Here are the first two chapters of Kas. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment when you're done!
The Waymeet of Worlds
It is a convergence of time and space. It is a meeting of dimensions, alternate realities, fantasy and reality combined into one. Anything and everything you have ever dreamed or hoped for. Everything you have ever feared or despised.
It is here that you learn who you are. It is here that you find your destiny. Here, all worlds meet. There are but a few ways to escape its terrible tragedies, or to win over all possible doubt and failure. The power is inside you, to conquer your demons or fall by them. This is where you become who you were born to be.
I ROLLED OVER, aiming to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. The insistent sound jarred my brain awake. But instead of finding the button, I felt myself falling, falling in slow motion. Part of me wanted to scream, but a far stronger part of my mind wouldn’t let me. I was too stubborn for that, but it didn’t take long before I felt myself hit the ground. It was a shorter span of time than my half-conscious mind thought possible. And with the thump of wood against my backside, my eyes opened.
The light was muted, trapped from completely entering the room I was in. I groaned, wondering if I’d somehow managed to fall out of bed. Again. It was something that seemed to happen more frequently, preceded by the dream of falling. But I was not in my bed and I definitely was not at my college apartment. This was home. I had been sleeping on the couch in the family room. And the oven timer was going off in the kitchen, a room separated from me by a half height wall.
I crawled back onto the sofa and peered over the wall into the next room. Mom was busy stirring up muffin mix she’d made from scratch. Blueberry muffins. Mom was always like that. She insisted that stuff from a box would eventually kill you. I didn’t mind the boxed stuff. I hadn’t died yet and doubted that I would for a good long time. Foods and Nutrition class had settled that debate for me.
I pulled the wrinkled sheet around me and trudged through the kitchen on my way to the family bathroom, which was near the back of the house. Mom didn’t seem to notice, even though my sheet swept the little particles of last night’s dinner along with me. Dead spaghetti noodles and peas. Mom just ignored the mess. The younger kids never cleaned up after themselves anyway.
There were six of us kids all told. I was the second girl, the third child in the family. There were two boys and one girl under me. The youngest was Russell. He was a two-year-old nightmare waiting to happen. If there was anything he could get into, he did. Without any hesitations. His favorite past time was taking apart Dad’s gadgets and Mom’s computer. Yet another reason not to live at home during the college years. My computer was safe from him.
I flounced into the bathroom and bolted the door behind me. My older brother, David, would not be waltzing in on me this morning. He had a habit of forgetting that he wasn’t the only person in the place. His own apartment was a single, occupant him.
My older sister, Sara, was the opposite of David. Mostly. She was the favored child, the privileged child. She was always the one who got the car when she had an important date with Mr. So and So in secondary school. No questions asked. Mom and Dad would just hand her the keys, tell her to have a good time, not worrying about it. She got home when she wanted. They didn’t do that with me. I figure it just goes to show that things aren’t always fair. Story of my life.
I hadn’t had a single accident during my entire driving career. My sister, on the other hand, had rammed the car into the back of the garage, rear-ended an older couple’s car, and crashed into a streetlight. She'd also been pulled over for speeding and running a red light. More times than I can count. I was just glad I wasn’t in her shoes, not that things hadn’t improved for her. They had. Why couldn’t I have been in her shoes?
I looked in the large mirror that hung over the sink and yawned, displaying my far from perfect teeth. Mom kept threatening to tie me up and take me to the dentist if I didn’t go soon. On my own. She said I probably needed braces. As if. I didn’t like medical doctors. What made her think I’d like dentists? As far as I was concerned, they were all out there just to make money off of other people’s suffering. That’s why I developed a high tolerance for pain.
I splashed cold water on my face and hoped that would make my pale skin wake up. I take after Mom in that right. We are both pale faced in the morning. Not a pretty sight. I pity the man I marry. He’ll have a fun surprise on our first morning together. The thought amuses me. My only hope is that I won’t get a guy who likes to do nothing but sit in front of the television and down bottles of who knows what. No, that wasn’t the type for me.
