Prologue - Chasey
There was a time when Daynne loved summer nights.
For the first seventeen years of her life, she had lived in the same house, in the same town, in the same state. It had driven her crazy, the sameness of it all, but if there was one good thing about it all, it was the summer nights.
(She could barely breathe, the heat of the night pressing down on her. Her feet were slamming down against the pavement, the noise echoing off the surrounding buildings. It seemed so loud in this heavy, deadened air, like it was screaming – over here! Over here! Come and get me, I'm right here!)
Now, summer in Australia could be an absolute bitch, especially if you lived in rural areas. Daynne's hometown was one of these rural areas, a larger town, just north of Adelaide. The rural-ness of the town was, in hindsight, one of the only things that kept Daynne sane all of those years. She'd go and lose herself in the bush for a few hours after school most days, from since she was seven (after figuring out drop bears were, in fact, a myth) to when she packed up her wheezing, dying ute and ditched the town and her life as she knew it when she was seventeen.
(Her backpack was bouncing on her back, the straps loose and frayed. She had picked the thing up from one of those stupid, expensive designer shop, as a half-assed joke. She would never been able to afford it back then, but now, in the middle of a world crisis, she had one. Who would've thought it, huh?)
(The damned thing was falling apart. She had only had for a couple of weeks.)
But, in the years she lived there, in that town, she was one of the few who rejoiced when December rolled around at the end of the year. Of course, summer usually started unofficially well before then, with days reaching into the high thirty degrees weeks beforehand. And then there those years when summer didn't hit until mid-January, like Australia suddenly remembered what season it was, cursed, stopped the rain and started throwing forty degree days around.
(She felt eyes on her, but when she turned, skidding to a stop, she saw nothing. Nothing but shadows.)
(She had learnt to not trust the shadows.)
(She turned and bolted.)
Most of her friends would stay inside all they could, especially once school holidays rolled around. But Daynne would be outside, constructing a hammock in the shade of some gum trees, or be spending the day at the local pool, or wandering the streets, relishing the feeling of a dry breeze on her bare shoulders and legs.
Summer days she loved, but it was the summer nights she lived for.
(Just another night, she told herself, a sob building in her throat. She swallowed it angrily, pushing on. The moon provided no light; she tripped over a curb and launched herself behind a dumpster. Just another night. You can live through another night, you've got this!)
Summer nights was when she'd lay in that hammock she spent all day putting up, with a sheet thrown over legs to ward of mozzies (Mozzies, damned mozzies. If only sheets warded off these new pests as efficiently), and stare up at the stars, unable to grasp how big the universe was.
Summer nights was when she'd sit on her window sill at 2am, trimming the ratty split ends from her hair and watch the sun-bleached strands spin down two storeys in the moonlight – because it'd save her from having to clean it up in the bathroom.
(Her hair – oily, greasy, dirty – was coming loose, her braid having been half torn out by cold, dead hands. It was getting in her face, brushing in her eyes, and she grabbed a handful and wrenched it into a knot at the back of her neck, fingers trembling.)
Summer nights had been when she was at her best. Whether she'd be outside in a tent with her friends, asleep on top of her covers with the windows thrown open to chase away the heat, or hell, even wandering down the town's streets to the 24 Hour shop, she lapped it up.
(From down the street, something crashed into a shop window. Daynne could hear glass raining down. And then – moans. Like, like someone had their throat torn out, but was trying to talk around it, trying to call out – oh God.)
Even when she was abroad, in dingy hotel rooms or sleeping in the backseat of a rental car, she relished being in the heat. Anywhere hot, anywhere sunny, she would spend days there. Nights.
Funnily enough, she was on the roof of a cheap inn in Ireland (one of their warmer days – the warmest in years, in fact) watching the moon when everything went to hell.