Chapter 0 - A Matter of Trust

In slow degrees, the tow-headed boy woke up on the hard floor. A faint moan, an eyelid twitch, a soft flutter of pale lashes, and then a blue eye opened face-to-antenna with a cockroach. The Sears Tough Skin jeans he’d opened as his birthday gift two days ago felt wet around the crotch and smelled of both urine and feces. His new plaid shirt with the pearl cowboy buttons was torn and bloody. He swallowed hard, past a dry lump the size of a baseball stuck in the back of his throat. He opened his left eye, the one nearest to the bug. It looked as if his bone stuck out of his shirt, a handhold under his elbow, the right arm bent at an unnatural angle just below the tear.

It took a few additional seconds for the pain to hit, long enough for him to realize he did not know how he got here or why. Then it struck, shock abated.

He hurt, bad. Even so, he knew enough not to cry out. He heard Mama pounding on the door of the bathroom and Aunt Mary in the distance, along with the whine of sirens. Then the pain took him away, and he rode it back to safety.

* * * *

Sixteen years later, Brian Murphy awoke in his narrow bed, shivering despite the intense heat and humidity of a pre-dawn August morning in Trenton. Then he heard them, sirens in the streets. Tears streamed down his face, but his scream was silent.

He had “The Nightmare.” It came with greater frequency; sometimes it brought small snippets, sharp shards of memory. Despite attempts to consciously retain the images, he was unable to hold on to the details of his dream long enough to bring it into his conscious state.

He looked at the small wind-up clock on the battered dresser.

r him to get up. He dressed quickly in a

d a small kit bag to work and used it to shave in the lobby men’s

angerous, and it took too long in the morn

sundry fungal, viral, and bacterial agents that grew in every corner of the room

forty-five minutes to disinfect the are

aundromat every Saturday morning to make sure nothing crawled in and made a new home in his sheets or

o pay an ole lady, you just gonna pay for not taking the service.” Brian was sure her tactics were illegal

led at the old witch and said something inane like,

, but neither she nor he said anything aloud


grip on his penlight and one eye on the stairs it lit. The other hand held onto the rickety railing. Brian did not want to fall and become accidently pierced by a dirty needle, a broken bottle, or worse yet, stain his Dockers with human waste…he only had two pairs. He could not afford a conversation wit