I wanted an old-fashioned kind of guy, the kind who opened car doors for you, brought you flowers and chocolate kisses once a week. To be honest, I just wanted a guy who appreciated me for me. My sister had dated too many guys who wanted a “Mommy” or a personal slave. I didn’t want a guy like that at all, but, for some odd reason, I seemed to attract the same kind of guys. I wished they’d all jump in a lake but where would we put it? Hmmm, the Great Lakes sounds like the perfect place. I've never been to the Great Lakes.
I leaned over the countertop, toothbrush in hand, and stared at my reflection. Mom would say I should put on makeup. Why must we bother with such silly stuff at all? Makeup, in my opinion, is just a waste of time and energy. I looked fine without it. But then I guess I can’t hide the fact that I have looks to show off for too much longer.
My eyelids started to droop. I wasn’t ready to face the world yet but I tried to keep my eyes open anyway. It was only eight in the morning for crying out loud! Mom would complain that I looked like a raccoon.
Something nagged at the back of my thoughts. If I didn’t know any better I’d almost say it was some echo from my dreams. There was always someone else there, someone I couldn’t see, calling out to me. Sometimes this person was snarling. Sometimes he was calling out as if he wanted to save me. No matter how hard I tried, I could never see him. But these dreams had been stranger than usual. It wouldn’t have surprised me if what I felt now was just a lingering thread from them, tormenting me. They all involved some element of fantasy. Or maybe I was just losing it.
Don’t go to the mountains today.
I blinked in surprise and shook my head. What? The Voice seemed to fill my ears. It felt so close, so present in my mind; as if I turned around I would see the speaker.
Do not go to the mountains today.
I double-checked behind the shower curtain to make sure I was alone. The tub was empty and the small bathroom window was closed. Where had that Voice come from?
Don’t go to the mountains today.
It sounded like a whisper in my ear, familiar somehow. After a moment, I realized that I recognized it. I had heard it several times before, warning me about things. I’d always listened to it before, but why would it tell me not to go to the mountains today? Then it hit me, like the jarring of machinery coming to life after long inactivity. Or maybe it was stopping. Today was Grandma’s birthday. We always celebrated it by going to the family cabin. In the mountains. Which were just west of my hometown of Brintley.
Oh great. This warning could be trouble. And I'd been looking forward to this too. I mean, how many days do we get to spend with our grandparents anyway? They aren’t going to be around for long, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. I couldn’t let a voice make me miss out on seeing my family could I? Or could I?
Someone started to pound on the door. I could tell by the way the handle was being wrenched that it had to be David. He had no respect for perfectly good doorknobs. He could wait. I had more important things to take care of.
I opened my makeup case, a small one at that, and pulled out some eye shadow. Mom would be so happy. I dabbed on the powder, double dosing my eyebrows with the darkest color, just to make sure she noticed. I finally left the bathroom, after I’d let my brother pound on the door for several more minutes. He slugged me in the arm on my way out.
“Hey!” I complained as I trailed back into the family room, rubbing at my bruised person. I’d get him back later. If I remembered, though my mind was too busy to give it too much thought. The Voice nagged at me, asking me to promise it I wouldn’t go to the mountains today. I felt a sense of urgency in the request that almost frightened me. I tried to push it back in my mind, and, at the same time tried to put on some clean clothes. It didn’t make things easy but I was determined. Might as well look decent at my own funeral, I’d decided. I didn’t know if I would do the killing, or if it would be Mom. Didn’t matter either way. Someone would die before the day was out, I was sure.
I reentered the kitchen and was almost mowed over by Russell, who was sporting a sagging diaper. I hadn’t even heard him get up. The next child in line, Allisa, was trying to catch him. She had a comb in her hand, for decided use on her prey. She looked like she needed the comb far more than he did. Her hair was a rat’s nest of yellow. Talk about total bed head.
My other younger brother entered next. His hair wasn't quite as bad as Allisa’s. Not that that was saying much. But then his hair was shorter. He still needed a haircut. He flopped down onto a chair and yawned, showing off teeth that had far more damage than a fourteen-year-old deserved. Cavities galore. Mom should get after him about the dentist. Gotta love Dan. I joined him in the next seat over.
