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SANDBOXED: Paradise or Prison
: by Yvonne DeBandi

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Yvonne DeBandi - Sandboxed: Prison or Paradise, NovelI woke up with my face in the sand, naked, stranded on a deserted island with no memories of my former life. At first, I felt lucky. No matter what had happened…I landed in paradise. Perhaps it was the neverending nightmares, or maybe the ‘JD291183’ tattoo on my wrist that kept me from accepting my new reality, kept me from forgetting that I had forgotten.

It wasn’t until a crate washed up on the beach, stenciled with my tattoo that I realized something was very wrong. For inside I found a mirror, and as I gazed upon my face for the very first time, my reflection blinked…when I didn’t.

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SANDBOXED: Paradise or Prison
A Novel by Yvonne DeBandi
Copyright © 2018 Yvonne DeBandi
CHAPTER ONE

Amazing colors painted the sky above my tiny corner of the universe. By description ‘breathtaking’ was inadequate, but the view did indeed take my breath away.  As I sat there, I was reminded again to be grateful. I was lucky. It didn’t matter that I had no memory, or that I was stranded.   Regardless of where I came from or what I had done before…in this moment I could escape the questions, the wondering. I could forget I had forgotten.

Out of all the beautiful spots on this deserted island, this one called to me. It was also here that my life began, opening my eyes, face down in the sand, the sound of water splashing in the distance; and here, I returned with every sunset to nourish my body while everything around me nourished my soul. I sat with my feet curled under me, winding down while the fish kept me company, jumping their synchronized routine.

“Bravo! Again! Again!”

While applauding the fish, I laughed at my words. I’m not sure when I began conversing with myself, but it was now habit. I talked the trees, the rocks, the fish…to everything and to nothing.

How long have I been here now?

There was no answer to that question. Except for small differences in the weather, every day was like the last. Disoriented upon arrival, it never occurred to me to keep track; and now, seemed pointless to begin.

So, I counted accomplishments, not sunsets. Although I had no personal memories, I made discoveries of hidden knowledge. As I looked at an object, a plant, a random piece of wood, I knew how to use them to my advantage. I built many structures around the island;  balancing limbs in just the right order, covering them with leaves and vine. Somehow I could see the sound and sturdy design. Yet, I didn’t know my name.

These builds were rarely used as personal shelter, but the occasional rainstorm made me thankful.  Mostly I used them to hoard fruit or house items I found.  I don’t know why I collected them, but a rock of a particular size and shape, a piece of metal that washed up on the beach, or a rare group of seashells had me thinking, I might need that.

Perhaps all of this was unnecessary, since further up the beach were small caves that provided safety, and food grew here in abundance. I was very lucky.

Only one thing interrupted my blissful acceptance: the nightmares.  Maybe that is why I worked so hard during the day preparing for a hardship that may never arrive.   An unadmitted quest for exhaustion. I longed for a single night of restful sleep.

Here, in this tropical paradise, the nightmares were my only enemy. They were persistent, disturbing, and never-ending.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I counted the water drops falling from the tiny cave entrance,  surpassing the numbers that usually led me to slumber.  I preferred to sleep outside , but tonight it smelled like rain. Truth is, I was restless.  Every noise seemed magnified and the conversations in my head were louder than normal.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I closed my eyes and continued counting, ignoring the voice that had grown louder over the last many days.  I was alone, utterly and completely alone.  Is this all there would ever be?  Me, trudging across the island searching for treasures and exhaustion?

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The storm had arrived and as moisture grew on the cave walls, a tiny stream of droplets collected over my head.  As they spilled upon my face it was refreshing; but, the moment of cool sensation faded. It was replaced by panic when I realized that I couldn’t move away.  I felt nothing, nothing but the moisture falling across my forehead and the fear growing within me.

The light from the moon disappeared like the howling wind had carried it away. Engulfed by absolute darkness, I felt the cave walls closing in, surrounding me like a coffin. I pleaded with my limbs to push at the solid surfaces, to make an escape, but they wouldn’t respond.  A mind-numbing pain then seared through every cell of my lifeless body, eliciting a blood-curdling scream as knives I couldn’t see stabbed me from the inside out.

Suddenly, a blinding white light appeared. Dazed and confused I saw silhouetted movement, figures circling around me. I frantically searched for something familiar, something to focus upon as spiralled into the blackness of nothing.  I fought to keep the light in sight, certain when the light faded, my life would also be extinguished.

