Chapter One

I had always thought the curtains in this room were opulent and graceful; they perfectly matched the rich colours of the dark wine walls-for they had been designed to- they were made from the finest crushed velvet, and hung in rippling waves of extravagance from hand-made golden rails. Now with great effort I turn my head to face the window, and I observe the dense, decaying, faded fabric of the still drapes. I stare as a singular shard of brilliant sunlight pierces though the festering velvet corpse. I watch as twinkling stars swirl through the line of light. The rest of the room is perfectly still. I breathe but the air is thick and heavy in my lungs and my mouth is dry, my grey stretched lips are cracking.

I am weak and unable to move under the plush covers. I am crushed by with their excessive richness. The lavish bedding intended to boast wealth, taste, vitality, suffocates me-

My thoughts are fracturing. Breaking. My mind is stuttering. I close my eyes slowly- relishing as each wiry facial muscle resigns to stillness. In my mind the dim room falls away to comfortable warm lapping waves. I can feel myself slipping, falling willingly into an oblivion of soft, enveloping warmth.

Suddenly, painfully, I am dragged from the warm groggy fields of my mind. I feel a sharp, insistent pain claw at my neck. It takes a moment of pure agony to remember the choker gripping my neck. It was the most beautiful necklace anyone had seen; a delicate silk and lace masterpiece, diamonds dropped like virgin tears cascading down my throat. I understood the tightening grip I could feel cutting my throat was my sparkling choker being pulled against my throat. Too weak to even attempt to free myself or to turn to my attacker, silent tears drip. Pressing deeper into my skin the lace pinched harder, the diamonds cut deeper, the silk wound tighter. I was choking, panicking, gasping for air. I am trapped at the bottom of a stagnant lake, powerless and frozen. Each breath was coming slower, now the pain had peaked and subdued to a new dullness. My body felt distant to me, my vision blurred and I could feel the comforting pull of unconsciousness. As I clung to an agonising reality my vision cleared momentarily. The shard of light had gone, blocked by a tall dark-


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