Title: Fractured Angel
Author: Ken Williams
Release Date: 6 June 2014
Publisher: Sakura Publishing
How would you go about trying to help your daughter who, suffering her first psychotic break at fifteen, is chased by her wounded mind to the streets of Santa Barbara? That is the dilemma that Lynne Swanson faces. Out of her element, and definitely out of her comfort zone for this professional woman, she is forced to seek the help of Kerry Wilson, a social worker for the homeless. Unfortunately for her, Kerry is rough-necked loner that has no inclination to hold the hand of a woman who he feels is out for a lark at the expense of his homeless clients. The harsh and deadly realities of the streets in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and an attempt to close a homeless shelter, just as winter sets in, produces a dramatic race against time with the life of Lynne’s daughter in the balance.
~ Teaser ~
Shadows danced. Living darkness surrounded her like a malevolent maelstrom. She clawed with broken nails under the oversized sweater. Dread coiled in her stomach. Lifting the sweater, she looked down at her handiwork: red and swollen welt lines had begun to ooze out blood.
Her dying fire glinted off yellow eyes, staring at her from the darkness with deadly indifference. They were already considering her dead meat, perhaps breakfast. The thought brought a brittle smile to Tracy’s chapped lips. It wasn’t far from the truth.
Because of the weak light, her real tormentor was banished to the shadows. This quieting knowledge allowed her to pay closer attention to the fat rat. Long whiskers twitching—its manically cruel and amoral eyes focused on her. Tracy curled her arms under her legs and drew them harder into herself, making her slight frame appear even smaller. For a fifteen year old, she hadn’t filled out, or grown much since she’d been twelve. And the little weight she had gained recently was lost to a near starvation diet. Her clothes now hung loosely.
Fear dropped her body temperature. She shivered. It forced a scream that she quickly drowned with parched saliva. Her head snapped left to right. She knew he was there. She could feel his menacing presence. She knew from experience that he could reach out at any moment, raking her insides with barbed claws.
Home for Tracy was an oppressive cave, like a dwelling made of corrugated tin. In reality, it was a convergence of drainage pipes that opened up, offering refuge for her homeless clan, haphazardly formed. She shared the shelter with a rat. She also shared it with others— residing both within her mind and without. He, on the other hand, was a visitor, coming and going unannounced, and always unwanted. He didn’t care for what others wanted, or their feelings. Social niceties, privacy, and so much more were absurdities. He did, however, thrive on discomfort, especially hers.
Tracy had to pee. But her bathroom was the trash-strewn field behind the tunnel, and his presence crippled her with fright. When was the last time she had cleaned up? Showers were one of her fantasies: To smell soap. To feel hot water rinsing silky shampoo from her hair. A smile came. And it rapidly broke. She knew the others had the courage to make periodic runs over to the Sally for occasional showers. But she didn’t.
She scratched through a hole in her sweater at the body lice. She knew that her smell offended the others, but they were too protective of each other to boot her out. She wouldn’t last long on the outside.
She was tired. Her eyes felt like lead. Wistfulness forced her gaze over to her bed, a thread worn sleeping bag that had been pushed off to the side. It hadn’t always been that way.
She bolted upright. Fear hopscotched from goose bump to goose bump across her skin. She shuddered. It wasn’t the presence of the rat. Anytime she thought about the changes that had come over her, it was fear that gripped her heart.
When the voices and intrusive thoughts had first begun to surface, she had thought of sharing them with her mom or others, but she was afraid of ridicule, and she was unsure if that wasn’t the way of adulthood. After all, she was just a kid. How was she supposed know what normal was, and wasn’t?
Sitting in almost total darkness, trepidation drew aged lines across her face. Staring hard at the rat, she watched him pawing at the dirt. Was he about to charge her like a raging bull? She looked around, hoping to see her companions; that is—the ones who existed independent of her mind. But, like so often recently, aloneness stared back. Cold hollowness froze her insides as if they were carved out by a scalpel. A hard shiver rolled over her. Fear registered in degrees.
Tensing her muscles, she prepared for flight. Paused. She convinced herself that it was just an ungrounded fear. She pretended that the other wasn’t present. And, the rat was no threat. He hadn’t done anything to hurt her. He hadn’t even really threatened her. As was often the case, the frightening situation was made harmless once she was able to acknowledge fear and meet it head on.
She smiled. Maybe the rat could be a friend? She could use a friend. She stared down at it. It was lonely too! Tracy’s paranoia dissipated. The insight that a fellow creature shared sadness with her opened her heart. Looking about, she found a chunk of stale bread from last night’s dinner.
Slowly, she reached out her hand, holding the bread before the rat. An offering. The rat perked up with interest. With no fear, it quickly paced the few steps that separated him from breakfast. It sniffed the bread, and began to nibble. A crooked smile came upon Tracy when his long whiskers tickled her hand. Suddenly, the rat chomped down hard, yanking the bread free. She squealed with delight. Her eyes brightened, honoring the courage of the rat. If only she had such inner strength!
That last wish washed sadness over Tracy, sweeping the brightness from her eyes.
Tracy once again looped her arms through her legs and began rocking back and forth to the beat of a cadence, heard only by her. Humming a gentle children’s lullaby, her soft voice filled the lonely void. Abruptly, she stopped. The sudden silence was first oppressive, and then terrifying. An ache swelled within her body and soul, rising like high tide before a storm. She shut her eyes. Tears broke from them. She swallowed the liquefied salt hard. A new insight: Fear had a taste. She missed her Mom. Maybe she would know what to do about the voices.
Her lips pinched hard. Her mom wasn’t there. She was alone. Her only companion was a rat. It was possible that even her roommates only existed in her head. Maybe, the only reality was Him—the danger that lurked in the darkness. Her body locked up as she forced herself not to look about. Maybe he was simply waiting for the fire to die out, before he jumped from the blackness to devour her. Tracy rocked harder and began humming again. She ratcheted up the volume and increased the intensity. No longer was it a lullaby. It was the only trick she had left. And it did help with the voices. The dying light flickered—its will to live fleeing. Her own, was not too far behind.
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~ About the Author ~
Ken Williams is an Author, poet, Vietnam Vet, and homeless rights advocate among many other things. He strives to live his life peacefully and enjoys writing about topics that matter. Topics like how to help homeless, for example. Not only that, but Ken has been the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious CIVIL RIGHTS HERO AWARD and the A.C.L.U. Distinguished Services Award in California.
Want to know more about him? Visit him @ Website
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