Deep Into That Darkness Peering (Part 1)
Comics Retcon Universe 016
Deep Into That Darkness Peering
Ryan Roth is a college freshman with a good life. He has a great girlfriend, a good best friend and seems to be starting his college career off on the right start. But something dark and dangerous comes into his life and things go from bad to worse.
Author's Note: Things seem to be light and fluffy for now but I assure you that like the title, that won't last for long.I'm trying something new with one, its going to get a little dark so be forewarned. I use a nasty, hateful word a few times in this chapter---one I would never use myself but hateful people use from time to time so be warned. This will probably be the only time I'd like to thank djkauf for the wonderful editing job...and I'm glad you didn't vanish for good :). I have to also thank DC Comics for their wonderful characters once again.
It was dark and I had no idea where I was. I waved my hand in front of my face but I couldn’t see a thing. I was floating in midair like a feather, daintily drifting along. It felt wonderful at first, floating like this. I often dreamed of flying, coasting gently through the clouds without a care in the world. But I wasn’t in the clouds right now. I was in a pitch pure darkness that didn’t seem to have any light in sight. It was beautiful at first but then it seemed to suffocate me. The darkness moved closer, pressing against me, choking me. When I opened my mouth to gasp it seemed to go inside me. I tried to scream but nothing came out. I flailed my arms about but what was once weightless now seemed to be like syrup. It tugged and pulled on me, making me feel like I was drowning. I tried my hardest to fight it but it kept pulling and my body was useless against its powers.
Then it stopped.
The suffocating black let me go and I fell. But it wasn’t the floating, feather light feeling before. I fell like a boulder, plummeting faster and faster toward the ground. I reached out but there was nothing to hold onto. I kept falling, faster and faster. I screamed but I was going too fast to hear myself. My fantasies of flying were quickly replaced by nightmares of smashing into the ground. I kicked and pushed, trying to make myself airborne. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I looked down in a panic and saw the ground. It was rushing up on me very rapidly. At first, it was distant, so very far away. But it got closer and closer. It started to take shape. First as the color gray then it got more vibrant as I got closer. Soon it was green and it was only inches away. I closed my eyes and put out my hands to brace myself, waiting for the impact.
But it never came.
The next thing I knew I was lying on my back, the crisp rustle of something around me as I groaned and moved. I opened my eyes and saw the black again. But it wasn’t like before. This black was dotted with tiny specks of white. I blinked a few times and realized they were stars. There were thousands of them overhead. I stared at them for a few moments, remembering my stargazing as a child. My grandfather used to have this telescope on his back porch and we used to look at the stars together. My grandparents lived near the northern part of the Tonto National Forest where a vast expanse of pine trees grew. I used to love walking those trails with grandpa every summer when we visited. Grandpa’s back porch though was the best place for stargazing.
I sat up and rubbed the back of my neck. I looked around and shivered. September nights were cold while the days were hot in Arizona. I took a closer look around and noticed I was surrounded by towering trees. I rubbed my eyes; I was in “Grandpa’s forest”. I used one of the trees to help me up then brushed the pine needles off my pajamas. I took a step and winced, looking down it was clear that however I got here I wasn’t wearing shoes. The wince came from the sting in my foot because I stepped on a pinecone. I cursed and tried to get my bearings. I didn’t know this particular part of the forest because it was so hard to tell in the dark but as long as I found the right star I’d be able to follow it back to civilization. I looked up at the sky, trying to find the brightest star. It was an old tribal trick he learned from his grandfather who learned it from his grandfather before him. At least that’s what he told me anyway. He always used to say that “even if you get lost finding your way home is in your blood.” Maybe in his but not mine.
But that didn’t stop me from trying. I found grandpa’s bright star. Then I started to follow it. I found the walking to be a bitch on my feet but I tried to step in the right places. Walking bare foot out here wasn’t the brightest idea but it was the only thing I could do. As I walked, I tried to think of how I’d gotten here. I remembered going to sleep in my dorm back at Arizona State. My roommate Bart and I were out late the night before, which didn’t make our girlfriends really happy. But we were celebrating. Bart just made the track team and he wanted to get wasted. Who was I to argue with him? We’d only been at school for a few days but Bart and I had been friends since high school. Anyway we got back to the dorm late and I crashed as soon as I hit the bunk. Remembering that I looked down at my pajamas one more time. There was something off about them, something wrong. I couldn’t remember ever wearing pajamas, let alone black silk ones.
My head hurt thinking about it.
I continued to walk. After what felt like forever, I thought I heard someone. I stopped for a second, resting against a tree to get my second wind. If there was a person out here maybe they could tell me where I was and help me get back to civilization. Then I could figure out how the hell I got way out here. That part was still a bit fuzzy. The first thing I could remember after passing out was falling. It made me wonder what the hell was going on. But the more I thought about it the more my head hurt so I just decided to stop thinking altogether. I could worry about specifics later. Right now, I needed to find whoever it was and get the hell out of here.
That’s when I heard it. It sounded like someone running. I pushed away from the tree and looked around. I couldn’t see anyone but I could hear them. They were getting closer. I squinted in the dark and noticed a shape coming toward me. I panicked for a second because all I saw was white. At first, I thought it was a ghost. My heart started to beat real fast and my mind told me to run but my feet didn’t want to move. I was frozen in fear as the phantom got closer. But as soon as it did, I realized it wasn’t a ghost at all. It was a girl---not much older than me. She was wearing a long flowing white dress and had long black hair. She was running like her life depended on it. When she got closer, I realized two things: the dress was see-through and she was wearing nothing underneath and she was running faster than I’d ever seen anyone run before.
She was almost on top of me before I got a look at her face. It was as pale as a sheet. There were tears streaming down her cheeks and she was scared to death. I held up my hands. She looked right at me but didn’t seem to stop. She slowed when she reached me though. She looked at me and I smiled, lowering my arms. Then she seemed to stumble back as if she were afraid of me. I raised my hands again, waving the in the air.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, showing her I meant her no harm. “I’m a friend, I’m lost too.”
“Get the fuck away from me,” she said.
At first, I thought she was talking about me but then I realized she was looking past me. I turned my head and saw a figure standing there. I jumped because they were so close. Whoever they were, they were dressed in a long brown robe looking for the world like a Jedi. They walked right past me and moved to her. I went to reach for them but my foot snagged on the tree root and I missed. I cursed as I went to my knees. The robed person moved toward the girl. She backed up but it was clumsy and she tripped, falling awkwardly. She winced and cried. I could tell just by her posture it was a bad fall. I untangled myself from the root and got to my feet. I rushed forward ready to tackle the robed dude and help the girl. But I was completely outnumbered. More robed figures appeared out of the forest, seeming to appear from the shadows. There were at least six of them, circling around her. Her head darted as she took them all in, it was clear that these were the people she was running from.
“Now my dear” said the voice of the closest robed figure, the one that came from behind me. It was a woman’s voice. “You shouldn’t have run away from us, he’s not going to like that.”
“Screw you bitch” snapped the girl, now rubbing her ankle.
I made another step toward the robed woman but my pajama top got snagged in a bush. I tugged and twisted but it only made things worse. I cursed but no one seemed to notice me.
“Mother” said one of the other figures, I couldn’t tell which one. “He told us to do it here.”
The robed woman sighed and nodded. “Very well.”
Two robed figures moved forward and approached the girl. She screamed at the top of her lungs. I screamed too, telling them to get the fuck away from her. I wasn’t a very big guy but I knew some fighting. There were six of them but if I could take at least two it would give the two of us a fighting chance to get away. I struggled with the bush, trying to pull myself free but it was no use. Instead, I watched as the two of them got on top of her and held her down. She was screaming and kicking. Another pair came forward; one was carrying a coil of rope, the other what looked like wooden tent pegs and a hammer. I could only watch in stunned amazement as they hammered the pegs in the ground then tied her to them spread eagle.
“Do you have the Goblet?” asked the woman.
Another figure stepped forward, pulling it from inside their robe. It was made of gold and looked like one of the props from the Theater.
The woman took a step forward and met the person with the Goblet. The girl seemed to know what was going on because she was kicking and squirming, trying desperately to break free from the ropes. I continued to tug at the bush, wondering why I couldn’t break free to help her. As hard as I tugged though the harder, it seemed to hold on. I cursed and spit but it was no use. The robed woman knelt in front of the girl. She was mumbling something under her breath, something I was too far away to hear. But I saw what happened next. From her sleeve, she pulled a wicked looking dagger. She held it high about her head, allowing the moonlight to dance along its blade. I looked from the blade to the girl and back again. I realized now what was going on. I tugged and pulled at the bush until finally I tore away half my pajama top. I fell to the ground but got to my feet quickly. I ran toward the scene, screaming at the top of my lungs.
They didn’t hear me, they didn’t even notice me.
But the girl did. It seemed like the whole scene froze and she looked at me, directly at me as if seeing me for the very first time. I saw the sorrow and the pain in her eyes. Then she spoke, cold, chilling words: “Beware the Rapture for when it comes it will bring nothing but death and destruction with it.”
Then the scene unfroze and she screamed.
I screamed too.
I woke screaming, flailing my arms about like an idiot. I nearly fell out of bed, which would have been disastrous seeing as I was on the top bunk. I did almost hit my head on the ceiling, which was just as bad. I blinked and looked around, trying to get my bearings. It took me a second to realize I wasn’t in the woods but In my dorm room. It took me another second to realize that all of that---the crap in the woods, the crazy robed people, the girl, the silk pajamas---was all a dream. I sighed in relief especially when I looked down and saw I was wearing the t-shirt and jeans I wore yesterday. I rubbed the back of my neck then pulled my sweat drenched shirt over my head. I dropped it to the floor as I turned and dropped to it myself.
As soon as I landed, a hand lashed out from the bottom bunk, smacking me in the back of the leg. I jumped and turned. My roommate Bart was lying on his stomach grumbling. He turned to me and looked like hell. Clearly the two of us weren’t cut out for all the partying we did last night.
“Dude” he grumbled. “I already have a massive hangover but with your screaming things aren’t any better.”
“Sorry I had a fucked up dream.”
He sat up and rubbed his eyes then winced because he sat up too quickly. Bart Allen and I had been best friends since grade school. He was loudmouth prankster who lived next door and I was his dweeby neighbor. It used to confuse the hell out of people that we were even friends. He was the track star in school and I was the drama geek. But our friendship transcended all of that. Even though he got decent grades, Bart wasn’t a fan of school. He hated the fact that people always put labels on things. It pissed him off whenever someone would comment about the two of us being friends. “What’s the Jock doing with the Fag?” Yeah I was a Fag because I was in Drama.
Bart used to kick anyone’s ass whoever called me a fag when he was around. I suppose it didn’t help that I wasn’t the manliest man around. Whereas Bart looked like a runner---lean and muscular, I looked like a geek. I wasn’t short by any means but I wasn’t tall either. I was thin, wore my jet-black hair to my shoulders and always seemed to dress like I’d just rolled out of bed. Bart was more put together than I was but not by much. He was just as much as a slob.
When he got a scholarship to Arizona State, it didn’t take long for me to follow. After all, they have a fairly decent theater program. Besides it didn’t take much for me to get in. With my grades---I’m kinda a brain---and my mad theater skills, they snatched me right up. It was a no brainer that the two of us were going to be roommates. We only talked about it every day for the last three years of high school. Bart wanted out of our little town and I wasn’t that far behind. Besides his uncle, Bart was the only one in his family to go to college. I was the same. My mother and I lived with my grandparents, I never knew my father. He left mom before I was born or at least that’s how she told it. There was a lot of bitterness about it so I didn’t really press the matter much. Dad was a non-entity as far as I was concerned and I liked it that way.
Besides Grandpa was all the Dad I needed.
I sat on the edge of Bart’s bed as he threw off the covers. Unlike me, he managed to get his pants off last night. He was clad in boxers and only boxers. He ran his fingers through his mop of brown hair and sighed. Then he started looking around for his pants. Thankfully, it was Saturday or else the two of us would be majorly fucked. We both had morning classes and hangovers do not work well on Monday mornings.
“So, bad dream?” he asked as he found his pants.
“Fucked up is more like it” I said and quickly gave him the Cliff Notes as he pulled his pants on.
When I was finished, he laughed. “Goth chicks and Jedis, huh?”
I laughed. “More like pale skinned Emo chick.”
“Don’t tell Katie, she might get jealous.”
Katie was my girlfriend. Like Bart and I, she came from the same town as us---a small blip on the radar called Azarath. Yeah that’s really its name. It was a tiny thing, barely a thousand people. It was so small that it hardly appeared on maps. It didn’t help that it wedged between two bigger towns on either side. We used to joke that it was its own dimension. Anyway, Katie lived a few houses down from my grandparents. Unlike me, she retained most of her Native American heritage, including skin color. I loved that she looked perpetually tan all the time. She was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. It always amazed me that she chose me over all the other dicks who tried to get her. We started dating when we were high school freshmen and we haven’t stopped since. She was an Anthropology major; she wanted to learn all about our people’s culture. Though I didn’t look it, I was actually part Apache. Well technically, it was Yavapai-Apache but you never tell that by looking at me. A lot of people thought I was Mom’s adopted son.
Whereas she looked like an Apache, me I looked like the pale faced English boy who got switched at birth. But Mom was adamant that I was in fact her son–OK, so I had some doubts in Middle School but she showed me my birth certificate and everything. I guess I just took after my father a lot more than I realized.
“Katie and I have a good relationship” I said to answer his quip. “If she gets jealous a dream girl who by the way is killed in my dream, then she’s more twisted than either of us are letting on.”
Which is saying a lot. Katie Black Crow was an All American type of girl. She was Class President, a cheerleader and every girl’s best friend all through high school. She was another one of those conundrums that no one could quite figure out. What was a hot girl like her doing with a guy like me? They still called me fag even though they knew the two of us were dating. I think a lot of guys were convinced that Katie was protecting me and that she was my “fake” girlfriend. So that didn’t stop them from asking her out constantly. Which was never good for my self-esteem, especially when they did it right in front of me.
If there was anything twisted about her, she was hiding it very well from me.
That didn’t stop us from playing a few jokes about it though. It made the two of us laugh, as we both slowly got ready for the day. When we were kids Katie was so straight laced that if either Bart or I put one toe out of line she used to berate us until we apologized over and over again. Even though we were all the same age Katie was like a Babysitter, older sister and Mom all rolled up into one---most of the time when she was like ten years old. It came from her rigid background. Her father was a military man and instilled his military discipline into his three daughters as if they were his sons---unfortunately for him he never had any sons.
Fortunately for me Katie didn’t have any brothers because they would have surely kicked my ass if they knew what I did with their little sister last Friday night.
While Bart still recovered from his hangover, I ran to the shower.
I got it all to myself. Half the guys in our dorm were at the party last night and were all probably in the same state that Bart was in. I’m not much of a drinker---though I did knock back one or two. Bart and the others got smashed. I had to practically carry him back to the dorm. When we got in last night, I was so exhausted that I dropped asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I couldn’t help but think about the drunken idiots while I stood under the hot water. I closed my eyes and sighed. No, it’s not that I like to think about guys in the shower but they were acting like such asses. Half of them had painted themselves maroon and were bouncing about like baboons. That’s a laugh worthy analogy if there ever was one.
I got out of the shower, wrapping my towel around my waist as I did so. I walked up to the mirror and wiped away the condensation. I sighed at what I saw. I had no muscle mass to speak off and my voice only worked when I was on stage. Three times in the past, I’d been asked to play girl parts when there weren’t enough girls in the cast. So you can imagine how my voice sounded. I would have been appalled but I’m an actor and a damn good one. Yep, arrogance goes along with it. I’ve been told all my life that I had a real talent for it. My acting career started when I was in the second grade. I played a Pilgrim in our Thanksgiving play. Katie was in it too, you can never guess what she played. Her parents, like my grandparents, didn’t live on the Reservation. Unfortunately for her, that meant Katie was one of the very few Native Americans in our school. It didn’t seem to bother her but when we were younger some kids picked on her a bit about it. Kids are little bastards like that.