Dad had just started a package of bacon to sizzling in a pan when Sara decided to grace us with her presence. She came up the stairs, her robe trailing out behind her like she was some regal queen, above all her subjects in all things. She would be the lucky one to get the only finished room in the basement, a cubicle to be honest, but still some privacy. But then she was also married. Her husband would probably make his appearance soon. Leave it to Sara to be the first to get married. I had to smile. Grimly. I was surprised no one seemed to notice. But then, that’s my family for you.
It wasn’t a bad match by any means. The two complemented each other. Ron was a psychiatrist. She was in marketing. She advertised his office and he kept her sane, supposedly. I’m not sure how it all worked out but at least they got along. Personally, I didn’t see the thrill of psychology. I flunked every class I took.
Ron definitely didn’t get points for his looks, either. I couldn’t call him handsome; no matter how hard I tried. For Sara’s sake. Oh, he didn’t look ugly, but he wasn’t a drop dead gorgeous guy either. He had sandy colored hair, hazel eyes, and stood about six feet tall, and as skinny as a rail. He looked good when he stood by Sara. She looked a lot like him.
I think that I'm the only member of our family who doesn't have light colored hair; something I think went back to my great-grandmother. Every picture I could find of her suggested black hair. But then, they were black and white photos, which wasn't all that helpful. My hair was dark brown with red highlights. Mom called it auburn.
“Time to eat,” Mom announced as she set a plate piled high with muffins on the table. We never starved at home. Ever.
Mom took her customary seat near the head of the table, Dad sitting opposite her. They exchanged a wink and a knowing smile. They were probably playing footsy under the table. I wished I had someone to play footsy with. The idea of Ron and Sara doing that, though, turned that thought off in a flash. In fact, I wanted to gag.
My other siblings played musical chairs until most of them were satisfied. Since I was unwilling to move, I got squeezed in-between Dan and Sara’s husband, Ron. They both smelled of boy. Dad said grace and everyone started to dig in like there was no tomorrow, passing butter and bacon. I just waited for the feeding frenzy to subside before attempting to snag some food for myself.
The usual breakfast chatter ensued, which I tried to ignore. Our cat, Sammy, wove around my legs, begging for some food. I dropped him a few bits of bacon and he purred in appreciation. Man, I missed that cat. I’d come home if only to see the cat. My siblings claimed him as their own but he technically belonged to me. My apartment didn’t allow pets.
“There are a few things we need to cover,” Dad began. It might as well have been the droning of a fly for all the attention he was getting. “I don’t want Russell to be allowed to just run at will while we’re up there,” Dad said. Or was he reprimanding? I couldn’t tell. He was always more serious and quiet than Mom. “It took almost an hour to find him last time because someone wasn’t watching him.” I turned my head just in case he was looking at me. “Someone has to keep an eye on him if he goes outside the cabin. That’s your job, Kas.”
Arg! Why was it always me? Why couldn’t Dan or even Sara do it? She could use the practice for when she had her own kids, whenever that would be. I just got too caught up in my daydreams and fantasy worlds to keep my attention focused on the pest. He had more energy than I did and it sure kept me in constant exercise to watch him. It made me tired, something that wasn’t good for my writing. After all, a tired mind can’t write, right? I slumped in my chair, arms folded.
Kas, keep your promise.
Oh joy, the Voice again. I hadn’t actually promised it anything, except that I’d try. If Mom said I was going then I was going, Voice or no Voice. I wanted to see the leaves before they fell anyway. Why did it have to make things so hard? I pushed the scrambled eggs around my plate, gathering courage.
“Mom?” I took a deep breath and she looked up, her expression a quizzical one. Her eyes locked onto mine and I found myself feeling lightheaded. Maybe it was because I somehow forgot how to breathe. “I don’t want to go.” I let out all the air in my lungs.
It was like someone had hit a pause button. Total silence. She nodded once or twice as I sunk down into my chair. Now I’d done it. She glanced towards Dad, her forehead creasing. “Why? Don’t you want to see Grandma and Grandpa?”
