By: Leah Wilde

Chapter 1


The first thing I remembered was white. White everything. Blinding, imposing white, closing in on me from every side like a huge, pale hand pressed over my eyes.

The second thing I remembered was a noise. It was a steady beep. It chirped every few seconds, as steady and reliable as a heartbeat. That was because it was a heartbeat. My own, to be exact. The monitor to my right showed a skittering blip that tracked the ups and downs of the organ pumping in my chest.

A nurse came by, although I didn’t know at the time that that was what she was. I thought she was just a warm voice and a soft hand mopping the blood from my forehead and picking out the bits of glass that stuck out from my skin.

It was a miracle the crash didn’t kill me. At least, that’s what they used to say, back when I was in the group home. My parents’ bodies had been all mangled to shit, hardly recognizable as the people who had once walked and talked and more than likely did things that were at least a little bit valuable for polite society as a whole—like jobs or volunteering or whatever. But little baby Dominic had made it out with just a few nicks and scratches. Hell, I hadn’t even cried. That’s how the story went.

It wasn’t even a particularly good story. We were headed down the road; a drunk driver swerved across the partition doing ninety in his pickup truck. Boom, bang, life over. Happened every goddamn day. No dignity in that shit.

But if you didn’t remember something, how could you be sure it was real? I didn’t remember my parents one bit, and for all that I knew, the bastards at the holding facility for state wards, the place where I grew up, could have invented the whole damn story. I wouldn’t know the difference.

A head-on collision at ninety miles an hour seems like something worth remembering, but maybe the impact shook up my soft, underdeveloped baby brain and turned that particular memory into mush. I guessed it doesn’t matter much. I woke up in a hospital, and that was where it all really started for me. White all around, electric beeps, and not a single person in the world who gave a fuck whether I lived or died. Not much had changed since.

For as rough of a start as that was, it got worse. Most of the time, babies get adopted into foster families way quicker than anyone else. They’re cuter, I supposed, or else would-be parents just didn’t like the idea of picking up a child who’d already gotten someone else’s fingerprints all over it. Kinda gross, goes the thinking. Like using a fork that another poor sob just slobbered all over. Babies were preferable. That way, they were a clean slate. You got to fuck them up yourself.

But I didn’t get adopted at all. I lingered there. I liked to imagine that there was something to me that scared away the people every visiting day, a big shadow haunting those baby eyes of mine. I’d seen shit. One look at me and you knew it. Parents didn’t want that. They wanted innocence, purity, childlike wonder. I didn’t ever have any of that bullshit. I was then the same thing that I was now—a cold-blooded son of a bitch. I was an outcast from day one.

When you grew up in the shadows like I did, you learned a lot about people. Folks act differently when they think no one is looking. They get sloppy, show you who they really are. They steal and pick their nose and scratch wedgies out of their asses. But that’s just the little shit. Sometimes, you saw truly fucked-up things.

Like when I peeked my head around the doorway of the state facility late one night and saw the teacher, Ms. Parker, bent over a desk with her skirt hiked up high while the security guard plowed into her with his fat, greasy dick. I’d never seen someone moan like that before. Shit, I thought she was getting killed at first. Took me a minute to connect the shit I was seeing with the rumors the older kids were always going on about—sex. Fucking. You know, the good shit.

This prim little teacher getting rammed by an illiterate semi-retard making what, eight bucks an hour? How could she do shit like that and then pretend to get mad when I drifted off during her stupid ass lessons? Fucking hypocrite. Fucking liar. Most of all, fucking whore. I didn’t have the words back then to say all that out loud or even to think it, but I knew that I wanted out of that place. It wasn’t for me.

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