It was me that actually talked her into the play. I told her that the part was made for her. In actuality, it wasn’t even a speaking role. She was Indian Woman #2; she gave Bart’s Pilgrim #5 a basket of corn. It was the only real thing either of them did during the play. Me, I was Captain Miles Standish, the star of the play. I got two standing ovations because of it. From there I was bitten by the acting bug. I went on to star in every single one of our school plays, right up through my senior year of high school. I could have gotten a scholarship to any school in the country but I chose to stay close to home and go to Arizona State. They didn’t offer a scholarship but Grandpa paid my way.
It was only the first week of classes but already there was buzz about the new theater season. The first big play of the year was direct from the Bard himself. I’ve always been a huge fan of Shakespeare. We did Romeo and Juliet in tenth grade. It was another one of those unfortunate ones where there weren’t enough girls. So the director decided we’d go old school Shakespeare when we could. She cast me in the lead as Juliet. I stole the show. I mean how could I not. I was after all the best one out there. In Eleventh grade, I was fortunate enough to slip into Iago’s shoes. He’s by far one of my all time favorites. I loved playing him more than any other role I’d ever taken on. You could almost say playing him was my crowning glory.
Well this year I aimed to top that.
They’re doing Macbeth. There are a lot of good parts in there but I already know which one I want. I want the lead. I want Macbeth himself. I already knew all the lines. For the past few days, Katie and I have been doing them back and forth---she as various characters, me always as Macbeth. I knew most of the lines in the play actually, having what one might call a photographic memory. That’s what helps me learn my lines so well. It also makes me such a fantastic student. Regardless of all that, the role of Macbeth was definitely mine, even if I was a lowly freshman.
I left the bathroom after staring in the mirror for God knows how long. When I got back to the room, Bart was fully dressed for the day. In fact, he was wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top. He looked me up and down. From the looks of things, he was on his way to work out, probably run some laps.
“I’m going running,” he said. Figures. “Then me and a few guys are going to toss around a football a bit, you want to come?”
He already knew my answer of course.
“When have you ever known me to want to play football?”
He laughed at that. He didn’t bother to even stick around to say anything more. He grabbed his gym bag and left.
Back in high school Gym class was the bane of my existence. Every guy there went out of their way to make my life a living hell. We had a small class so there was no separation in Gym based on grades. All of the grades took the same Gym class, separated throughout the day in two different periods. The Gym group you were a part of as a freshman were the same guys you were with throughout your school career. Luckily, I had Bart there to watch my back. Unfortunately, I had some of the biggest jocks in the school there too. Suffice to say they didn’t make things easy. They had fun picking on the little “gay” kid. OK, I say little but I’m actually five seven it’s just that most of them were over six foot so I was little to them. Bart was the only thing that kept them from pounding the snot out of me every day.
The phone rang, bringing me out of my bad memories. I walked over to the bed where it was currently lying---Bart never knew how to put it back on the receiver. I picked it up and clicked the button. “Roth” I said with a sigh, sitting on Bart’s bunk.
“Good afternoon to you too” said Katie’s annoyed voice.
I groaning, looking at my watch seeing it was after one. “Sorry, Kate, rough night.”
I laughed. “I had a drink or two.”
“Wow, Ryan Roth, experiencing all that college has to offer,” she said with a great deal of amusement in her voice.
“Laugh it up, Miss Black Crow”
She sighed. We talked for a few minutes and it was decided the two of us would meet in a few minutes for lunch. After saying goodbye, I went and got dressed.
Katie, Bart and I all went to the Tempe Campus college of Arizona State. While most of my classes were in the Herberger Institute, Katie and Bart were spread throughout. When I got down the stairs, I sat on a concrete bench and waited for her to pick me up. The oddly shaped form of Best Hall loomed behind me. I say oddly shaped because it had these funky little stone “protrusions” above each window. I’m not sure what to call them actually. I’m sure there was some technical architecture term for them but I wasn’t into that kinda stuff. I once asked Bart but all he did was shrug. He might have been there for track but his parents also talked him into Engineering, just in case something bad happened. Now normally an Engineering student wouldn’t be housed in Best but Bart’s Dad was friends with the Dean and pulled some strings. I’m not sure what he said but like I said, the two of us have been wanting to be roommates for a long time.
I pulled out my battered copy of Macbeth while I waited. I didn’t go anywhere without it these last few days. It was an old Folger’s edition, one of those covered ones that they didn’t sell anymore. This particular copy was failing apart, held together by a combination of duct tape and rubber bands. Inside almost every page was scrawled with handwritten notes, most of them not mine. I found it for a buck in the school store. I think they were happy to get rid of it. Most of the notes were written by plebeians who had no idea what they were talking about but there were some good ones too. I tried to ignore all of them and just concentrate on the text. I’d only been in school for about a week now but I was bound to make a good impression on my Drama peers.
I was engrossed in the book that I didn’t hear the car pull up until the horn beeped. I looked up and smiled. Katie drove a little Focus; it was a gift from her parents when she graduated high school. It was a nice little car, got good mileage and all that. At least that’s what her Dad told her. Me, I didn’t really know much about cars. As long as it had four wheels and could seat more than two people, it was fine by me. I stuffed the book in my back pocket and walked to the car, opening the passenger door. When I got inside, I pecked Katie on the cheek.
“Such a gentleman” she teased as I buckled my seatbelt and we drove off.
If you saw the two of us together, we didn’t really look like boyfriend and girlfriend. For one thing she was much too gorgeous for me---I accepted that a long time ago. Though I didn’t dress like it, I really did come off as the gay friend. We were affectionate enough, holding hands and kissing but we weren’t all over one another. What made matters worse was the fact that Katie was the same height as me and when she wore heels, she was taller. I always felt inferior when she wore them on dates. I looked at her feet as she was driving, she was wearing three inch ones now. She wore them because she liked to tease me more than anything.
“Three inch today huh?” I said and she laughed.
“You know if you would only wear a pair of four inch ones then you wouldn’t complain all that much.”
I frowned at that. Though I didn’t mind dressing up as a girl during plays, I was completely against it any other time. But she seemed bound and determined to get in a dress. It was all in good fun of course but sometimes she scared me. The last time I complained about her heels was the other day. I was in her dorm room while she was getting ready for our date. She was dressed in this tiny little sheath dress and I made a comment about her shoes. She pulled out another pair and tried desperately to talk me into them. She seemed to think that with the right dress, shoes and padding I’d be able to make a passable attempt at a girl. She knew how much of a sore subject it was with me. Because with a dress, wig and makeup I made far more than a passable girl---I was downright gorgeous. When I was playing Juliet, some guy who didn’t know who I really was asked me out after the play, offering me a rose in the process. I was so embarrassed. But not as much as he was when one of my tormentors walked by and asked him if he was gay---pointing out who I really was. The next day my would be suitor and two of his friends jumped me on the way home; I got a fat lip and a black eye out of it.
Katie turned her head slightly and saw my frown now. She leaned over and squeezed my hand. “I was kidding, babe,” she said.
I nodded. “Sometimes I wonder.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked defensively.
“Nothing” I said quickly.
We drove in awkward silence after that. When we got to the café, Katie huffed as she got out of the car. I cursed and ran to catch up with her. I apologized three or four times by the time, we got in. If I didn’t like the teasing about dressing then she definitely didn’t like the teasing about her supposed lesbianism. Suffice to say there was an incident at cheer camp two summers ago. One of the girls from another state got some mixed signals and threw herself at Katie, going as far as kissing her. Katie was pretty shaken up over the whole thing. She only told me because we agreed to be honest with one another. When she got back from camp and told me about it, she cried in my arms for a few hours. So even though she did a little light teasing about my stage cross-dressing, picking on her “lesbian” experience was off limits.
By the time we got to our seat, my comment in the car was all but forgotten. We were laughing and holding hands when we got to our seat. Things were going good until the waitress came over.
“What do you ladies want?”
Ok so I’m baby faced. But in my defense I’m half Native American and Native American men don’t have facial hair. But when she called us ladies both of us frowned. We didn’t bother to correct her but the conversation during lunch was a bit strained to say the least. We finally did get talking about a topic that seemed to interest the both of us and things picked up from there. Though she wasn’t a big drama person herself, Katie loved talking about the plays. She was a big fan of Macbeth partially because it had such a kick ass female character in there. I can honestly admit that if I wasn’t going for Macbeth then I definitely would go for the role of Lady Macbeth---gender be damned. She was in fact very awesome.
‘Hey you know what would be really cool for the audition?” she said as she munched on one of my fries.
I sighed. “I’m not letting you put makeup on me again.”
“It was one time,” she said with a laugh. “And even you have to admit you were pretty cute.”
I frowned. She made me wear makeup for my Romeo and Juliet audition. It was actually to cover the huge zit I had on my cheek but she went a little overboard. Not only did she use foundation but she put in a little blush and eye shadow without me knowing. With my high voice and feminine features---coupled with my shiny black hair---the teacher in charge thought I was a girl. Even the name Ryan could be used for a girl. When he found out, I was a boy he was a bit upset but I did have the role of Romeo for about a day. That is until he came up with a crazy idea and made me Juliet. I think he secretly wanted to see me in that tight dress and bodice---damn perv.
I groaned. “Does this idea of yours involve anything feminine?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, I was thinking of a really cool prop or something. There’s this store around the corner that sells stuff like that.”
After we paid our check and grimacing at the waitress saying “goodbye ladies”, she led me to the store in question. We left her car parked in front of the café because it was right around the corner. It was one of the places that looked like it should stand out but I never really noticed it before. It was rather creepy looking. Whereas most the places around it had sparkling displays in the window and a welcoming atmosphere, this place looked downright frightening. I gulped as Katie took my hand and the two of us stepped inside, the dinging of a little bell above the door announcing our presence. The first thing I noticed was the smell---it was old and musty. The second thing I notice was the lack of moving space. It was cluttered with junk and I do mean junk.
There were a lot of shelves, some on the wall, some in the middle of the stuff. All of the shelves were packed with crap. What wasn’t on the shelves was crammed on the floor, making it really hard to move. It was a lot of cool stuff but there didn’t seem to be anything that might interest me. It was clear that the place was some kind of prop shop though. There were a lot of swords and shields, racks of costumes near the cash register. There was this really cool wooden trunk in one corner that looked like a pirate’s chest. On the wall behind the counter was a mounted Bison’s head---clearly fake---on its head was a cowboy’s hat.
Katie and I held hands as we wove our way through the racks. But when she caught sight of something that interested her, I felt her fingers slip from mine. I was looking at a really cool suit of armor and only noticed she was gone when I turned my head and saw she wasn’t there. I shrugged it off, hearing the click of her heels as she disappeared into the mess. I left the armor and started wandering myself. I found myself in an aisle with some really old books, stuff that a prop master might stuff shelves with on stage for a realistic look. As I was browsing the books, my butt bumped the shelf behind me. There was a rattle and a clang. I snapped around and cursed. Some weird metal urn thingy fell off the shelf, the top popping open.
I looked around, hoping I didn’t break anything. I quickly scooped it off the floor. As I was setting it back on the shelf, there was something behind where the urn came from. I could tell the urn hadn’t been moved in a while because there was a clear circle in all the dust. I held onto the urn and reached into the space it left, going for whatever was behind it. My hand felt something thin and metal. I wrapped my fingers around it and pulled it out. It was a funky looking crucifix on a chain. I say funky because it was unlike any crucifix I’d ever seen before. I wasn’t very religious but I knew enough about crucifixes to know this one was wrong. For one there was no Jesus on it and for another it had two crosspieces instead of one. I was about to set it back on the shelf and put the urn back but something about it interested me. It was definitely different and it would definitely be noticed.
I smiled big. This was exactly what I needed to set myself apart from the others. I put the urn back on the shelf and took my funky find to the counter. There was an older gentleman at the register, Katie was talking to him. She was holding up a Renaissance style dress and haggling a price with him. She had him down to a hundred bucks when I walked up. I dangled the crucifix from the chain. “How much for this?”
He squinted his eyes and adjusted the glassed on the end of his nose. “Where ever did you find that?”
I told him. He frowned. Katie smiled big. “That is awesome, I love it.”
The man didn’t seem so enthusiastic about it. He rubbed his chin. “I’m not sure where that came from but I guess I’d be willing to part with it for about two hundred bucks.”
Katie didn’t like that one bit and started to argue with him. I listened with a smile. If there was one thing, I liked about Katie it was how to negotiate. She managed to talk him into giving us both the crucifix and the dress for under a hundred. The man wasn’t too happy but seeing as he made a sale, I think it evened things out. I thought about slipping the thing around my neck but I decided to carry it out in the bag. It was chance that I found it and I didn’t want to jinx things by putting it on now. So I’d wear it tomorrow for my audition and hope for the best.
“Do you have a monologue for your audition yet?” asked Katie as I followed her to English class.
“I’m thinking about something from Poe, maybe The Raven.”
“I really like that one.”
She really liked it because of the bird. She had a thing for black birds. Well partially because of her last name but it was more than that. Last year---right before graduation---Katie shocked everyone by getting a raven tattoo on her back, just above her panty line. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world but her parents weren’t thrilled about it. It shocked everyone at school, too. Katie was the sweet, clean cut cheerleader and here she was getting a wicked tattoo. It was wicked looking too. It was this nasty looking thing---fierce beak, wings spread wide. I thought it was the sexiest thing in the world but her father wasn’t a fan of it. She got grounded for a few weeks for it.
“I think you might be a little biased,” I said, she playfully punched me in the arm.
We had a good laugh as we went to English Lit. 101. I hated that I had to take general classes but it was a requirement. Freshmen and Sophomores took General classes first. I still had Theater classes but only two---Theater 101 and Acting 101---but the rest of my schedule was filled with crap. I thought I was done with all this crap stuff in high school but apparently, you were never done with any of it. Besides English, I had Bio, Math and some course called College Life. I did manage to squeeze in a Computer Lab but that class only met once a week. Katie’s schedule was pretty much the same but she at least got some cool classes too. One in particular that she seemed to love; a class on the Occult. Her professor was visiting from another college for the semester---he taught like this all over the country. I’m not sure how we got so lucky but it was kinda cool.
When we walked into the lecture hall, Bart was already there. He was sitting next to a busty blonde girl, trying to woo her with his charm. But she wasn’t falling for his tricks. Bart was a bit of a ladies’ man back home but that was a small town in the middle of nowhere. Here was the big city and apparently big city girls weren’t fans of the Great Bart Allen Charm. I smiled as Katie and I slipped into the row behind him. We caught the tail end of Bart’s humiliation.
“It’s just a cup of coffee,” he was saying, leaning awfully close to her.
“I don’t drink coffee,” she said, clearly annoyed.
I knew this routine of his. His charm relied fully on annoying the girls to death. It had a fifty-fifty chance of succeeding. Some girls really liked it---I’ve heard them call him “sweet” even---while others were disgusted by it. Miss Busty Blonde was one of the latter apparently.
“It doesn’t have to be coffee; I’ll get you any drink you want.”
She smiled and turned to him, picking up her Styrofoam cup.
“Really, how about another Coke.”
He looked at the cup. “Don’t you have one there?”
“Not anymore” she said as she took off the plastic lid and dumped her drink on his head.
Everyone around him erupted into laughter, including Katie and me. Bart frowned for a second and shrugged as the blonde grabbed her stuff and moved to the other side of the room. Bart shook himself like a dog, spraying coke all over the place. Everyone gasped and groaned, including me. I smacked him in the back of the head. He turned around and smiled at us.
“Her loss” he said as if it was the most common thing in the world.