Guilt trip! Why! I felt like screaming in a melodramatic manner but withstood the temptation. “I do want to see them, but I can’t go today. I have plans.” I hated it when she used that tone.
“Sweetie, Grandma expects us all to be there. You wouldn’t deny her what could possibly be the last time she’ll see you, do you? She could die any day, you know. Besides, you asked for the day off. You told me yesterday on the phone.”
Oh great, she’d remembered. And she had to pull the “grandma might die any day now” card out of her deck. It wasn’t fair! I was half-glad but also half-backed into a corner. “I know I don’t work but I don’t feel that I should go. There’s just something not right about it.”
“You’re not sick are you?”
“Then what’s wrong?”
I sunk even lower in my chair. There was no way she would make me bring this out into the open was there? Not now! I groaned to myself but the expression on her face didn’t allow ignoring her. My voice was just a whisper, my throat dry as I spoke, hoping that Ron would suddenly go deaf. “My little Voice warned me.” I glanced at Ron. His eyebrows pricked up. Great. He knew.
“Well, I don’t see any reason for that to keep you from celebrating with your family.” Mom picked up her abandoned muffin and spread real butter on it; an act that meant the conversation was over.
I bowed my head, resting my forehead on the edge of the table. Man! This was not going where I wanted it to, but then I wasn’t sure where I wanted it to go anyway. I might as well throw caution to the wind now. “But it was the Voice, Mom. It’s always been right before.” What I was trying to say was “tell me I have to go, please.” That way I would have kept my promise to the Voice, at least about trying, and it would be final. I really did want to go. I didn’t dare glance at Ron.
Mom looked at me with pity in her brown eyes. “Honey, no voice is going to get in the way of spending time with our family. I want you to come anyway.” And this time her tone brooked no arguments. Dominant mothers, gotta love ‘em. Most of the time.
I wanted to cheer. I wanted to dance, stick out my tongue, act insanely nasty, like a two-year-old. Like Russell. But what if there was a good reason not to go? If that was true then I’d made a mistake and could only cross my fingers that nothing would happen. Either way, things were not good. My days were numbered now. I could tell. Ron was leaning towards Sara, whispering with excitement.
“I know, I know,” I muttered to the Voice. My stomach flip-flopped with acid and I excused myself from the table, a headache forming behind my eyes. I stalked into the family room and flopped down on the couch. There was nothing I could do about this whole situation. I was doomed no matter which direction I turned. And I’d thought being in secondary school was hard! So glad I wasn’t anymore.
I had given my word to go now, more or less, and I couldn’t back down. And now Ron knew that it was possible that I was an unstable person because of all this. I could hear him whispering to Sara with less restraint. Oh what fun he’d have trying to analyze me. I’d be his lab rat forever after this. I wished I could just drop through the floor as if I’d never existed.
David invaded my privacy some time later, though I wasn’t sure exactly how long it had been. Probably long enough for him to finish his own food. He once told me that the most depressing sight in the world was an empty plate. My own stomach held a few pieces of bacon and some fragments of egg but nothing else. He sat down on the couch, almost on my feet. “Hey.” I could feel the couch tip towards his end as he sat down.
“Hey.” I didn’t feel like talking.
I shook my head, not to say no, but just because I didn’t know what to say. I breathed out with an exaggerated sigh and pursed my lips. “Why does Mom have to be… such a Mom? I hoped she’d not make me bring up the whole Voice thing, just take my words for face value and pronounce that I had to go. That’s all she had to say.” I didn’t add that I’d managed to keep the whole thing a secret from Ron all this time, only a year, but still. Why had Mom made me break that most strenuous of oaths I’d taken to never tell him?
David laughed. “Maybe because she is a Mom?” I had to laugh a bit with him. Only a bit. I wasn’t sure why I was laughing, but it seemed appropriate. I wasn’t paying strict attention, but at least he was trying to cheer me up. Maybe I wouldn’t get him back for hitting me after all. Maybe. I couldn’t laugh for long. I never had been able to. There usually wasn’t anything to laugh about.
