breasts than she'd seen since she left high school.
Every instinct in her body screamed at her to get out of there. Jaime spotted a scrap of blue fabric and snatched it up as she picked her way across the room on shaking legs, trying not to wake anyone.
It wasn't her dress but she pulled it on anyway. She hurried through long hallways and tried random doors until she stumbled outside. The early morning silence shocked her ears and the sun hit her like a hammer. Jaime's head spun, and when she glanced back at the house, it was looming over her, all glass eyes and creeping vines. With a confused sob, she ran barefoot down the drive and along the street, and kept going until she ran out of breath.
She was about to hail a cab when she realised that she still didn't have her purse and that meant nothing to pay with. Should she go back for it? Her keys were in there. Her ID. Her phone. Her knickers were back there, too.
Her mind kept returning to the girl on the coffee table. She had been sprawled on her back, arms and legs flung out with abandon. It couldn't have been a comfortable way to sleep, especially not with the way her head lolled over the edge of the table. She hadn't seemed asleep; her eyes had been open and staring. But she wasn't moving, not even a twitch or a blink. Not a rise or fall of her bare breasts.
Oh dear god, the girl was dead. Jaime now knew what a real corpse looked like in the flesh. Her eyes filled with burning tears. She couldn't go back, not now. She had to get out of there, go home and lock all the doors. There was a spare key in a plant pot, money in the house...
She rushed out into the street to wave down the next cab to come along, vowing that she wouldn't throw up until she got home.
Over the course of that day, Jaime tried to put together the night before. She wanted to call the police, but what if they thought she was involved? She had stolen a dress and run from the scene of a crime. What if they thought she was guilty?
What if the dress belonged to the naked, dead girl on the coffee table? Jaime wanted to burn it, but settled with burying it in the bottom of her bin.
It was supposed to be a simple night out with the girls. But after they got to the bar, all she had was flashes of memory. They had started on the tequila slammers and it had gone downhill from there.
She had danced, writhing in a morass of bodies that shared a single rhythm. Heat had pressed against her skin, beaded her with perspiration. Somewhere, she had lost sight of her friends. She had breathed heady cologne and warm musk. She had sung until her throat hurt, her voice lost in the thump and trill of the speakers. She had danced on a coffee table, hands high and head tipped back.
The same coffee table that the dead girl was sprawled on. No, that had happened later.
There had been a strong arm around her waist: a single, solid contact on a shifting dancefloor. He had spun her until she laughed at her own dizziness, and his kisses had stolen her breath away. He had pressed her back against a wall; they had fucked fast and heated that first time, the passion thick with gasped breaths and alcohol's buzz.
The first time. There were several more with him that night: the rest were in the room with the antiques, though she didn't remember travelling there. Or all the other people she'd woken up with.
How many had she slept with? She only recalled one. She remembered his pale eyes and the wicked curl to his lips as he licked them. He had made her belly flop over in that good way. She hadn't even minded when he bit her shoulder hard enough to hurt.
Now, she had two crescent marks on her shoulder where his teeth had torn right through her skin. Strangely, the wound was neat and clean, as though someone had tended to it. His mouth had spent a lot of time on the wound, as if he wanted to stop it making a mess but was too busy fucking her to fetch a dressing. Or as if he was...
No, that was just ridiculous. People didn't actually drink blood.
The floor was a pool of people, naked and gleaming in a golden half-light. Their bodies were dribbled with fine trails of blood: released from some; devoured by others. Hungry mouths gasped for air or closed over open wounds. The sea of them rippled with pleasure.
A pale-eyed lover sunk his hook into her shoulder and drew her in. She tumbled towards him, her head swimming, let it all wash over her...
Jaime woke up abruptly on her couch, her heart pounding and throat strangling. Realising where she was lying, she scrambled to her feet as if her own furniture was on fire.
She hadn't meant to fall asleep. It was barely midday and she never napped, late night or no. She didn't feel like herself at all. She was pale and shaky; this was unlike any other hangover she'd had. Trying not to think too deeply about the dream, she took another shower and scrubbed her skin until it stung.
There were no murders reported in the news. No stories about debauched orgies or girls turning up tragically dead after a night out. There was a three-car accident on the highway and a drunken punch-up outside a nightclub that had landed a young man in hospital. There was a robbery in another city.
Jaime should report it. She knew that was the right thing to do. She'd seen the body and the authorities had to know. But she had no idea how to explain what had happened, where she had been or how to get there. As the day dipped down towards dusk, the scene she had awoken to was becoming more blurred and surreal.
Maybe she had imagined it. She had been very out of it when she woke up. Her night was so full of holes; maybe someone had slipped her something. Rohypnol caused memory loss. There were other drugs they might have used. There might not have been a dead girl at all, just random sparks of narcotics.
Somehow, being drugged was less frightening than the idea that she had slept near a corpse. It was less horrifying than the girl's staring eyes and the way her face had looked hollow. Someone would have found her if it was real and reported it. Someone would know.
And yet, Jaime couldn't shake the girl's face from her mind. She was like a stone wedged in Jaime's mental shoe and no shaking would throw her loose.
She was making something out of nothing. It was the drug haze playing games with her. She couldn't even remember the house she had woken up in, not beyond the antiques. She had been caught up in something beyond her control under the influence of a narcotic. Now it was over. She had to put it behind her.
The next morning, she found her knickers in the mailbox.
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