Class started shortly after that and it was one of the longest, most boring hour and ten minutes of my life. The rest of the classes of the day were like that. Katie and I only had English together which was a shame but we both had breaks at one so we could get lunch together. Bart and I had no more classes together and didn’t see one another again until he crawled into the dorm at six. Besides classes, he had a couple hours of track practice, too. He was one tired Sun Devil by the end of the day that’s for sure. Most of my classes were just like English---boring as hell. Except the ones I was interested in. Theater 101 was all right but I really loved Acting. The teacher was an old eccentric that loved spouting out Shakespeare and wore flamboyant clothes.
I had Acting at noon. When I made my way into the Institute, I slipped quietly down the halls. I was almost to my classroom when I made a beeline for the bathroom. It wasn’t that I had to go but my stomach had been bothering me all day. I woke up with a nasty pain this morning. I thought maybe it was something I ate the night before and took some Pepto but it was still bothering me. I rushed over to the mirror, dropping my bag on the floor. I turned on the faucet and splashed some water in my face. There were bags under my eyes and I looked a bit paler than usual. I slept well last night but I tossed a bit before finally falling asleep. For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn necklace. It was kinda weird actually.
After leaving the shop yesterday, Katie dragged me off to do more shopping. There were a few more places she wanted to go to. Our first stop was the bookstore---she still needed to grab a book or two. After that, she took me clothes shopping. I didn’t mind going because she didn’t make a big deal out of it---spending all day trying things on. She did have some fun teasing me here and there, asking me if she thought this looked good then holding it up to my chest to see. I was fine until we got to a boutique. While she was looking at skirts, I wandered over to the jewelry counter. There was a section here that had a display of New Age stuff---things like pentagrams and ankhs. I had been looking at a really cool Irish Cross when I got the first pang.
I kept thinking about the necklace. I had left it in the car but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was like the damn thing was calling to me---as creepy as that sounds. When we left the boutique, I ended up opening the bag and pulling it out. Holding it in my hand made me feel better. I felt like Frodo Baggins with that damn ring---I made a promise to myself then and there that it I called it my “precious” I was tossing the fucker out the window.
Even now as I thought about, I got that feeling. My audition wasn’t until two. The necklace was in my bag but I couldn’t help but think about it. I stopped splashing water in my face and looked down at my bag. My backpack was resting against the wall, looking like a slumped bag of potatoes. But at the same time, it looked like the greatest thing in the world because the necklace was in there. I stared at it for the longest time before biting my lip and picking it up. I put it on the sink and opened up the outside pocket where I kept the necklace. I reached inside and pulled it out. It still looked really cool. It was made of silver, just fitting in my hand. I looked it up online last night---or tried too. I couldn’t find a damn thing about it though.
Holding it in my hand, everything just felt right. I stared down at it and smiled. As soon as I did, I felt like a freak. Who the hell smiles at a necklace? I groaned and stuffed it back in my bag. But as soon as I did so I felt a longing for it. I cursed. This was ridiculous---it was a stupid necklace. Guys aren’t supposed to be this attached to jewelry. I reached for the bag, ready to pull it out again but stopped myself. I shook my head. Then looked at my watch---I needed to get to class. I finished washing my hands, grabbed my bag and ran off to class.
I got there in the nick of time. I slipped into the empty seat near the door. I loved this class---Professor Ross was the greatest. But no matter how much I tried to concentrate, I couldn’t. My mind kept drifting back to the necklace. It kinda sucked too because Ross seemed particularly animated today going over something about technique which I’m sure I would have enjoyed. When class ended, Ross stopped me from leaving. He was dressed in purple today, which would have looked ridiculous on anyone else---but on him, it worked real well.
“You looked lost today, Ryan.”
Most teachers didn’t go out of their way to learn their students’ names but Ross did. It helped that he was my academic advisor too. He was really cool because he let me call him by his first name---though I was real weary about doing so.
“Sorry Profes…I mean Brian” He smiled. “Just a bit distracted today.”
“Thinking about the audition?”
I nodded, lying. I hated doing so but how do you tell someone you’re thinking about jewelry---they’d think you were nuts. “I’m worried I won’t get the part.”
He smiled. “You’re a brilliant actor, Ryan but you’re still young. Macbeth is a tough role for anyone. And I won’t lie to you and say you’re a shoo-in because there are a lot of guys in the program who are a lot more ambitious than you. I wish I could say I’ll be rooting for you but I have to be unbiased.”
I nodded then looked at my watch, cursing. “I’m late for lunch. My girlfriend is going to kill me. Thanks for the pep talk sir.”
He smiled. “That’s what I’m here for. Good luck today Ryan.”
“My name is Craig Nelson and I’m reading for Macbeth”
I sat in the audience with the rest of the kids auditioning. I groaned when I saw Nelson. I only knew him from reputation only. He was a Senior and the king of the Theater Department. I’d never actually met the guy but looking at him it was easy to see how he got so many parts. I’m not attracted to guys in the least but Craig was gorgeous. I looked about at some of the girls sitting around me and I could see they thought so too. He looked like Heath Ledger except he had a little more stubble and dark hair. He was tall and he had this presence. I hated him already. When he spoke, his voice filled the room and exuded a great deal of confidence. He sounded like a man, hell he sounded like Macbeth.
That just made me hate him more. I sat with the others and watched him. A lot of people were smiling. I looked over at the three teachers running the audition. Mr. Ross---Brian---was there just to judge. The other two were the director and Casting Director. I didn’t know either of them but I knew their names. The Director was Miss White and the Casting Director Miss Fields. I’m not sure which one was which though. All I saw was a middle-aged blonde woman with glasses and a short red headed woman. Both of them looked important to me. I tried not to think too much about it though. Even though they were the two most important people in the room, I needed to get my nerves under control.
When Craig finished, the room broke into applause. That made me hate him more. He was good, hell he was fantastic. Which meant he was also my biggest competition.
“Excellent Mr. Nelson” said the blonde as Craig strode from the stage.
“Thank you Professor White” he said with a big toothy grin.
If she was White then the red head was Fields. Good to know.
I listened and waited my turn as one by one people were called on stage. We were given numbers at the beginning and we were called up accordingly. I was #23; #22 was on stage right now. She was a small, mousy looking girl. She was reading for Lady Macbeth but I could tell by looking at her at she wouldn’t get the part. When she spoke, she surprised me. She was good---she had great projection but she didn’t look the part. To me Lady Macbeth was a tall elegant woman, sinister and yet beautiful. This girl was definitely not that. People clapped politely when she was done. Then I was called. I slowly made my way onto the stage, smiling as I did so. I caught the eye of Brian, he smiled and nodded.
“What’s your name, young lady?” asked Miss Fields.
I groaned. Figures. “My name is RyanRoth,” I said, emphasizing Ryan. “And I’m reading for Macbeth.”
There were some murmurs. Apparently, everyone else thought I was a girl too.
“I’m terribly sorry young man,” she said with an apologetic smile. “What piece have you prepared for us?”
We had a choice to read directly from the play or bring something of our own. Most of those before me had read from the play but I wanted to be different. So I chose The Raven. I was glad I did, it made me look unique.
“The Raven” I said, knowing I didn’t have to tell them who wrote it.
Brian smiled, the two women nodded.
I took a deep breath and reached into my pocket, pulling out the necklace. I delicately put it around my neck. As soon as I did so, I felt a hundred times better. There was this surge of confidence that went through my whole body. For a second there I thought I felt a slight tingle. This was the first time I’d worn it but it felt like it belonged around my neck. It wasn’t heavy at all; in fact, it was the lightest thing in the world. I smiled big, happy that it was there.
“Is everything all right, Ryan?” asked Brian, looking a bit concerned.
I nodded. “Sorry just catching my breath.”
He smiled and I started. I read as loud as I could with my girly voice. Though it wasn’t much I had good projection. I tried to tune out their faces, that always seemed to help me in the past. As I read, I got to my favorite passage. I’m not sure why I loved this part so much but it really spoke to me. I could see the opening line in my head: Deep into that darkness peering. It made me smile. I closed my eyes as I spoke and it was almost as if I could feel my own smile. I’m not really sure how to describe it. I felt this overwhelming sense of warmth. It was happiness, wonderful happiness. I took a deep breath and felt happiness all around me. I opened my eyes and looked out at the audience. What I saw looked a bit strange. For a moment, it looked like everyone had this pink aura around them. I’m not sure how I knew but it was like their happiness was seeping out of them.
It made me even happier. I looked at all the faces and stopped at Craig’s. There was no pink around him. It was a dull color, almost black. I frowned at that. He wasn’t smiling. He looked annoyed, pissed even. Was I showing him up? Yes, show him up. I shook my head, wondering where that came from. Show him up, make him look bad. I shook my head again. I paused in my speaking. The pink slowly started to diminish. I stuttered a bit over my words and the pink evaporated. I cursed in my head. What the hell was I doing? I looked at the table. Brian was smiling still but I couldn’t read the expressions on the two women’s faces. But looking at Craig I could tell his: he was pinkish now. Stupid ass. I fought back this overwhelming urge to tell him to fuck off. Instead, I narrowed my eyes at him. I’m not sure if he realized I was shooting him daggers but suddenly his smug smile disappeared. He looked away quickly and I smiled.
I managed to recover and finished my poem. There was clapping but not as much as Craig got. That kinda pissed me off. He was good but there’s no way what he did was better than mine.
“Thank you Ryan” said Miss White. “You may return to your seat.”
I smiled and nodded, walking off stage. As I walked back to my seat I passed Craig and he looked at me with that smug look again.
I heard him mumble “Nice try pipsqueak” under his breath but I ignored it. I wasn’t about to jeopardize my chances by telling him off. Instead, I shot him a confident smile as I sat down. He glared at me but didn’t say anything else. I sat there looking smug as other people went up to read. I felt good about my performance, it wasn’t my best but it was better than most of the people up there. When #27 got up there someone tapped on my shoulder from behind. I turned around and saw the mousy girl.
“You’re Ryan right?” she asked, I nodded. “I’m Becky. Nice to meet you.”
She had a nice smile. “The same” I said, being polite.
“Screw Craig, I thought you were fantastic.”
“Thanks” I said, smiling big. It was always good to be appreciated.
Becky slipped around the row and sat next to me. She went on to tell me how nervous she was the whole time she was up there. After that, she started telling me her whole history. I smiled and nodded a lot. She was a nice girl, kinda cute. But she talked a lot. It’s not that I didn’t like her but I couldn’t remember ever meeting someone who talked so much. I tried to contribute as much as possible. After talking about ourselves a bit, we started to comment on the performers. Becky may have looked mousy and sweet but she was downright wicked. She had a great sense of humor and together we quietly roasted the hell out of both our competition. It was kinda fun actually.
When the last person finally walked off stage, the audition ended. I looked at my watch, it was nearly four. I couldn’t believe it took that long. I grabbed the double cross hanging from my neck. I wanted to take it off and put it somewhere safe. It really felt like a good luck charm. But as I started to take it off I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When I tried to pull it over my head, my hand hesitated. I took a deep breath and sighed. Well it was kinda cool looking so I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to wear it for a bit. Becky gave me a strange look but I smiled at her so she knew everything was all right.
“That’s a cool necklace,” she said. “Where did you get it?”
I smiled. “A little shop in town. It was one of those finds that sorta finds you, you know. I went in there looking for something that might give me a bit of an edge. We found this,” I said, lifting the cross a bit and smiling.
“We?” she asked.
I nodded. “My girlfriend Katie and me.”
Becky looked a crestfallen. I felt bad about it but it’s not like I was going to run off with her at this very minute. She was cute and sweet but I just met her. I could see us being good friends though. Yeah, definitely someone I could really hang out with.
The two of us walked out the theater together regardless of the awkwardness. Outside we parted ways. I looked around and saw Katie sitting on a bench. She smiled as I approached. She looked behind me to Becky. I looked and waved. She smiled and walked off. When I turned back to Katie, she was frowning. I never would have taken her for the jealous type but it was clear from her expression she didn’t like the way Becky looked at me. I quickly wrapped Katie in a hug and gave her a big kiss. When she pulled away, she didn’t look as pissed.
“New friend?” she asked, referring to Becky.
I laughed. “Are you jealous?”
“No’ she said, elbowing me the sighed with a laugh. “A little maybe.”
This time I laughed. “Becky has nothing on you, babe, I swear.”
She smiled. “Good answer.”
We hooked arms and slowly made our way out of the building. When we got to her car, she turned to me before starting. “So how did your good luck charm go?” she asked, pointing to the necklace.
“Real good I think.”
“Did you get the lead?”
I laughed. “I won’t know that for another few days. The only real competition I have is from some ass of a senior. He’s good but he’s not right for the role.”
In truth, he was perfect for it but I didn’t want to put myself down. I needed the role. OK so I didn’t need it but I sure as hell wanted it.
Katie still seemed to want to talk about the necklace. “So are you making a fashion statement now?”
I didn’t know what she was talking about until I realized she was referring to the fact that I was still wearing it. I laughed. “I kinda like it actually.”
She smiled evilly. “You know I have this great pair of earrings that would go really well with that.”
I smacked her playfully on the arm. She laughed. She stuck her tongue out at me then she started the car and we drove off.
We went out to dinner after that. Katie thought we should celebrate a bit so we did. I’m not saying we went overboard but we did go somewhere after we ate that didn’t card us at the door. We had a lot of fun. I’m not usually into the nightclub scene but I had an awesome time with her. It didn’t even bother me when a pair of guys thought we were two chicks and wanted to dance with us. I declined the dance but took the drinks they offered. When they left, Katie and I laughed our asses off. I hate to admit that we might have had just a tad bit too much to drink---me more than her. She was driving after all. She was a bit tipsy when she dropped me off in front of my dorm but that didn’t stop her from getting me there.
I surprised myself then. AS soon as the car stopped, I buckled my seat belt, crawled across the console in the middle of our seats and straddled her. I think I might have mentioned I’m not a big guy. So sliding on top of her was nothing. It surprised her though and she had a giggle fit over it. I muffled her laughing when I started kissing her on the neck. I felt like I was on fire as I tore my shirt over my head and two of us went wild. I’m not sure what had come over me but I wanted to ravage her. As I started unbuttoning, my pants she pulled away and laughed.
“You’re exceptionally horny tonight lover,” she said with a tipsy laugh.
“I don’t know what’s come over me but I feel more alive than I have in months.”
She reached up and rubbed my nipples. For some reason that felt so good. I’m not sure why she was doing it. In fact I’m not sure she knew she was doing it either. We laughed then started kissing again. I found myself unclasping her bra underneath her shirt. But I didn’t make any attempt to undress her. I just wanted to cup her naked breasts. I pulled her bra free and tossed it onto my shirt. Neither of us noticed. I massaged her breasts, feeling her nipples going hard under my fingers. Mine went hard too which was something new. Our kissing got real intense after that and I started to nibble on her lip. I got a little rough and tasted blood in my mouth.
That seemed to break whatever spell that seemed to over us. It was like there was a fog and suddenly me biting her lifted it. I pulled back and felt embarrassed, dirty almost.
“I’m sorry,” I said, sliding off her.
She looked embarrassed too. It’s not like we hadn’t had sex before. But never like that. It was like we had no control. The scariest part was how much I liked it. If I hadn’t bit her lip like that, I’m not sure if we could have stopped. I might have screwed her right then and there. I shuddered at the thought. Making love in the bedroom was one thing but neither one of us was crazy enough to do it out in the open like that. I rubbed the back of my neck and turned away. Then I looked around on the floor, looking for my shirt. I picked it up along with the bra then buttoned my pants. Katie didn’t say a thing. I slipped my shirt on, pecked her on the cheek and left the car.
It wasn’t until I was in the elevator going up to my dorm that I realized I was still holding her bra. I looked down at it and groaned. I stuffed it into my pocket, making a mental note to give it back tomorrow. When I stepped out of the elevator and headed to my room, I opened the door to darkness. Well not complete darkness. The TV was still on and Bart was sitting in front of it, watching some bad reality show. He turned around, clicking on a light as he did so. We both winced from the brightness. After he recovered from his temporary blindness, he looked me up and down.