“Now Ron will try all kinds of psycho stuff on me.” I snuggled up into the cushions, feeling sorry for myself. It was funny how my brother could change in what felt like a blink of an eye. It always amazed me. I only wished I could drop my anger like he seemed to be able to do. It sure would help. My temper had always gotten me into trouble.
“Sorry about keeping you out of the bathroom,” I said after a while. “I just woke up on the wrong side of the couch I guess.”
David cuffed me on the ear. “Don’t worry about it. I could have used Mom and Dad’s bathroom, but why give them more worries? I think having a twenty-eight-year-old son who isn’t married yet, or even dating for that matter, is enough, don’t you? Besides, what would Ron say?” He winked.
THE JOURNEY UP into the mountains was rather uneventful, unfortunately. I sat in the back seat of the family van with Dan and David, burying my nose in a book. I didn’t get too far in though. My stomach had started to churn and I swear it got worse the farther up we went. I wanted to be sick.
The dirt road that led to the cabin was muddy. It was a good thing the van had four-wheel-drive. It had rained only yesterday and I didn’t like the way the clouds seemed to skulk around the higher peaks. I felt my stomach drop into my shoes. I knew its contents would burst out and ooze all over the place as soon as I set foot out of the car. I doubted anyone would notice, even if that did happen.
We arrived, the last family to make it to the cabin. As such, we ended up blocking everyone else's cars into the driveway, including Ron and Sara’s. They’d come up a bit ahead of us in their own vehicle. Our stop splashed mud up on the white frame. I almost felt cheerful about that. They couldn’t leave until we did.
I was the last one out of the car, trudging in inch deep muck. I picked my way to the cabin steps and tried to not slip on the more sodden areas. I could see a section or two where someone had fallen victim to the treacherous slime. Their skid marks lay like a silent warning to the unwary.
I navigated the wet steps without mishap and entered the drafty cabin. Grandpa had started a fire going in the old heater and my aunts were busy peeling vegetables. We’d be having cast-iron cooked potatoes tonight if they had anything to do with it. Slow cooked to perfection. They’d even brought a whole turkey to go with it, marinaded in lemon-lime soda the night before. I guess it was supposed to make it taste better or something. Dad went over to the counter and helped the uncles shape meat patties. Hamburgers were on the lunch menu, grilled.
Finished with the heater, Grandpa was trying to get his portable grill to light and I volunteered to help, but he declined. I guess he still remembered the incident last year. I’d accidentally set his favorite chair on fire while trying to start the real fire with a lighter. It wasn’t my fault he’d left that stupid thing so close to the fire pit.
David disappeared with the older cousins and Sara and Ron joined those at work in the kitchen. Russell had found a toy wheelbarrow and was content to just push it around the front room. He mowed down anyone who happened to cross his path. Allisa headed straight for the dolls and I situated myself on an old recliner with an even older comic book.
After a while, one of my uncles came over and tried to make small talk. I guess they kicked him out of the kitchen for snitching in the cheese. I tried to pay attention but couldn’t. My stomach was twisting into knots of anticipation. Not that happy anticipation but that anxious anticipation when you know your doom is at hand. Someone once told me that if I didn’t stop thinking things like that I’d die at a young age. I don’t know if it was true, but it might not matter after today anyway.
My uncle started to talk about the weather and how it might affect his plumbing business. Plumbing, great. Now there was a real topic of interest. But I felt my mind roaming again. I tried to direct my attention back at him as he related his last exploit with the plunger. It was something about how he’d turned the water off to a whole apartment to fix the pipes. The only thing that made it interesting was that there was some guy who came out in a towel, asking when he’d have the water back on. I guess the guy had been in the shower at the time.
My attempts to pay attention were unsuccessful. After several more failed minutes of inattention on my part, I excused myself and headed outside. He didn’t seem to notice. Let Dan watch the younger ones. He was only playing pick-up sticks with those near his age. He could handle it.
Mom saw me as I tried to make my escape. “Where are you going,” she asked.