It was only when exhaustion conquered my determination that a single figure stepped in front of the light, calming my heartbeat, providing a momentary feeling of safety. He towered over me, but gazed with the kindest eyes I could ever imagine.  While the seconds that passed were literally the amount required to draw breath only once, he saved me. With one look he provided hope. I would find the strength to survive.

He reached out with comforting intent; but suddenly, and without warning, another being interrupted his actions. Pushed back into the blinding light beyond my vision, my would-be savior was gone. In his place, I found black eyes filled with hatred that glared.

The frightening stare ended with a slap of fury, a brute force that pushed me off the rock ledge that imprisoned me. Falling onto the cavern floor, I hit my head on a sharp rock that should have knocked me out; but instead, startled me awake.

And so, with blood dripping down my face, the nightmare ended and another day began.

 

CHAPTER THREE

After tending my wound, I relaxed on the beach.  My feet floated in the water while my head and shoulders remained rooted in the sand.  It was time to take a day off.

What does it matter? Not like I have anyone to answer to.

Despite my nonchalant, sarcastic thoughts, I recognized the nightmares were getting worse. It was also becoming difficult to ignore my growing boredom.

I am missing something.

That thought spun my mind like a merry-go-round. Not knowing how I had spent my time before arriving here, what was there to miss?

The throbbing inside my head was relentless.  As I reached to make sure the bleeding had stopped, my eyes rested on the inner side of my left wrist.  It was the only clue I had, and yet it meant nothing to me.  Tattooed onto my skin was ‘JD291183.’

What does that mean?

Many a day I asked that question.  I had come up with several wild and crazy notions, but only one fantasy persisted:  It was a prison tattoo. I had done something so awful I blocked out all personal memories and given myself amnesia. Maybe I was still a prisoner, and this island was not a lost paradise, but something more. Either way, it felt like a prison.

I watched the sun move across the sky as my thoughts spun out of control.  It was the slowest day I remembered and yet it was almost done.  The fish would soon begin their dance and I would face another night of terror; dreams that repeatedly raped my soul and now threatened me with physical harm.

“Ouch! What the …?”

Something was brushing against my body, keeping in time with the slow, mesmerizing wash of the tide. Many small things had washed up on the island beaches, but never something like this fully intact wooden crate.

In truth, I didn’t care what was inside the floating box.  It was different, a distraction from the current normal. I pulled the crate onto the sand and quickly gathered my hand-crafted tools.  Fifteen minutes later I was still struggling with the unrelenting slats.

Dammit!

The harder it was to open, the more I wanted to see inside. As a last resort, I rolled it over. Perhaps I would have more success with the soaked bottom.  To my great surprise, stenciled on the wet wood and standing out like a bright shining beacon was ‘JD291183,’ the exact sequence burned into my wrist. Intrigue grew into adrenaline as I pounded my sharp stone into a crack and pried off the first board.

Did these items belong to me?

Drenched in sweat, I threw the broken board to the ground and attacked the crate like a starving person fighting a coconut. I finally pulled out the first treasure as the sun began to fall in the sky.

I had no memories of opening gifts; but, the idea of unwrapping this item, concealed in cloth and held together by a bow, filled me with glee I must have experienced as a child. Relishing the moment, I sat with my first present and slowly pulled the faded string. I peeked under the layers of fabric to find a dirty hand mirror with a crack running jaggedly across the center.

Surprised, I let it sit in my lap for many moments. This was certainly unnerving. Except for my blurred, watery reflection, this would be the first time seeing my face.

Will seeing my reflection bring back any memories?  And if it does, do I really want to know?

Finding the courage and gumption as the fish started to dance in the bay, I wrapped my fingers around the handle and gazed upon myself. The eyes that stared back belonged to a stranger.  No matter which angle I chose, there was not an ounce of recognition.  Just some woman with blue eyes and a heart-shaped face framed by long dark hair, curly tendrils blowing freely in the breeze. Tucking the hair behind small ears exposed one was slightly higher than the other. Full lips and rosy cheeks accented dark skin, evidence of many days in the sun. All topped off by a huge knot and colorful bruise on the tall forehead.

What do you think?  Late twenties? Early thirties?

I stared at myself for a long time and found no answers, but as I moved to put the mirror down and continue my rummage, something odd happened. For just an instant, my mirror image distorted as years and color faded away; and, even more startling… the reflection blinked when I didn’t.

 

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: by Yvonne DeBandi”

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