Ever had a bad morning? So has Oliver. An excerpt from MARKED.

Oliver woke from a dream.

Someone had fought him, taken him somewhere, left him. But as he came into consciousness, fragments of his dream merely lingered, until slowly, they began to slip through the crevices of his mind like sand through a filter. And no matter how desperately he tried holding on to them, he knew for some reason that the moment he opened his eyes, it would all be gone.

Sun struck his pupils and his whole face squinted. From the bright rays, from the throbbing in his neck. He felt like he’d been tossed around like a wrestling dummy but couldn’t remember why. And what was that smell? Meaty and thick; comforting. Pot roast. Pot Roast? Suddenly, its meaning left no impression.

Moving without pain felt as impossible as trying to fly, so he let his eyes and ears take in his surroundings. He was tucked up in a corner against a green, wooden door with a glass window and muffled bits of conversations trickled up to where he lay. Slowly, worry began to creep over him. Nothing registered as familiar. Nothing. Not where he was. Not even how he got there. He peered upwards and saw a sign on the door. “Closed. Back at 8am.” What time was it? The air felt chilly, despite the bright sun, so it must be morning. That felt right. It felt good to feel right.

Suddenly, footsteps sounded from behind the door, and before someone could spot him, he stumbled to his feet and forced himself to move.

He wandered down tree-lined streets, staring hard at each store name, each street name, each mailbox. His forehead was scrunched so tight in concentration; however, only hazy images hovered behind his eyes. It was eerie and becoming more so. Each time he tried to extract one thought, one memory from his mind, he felt like he was searching for a golden thread in an all black tapestry.

As people in good humor passed him on the street, parents with kids, couples holding hands, he felt their eyes linger. Did they know him? Should he not be here? But their gazes didn’t feel judgmental. Pitiful, more like it. And soon he knew why. He jumped at the sight of a small boy in one of the glass storefronts; hair a tizzy mess; bags under his eyes; gaunt skin. Bright blue eyes stared back at him. He blinked. So did the boy in the glass. That pitiful boy was he.

Oliver Pastorius.

Was that his name? Oliver Pastorius, he repeated, rolling his tongue around his mouth as if tasting each word. Yes. That sounded right. Oliver.

He scanned his own face, clothes, shoes and noticed several grass stains smeared across his jeans, even on the olive green jacket and grey sneakers he couldn’t remember putting on. Colored ink had seeped into his left palm, leaving some sort of angular mark. And his hair, caked in something that had dried like super glue, refused to lay flat. Last time he showered could have been days ago. From the smell of his hair–yuck. Like rancid milk and sweat. It could have been weeks. Keeping his head low, he skulked down the street, avoiding as many glances as he could.

On and on he walked, eventually climbing several steep flights of stairs until he reached the top of a slope that overlooked a vast city. Some city–where a tall pointy tower loomed in the distance and a large body of water glistened in the sun. It was beautiful and yet made him feel very small. The giant cluster of buildings, the expansive stretch of water, the endlessness of it all intensified his fears of being lost and an aching of loneliness suddenly entered his body like a virus.

Where was he? 

Where’d he come from?

How’d he get here?

But answers refused to come, and the sunshine, beaming down on his face, slowly eased the urgency he had felt all morning and cloaked him in protective warmth. His body relaxed; his eyes closed; a breeze skipped over his face and infused his nose with the scent of freshly cut grass. And for a while, he embraced the present.

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