“For a walk. The fresh air might help get rid of my headache,” I explained, hoping she would accept that excuse.
“There’s some medicine in the emergency kit if you need it,” she responded. And then she went right back to shaping meat patties as if nothing had interrupted her activities. It was weird, unlike her somehow. But I only nodded and went outside.
Soon, I was walking down one of my favorite paths, trying not to think about it. My day was weird enough. The path was lined with late wild flowers in pinks, whites, and yellows. I hoped that looking at them would help me forget about that warning and Mom’s weird behavior.
You should not have come.
“Oh go buzz off. Jump in a lake.” I stormed down the trail, lengthening my pace, hoping that my pounding heart would drown it out. Too bad I wasn’t any good at sports or I’d have run. I needed to let my emotions out but didn’t feel that I could with the Voice listening in. I couldn’t run away from it anyway, even if I’d wanted to. After all, how do you runaway from something inside your head?
After having walked some ways, I came across the Sitting Rock. It was my private little place to sit and think. The rock was more of a stone; the majority of it was brown and gray in color. It was half-submerged into the soil but was still pretty good sized on top. You could set up a little two-person picnic on it with room to spare. The best part was that it had large grooves that made great places to sit.
I sat down and let the tears come, or, rather, I tried to let them come. I hadn’t cried in years. A book I once read had a character that refused to cry because it was a waste of resources. I had been stupid at the time and agreed with her. I wished now that I hadn’t. I’d trained myself to not cry so well that I couldn’t anymore and I wanted to cry. No. I needed to cry.
I squeezed my fists into my eyes, shutting out the world, turning my vision red and dark blue. This was all so confusing and frustrating. Why didn’t someone want me up here today? Had I tipped the hands of fate and chosen my path into forever? Why wouldn’t that stupid Voice tell me something useful?
I felt a cold splotch of water touch my arm. I unscrewed my fists from my eyes and looked up. The clouds had moved, were still moving, closing in and growing darker. I stood up and a sudden wave of intense dizziness filled me. It had to be vertigo or some other instability caused by having my eyes pressed so tightly shut. Either way, I turned and grasped at the rock for dear life, so that I wouldn't fall over. It felt like my body was trying to tear itself apart from the inside out.
Thunder cracked overhead and I closed my eyes again, keeping them shut with all my might, willing my body to stay in one piece. I felt like I was on one of those old merry-go-rounds they used to have at the parks. Of course, that was before they decided they were too dangerous and took them out. I was spinning, spinning out of control. And then everything suddenly lurched.
I told you, silly girl. I told you.
I felt the ground falling out from under me, first the rock, then the soil. I didn’t know if anything else was falling. I was too afraid to open my eyes. Everything felt like it was crumbling under me. Everything. I fell for who knows how long, definitely much longer than I had this morning. Much longer than I had in my recent dreams. I began to wonder if I’d fall into forever. And then… Thud!
My head jarred and I had to open my eyes. I was lying on the ground, only two feet from the rock. I could see it out of the corner of my eye. I pushed myself up and looked around. Everything looked just the same. The rock was still imbedded in the soil. The pines were still arching their branches over my little spot. The aspen trees still held their changing leaves out for inspection. The clouds were still drawing closer together. And it was raining.
I rolled my head to see if I’d done any damage to my neck but only felt some slight stiffness. And other than having had the wind knocked from me, I felt fine. I shivered, a cold breeze running against my back. Maybe I’d caught something and was getting sick. I should go back.
Turning the appropriate direction, I started out but felt the dizziness filling me again. It was so bad that I had to stop and close my eyes or be sick. When I opened them again, I was facing the other side of the path. I turned around one more time and the same thing happened. I wanted to scream. I felt like I was in some freaky house of mirrors.
I wanted to kick out at something. Instead, I scuffed my shoes against the mud. “All right, you stupid force of nature, or whatever you are! I get the hint!” I started to walk down the trail that led further away, almost jogging. I realized I was getting further from the cabin, brash in my decision to follow some unseen force’s idea of what I should be doing. But all the dizziness, queasiness, and other discomforts immediately left me. All but the anxiety. That doubled. I thought my heart would burst with how hard it was pounding.