“Some one looks like he had a fun time,” said Bart, referring to my disheveled appearance.
I nodded numbly. “I almost fucked Katie in the car downstairs.”
Bart’s eyes got real big. “Way to go dude”.
He held his hand up in the air, waiting for me to give him a high five. I didn’t.
“You left me hanging” he said and frowned. “So almost fucking her is not a good thing then?”
I sighed. “It wasn’t us. It was like we were wild animals, like passion and sex were taking over. It felt wrong.”
Bart laughed. “Welcome to my life, dude.”
I sighed and didn’t say anything after that. Instead, I sat down and watched his stupid show with him until the end. The news came on afterward. We were about to shut the TV off when the top story came on: YOUNG WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN WOODS. Something about it sent a shiver up my spine. Especially when the story started and the camera showed very familiar scene. What shocked me the most was when they said the girl’s name and showed a picture? I totally freaked at that. It was the girl in the white dress, the one from my dream.
“Holy shit” I said softly, Bart looked at me oddly.
“Know her?” he asked.
I didn’t answer. Instead, I felt sick and rushed into the bathroom. I threw up a couple of times. I kept seeing the girl’s face in my head. What the hell was going on? How did I dream something and then it comes true? I looked at my quivering hands and threw up again.
The auditions results came back two days later. I wasn’t very surprised. That arrogant prick Craig got Macbeth, I ended up as his understudy. I suppose it was better than some nameless soldier. Becky didn’t fare much better, she ended up as one of the Witches. Which I guess is better than nothing. Though she only had a couple of lines. Some girl named Holly got Lady Macbeth, she was another Senior. Her audition was good and she looked the part: tall and pretty with long dark hair, pale complexion. It was like she was born to play the role. None of the freshmen got any big parts---there were only a handful of us that tried out and Becky got the best part. It kinda pissed me off in a way. Whereas the others were at least doing something, nothing save an act of God would make me Macbeth.
Brian talked Professor White into making me a Script supervisor. I was going to turn it down to I overheard the bitter professor bitch about it. At first I thought it was me but it turns out she didn’t like men in general. She sneered at all of us, Craig more than others. Me, I think I confused her. I was a guy but I didn’t look and sound like one. Baby faced and soft voiced, I was like a girl to her. She treated me a little better than the others too. Not much better but a little. Somehow to her Script Supervisor also meant slave and the bitter bitch started running me ragged. The first day I was to meet with her I spent more time running errands than actually working with her.
Two weeks after auditions, I was getting sick and tired of it. Yes, I knew everyone’s part---hell, I knew them beforehand. But if she asked me to get her one more cup of coffee, I was going to accidentally spill some of it on her head. To make matters worse I spent more time with her than anywhere else. My academic and social life was starting to suffer from it. My grades had taken a dip and I barely saw Katie anymore. The only time we had for one another was in class and when she picked me up from rehearsal to take me home. Even though our conversations were dull. I think neither one of us truly recovered after that almost incident in the car. We definitely weren’t as affectionate as we were. I could hold her hand but she wouldn’t let me kiss her anymore. I think she was afraid we’d go wild and crazy again. It didn’t matter the two of us were drunk then.
If that didn’t make things bad, my lack of sleep did. Ever since that night---the night they aired that news story---I’d been getting maybe an hour sleep tops. The murder was all they seemed to talk about. They were already calling it the Vampire Murders. Yeah, Murders as in plural. A week after the first girl, another one was found. She was wearing a white dress too. Her throat and wrists were slit and word was there wasn’t a single drop of blood in her entire body. The police were completely baffled. The second girl was found just like the first, tied spread eagle in the woods. The scariest part about it was that I had a dream about her a day or so before hand. It wasn’t quite like the first but it was similar. In the second dream, there were no robed figures because the girl was already dead. But there was something new: a big nasty black bird. It was sitting on a tree branch above her body. I half expected it to say “ Nevermore”.
Bart thought I was sleep deprived. But I knew I wasn’t. He suggested I should see a counselor, maybe get some meds. I didn’t even share my dreams with Katie. That disturbed me a lot. I used to share everything with her. But the idea of telling her about these murders---about dreaming them before hand---it unsettled me. I didn’t want to drag her in and upset her more. So Bart was my only confidant, which suited me fine. I’d played his in the past, so it was only fair he return the favor. Back in seventh grade, he and some friends were out screwing around at the edge of town. There was this old woman who lived there and everyone thought she was a witch. So Bart and his stupid companions took some rocks and started throwing them at her house. Bart was the lucky bastard to actually break one of her windows. They bolted and swore never to tell anymore. It took Bart two days to tell me, the guilt had eaten him up. It took me a day to convince him to confess.
He took the full blame. He got a paper route that summer to help pay for the old woman’s window. He never went anywhere near her house again.
The only good thing going for me was the necklace. Though it didn’t get me the role I wanted, it was like a good luck charm. Ever since I started wearing it, I was feeling a lot better about myself. So my life was shit right now but that happens a lot. I read somewhere that the freshman year of college was one of the hardest years. And it did bring me good luck. The other day I was walking by a construction site in the city when some jackass dropped his hammer. It would have beamed me right in the head. Somehow a bird flew right over me at that exact moment. The hammer hit the bird and saved my life. It was too bad for the bird but good luck for me. Just yesterday, I got some good luck from it too. I was walking down the hall and some jerk decided to grab my ass from behind---I guess I was a girl to him. When he realized what he did and that I was a guy, he was about to pound me. We were right near a classroom. He took one step toward me and the door opened at that exact moment, smashing him right in the face.
So lots of bad luck but some good, too.
But mainly bad. Like right now. I was sitting in Professor White’s office, listening or half listening as she went off again on one of her man hating tangents. I’m pretty sure she forgot I was a man too. For one thing, she kept calling me sweetheart and more than once referred to “us” when speaking about women and “them” when speaking about men. At first, it drove me nuts but now I just went with it. So I was girly looking but at least I knew I was a guy.
Today’s tangent was about the Stage Director. Apparently, he misunderstood her directions. She wanted an eerie gothic look for the castle backdrop and a more subdued lot for the witch’s hovel. Instead, he reversed things, making their place gothic and the castle very sleek and modern. She was fuming about it, calling him all sorts of names. I tried my hardest not to flinch when she talked about the size of his “you know what” and the horrible things she wanted to do with it.
“Rhianne, sweetie” she said, referring to me.
That was another thing. She was convinced my name was Rhianne no matter how many times I told her it was Ryan. It was like she couldn’t accept me as a guy. It didn’t matter that Ryan was a girl’s name too.
So I played along as usual. “Yes, Margaret”. Like Brian, she wanted me to call her by her first name too.
“I need you to go and talk to that good for nothing bastard and try to take some sense into that thick Neanderthal brain of his.”
I rolled my eyes but she couldn’t see me because her back was to me. Instead, I told her I’d be happy to and left her office. The only thing I was happy about was getting out of there. I hightailed it out of there real quick. Her office was a down the hall from the Theater. She told me that it made her feel closer to her art. But the truth of matter was that it was the farthest away from everyone else. It was the only office near the theater. All the other professors in the department were in a shiny wing of the building a long ways away from her. It was clear she drove them all nuts. She reminded me of that teacher from the Highschool Musical movies, except a lot more annoying. I mean I know for a fact she didn’t say anything to the Stage Manager about the sets. I know because I was there when she was talking to him. She handed him some poorly labeled sketches and left.
But she’d never admit it.
As I walked into the theater, the sounds of hard work filled my ears. There were several people on stage hammering away. There was so much to do that there was work going on in the seats too. A row or two could be removed if needed. I looked at all the guys and girls hard at work. Then I scanned the faces looking for the Stage Manager---Bud Cross. Since working with Margaret, I’d gotten to know Bud pretty well too. He was also a professor but I didn’t need to take any classes from him. He said he dealt with the “grunts” and not the “superstars”. I kinda liked him. He told you how it was and didn’t sugar coat anything. Already he and Margaret had butted heads more than once. In fact, in the last two weeks I think I counted no more than ten arguments between the two of them. This thing with the castle/hovel was only the latest.
I found Bud on stage, overseeing the work there. I took a deep breath and slowly walked over. He turned when I was halfway there and frowned. I didn’t need to come to the theater so he knew I was there to file another complaint. He shook his head and walked down the steps, meeting me at the bottom of them.
“What does the Almighty want now?” he asked, referring to his name for her.
I sighed. “She seems to think you screwed up the sets.”
He sighed heavily; pulling Margaret’s rolled up sketches out of his pocket. He unrolled them and looked at them for a minute or two. Then he sighed again and scratched his head. I took a peek. It was clear which one was which but the writing on it labeling them was horrible. I knew it was Margaret’s handwriting because I’d been staring at it for the last two weeks. So as much as it was his fault it was her’s as well. Though she’d never admit it. Bud continued to scratch his head until he finally tossed the papers up in the air.
“That woman is the most impossible person on the face of the planet.”
I nodded. “She seems to think the error is of your doing.”
He laughed. “This from a woman who can’t even tell the sexes apart.”
We both laughed. Unlike Margaret, Bud could see I was a guy. I think Margaret could too but she was fooling herself into thinking I was a girl because she didn’t like to be proven wrong. She and Miss White both thought I was a girl---even if she didn’t mistakenly call me one at the audition. I could tell by the way she looked when I said my name was Ryan. It registered with her but I don’t think she wanted to admit it. I think the idea of a guy working with her and mostly for her appalled the hell out of her so she made me a girl in her eyes. Not that it really mattered to me but she was starting to get on my nerves about it.
“She’s on the war path about it,” I said, bending down and picking up the sheets he tossed. I straightened them out and handed them back to him.
Then I had to explain to him where he supposedly went wrong. It took me about twenty minutes. In the end, Bud threw his hands up in the air and stomped back on stage. He shouted at his workers, telling them to halt work immediately. Then he grabbed a nearby sledge and laid into the castle already being constructed. There were looks of horror on several faces as wood splinters flew. I winced and turned away, disappearing down the aisle as Bud barked orders behind me. When I got into the hall I sighed, glad I wasn’t one of his grunts at the moment.
I took a few moment to collect myself then started down the hall back toward Margaret’s office. I got halfway there before going into the bathroom instead. I went to the urinal, did my business and went to the sink to wash my hands. As I turned on the water, the door opened and in strode Craig. I groaned. He was all I needed right now. Ever since he got the lead over me, he’d been rubbing it in day after day. It gets kinda annoying after so long. When he saw me, he smirked and I just knew more ridicule was coming. You’d think being a senior in college would stem off the name calling but apparently, Craig was a rare case of asshole.
“If it isn’t pretty Rhianne,” he said, giving my ponytail a tug.
My hair was becoming a problem. Before it was shoulder length and manageable. But in the last couple of weeks since the audition, it was starting to get a mind of its own. It was down my back now and silky smooth. I thought about cutting it but I haven’t found the time to get an appointment to do so. So I’ve been tying it into a ponytail to keep it out of the way. But Craig seemed to think it was an attempt to look even more like a girl. Like I would ever try to do that.
“Name calling is for middle school jackasses,” I said, turning off the faucet. “I think you’re a decade or so too old for that.”
He didn’t move from the doorway. I saw anger flash across his face. I saw the blackness too again. Ever since the audition, I was seeing colors around everyone. It wasn’t just the pink or the black either. It was all sorts of colors. At first, it freaked the hell out of me but now I was starting to get used to it. I’m still not sure where it was coming from but it was so common now that I normally just waved it off. Maybe I was losing my sight or maybe I was suffering from lack of sleep. Regardless of the reason, it didn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, if anything it seemed to be getting worse.
Craig gave me a shove. “Fucking punk. You think you’re better than me.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think, I know.”
That pissed him off more. The strange thing was that I felt pissed too. I’m not sure why but I got this overwhelming urge to pound something. There was a fire in my chest and a tingling throughout my body. Craig looked smug for a second but suddenly that smugness disappeared and was replaced by something else: fear. The blackness surrounding him started to vanish too, slowly molding into another color, a much brighter one: yellow. He took a step back, pressing his back against the door. My stomach burned as I took a step toward him.
“What the hell are you?” he stammered but I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Get out of my way” I said in a cold, commanding voice.
He nodded but didn’t move. I took a step toward him and the crotch of his pants grew wet. This time I smirked. He covered his pants and quickly got out of my way. I felt ten feet tall when I pulled open the door and walked out of the room. As soon as I got into the bathroom, the burning went away. The tingling was still there for a few seconds but it vanished too. I leaned against the wall, panting heavily. What the hell was that? I went from being annoyed to wanting to pound the snot out of Craig. He was a dick but he didn’t deserve to get his ass kicked. I looked down at my hands and could swear that my nails had gotten a bit longer. I shook it off and started on my way back toward Margaret’s office.
Katie was waiting for me outside the theater when I got done. She was sitting outside the car on a bench, reading a magazine. She didn’t see me until I was almost on top of her. She looked up and smiled. She was looking particularly gorgeous today. Looking at her, I got this overwhelming feeling of lust. It wasn’t overpowering but I wanted to do some wild things with her. I bit my lip, forcing that feeling back into me. When she saw me biting my lip, Katie blushed. Her color today was red but it got a little brighter when she saw me. I couldn’t help but think that she might be feeling the same thing I was. After all, even though our relationship was lukewarm at the moment there was still moments of stirring passion. Today apparently was going to be one of those moments.
She stood up, setting her magazine on the bench. Then she wrapped her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder. It helped that we were the same size today. Katie was dressed casually in jean shorts and a t-shirt, no heels just sandals. We stood there a few minutes just hugging. When we finally pulled away, she was crying a bit. I sighed. I wiped some of tears off her face.
“What’s this about?”
She smiled weakly. “I’ve been an ass. Ever since that night in the car I’ve been distant but I’ve been wanting to make it up to you but just didn’t know how”
I shook my head. “That was all me. I’m not sure where it came from but it was definitely me.”
She laughed. “It was both of us. We were drunk, it happens.”
She reached down and grabbed my hand. Then she frowned. “You need to cut your nails.”
I laughed. “I just noticed them today actually.”
“I can do it for you if you want?”
I was about to say yes before my stomach grumbled. We had a good laugh about that. Still holding my hand, she led me to the car. We got in and sought out the nearest restaurant. We never ate on campus. The food was all right but we didn’t like the atmosphere. Most of the dining halls and eating places were loud and noisy; the two of us could barely have a conversation. So she always wanted to eat off campus, which was fine by me. We drove for about ten minutes before we found a little diner. Katie and I walked in hand-in-hand. We got a couple of strange looks as we took a booth in the back. When the waitress called us ladies, I shot her a cold stare and the color seemed to drain from her face. She disappeared with our orders pretty quickly after that.
Katie burst into laughter. “Well you can’t blame her. What with that hair and those nails, you do look a little feminine.”
I glowered at her then smiled wickedly. “Well if I’m a girl then that makes you a lesbian.”
She stopped laughing. “Not funny.”
I smirked. “You started it.”
She quickly changed the subject. “How’s the Crazed Man Hater?”
She of course was referring to Margaret.
I quickly relayed today’s incident to her. She rolled her eyes when I was done. I hesitated before telling her about the rest of the day though. Finally, I got up the courage and told her about what happened in the bathroom---minus a few details. I wasn’t sure how she’d react to the whole anger and making Craig piss his pants thing. I wasn’t sure how I was even reacting to it. I knew what I did but I’m not sure how it happened exactly. One minute I was afraid he might kick my ass---he is much bigger than me---then the next minute I felt like I wanted to kick his. It was almost as if we switched roles with me becoming the aggressor. Not that I would have pissed, my pants but I sure as hell would have pounded him into the linoleum. I’m not sure what stopped me from doing so actually. I was so angry and so pissed off. Then it was like a switch and it was all gone.
Katie leaned forward and touched my hand. “You OK?”
I blinked. “I’m fine, why?”
