Cursed(The Thrice Cursed Mage Book 1)

By: J.A. Cipriano

An Urban Fantasy Novel

The Thrice Cursed Mage Book #1

Chapter 1

The sound of punishing hydraulics snapped me from sleep. My eyes shot open, but I couldn’t see much of anything through the closed lids of the dumpster. The stink of rotten eggs and festering meat filled my nostrils, turning my stomach as I struggled to find my bearings but succeeded only in burying myself further beneath gobs of slimy debris. I reached out, trying to claw my way through the plastic trash bags piled on top of me as the whole world shuddered up and to the left, covering me in dirty diapers, rotten tuna fish, and moldy cheese.

My right hand lashed out with a mind of its own, trying to grip on the inside of the steel dumpster as it began to tilt, dousing the back of my neck in warm, sticky fluid that smelled of rancid beer. Bile rose up in my throat as my fingers scrapped against the paint-chipped metal, desperate for purchase that would not come.

The sound of a garbage truck’s crushing hydraulics filled my ears, reverberating deep down in my gut as a snake of fear twisted inside. I tried to scream, to cry out for them to stop as gravity, the bitch that she is, began pulling me toward my inevitable demise.

The lids beneath me fell open then, smacking against the metal side with a sound like a gunshot. The sudden glare of sunlight was nearly blinding, but it was the flash of a trash-filled pit that threw me into a panic. I scrambled to grab onto something, anything that could arrest my fall before I tumbled into the gaping maw of the trash truck.

As my feet cleared the edge of the dumpster and my fingers slid off the metal, a wave of rancid, curdled milk crashed against my face, filling my nostrils with fetid goo and cutting off my air supply. Without thinking, I opened my mouth to suck in a breath before my lungs exploded. Milk spilled down my throat, and while I tried to curse in rage and horror, the only sound that came out was a hoarse, bubbling gag that would never be heard over the noise.

Even if I could have managed to cry out, there was no way for someone to hear me scream over the roar of the punishing hydraulics destined to compact me into pulp. Not that it mattered. If I survived the fall into the metal jaws below, I was going to be pretty damned dead about a second later when the automated press punched my teeth through my brain.

If the driver saw me now, it would probably be too late for him to stop his truck from killing me. As the dumpster upended itself, I fell backward, scrabbling against the metal like a pathetic lizard as the lower part of my body cleared the edge. My heart hammered in my chest like a goddamned bass drum as I tumbled ass over elbows. My right hand shot up, reaching for one last desperate handhold. A stream of crimson light, so bright it was blinding even over the sunlight streaming into the alley from above, burst from the tattoos emblazoned on my arm.

With that last desperate lunge, my fingertips brushed at the edge of the heavy plastic dumpster lid, and I jerked to a stop that damned near dislocated my shoulder. A howl of pain ripped from my throat as I hung there, trash cascading down around me from the dumpster like rain from a hideous, disgusting storm cloud.

As I hung there, watching the metal jaws of the compactor crush the trash into the back of the truck, part of me marveled the driver hadn’t seen me. The other part of me was thanking any and all gods for letting me live, even though I wasn’t sure how that was possible. I ought to be dead.

I craned my head upward, shielding my eyes from the still falling trash as best I could. My right arm was as black as pitch. Scarlet symbols I didn’t recognize glowed with feverish light across its entire length, but what was even weirder was how my fingers clung to the heavy plastic lid like I was Spiderman. I mean, hey, I’m not complaining because I was pretty sure I’d been about to die in a hail of old beer bottles and half-eaten sandwiches, but still, it was a little weird, especially because the rest of my skin was so pale I could have blended in with a milk display.

Before I could begin to figure out what the hell was going on, the dumpster began to tilt back the other direction. Momentum and gravity took turns slamming me into the metal belly of the dumpster before the lids fell back into place, leaving me shrouded in darkness. My hand released its grip on the lid, and I fell against the steel bottom hard enough to make my teeth rattle in my skull. Agony shot through my back as a sickening crack of my spine against metal filled my ears. I lay there, struggling to breathe until well after the dumpster was back on the ground.

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