The scenery looked about the same as it always did, spruce, pine, and a few thorny bushes here and there. There were even some aspen trees that thinned out until they disappeared. But even the familiarity didn’t comfort me because something in the back of my mind told me it was wrong, all wrong.
I walked for about ten minutes in this direction, noticing that the trees were changing. They were growing taller, thicker, more shaggy. Their bark was harsher to look at, more gray than it should be. And the shadows around the roots were deeper than they should be. Maybe it was only a trick of the rain or the light. Maybe it was just me being paranoid. I realized I should have run into a neighbor’s cabin by now but hadn’t. And that thought was too weird for me to deal with right now.
The farther I walked the more the trees changed and the harder my heart pounded. This anxiety would be the death of me. Was that what the Voice had tried to warn me about? That I’d somehow let my paranoia kill me up here?
After a while, the rain let up but the sky remained dark, and was growing darker. Tendrils of deep-blue mist hung near the trees’ roots. It looked like something out of a horror movie. The trees were also more gnarled now; their leaves and needles had fallen to the ground. They were dead trees. I see dead trees. Great. I was losing it.
I started to look up at the empty branches as I walked, until I stumbled over something and had to look down. The path had faded in front of me. I looked back and found the same result. No path. When had it disappeared? Just barely? Or had it been gone for a while and I just hadn’t noticed until now? I was on the verge of loosing it. Maybe I already had.
The ground was covered in rough stones and broken twigs. Puddles of water lay near the trees, spreading little fingers out towards me, as if curious, or menacing.
It was not the same voice that now called my name. Not the voice I’d heard in the bathroom, the voice I was mad at right now. This voice held more echoes to it. It jumped around, from trunk to trunk, not inside my ear. Or was it jumping around in my head?
It was a breathe of air, slight enough to just leave a feeling of something that almost tingled. It was like the lightest strands of cobweb had brushed against my skin. I tried to shrug it off but it wouldn’t leave me alone. It snuggled up next to my brain and stayed there, like a porcupine turned to kitten habits, except that it didn’t hurt. I could feel it curling up inside my skull, purring but jabbing at the same time, jabbing towards the right side of my head. I turned that way and the jabbing centered to my forehead.
I took a step and the purring increased. The jarring porcupine stopped poking me after several more steps in that direction. The purring continued so I kept walking. This was beyond weird now, and the fact that I’d stopped questioning everything didn’t help calm my racing heart.
A twig snapped behind me. I whirled around but didn’t see anything but my breath came too fast. I put a hand to my chest to try and force my lungs to relax. Once my breathing was more or less under control, I continued on the path this new voice had chosen for me. I didn’t know what else to do. My Voice was being strangely silent. Had I offended it? A small part of me worried that I had, but another part was glad it was gone. And that confused me too.
A wolf called out and I hugged my wet shirt closer around me, goose bumps running around my skin. I heard another twig snap, and the faint breath of someone behind me. My mind raced. “Don’t turn around. Just don’t turn around. Run,” it seemed to say but I hesitated. My limbs were frozen. “Run, you idiot. Run!”
The almost yelled advice woke me from my paralysis and I ran. I realized, only after I’d started into some disjointed stride of panic, that I’d been the one to yell. And not just in my mind, but out loud. I didn’t even look back to see what I was running from. Then the panic set in. The tree branches tried to grab at my clothing but couldn’t without grabbing me too. I wouldn’t let them grab me. But they didn’t seem to bother with that. I felt like they had changed their goal and were now trying to trip me. That thought alone made me run all the harder.
I heard my breath now, coming in short gasps. I didn’t know how much more my body could take. I imagined myself being chased by a pack of hungry wolves, which gave me added speed, adrenaline pumping through my veins.
The trees seemed to reach out farther and my ears fancied the sounds of voices calling. It was some strange language that sounded unnatural to my ears. And there, in the background, was the sound of wolves howling. A root lifted of its own accord and tripped me, the rocks dancing to stand in my way. I was still falling, even after I'd hit the ground.