She frowned. “You’re crying sweetie.”
I reached up and touched my cheek. Sure enough, there were tears running down it. I hadn’t even noticed. I smiled at her and wiped the tears away. She smiled back weakly but held my hand. A few minutes later, the waitress came with our drinks. She kept away from me as far as she could as she placed mine on the table in front of me. Then she made a quick retreat. Weirdo. I picked up my drink and took a sip; the cold beverage was exactly what I needed. While we waited for our food, Katie started telling me about her classes. It had been so long since the two of us had actually talked like this. I actually kinda missed it. She was really excited about the project the class was going to undertake during the Break. Apparently, her professor was arranging an expedition into the Amazon to study a certain tribe down there. He didn’t usual take undergrads but a few of his grads dropped out so there were spots open. Katie was going to try to get one.
The food came twenty minutes later. The waitress still seemed a bit scared of me.
Katie laughed again. “I think she thinks you’re going to hex her.”
“Hex her?” I asked, confused.
She pointed to my chest. I looked down and realized the necklace was on the outside of my shirt. I frowned. I hadn’t even noticed. Usually I wore it under my shirt so as not to draw attention to it. The last time I wore it outside my shirt someone from the school’s Christian Alliance handed me a pamphlet and told me it wasn’t too late to find the light. Bart and I had a good laugh about it. So after that I wore it in hiding. As I stared at the thing now I couldn’t help but feel that it was better to have it out then hide it away. Yeah it drew a lot of attention but it seemed wrong to hide it.
“Do you think me capable of hexing someone?” I asked in a mocking tone.
She gave me a face. Then she seemed to think about it. “Not dressed like that.”
I threw a french fry at her.
We had a couple of laughs over dinner and it felt like good times again. It was hard to believe that either of us were in a rut. After eating Katie wanted to do something fun. When the words nightclub came out of her mouth I groaned and reminded her what happened last time. But she was adamant that as long as I didn’t drink then we wouldn’t get carried away. I couldn’t see the logic in her claim but I decided to go along with it. But of course she got to the crazy part. After leaving the diner, she drove the two us to a nearby boutique. When she stopped the car, I frowned at it.
“What are we doing here?” I asked, looking at some of the crazy outfits in the display window.
“Getting club clothes.”
I groaned. “I’ll wait in the car,” I said, folding my arms across my chest.
“No you’re not,” she said forcefully and I reluctantly got out of car.
As soon as I got into the store, I knew what she was up to. There wasn’t a single shred of male clothing in the place. I tried to turn around and back out the door but she had a vice like grip on my arm. She was laughing the whole time as she pulled clothing off the rack. Soon I had an armful of crap and she was pushing me into one of the dressing rooms. I knew what a colossal bad idea this was. But that didn’t seem to stop her. She was a girl on a mission and apparently, tonight I was going to be one right along with her. I frowned at the clothes in my hands, none of which had a hemline that went anywhere close to my knees.
So I slowly undressed, knowing there was no way I was going to get her to relent. When I got my pants and shirt off, I frowned at my body. It was as scrawny as usual but there was something else wrong about it. For one thing, I didn’t seem to have any body hair---not that I had much to begin with. Now it was all gone. I even checked under my arms but there was no hair there. What the hell is going on with me? I started to check my body to make sure there was no other surprises and got another shock: my butt was bigger. It wasn’t huge or anything but it was definitely bigger and my hips were a bit wider too. I cursed. Something totally fucked up was going on here.
Katie pounded on the door. “Hurry up in there, Rachel, the night isn’t getting any younger.”
Rachel? She’s gotta be kidding. I tried not to think about my new name or my new bodily changes. Instead, I grabbed the dress sitting on the little bench and pulled it over my head. What I saw in the mirror shocked me. I looked like a girl and not some guy in a dress either. I looked like a pure blooded one hundred percent female girl. My mouth dropped open a bit. With the hair and the tight black dress hugging my new feminine curves, I was kinda hot. I stood and stared for the longest time. I didn’t even notice the door opening. I did hear the gasp from behind me. I turned and Katie was standing there with her mouth wide open.
“Where the hell did you get those hips?”
I shook my head, tearing up. She recovered and then quickly pulled me into her arms. I cried for a bit on her shoulder. I was scared to death. There was something going on with me, something bad. I cried for a while. Katie finally sat me down and handed me a tissue from her purse. She tried to talk me out of this night. She was just having some fun after all. But I shook my head. I told her I’d go to the club with her and I was going to go through with it. She smiled and then helped me put on my heels. When I stood, I was a little wobbly but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. When I stood next to Katie, I realized I was an inch taller than her. I looked her up and down. She was wearing a halter top and tight skirt but her heels weren’t nearly as high as mine. She was right. If I did wear heels, I was taller than her. She made a comment about my legs but I frowned at her. She seemed to get the picture.
“OK, Rach” she said, using her new name for me. “I’m going to do your makeup then we can leave.”
I nodded numbly as I sat down on the little bench. I’m not sure if the women in the store appreciated us taking up one of their dressing booths for so long but I didn’t really give a damn. After Katie was down with my face, I reluctantly stepped out into the store. It felt like the three of four women in the store were giving me daggers. I could a green glow around a few of them. I couldn’t help but smirk at that. Me I felt like I was on Cloud Nine. Katie took our tags to the register and paid for our things. When we got out to her car, she laid the biggest kiss on me ever. It was quite the thing, especially when we played a little tonsil hockey.
“What happened to your whole aversion to lesbianism?” I asked when she pulled away.
She patted my cheek. “Not tonight babe.”
We went to the same club as the other time. This time there was a line and a long wait apparently. When we got out of the car---Katie showing me the proper way to do it---a few guys stared. I thought maybe I slipped up and blew my secret but Katie just laughed. She whispered in my ear as we stepped on the curb. Apparently, they were staring because I was hot. I blushed at that. Then she slipped her arm around mine and the two of us walked toward the large gray building. We started toward the back when the guy at the rope called us over.
“You ladies can go right on in.,” he said, stepping aside.
My eyes widened. Last time it took us nearly an hour to get in. I smiled sweetly to him as Katie and I slipped on by. I couldn’t believe he let us through so quickly. Katie looked a little surprised too. She kept mumbling about a time she went here with a few of her female friends and it took them nearly two hours to get in. Did that mean…no it wasn’t me, was it? I shook that thought off as we walked down the narrow hallway to all the noise. The place was alive tonight. The room was cast in darkness as colorful strobe lights lit up the area one place at a time. The music was pounding. Katie shouted something to me that sounded like drinks. I nodded and she disappeared into the crowd. I was immediately squashed by all the people around me.
A few minutes later, Katie was back. She handed me a test tube filled with a pink liquid. “What the hell is this?” I asked in her ear, she shrugged downing hers.
I frowned. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to drink?”
“I changed my mind,” she shouted back as she delicately took my hand and pulled me into the crowd.
I felt ridiculous. But Katie seemed to be getting into it. She was thriving and moving to the music. She saw how stiff I was so she grabbed my arms and started moving them for me. I got a little looser after that. Then I really got into the swing of things. I found myself imitating her and the other girls around us. Soon the atmosphere seemed to take over. I saw a swirl of crazy colors all around me. It just wasn’t the strobes either. The color coming from the people was wild and crazy too, like a throbbing rainbow. I swayed and moved with it. I got lightheaded and tipsy one minute, very coherent the next. I felt hot and cold, sweaty and dry. Then I felt hungry but not for food. It was like something came over me, something feral and ravenous. Like in the car but multiplied by ten. Katie didn’t seem to be affected by it or if she did, she didn’t act as crazy as I did.
After a few minutes, I lost sight of her altogether. I should have been upset but I wasn’t. Soon I felt someone pressed against me, thriving and dry humping my backside. I got lost in the moment. It wasn’t until I felt something hard against my butt cheek that I realized it wasn’t her. I turned and found a guy behind me. I looked at the clear bulge in his pants. I should have been repulsed by it but I wasn’t. Instead, I smiled and licked one of my fingers. I had no idea what was coming over me but I kinda liked it. I started to dance with him; our bodies pressed close, my arms draped around his shoulders. I’m not sure how long I dance that way but I was having fun.
That fun was shattered when a strong hand grabbed my arm and pulled me from him. The grip on my arm was tight, sharp nails dug into my arm. It wasn’t until we were out of the squash of people that I realized it was Katie. She dragged me all the way to the hallway and then right out the front door. I was tipsy and groggy until we got out of club. As soon as I was away from all that, the witch flipped again. I felt sick. I’d just danced with a guy and liked it. I wanted to throw up. Instead, I didn’t even get a chance as Katie dragged me over to her car. She opened the door and practically shoved me inside. I could tell she was pissed off.
“What the fuck, Kate” I said as she slammed her down when she got inside.
“What the fuck, Kate” she said angrily. “How about what the fuck were you doing, Ryan?”
I bit my lip and shook my head. “I don’t know.”
She looked like she was going to blow her top. “Famous last words.”
She started the car, squealed the wheels and we tore out of there. I barely got my seatbelt on as we peeled off. We went right back to the college. Instead of taking me to my dorm, she took me to hers. I didn’t say a thing until we were out of the car. When I asked her what we were doing here, she glared at me. I kept my mouth shut and followed her inside. Luckily, there was no one at the desk waiting. Katie checked in and I followed her into the elevator. We rode in silence to her floor. When we got out, she grabbed my arm and dragged me down the hall to her room. Katie had one roommate---Sarah---but she was never around. Sarah was a big partier; she usually didn’t get home until way after two. Katie slammed the door when we got into her room. I looked around, amazed at how different our two rooms were. Katie was a neat freak whereas Bart and I didn’t really give a damn. We weren’t slobs but we hardly cleaned up after ourselves.
I sat on the edge of Sarah’s bed and Katie laid into me.
“Jesus Christ, Ryan, you were ready to hump that guy.”
“I was not,” I snapped back.
“Pretty damn close.”
I could tell she was getting angry. Katie was usually a calm blue color but she was getting darker and darker. I could feel myself getting darker too. She was the one who dressed me like this and she was the one who dragged me there. I didn’t even want to go. I kinda lost my temper a bit after that.
“This is your fucking fault you God damn hypocrite, I didn’t even want to fucking do this.”
She flared at that one. “Me, you’re the one who was getting butt fucked by that perv.”
It wasn’t the right words. I regretted saying them. Katie lashed out and slapped me across the face, hard. The sound of her hand on my flesh resounded in my ears. I felt a burning in my chest and a tingle. I knew I was about to lose it, whatever it was. But I forced it down, fought back at it. I was still angry at her but I managed to control it.
Katie was seething, tears streaming down her face. “You can be the sweetest guy sometimes Ryan but other times you do stupid things. Sometimes when I’m with you I feel like I’m on top of the world but other times I just want to kill myself.”
I rubbed my cheek. I was pissed. In my mind, I thought maybe that was a good idea. It was only for a second and I felt bad thinking it but I was angry. Katie was still crying and dropped onto her bed. I approached her, putting my hand on her shoulder but she shrugged me off. That pissed me off even more. I bit my lip, holding back the urge to scream at her. Instead, I took a deep breath.
“I’m going to shower off, maybe cool down.”
She didn’t say a thing. So I stormed off toward her in suite and slammed the door. Katie was an RA so she had her own private bathroom. It even had a little closet. I opened the closet where she usually kept her linens, towels and things. At the bottom of it was a duffel hidden under a pile of towels. Inside was a spare change of clothes for me. We stashed it there for when I spent the night. I hadn’t yet but it was a big possibility at some point. I grabbed it and stripped out of my dress. I kicked off the fucking heels and turned on the water. I stepped into the shower and let the hot water run down my body. I was still pissed off at her. She was jumping to conclusions, making things up in her alcohol-addled brain. But at the same time, I knew I was partially guilty. I’m not sure what came over me tonight. It was like my body was on autopilot and I was getting lost in the moment. Just like that time in the car. I closed my eyes and thinking about that guy grinding against me made me feel sick. I dry heaved a few times but nothing came up. Instead, I stood there and let the water wash over me.
I showered for about fifteen minutes. I got my head straight while I was doing it too. As much as I thought, it was her fault I needed to be the better person and apologize. I took a deep breath as I shut the water off. I stepped out and dried off as good as I could. Then I opened my duffel taking out the clothes inside. I pulled on the boxers, sweat pants and t-shirt. There were no shoes because we both assumed I’d have those if I spent the night. I turned to look at myself in the mirror and frowned. There were still traces of makeup on my face, especially around my eyes. I sighed. Katie really did do a good job. I took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry babe, it was my fault,” I shouted.
She didn’t respond. I splashed water in my face, trying to get rid of the makeup traces.
I called to her again. “Katie, you win. That has to count for something.”
Still no response.
I got annoyed. She was pulling the silent treatment on me. I swallowed my pride and pulled open the bathroom door. I was about to berate her for childishness when I stopped dead in my tracks. Katie was sitting on her bed, a glassy look to her eyes. In her left hand was a kitchen knife and she was repeatedly cutting her right wrist over and over again. Her clothes were already crimson with her blood. Her right hand was almost severed clean from her arm. For the longest time I just stood there, shocked at what I was seeing. Then my common sense took over.
I raced into the room, grabbing the knife. I yanked it from her hand. As soon as I did so, she flopped forward onto the floor. I screamed in panic. I grabbed the handset and clumsily started dialing 911. I was frantic as I dialed. But my hand was slick with her blood and the phone fell from it. I didn’t pick it up. Instead, I pressed my wet towel against her wrist, trying to stem the blood that was flowing from it. The towel was soaked in seconds. I screamed for help at the top of my lungs. Then something happened, something overtook me. There was a sharp, searing pain in my stomach. I doubled over from it, letting go of the towel. The pain hit a second time and I dropped on the floor.
I cried out, tears streaming down my face. The pain hit a third time and I blacked out.
The only sound in the small room I could hear was the pounding of my own heart. Coupled with the overwhelming pain I was feeling and it was like a death march. I tried gripping the Styrofoam coffee cup but my hands were trembling too much to get a good grip on it. I was terrified but I was also sick to my stomach. I tried not to think about what just happened but it was hard to when I could still smell her blood all over me. I closed my eyes and all I could see was Katie’s face. Not the smiling, happy face either. I saw the cold, glassy eyed face of a numb girl as she repeatedly cut her wrist over and over again. No matter how much I tried not to think about it, I kept seeing her. It would be a vision that would haunt me for the rest of my life. I tried not to think about the words associated with it but it was not to.
Katie was dead. She was dead and the cops think I had something to do with it. OK, so I didn’t really know that for sure but why else would I be here. I sighed heavily, running my hands through my hair. At least they didn’t cuff me; I guess that’s a good sign. And I suppose they were half right about my involvement. I was responsible; at least I was pretty certain I was. We were arguing and she made that crack about killing herself and I…I shook my head, I couldn’t have done this. I picked up the cup and took my last sip, draining the coffee inside. Then I started drumming my fingers on the metal table. I’d seen this tactic used on cop shows. They brought the person of interest to an interrogation room and left him to stew for a bit. I think they were trying to see if I was going to crack under pressure or something. Because as far things looked, I did look as guilty as hell.
When I came to in the room, I was lying in her blood. It was the scream that woke me up initially. It was like a gun shot in the dark. When I snapped, covered in Katie’s blood, the screaming rang in my ears. I groggily looked around and realized it was Sarah, Katie’s roommate. I’m not sure how long I was unconscious for but not long enough for Katie’s blood to dry. It was still wet and sticky, all over me. When I got to my feet, I took a step toward Sarah but the color drained from her face. It took me a second to realize I was still holding the knife. I had a pretty could idea what she thought. I dropped the knife then and tried to explain things but Sarah wouldn’t listen. Instead, she grabbed the phone and ran into the bathroom, locking the door.
