I awoke in darkness, the only sensation a cold metal bar that pressed into my ribcage, effectively sapping any warmth from my body. Groggily, I tried to sit up and grimaced, my head pounding like a drumbeat. Overwhelmed with pain, I lurched sideways and vomited onto the floor, my torso heaving with spasms.
After a couple minutes I lay back against the metal bar, which I determined to be some sort of pipe running along the ground beneath me. Feeling down the left side of my body, I painfully pulled myself onto my side. The effort alone exhausted me, and I huddled, panting, for several minutes as the already dim room shifted in and out of focus. Finally, with a grunt, I attempted to sit all the way up, only to collapse once more. Alarmed, I felt a hot ache spread through my chest, as the fear of my immobility slowly sunk in.
Taking a long, rattling breath, I closed my eyelids tightly, not daring to let in even the slightest sliver of light, and began to pull my legs, one inch at a time, towards a squatting position. After a few minutes, I reached for my right leg, searching the ground until my fingers connected with my boots. With trepidation, I sluggishly secured my right foot underneath my body, followed by the left, and attempted to stand up.
Immediately, a wave of dull pain rolled across my vision, and as my knees buckled, I stretched my hands out to avoid catching my nose on the metal pipe just inches from my face. Frustrated, I let out the breath I had not known was still awaiting release and gingerly laid back down upon the cold, unforgiving ground.
Suddenly, from my foggy periphery, I glimpsed a halo of light and heard the faintest whisper of rusted hinges, a like the echo of old voices, aged and stored away inside the doorframe until someone decided to set them free. Weakly, I lifted my head and was unsettled by the faint outline of a female, no more than five feet tall, picking her way across the floor towards me. She approached, and a jolt of adrenaline coursed through my body as I glimpsed red curls and one piercing blue eye. The girl held a dim light aloft, and my expression of terror and disbelief must have been outlined in the harsh glow, for she smiled sadly at me, in a way I recognized all too well. My doppelganger bent down slowly, reaching out tentatively as if to lay a hand on my-her, our shoulder, but drew it back at the sight of my fear-stricken face.
“Verity,” she murmured, my name sounding alien as it tripped off her tongue.
“What, how, w-w-hy are you- here?” I could barely choke the sentence out. With that same sad, omniscient smile, she replied, softly,
“April sent me.”