That’s when I saw Katie and broke down. I fell to my knees and stared at the lifeless body of the only woman I ever loved. I think I knew she was dead before I passed out but it just didn’t connect then. I never cried more in my entire life when I saw her lying there like that. Most people say dead people look peaceful but Katie had looked tortured. She didn’t look peaceful at all; she looked like someone had stolen something from her. I grabbed her hand and continued to hold it until the cops arrived. They didn’t arrest me; they didn’t read me my rights. Instead, one of them went to the bathroom to try to get Sarah out while another slowly helped me to my feet. The paramedics followed them in but there was nothing they could do for her. I heard one of them say she’d been dead for about thirty minutes. Had I only been unconscious for fifteen, it felt like hours?
I’m not sure if the cops thought I was guilty or not. I mean, what guilty person stays around for the police. Regardless they still asked me if I’d go to the station with them. I could only numbly nod my head. When I was escorted out of the building there was a crowd gathering. A lot of them were fellow students dressed in their pajamas. I knew a lot of them, went to class with some of them. I didn’t look at faces though as they led me to the police car. They put me in the back and I watched in horror as they wheeled Katie out of there covered in a sheet and put her in the back of the ambulance. I was taken straight to the police and put in this room. That was an hour and half ago and I was still waiting for answers.
My somber thoughts were interrupted by the click of the door. I looked up my empty cup as a man entered the room. He was dressed in a rumpled button down shirt; his tie looked to have been loosened a few times. He had a five o’clock shadow and looked like he’d seen better days. In one hand, he carried a cup of coffee and in the other was a manila folder. He set both on the table as he sat down across from me.
“Good morning, Miss Roth.”
I groaned. “Mister” I said annoyed. “It’s Mister Ryan Roth.”
The man smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, you look…”
I cut him off. “Like a girl, I know. I get it all the time.” He nodded and I launched into a question. “How’s Sarah?”
I was worried about her. She looked like she’d seen a ghost when I saw them escort her out of there. Her face was still very pale and her eyes were red and puffy. She refused to look at me as an office led her over to one of the benches. She was draped in a blanket, shaking horribly. I didn’t really get along with her much; she was kind of a bitch. But at that moment, I felt horrible for her. I could only partially imagine what she was going through.
The cop didn’t answer my question. Instead, he introduced himself. “My name is Detective Jim Corrigan, Homicide.”
That scared me a bit. “Homicide?”
He nodded. “Don’t be startled. I’m called in on cases like this when the case of a suspicious death hasn’t been discovered.”
“Suspicious death? Katie cut her wrist, she…she…killed herself.”
Corrigan sighed. “I’d like to ask you some questions about that if you don’t mind.”
I nodded numbly. “You think I did this. You think I killed her but you’re wrong. I loved her.”
He didn’t respond to my explanation. “I’m trying to help you Ryan. But I need to know exactly what happened.”
I told him everything from the moment she picked me up at the theater to the moment I woke up to Sarah screaming. I assumed the police knew the rest. I didn’t leave anything out, including the part where Katie made me dress as a girl. I had nothing to hide. I wanted to prove to them that I didn’t physically kill her. OK, so there was one little thing I kept to myself and that was the thought I had before going into the bathroom. The one where I actually wished she did kill herself. That stupid thought was torturing the hell out of me. I didn’t mean it and yet when I said it a small part of me wanted it. I couldn’t explain it; it was like someone else was making me do it.
When Corrigan spoke again I’m glad it wasn’t to ask about my cross-dressing. “So you fought and you took a shower to cool off?” I nodded. “And while you were in the shower. How long do you think that was?”
I shrugged. “About fifteen minutes.”
He jotted that down on a pad of paper. “After the shower, you tried calling to her and she didn’t answer?” I nodded. “So when you walked out of the bathroom, you found her sitting on the bed cutting her own wrist?”
I started crying. “I ran to her and pulled the knife out of her hand. As soon as I did so, she fell forward. I grabbed the phone and dialed 911 and that’s when I passed out. I can’t explain that part. I got this horrible feeling in my stomach and collapsed, blacking out. When I came too Sarah was there and she was screaming.”
Corrigan wrote that down. “Tell me about your relationship these last few days?”
I sighed, wiping the tears from my eyes. “You think I killed her?”
He shook his head. “I’m just trying to be thorough.”
“We’d been having problems,” I said with a long sigh. “The play consumed a lot of time over the last two weeks?”
I nodded. “Macbeth” He wrote that down. “I’m the understudy for the lead. But the director made me the script supervisor too. She also made me her official errand boy. It put a strain on our relationship because I didn’t have much time for Katie. I think she felt like I was ignoring her.”
He nodded as he wrote. I could see his vibrant color even now. It was a pale blue as if he were calm but I could feel something from him. It was the first time I’d ever felt something in someone’s presence. I’m not sure what it was exactly but it was almost as if I could feel his doubt. There was a mixture of confusion too. He wanted to trust me but the evidence was against me. Don’t ask me how I knew that but I could tell Detective Corrigan was trying his hardest to make sense of what was going on. This newfound realization of mine scared me a bit. If I wasn’t a freak already and this stuff was happening.
Corrigan changed tactics. “When did you and Katie first meet?”
I’m not sure how it was relevant but I told him anyway. I told him about how she lived next door and how we grew up together. I talked about our life as friends through grade school and middle school and then about that wonderful summer. There was this little pond behind our houses. It was the summer before ninth grade and the two of us were sitting on the end of the peer. We’d just finished swimming and were dripping wet. We were laughing and having a good time. I’d been friends with her forever and then one day I started to feel something for her. I couldn’t really describe it but it was like she was glowing. Well not really but whenever I saw her my heart thumped a bit faster. That’s when I took the plunge and leaned over and kissed her. She was so shocked she pushed me in the water. I was heartbroken until she jumped in after me. She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me back. It was the happiest moment of my life.
The two of us were inseparable. That is until now. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. She was gone. The one woman I cared more about than anything and she was never going to smile at me again. She was never going to laugh at my stupid jokes or tease me about my girlish looks. She was never going to drive real fast and annoy me or complain at how messy my dorm room was. She was gone. No more late night talks until all hours, no more cuddling in front of the TV, no more….no more anything. My soul mate was gone and I was left. I’m not sure how I was going to live with myself without her being in my life.
“Ryan” said the detective for I guess was the third or fourth time.
I shook my head. “Sorry”
He smiled weakly. “You don’t have to apologize” he said and then looked down at his folder.
I looked down at the folder too. I’d seen folders like that on TV. The detective would spread things out---like pictures and try to get the suspect to confess. I had a good idea what was in that folder. I just wished that he’d stop yanking my chain and tell it to me straight. I just went through the worse day of my entire life and I was tired of all this crap. I want the truth for once.
Corrigan’s face changed. I’m not really sure how to describe it actually. One minute he looked pretty calm and the next it was like someone shot his cat.
He sighed. “Usually in these situations I get my suspect and spread out the pics to scare him a bit. I was about to do the same with you until I saw you. Though things look pretty bad I don’t think you’re a murderer. I’m not really sure I know what’s going on here but I think you’re a victim of circumstance. I’d like to say that I’m going to let you go but unfortunately I’m going to put you in a holding cell for the night.”
I was surprised to say the least. “Should you be telling me this?”
He blinked. There was a dull look to his eyes for a second but it was gone as soon as I spoke. Then he rubbed his temples a bit. “Should I be telling you what?”
This time I blinked. What the hell just happened? It was like for a moment, he wasn’t in control. He told me exactly what I wanted to know as if I willed him to do so. Just like Katie. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt the bile rise up my throat but I forced it back down. Then I looked down at my hands. They were still trembling. They looked slightly different too. I know my nails were longer before but now my hands looked softer. I always had rough hands. My grandfather had a lot of land and when I wasn’t in school, I used to help him tend it. There was a lot of work to be done and you could tell all the hard work I did by looking at my hands. They were rough and scarred. But the hands I looked at now were dainty looking, smooth, like a girl’s.
I took a deep breath, closing my hands. “Detective I didn’t kill Katie.”
He didn’t respond to that. Instead, he said. “I’m not here to judge. But regardless of your guilt or innocence, I’d like to keep you here overnight just to be safe.”
“It’s Miss Rollins,” he said. “Sarah is a wreck. She’s confused and scared. The only way I could calm her down was to tell her I’d keep you overnight. She’s in the hospital right now. I could release you but I think she might feel safer if I kept you a night.”
I didn’t like it but I understood. I didn’t want to do anything to hurt Sarah. I didn’t like her but I understood. She lost as much as I did. She and Katie were real close. Like Bart and I, Sarah and Katie were good friends. Sarah went to school with us, too. She never did approve of me but we tolerated one another. I could only imagine what she thought about me now. She walked into her room and found her roommate dead and me covered in blood, holding the knife that did. She probably thought I was the most horrible monster in the world. If staying a night in the police station helped her then I was willing to do it.
I nodded to Corrigan, he smiled. I had only one request. “Can I call my Mom, I’m sure she’s worried sick about me.”
He led me out of the interrogation room and down the hall to a payphone. I called home. I looked at the clock on the wall and groaned. It was close to five in the morning, there was no way she would be up. But she answered on two rings. Apparently, I was wrong. “Ryan” she said in a worried voice. Apparently, she was waiting for my call.
“I’m OK, Mom,” I said, forcing back tears.
She sighed in relief. “When the police called, I thought the worst.”
I swallowed hard, tearing up. “Mom, Katie’s dead. She…she…killed herself.”
There was a momentary pause. Katie was like a daughter to Mom. She spent about as much time over at our house as she did at her own. As much as Katie loved her parents, she had a hard time getting along with them. Her father wasn’t the most easygoing person and her mother was smothering. They never cared much for me either. I can’t imagine what they thought about me now.
Mom finally spoke. “I’m so sorry honey. Do you want me to come and get you? I can leave right now and be there in about an hour?”
I sighed. “I’m at the police station.”
“Wait, what. Why?”
Typical Mom. I sighed. “They don’t think I did it but they want to keep me overnight. It’s something to reassure Sarah. She came in the room and freaked out. It looked bad from her point of view, Mom.”
Mom took another pause. This one longer. “Do you need a lawyer?” she asked finally.
I loved Mom to death but she had this way about her. I knew she knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. But at the same time, Mom liked to be prepared. The two of us were real close, closer than most mothers and sons. I guess it was because of our ages. Mom was young when she had me, barely sixteen in fact. The way she tells it my father was some scumbag passing through. She thought she was in love. They spent one wild night together in a seedy motel and then she woke up and he was gone. It wasn’t the happiest story---I mean who wants to know that much about their birth---but I respected Mom for being so open about it. She told me the only thing she regretted was not cutting off my father’s penis when he was done. Suffice to say she was bitter for a bit but happy that she got me out of the deal.
Mom and I talked for a minute or two more. Detective Corrigan was standing close by the whole time so I didn’t really want to talk specifics. I did a rush job on events. Then I bit my lip and told her there was something else. I said this in a whisper. “There’s something wrong with me Mom. I don’t know to explain it but I’m different.”
Mom took a few seconds to respond. “Honey I…”
I was cut off by the phone clicking. Then there was a dial tone. I turned to Corrigan, confused. “What the hell just happened?”
“That phone is on the timer. It’s meant to give you about ten minutes or so then it cuts you off” He looked around. “I can give you more time if you want?”
I shook my head. “That’s all right, I’ll call her tomorrow.”
I hung up the handset and Corrigan led me down the hall. We went through a door or two then to a cell. It was a holding cell so there were no bars. It was more like a mesh or something. I stepped inside and he closed the door. I thought it was cool that he was doing all this for me. Usually on TV, some bored police officer did it. Then I remembered I wasn’t really under arrest. He was just putting me here to help Sarah have some peace of mind. In the morning they’d let me go and then hopefully I could get back to my life. I asked Corrigan to shut off the light and he did so with a smile. I think he knew how tired I was. I found the little cot they had in there quite comfortable. I curled up facing the wall and fell quickly asleep.
I was standing in a long hallway and everything was black around me. I’m not sure how I got here but a small part of me knew I shouldn’t be here. I should be back at the police station, sound asleep. Sleep. I groaned as I waved my hand in front of my face. I could see it move slowly in front of me as if I was underwater. I took a step forward, looking down at my leg as I did so. That was moving slowly too. It didn’t take a genius to figure things out. I was asleep and this was a dream. What did they call it? Oh yeah, lucid dreaming. I saw something about it on the Discovery Channel I think. It was when someone knew they were dreaming. According to the special, the aware dreamer could change things, too.
I thought about that for a second. It was so dark in here. I closed my eyes and tried to think up a flashlight. When I opened them again, there was nothing in my hands. Maybe I’m not good at the dream manipulation stuff yet. I sighed heavily and took another step forward. Or maybe I was supposed to be in darkness. Darkness? If it was darkness then how could I tell I was standing in a hallway? I scratched my head in confusion. I took another few steps forward. Then I started to walk normally. I followed the hall, wondering what the hell the meaning of all this was. The last two strange dreams I had led me to a horrible and grisly murder scene. I’m not sure I was up too something like that. Not tonight anyway. After seeing all that first hand you definitely don’t want to dream about it.
The hallway seemed to go on forever. No matter how far or even how fast I walked down it, it just went on and on. Time seemed to have no meaning either. I’m not sure how long I’d been walking but it felt like forever. At one point, I even started running but I got tired of that so I started walking again. It wasn’t even a normal hallway either. There were no doors and when I looked down there didn’t seem to be a floor either. There were walls though, but I couldn’t really tell what they were made out of. It looked like stone but it was black. At one point, I reached out and touched one but it didn’t feel like anything.
I tried to count my steps to see how far I walked. I got up to two hundred and something when I just couldn’t count anymore. I tried looking at my watch too but the hands of it were spinning around like crazy. It was the freakiest thing. I shouted a lot, too. My voice echoed and bounced off the walls, flying about the space with me. The echoes seemed to last forever. Finally, I just gave up trying to figure the place out and kept walking. You would think that after all this walking my feet would hurt but they didn’t. Neither did my legs. Actually, there wasn’t even a bit of strain. I felt fine, better than fine. But I was still tired of walking and going absolutely nowhere.
When will all this end?
Then it did. Well it didn’t end but the hallway stopped. I nearly walked into it. The it I was speaking of was a door. It was large and had a circular top to it. There was a little barred opening cut into it as well. I took a step backwards, scared of it. Something moved on the other side of the door then I heard a scraping like metal on stone. I took another step back, my heart pounding in my chest. I looked the door over, noticing a giant padlock on it. I bit back my fear and took a step toward the door. I took another cautious step and looked through the opening. I know it was pretty stupid, but this was a dream after all and people didn’t get hurt in their own dreams. Did they?
Peering through the opening sent a terrifying shudder through my body. Made more so when I heard whatever it was behind the door move again. My heart was hammering loudly now, so loud I could hear it echoing about around me. Then I saw it: four red slits. They appeared right in front of me. I jumped back, nearly falling over my feet as I did so. A second or two later there was a sinister sound, at first I had no idea what it was. But as I listened, I realized it was laughter. It was sinister, blood curdling laughter.
“There you are” said a voice, it sounded like a woman.
I gulped. “You know me?”
The sinister laugh came again. “Know you? I’ve been waiting here for you for so long. I thought you’d never come.”
“Waiting for me?”
The glowering red slits bopped up and down as if they were nodding. I gasped. The slits must have been eyes and the bobbing was a head. “Are you going to let me out finally?”
“Let you out?”
It nodded again. “I’ve been locked up in here for so very long. Won’t you let me out?”
I took a cautious step backwards. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you do. You and I are so very much alike. I’ve been trying for so long to get your attention but you’ve never heard me until now. Not until you put on that wonderful little trinket of yours.”
“Trinket?” I asked and then realized I knew what she was talking about. “The necklace you mean?”
She nodded, her eyes bobbing again. “Do you want to know what it is?”
She nodded again. “Let me out and I’ll tell you all about it.”
I bit my lip. I looked at the padlock. “I don’t have a key.”
“Of course you do,” said the voice on the other side of the door.
I felt something in my pocket, something that wasn’t there before. I reached inside and pulled out the key. I was shocked to say the least. Where the hell did this come from? I stared at it for the longest time. It was strange thing. The head of it was just like the necklace, a cross with double bars. I smiled at it. It looked just like the necklace, my wonderful necklace. I took a deep breath and slowly raised it, moving toward the door. I grabbed the padlock, ready to insert the key inside.
“That’s it. Put it in there and then we can punish all those bastards who locked you up.”
I hesitated. “What are you talking about?”
“The ones who put you in the cell. They were lying. They think you did it. How can they not. You did do it. That poor girl was a hindrance to you and you got rid of her. It was brilliant actually, making her kill herself like that.”
I shook my head. “There was nothing brilliant about Katie dying.”
The voice laughed. “Girls are a dime a dozen. Let me out and you and I can have hundreds of them. We can build a harem, hell we can even make them look like her if you want.”
I shook my head, tears rolling down my cheeks. “I don’t want another girl. I want her, I want my Katie.”
I took a step away from the door and dropped the key. The door shook violently, metal rattling on the other side. No not metal, a chain. I realized it now. The door wasn’t the only thing holding whatever it was back. There was a chain too. Who chains something up when they’re already locked behind a door?
“You stupid little son of a bitch” snapped the voice angrily. “You’re nothing without me. You think you’re in control but you’re not. I’m getting stronger thanks to you. It’s only a matter of time before this chain breaks. As soon as it does I’ll smash this door to pieces. As soon as I do, I’m coming for you first. Now be a good boy and pick up the fucking key. Let me out of here and lets you and I make everyone pay for the way they’ve treated us.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know what the fuck you are but I want nothing to do with you.”
The Thing laughed. “You have no choice. You are too late to stop it. Pretty soon you won’t even be yourself anymore and then it’s only one step closer to me.”
The Thing laughed even louder. “I’m wrong? Who do you think you are fooling? Have you looked in the mirror lately? Don’t you see it yet; you don’t even look like yourself anymore. You think that’s normal, you think you’re still in control. Didn’t you feel it, didn’t you feel me. In the bathroom when that bastard was going to pound you, didn’t you like the power? You took his anger and you gave him your fear. That’s only a small fraction of what you can do. Together with me, you and I can become unstoppable. I’m offering you the world; don’t turn your back on it.”
I shook my head, taking another step away. “I want nothing to do with you.”
“You will. Very soon, they will find you and when they do, you’re going to beg me to help you. They’re getting closer you know. You know who I’m talking about and when they get you, you’re going to need me to stop them.”
I shook my head and ran. She screamed. Her shrill voice echoed down the hall. I ran as hard and as fast as I could. Tears streamed down my face as she ran. Who was she? What was she? How did she get there? I tried hard not to think about that thing but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was dangerous and dark and it scared the hell out of me. But it was right too. There was something wrong with me, something horribly wrong with me. I was avoiding it but she was right. When I look in the mirror, I have a hard time seeing myself. It’s subtle but over the last two weeks, my face was changing. It was getting softer, rounded even. My hair was down my back and silky smooth. My hips were flaring and my butt was swollen. Even my skin was getting softer. My chest was puffy too, my nipples huge. I was finding it hard to wear normal shirts without itching like crazy.
I had a pretty good idea what all that meant but I just couldn’t accept it. Even now as I ran as hard as I could I couldn’t accept it. There was just no way that it was even possible. Then I looked like a girl in that dress, so much so that I fooled people at the nightclub. As scary as it was, a small part of me liked that. I was repulsed and lost in the moment but it was invigorating too. And Katie? My Katie, the love of my life. The thing had been right about that. I killed her. I didn’t mean to do it but I killed her. She was dead because I got angry and she died because I couldn’t control what I was becoming. I wanted to run away from it, I had to run away from it. I have to get out, run as hard and as fast as I can.
I felt a tingling course through my body. I looked at my hands as I ran, watching in awe as a black light formed around them. It still tingled until it burned. It burned so bad that I thought my entire body was on fire. I screamed at the top of my lungs and the hallway exploded around me in a bright brilliant light.
I groaned as I opened my eyes.
The first thing I noticed was all the brown around me. The next thing I noticed was the heat, it was really hot. Too hot for a police station. I blinked a few times, wondering if they might have switched me to another cell when I was asleep. The last thing I noticed was the lack of walls around me. Why weren’t there any walls? I sat up and groaned, there was a weight on my chest and a throbbing pain in my neck. I rubbed the back of it, trying to get my bearings. As soon as I looked around, I realized that there was no way this was a new cell. Holy shit, what happened to the police station? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Clearly, I’m still dreaming. I counted to thirty and opened my eyes but the station didn’t come back. Instead, I saw the same thing I saw when I opened them the first time. I was now sitting on my butt in the middle of the desert.
I scratched my head, trying to figure out what had happened. The last thing I remembered was going to sleep in the holding cell. OK, so that was the last conscious thing I remembered. The last thing I could actually remember was that dream. Or least I thought it had been a dream. It just felt so real, especially that four-eyed Thing behind the door. There have only been certain moments in my life where I have been truly terrified. The first being my first ever day or school---very frightening for a five year old. The second was a few years ago when my grandfather had a mild heart attack. I was never so scared in my life as that day. I thought that that was the scariest moment I’d ever face. But it paled in comparison to meeting that Thing behind that door. Even thinking about it now sent shivers up my spine.
But it was a dream, right? It had to be a dream. Things like that didn’t exist in real life. I sighed heavily, yes they did. Maybe not quite like that but there were some pretty freaky things. This was after all the age of the Meta. Just last year, the Green Lantern Jade announced herself to the world and then told everyone that there would be Metas cropping up shortly. She wasn’t wrong either. First, it was that Terra girl and then they seemed to pop up like weeds after that. On the west coast it was Green Arrow and Blue Beetle, in the south it was the Flash---a local favorite–and several others. In Chicago, they seemed to have an infestation from Giganta and Booster Gold right down to a black suited phantom stalking the night. So OK, the Thing in my dream was nothing compared to the horrors the world was facing. Not that the Metas were horrors---they were really cool but there were other things out there that made my dream Thing look like a teddy bear.
I shuddered to think about it. I wiped my brow after that. I wasn’t exactly dressed for the desert. It was clearly morning now, the sun beating down on me. It had to be at least a hundred. I looked up, shielding my eyes as I did so. The sun wasn’t directly overhead so it was before noon. I groaned. This hot and still morning. I loved living in this area but there were some things I couldn’t stand about it. The heat being the biggest. I pushed myself to my feet. When I did so, I felt that weight again. When I felt it a few minutes ago, I didn’t think much about it but now it was really annoying. I looked down at my shirt and my eyes bulged from my head. What in the fuck!?!
Sticking out of my chest like two interlopers were two small mounds. I blinked but they didn’t go away. I reached up and poked one with my finger, half expecting it to be an odd fold of my shirt. It wasn’t. Poking it sent a shiver through my body. Then I reached up and cupped them. There was no doubt about it, I had breasts. They were small ones but they were breasts nonetheless. I let go of them quickly for fear that touching them might make them grow bigger or something. This isn’t happening, this isn’t possible? Guys just don’t grow breasts overnight, how crazy is that? I shook my head and started to pace. I didn’t care that the craggy cracked ground was doing murder to my bare feet. I had breasts, my hair was down my back, and I was in the middle of nowhere. I could deal with the last two things but the breasts; those were freaking me out big time.
Did that make me a girl?
I panicked and stuck my hand down my pants, into my boxers. I sighed in relief when I felt that everything was still where it was supposed to be. Ok so I’m only half a girl---was that even possible? I ran my hands through my hair, pausing half way when I felt how silky smooth it was. I cursed. It felt different than before. Something severely messed up was going on here. First seeing colors on people then being able to tell people to do things like Katie…I choked up just thinking about her, tears rolling down my cheeks. My current situation made me totally forget for a second why I was out here. OK, why I was in the police station. I had no idea how I’d gotten out here. Oh God, I missed her so much. Every time I tried to not think about seeing her like that, I cried. Even now as I wiped the tears, they just wouldn’t seem to stop.
I did it. The Thing in my dream it said I was responsible. I shook my head. It also said she deserved to die, that she was slowing me down. I didn’t believe that last bit in the least. There was no way that anyone deserved to die, especially her. Not my Katie, not the love of my life. I started to walk, heading in the direction that I thought school might be in. There was nothing but flat arid land for as far as the eye could see. The Arizona desert was not the best place to be stranded in the middle of it. Without water, I was as good as dead. I had no idea how far I was from civilization either. I could be miles from the nearest anything. I occupied my time by thinking about Katie and how I was going to get out of this mess.
The only problem being that I didn’t really know what kind of mess I was in. It was clearly something to do with the dream but I couldn’t remember what. The farther I walked the less of it I remembered. I still vividly remembered the thing talking to me but there was something else I should be remembering…something at the end of it. I was running but to where I can’t remember. I know I was running from it and then there was nothing. I think I was tingling and then there was some kind of light. I stopped dead in my tracks. The light!!! That had to be it but I still didn’t understand how it was involved in all of this. It was clear that whatever that light was it had something to do with me being here. I started walking again, trying to fight back the urge to scream. I was also trying not to think about my poor feet.
I started walking again, my mind racing all over the place. It was hard to concentrate on one thing without another interfering. If it wasn’t Katie, it was the dream and if it wasn’t the dream, it was the heat. The heat connected to the pain in my feet and now I’m apparently rhyming. I stopped again, looking down. I’m not sure when I realized my feet were throbbing so damn much. Now I could see why. There was blood seeping up between my toes. I cursed and looked around. I needed to get off the ground and fast. I shielded my eyes again and found some solace. I found a bit of salvation in the form of a rocky outcropping just ahead. It wasn’t much but at least it would get me off the ground for the time being. I stumbled toward it, not realizing how sore my feet were until I really thought about them.
The rocks were burning hot but at least they were better than the craggy, cracked ground. I pulled myself completely up on one then got a good look at my feet. They were cracked, blistered and bleeding. I was a damn fool not to bring my shoes into the shower. Then I remembered they were still in Katie’s car where I left the rest of my guy clothes---the first pair I was wearing that is. I sighed heavily. I had to do something about my feet before I continued walking. I grabbed the end of my shirt and started ripping. It was a good thing I liked my shirts baggy because there was a lot of material. As I ripped, I got a good look at my stomach underneath. I cursed. My skin was so pale it was almost white. My stomach was flat as a board too with a tiny feminine looking six-pack. I had one of those cute little belly buttons too.
I tried not to think about it as I tore two nice strips of cloth from my shirt. When I was done, my shirt was practically a belly shirt now. I would have felt embarrassed if not for the fact that my feet were killing me. I put modesty aside and started wrapping my poor appendages. When I was done, I looked like John McClain from Die Hard except I hadn’t been walking across a room of glass. But I suppose the rough desert floor was probably just the same. After wrapping my feet, I slowly stood up on the rock and tried to get my bearings. I was pretty certain I was walking in the right direction but I still had no idea how long it was going to take.
I looked up and the sun was far overhead now, almost dipping behind me now. I couldn’t believe I’d been walking that long. I stopped looking at the sun and tried to see if I could see anything else. I’m not sure how long I looked but I finally figured out it was pointless. There was nothing around but the bunch of rocks I was standing on. So I took a deep breath and stepped off them. I winced. The wrappings on my feet helped but they still hurt like a bitch. But I tried not to think about it as I started walking again. While not thinking about my feet, my mind drifted back to Katie again. But this time it wasn’t to mourn her. This time I couldn’t help but think what she would say about all this. She’d been teasing me for years about how I looked, trying to force me into stupid girly things. I think she’d laugh if she could see me now. Thinking about her laugh and her smile just made things hurt even more. As far as I knew, she hadn’t even been dead for twenty-four hours. I was already a wreck. There was no way I could go through the rest of my life without her.
I forced those thoughts out of my head. In fact, I tried to clear every thought out of my head except getting back home. That thought stayed on my mind as I trudged along. I’m not sure how long I’d been walking but it felt like hours after that. I could feel the sun on my back. It was burning my shoulders. I couldn’t imagine what it was doing to my skin. I finally took a look at my arms, having been afraid too for a while now. I half expected to see them as blistered and as red as the bottom of my feet. But they weren’t. They were as pale as my stomach. But they definitely weren’t my arms anymore. They were thin and hairless. I groaned. Was nothing on me like it was before? I’d already started to notice strange things over the past few weeks: my hips, my butt, my hair. Now I had breasts and my arms were dainty too. I looked at my hands. They were still small and I realized very girl-like. Was my “thing” the only thing I had that still identified me as a man?
I wanted to cry but no tears came out. I was so thirsty.
I shook my head and started walking some more. The sun on my back was unbearable after another hour or so. My feet were back to aching too. I looked down at them. I was practically dragging them now, my wrapping soaked with sweat and blood. Another ten minutes later and my legs felt like they weighed a ton. I was so tired. I tried to press on but with the pain in my feet and my groaning muscles, I just couldn’t do it. Another ten minutes later, I collapsed. I landed on my knees. I groaned lightly in pain. Then I collapsed to my side but I didn’t have the strength to push myself up. I tried but I just couldn’t do it. I closed my eyes. So this is how it ends, dying of exhaustion in the middle of the desert. I closed my eyes and saw Katie’s smiling face. At least she and I haven’t been parted for that long.
I opened my eyes just a slit to get one last look at the world. I smiled so much for a beautiful sight at my death. I laughed and darkness slowly crept in. God What I wouldn’t give for a nice slice of pizza and an ice cold coke right about now. I felt a tingle course through my body as the rest of the darkness crept in and I blacked out.
A bright light shone in my eyes. I opened them halfway, shielding them with a hand. Why the hell was the sun so bright? I groaned. I should be dead, why wasn’t I dead. I wanted to be dead so that I could be with Katie again. I closed my eyes and turned my head. Maybe if I ignored it the light would go away and let me die in peace. But it didn’t go away. I could feel it on the back of my neck. The strange thing was that it wasn’t hot like before. There was something else that I could feel too. It wasn’t the light or the heat---though it was hot. This new thing was hard to describe at first. It wasn’t something tangible. It was more like something in my head, almost like a thought but definitely not my own. It was unsettling at first and grew increasingly more so.
Then I heard a voice: “Miss, this is no place for you to be taking a nap?”
A voice? That startled me. What the hell was someone else doing in the middle of the desert?
I opened my eyes and snapped up, looking around groggily. What I saw floored the hell out of me. I wasn’t in the desert anymore. I was on a bench, a city bench. It was dark out but there were streetlights all over the place. I blinked a few times just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But I wasn’t. I was in the city. How the hell I got here I don’t know. I wonder if it was the same way I got into the desert in the first place. I tried to think about it more but my head started to hurt. Then I started to get that “feeling” again, the annoyed one from before. I looked around and realized I wasn’t alone. That’s when I remembered the voice and the light. Both of which belonged to the portly police office standing in front of the bench with a stern look on his face.
He frowned. “Miss, are you all right? Do you need me to call someone?”
I shook my head. “I’m fine and I’m not a miss,” I said but as soon as I did so, I put a hand to my throat.
My voice was all wrong. It didn’t sound like me, it sounded like a girl’s.
The police officer raised an eyebrow. Then he turned away, pulling out his radio. He spoke quickly into it. “I have a young woman here I think she might be on something. I’m on the corner of Smith and Weston, right in front of Mario’s Pizza.”
Pizza? I snapped around and looked at the building behind me. Sure enough, it was Mario’s. Holy shit, no way. Katie and I used to come here from time to time whenever we got into the city. But lately we’d been too busy. It’s funny because right before passing out in the desert I was not just thinking about a slice of pizza I was thinking about a slice of Mario’s pizza. They did this really good New York style thin crust. It was by far the best pizza in the city. Staring at the place now with it large front windows and neon sign I couldn’t help but smile. I was salivating a bit, too.
The police officer was still talking to whoever on the radio when he addressed me again. “Miss, what’s your name?”
It took me second to make up a lie. He thought I was a girl so be it. “Rachel” I said quickly. “Rachel Roth.”
So I half lied. He was a police officer after all. I felt bad about lying completely to him.
He told my name to the person on the other end of the radio. Then he asked me what I was doing out here. I looked quickly down at myself, noticing that my bumps were a bit bigger, pushing out my shirt some. Just great that’s all I needed. Scrutinizing myself further, I realized that I looked quite the sight. He probably thought…well I was pretty sure I knew what he was thinking. I shot him a dirty look and he averted his eyes for a second. Fucking perv.
“I’m not what you think I am,” I said quickly. “I was out with some friends from school. I got a little drunk and it looks like they bailed on me…the stupid bitches.” I sighed, blowing a strand of hair from my face.
The cop nodded but I’m not sure he believed me. “Do you have any ID?”
I waved my hands up and down my body. I probably looked like hell, especially with my feet bandaged up the way they were. “Do I look like I have any idea?” He narrowed his eyes. “Look we were out celebrating because I just got into a sorority. They ambushed me on my way to bed. First, they made me walk around the desert like an idiot then they took me clubbing. They didn’t even let me change. They think this is their idea of a good time” I crossed my arms underneath my new assets. “See if I ever talk to them again.”
I couldn’t believe how well I was lying and how believable it seemed. I had no idea what I was talking about and yet it came natural. I would have been freaked out if not for being so hungry. The cop had been nodding throughout my whole explanation as if he was believing it too. How cool was that?
“Do you have anyone that can come and pick you up?”
I started to shake my head but stopped. I sighed. “My boyfriend. I can give him a call or else I would if I had my phone.” Then I got an idea as I felt my stomach grumble. “You wouldn’t be willing to spare a couple of bucks, I’m starving.”
He frowned. “I can’t; I’m sorry.”
I glanced back at the pizza place again. I’m starving. Just a couple of dollars, maybe even a twenty. How hard was that?
The cop got a glassy look to his eye. I froze when I saw it. It was the same one, the same look that Katie got. The look she had when she…when she…when she killed herself. The cop lowered his radio, reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. My eyes widened as he opened it up and pulled out a twenty. He held it out to me, his arm like a stiff rod. I reached forward quickly and snatched it away. I was in awe of what just happened. I stared at him as I folded the twenty and stuck it in my pocket. He stood there for a few seconds more until the glassiness disappeared and he blinked. He looked confused for a second then shook his head.
“I’m sorry” he said, confused. “What was I saying again?”
I smiled. “You were saying that you’re sorry to leave me alone but you have to get back to your patrol.”
He looked at me strangely and nodded. He wished me good evening and then walked over. As soon as he was gone, I pulled out the twenty and slipped off the bench. My legs and feet were killing me as I walked slowly into Mario’s. I got a lot of strange looks. There were only a few people inside so it wasn’t so bad. I ordered two slices of cheese and pepperoni and a large coke. I paid, got my change and took my stuff to a booth. When I tore into the pizza, it was like a ravenous dog. I got a few more stares. There was a pair of preppy blondes sitting across the aisle from me. They wrinkled their noses at my behavior. I was feeling particularly annoyed for some reason so I gave them the finger and narrowed my eyes at them. They had this bright vibrant pink color but that quickly disappeared and turned a putrid yellow. I smiled at that. They turned away and stopped staring too, which was fine by me. I ate and drank in a hurry. Then I looked at my change. I had enough left to get myself a pair of cheap shoes. I left the pizza parlor and walked down the street.
There was this little shop that Katie sometimes dragged me in to. It was a few doors down from Mario’s. It sold second hand clothing, mostly women’s. But seeing as I appeared to be more girl then guy at the moment I guess that’s where I needed to go. When I walked into the shop, I was glad to see there was only one person. It was a middle-aged woman in a gray dress. She took one look at me and sighed. I think she thought I was a basket case. She came over and started helping me browse. I was annoyed at first but glad for the help. When I told her that I didn’t have a lot---showing her my money---she said it was enough.
She then proceeded to get me some clothes. I tried to talk her out of it but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. “A pretty girl like you walking around like that” she said, shaking her head.
So I reluctantly took the clothes she offered and went into the back room to change. There was a tall mirror there and when I looked it, I nearly fainted. It wasn’t me anymore. It still looked vaguely like me but there was a pretty girl staring back at me. Long black hair framing a beautiful face. She had all the right curves too. I touched my face then ran my hand down the rest of my body. She was dirty---I mean I was dirty---and a little worn out looking but it was me. I sighed. Under any other circumstances, I might have been totally freaked---I was a bit---but I was too damn tired. So I stared at myself a little more than sighed again.
After that, I stripped quickly, trying not to look. It might have been me but I didn’t want to see another girl naked. The only girl I wanted to see naked was Katie. I felt a pang thinking about her. The tears started flowing again but I wiped them away. Not now, there’s time for that later. So I tried to force it out of my mind as I started dressing. I was reluctant to put on the underwear---it was a second hand store after all and they were panties---but I did so anyway. When I pulled them up around my hips, I groaned at how easily they fit. My little buddy was still there but he was much smaller than before. That scared the hell out of me. I had to wonder how long it was going to be before he was gone altogether and this nightmare that was the new me was complete.
I tried not to think anymore about that as I continued getting dressed. The bra was easy enough because I’d taken one off Katie more than once. I was scared how well my new breasts fit into it. They had to be a large A Cup at least, maybe even a small B. I was scared that they might get bigger as my “you know what” got smaller. I tried to force that out of my head, too. The rest of the clothes were simple enough: cut off jean shorts and a light baby blue tank top. I pulled them both on quickly. Finally, it was the shoes. I slowly unwrapped my feet, wincing as I did so. They looked like hell. They were probably in need of medical attention but right now, I just wanted to get out of here. So I painfully slipped my new shoes on.
When I walked out of the back room, the woman smiled. “Much better sweetheart.”
I smiled weakly. “You sure I have enough for all this?”
She nodded. “Don’t you worry about that? You have plenty.”
I smiled and reluctantly handed over the rest of my cash. She took it and put it in the cash register. She didn’t bother to give me a receipt and I didn’t get any change back. For a split second, I thought about using the trick I used on the police officer seeing if I could get a little more out of all this. But I realized how crooked that was. I shook my head, wondering where the hell such a thought came from. It was bad enough that I robbed from a police officer, there was no way I was going to rob from someone who genuinely went out of their way to help me. But I did have another favor to ask of her.
“Do you think I could borrow your phone?” I asked. “I’d like to call a friend to give me a ride back to campus.”
She smiled and pulled out her cell, handing it to me. I smiled back and quickly dialed my dorm room. I know it was crazy but Bart was the only one I had left to turn too. He answered after a few rings.
“Love Hospital” he said in a voice he probably thought was sexy. “The Doctor is in.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes. “Bart” I said, trying and failing to make myself sound like the old me.
There was a momentary pause. “Whatever it is babe, I swear I was tested.”
Eww gross. “I’m not one of your conquests you ass.”
There was another pause. “Then completely forget what I said babe. My name is Bart and I’ll rock your world.”
I wanted to gag. “I don’t need you to rock my world; I need you to pick me up.”
“I’m trying to pick you up but you’re playing hard to get.”
I groaned. This was getting nowhere. “Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”
“I don’t know, you haven’t given me your name yet babe.”
“It’s Ryan you ass” I said angrily.
There was another pause. “Dude, you know you sound like a chick,k right.”
I sighed. “Yeah, it’s a long story. Are you going to listen and stop hitting on me now?”
He laughed. “I wasn’t hitting on you. I was messing with you. I knew it was you all along.”
I rolled my eyes. “Just come and get me,” I said, quickly giving him the address.
“I’ll try but the cops are all over this place. There’s even a car outside” I cursed and he sighed. “They say you might have killed Katie. I told them they were full of shit.” There was a moment of silence. Finally, he asked what I thought he might ask. “You didn’t…you know.”
I sighed. “What do you think?”
“I didn’t think so, dude.”
He hung up after that. I bit my lip. The cops were looking for me and why wouldn’t they. First, they thought I was guilty then Detective Corrigan told me he thought I was innocent. Which was great until I somehow disappeared from their holding cell? That one was really bad. If they didn’t think, I was guilty before they sure as hell did now. I started pacing, trying to figure out what to do. Then I looked over at the women’s coat rack. There was a black hoodie hanging there. It was really hot outside but maybe if I hid some of features I wouldn’t look so much like me. I bit my lip and walked over, pulling it off the rack.
“Is it possible I can toss this in with the lot too?”
The woman sighed. “I don’t know, that’s not exactly…”
I closed my eyes. Let me have it now. I hated doing it to her but I needed it. When I opened my eyes, she had that glassy look. She nodded her head so I slipped the hoodie on. I felt real guilty afterwards but I couldn’t help it. I was scared as all hell though. It was clear that I wasn’t normal anymore. I’m not sure exactly what I was but definitely wasn’t normal. I started pacing again. I tried to rack my brain but the only thing I could come up with was the necklace. It dawned on me then that the necklace, my necklace, it was gone. It never even occurred to me until now. I reached up and touched my neck but it wasn’t there. I panicked for a second. What the hell happened to my necklace? I tried to remember the last time I was wearing it. It was before the club at least, before all this shit started. I cursed. Did I take it off without releasing it?
The loud beeping of a car horn shattered my thoughts. I cursed. I pushed the thoughts of my necklace to the back of my mind as I ran out the door. Bart’s beat up red corvette was waiting. The engine was idling. I ran over to the car, opened the passenger side door and slipped inside. I slammed the door and turned to him. “Go” I said but he didn’t move.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, surprised.
“Ryan” I said, my face obscured by my hood.
He looked at me oddly. “No you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”
He shook his head. “Ryan is a dude and unless he spontaneously turned into a chick over night, you are definitely not him.”
I groaned. I didn’t have time for this. I thought about mind fucking him too but I didn’t want to do that to my best friend. So instead, I sighed heavily. “In the eighth grade, you got caught looking into the girl’s locker room. You got suspended for a week. But the thing you didn’t tell anyone was that at the time that you got caught you were jacking off into a pair of Mary Grant’s pink panties.”
His eyes widened. “I never told anyone that except…” His eyes got really big. “Holy shit.”
I nodded. “Drive and I’ll explain on the way back to the dorm.”
He shook his head. “We’re not going to the dorm…ummm we can’t go back there right now.”
I sighed. “Why not?”
“Well the cops were kinda waiting for me when I left the dorm room. I might have elbowed them and took off running. They gave chase but I gave them the slip. I’m not sure if they followed me or not but they’re definitely going to be back at the dorm.”
I cursed. “Damn it, Bart.”
He gunned the engine. “Don’t worry, Buddy, I know the perfect place to lie low.”
I frowned, crossing my arms in front of me. This had better be good.
We pulled up in front of the hacienda style house. Bart didn’t pull into the driveway because it was late and the light wasn’t on above the garage. It took us nearly an hour to get here and that was without traffic. Bart’s car may have been cool once but now it was a piece of shit. He got it from his Dad who gave it to him back in August. It was only meant to drive him around the city and in-between classes. The car was once the greatest thing in the world. I remember the two of us slipping into the garage when we were kids and staring at it. But his Dad kinda let it go to rot. It wasn’t very well maintained and as a result, it was in need of a lot of work. He gave it to Bart thinking maybe his son could get more use out of it. Bart didn’t care that it was a piece of shit though, he loved that car.
Me, I was just glad we finally stopped.
I looked out the window at the house and frowned. I didn’t like barging in on people that I barely knew. Bart didn’t seem to mind though and they were his relatives. But whereas I was a complete strange, he was family. “Are you sure about this?”
He nodded. “My Uncle B is cool. He and my aunt let me crash here last week end.”
I frowned, remembering. “But last time you were invited.”
He shrugged, pushing open his door. “Same thing.”
I groaned, pushing open my own door too. As soon as I stepped out of the car, Bart gave me the once over. His eyes got big. I gave him the finger. I told him the whole story on the way over, it helped by the time after his car stalled not once but three times. At first, he thought I was full of shit but when I told him about the cops thinking I killed Katie, he kinda went quiet. Katie and he were good friends even if they didn’t want to admit it. The three of us had been real close as kids. I can’t imagine how her death was on him. I know it was killing me inside. It was taking everything I could just to breathe right at the moment.
“So” he said as he came around to my side and slammed his door shut. “Are you a chick everywhere?”
He was looking down when he said it. I blushed. “No” I said and he looked back up, embarrassed.
The two of us were pretty quiet as we walked up the front walkway to the door. Bart got a big grin on his face as he rang the doorbell. For a second we didn’t think anyone was going to answer. When the door opened, Bart smiled. “Hey Aunt Iris…” he said and stopped dead when the door opened all the way and a blonde haired teenage girl was standing there. She was cute, wearing a pair of pink pajamas. She looked from Bart to me and then to Bart again. She looked scared for a second and definitely surprised to see us.
A voice called from inside. “Who is it, sweetie?”
The girl recovered quickly. “I think it’s your nephew, Aunt Iris.”
Bart smiled at the girl. “Hi, I’m Bart, what’s your name, sexy.”
She rolled her eyes and stepped aside as a woman came walking up. I had only met Bart’s aunt and uncle once and briefly. Iris had been real nice to me. She was a bit older now but she was same woman that I’d meet. She looked from Bart to me and then to the girl and finally back to Bart. For a second her eyes got real big and recovered quickly. I looked at both of them. I got a strange feeling again like with the cop. Except this one seemed to tell me that both of them were agitated, almost scared. I looked at their two colors, they were a dull yellow.
Iris smiled. “Hello Bartholomew, what a pleasant surprise.”
He smiled weakly. “Sorry to spring it on you, Iris, but do you think my friend and I can crash here for the night.”
She turned to me and looked me over. “I’m not really sure I should let you and your girlfriend spend the night, your mother might kill me.”
Bart laughed. “She’s not my girlfriend, she’s just a friend”
He sighed. “Where’s Uncle B, he’ll understand.”
Iris pursed her lips and looked at the girl. The girl turned her head as if avoiding the stare. Iris sighed. “Your uncle is working late tonight.”
Bart nodded. “So we can’t stay then?”
Iris sighed. “You can stay but you’re staying on the couch, your friend can stay in the guest room.”
“Rachel” I said smiling sweetly.
Iris smiled, stepping inside to allow us in. “It’s nice to meet you Rachel, this is my niece Barbara.”
I smiled at the blonde girl. She smiled back. I got another feeling from her. It was definitely fear. This girl was really scared about something. I looked at Bart. She shifted her gaze to him quickly then back at me. Was she afraid of him?
Iris turned to Barbara. “Babs would you get Rachel a spare pair of your pajamas, you two look about the same size.”
“Sure” said the girl quickly. “Come with me, I’ll get you something and show you where to change.”
I looked at Bart but he didn’t seem to be any help. I gulped and followed the cute blonde girl down the hall. She took me to a room and opened the door but didn’t let me inside. She came back a second later with a pair of pajamas, purple but like hers. She handed to me and led me down the hall to another room. She opened the door and turned on the light. It was a nice enough room. It had a bed and a dresser. I smiled and thanked her. She left me as I stepped inside and then I closed the door. I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment before stripping off my new clothes and getting into the pajamas.
Then I dropped on the bed. I sighed heavily, lying on my stomach. God that hurt. I rolled over onto my back, exhausted. I looked over at the light but it was too far. I groaned and rolled away, too tired to shut it off. I wish it would just…There was a small flash of black light that I barely noticed before I heard a pop and the room fell into darkness. Must be a bad bulb. I groaned and pulled the pillow close to my chest. This was the first moment of peace for me in a several hours.
I closed my eyes, saw Katie’s face and cried myself to sleep.
To Be Continued