(Another place, another time)
Jay grabbed a random CD off the ever growing stack next to the stereo.
“Cascada: Everytime We Touch” she read as she dropped the disk into the CD player and punched the “random” button. There was very little intro before the vocals kicked in – just enough time for Jay to spin over to the light switch and kill the main lights in her room.
You took a piece of my heart
I never thought that this could fall apart
You said you fell in love
And this was more than I had ever been afraid of
Another happy ending cuts like knife
Another place, another time
Another hand to touch, another sun to shine
You got me deeper than deep and I’m constantly blinded
I’m running around but there’s no place to hide
I start to talk in my sleep, our souls are divided
Why can’t they forgive me these demons inside
Deeper than deep, and I’m constantly blinded
My heart starts to shiver for I was letting up
I start to talk in my sleep, cause our souls are divided
How can it be that you’re ready for love
Ready for love …
How can it be that you’re ready for love?
The beat kicked in and she began to dance, bare feet moving on expensive hard-wood floor, eyes closed knowing instinctively every inch of the available floor space. The only light in the room was a green lava-lamp on the bookshelf. She knew no-one would interrupt her – she’d already eaten and given the maid leave to retire for the night, her father was who-knows-where doing who-knows-what, on business as he kept reminding her. He hadnt called in 3 days. Her mother was asleep already.
“That’s 3 days of freedom, no-one checking on you” her best friend, Keisha, had told her when she’d mentioned it in school today. It didnt fill the ache inside Jay. She ached in emotional places only a parent could reach. There’d been a painful spot inside each time he went away. Each time seemed to last forever. She could count on one hand the number of times his business trips had not caused the deep ache of separation. She let the music reach inside her. The CD player whirred as it jumped to another track, “Neverending dream”
I’m waiting for the night drifting away
On the waves of my dreams to another day
I’m standing on a hill and beyond the clouds
The winds blowing still and catching my doubts
I’m hunting on the night the slave to my dream
an illustrated scene decends in the sleep
We’re playing for the fights emotional games
I’m turning off my eyes and hiding my shame
A neverending dream a dream of you
I believe I received a sign of you
tonight I want to hide my feelings too
as you do and I want to be with you
Jay let her imagination drift. The music lifted emotion inside her – joy and something deeper – she couldnt name what she felt rising. She chewed at her lower lip, still dancing, eyes scrunched up yet aware of her place in the room. She let it rise inside her, feet moving to the beat, body whirling. Dance lessons as a child echoed in her muscles deeper than thought. Movement drilled into her over the years flowed in time with the beat. Her mind wandered even as her feet danced.
Jay lost track of the exact track playing on the CD as her mind swelled with more of the rising emotion. A sense of connectedness came with it – connected to her surroundings – not a physical connection of gravity and molecules but a deeper existential connection to reality around her. There was a flaw in the flow of connectedness. Something was missing that should have been there. Reality itself seemed somehow strained as it coped to fill in the gap where the thing ought to be. Her father was more than simply away from home on business, she realized, it was as though a slice of reality had been bitten off with him still in it. In the grand artist’s sketch of reality a blank space had appeared and an existential thumb has smeared the paint from around the gap to cover it in somehow. No wonder it ached inside. Reality itself was groaning within her at the effort it was putting out.
She followed feelings of connectedness and was aware of her mother’s sleeping form downstairs. Her brother, while away at college, was still there. The threads of connection reflected the light of the lava lamp, glowing a luminescent green. No. Her mind whirled with the implication … her body was dancing but her mind was still as it probed the connectedness of reality … her body whirled and bounced with the dance beat yet her mind saw the room from a point of stillness. Her physical eyes were shut yet she saw. The revelation settled into her quickly, dew on parched and arid earth.
She wasnt aware that a voice had spoken yet she was aware of communication. Her physical ears were processing the dance beat and vocals of the Cascada CD while another part of her awareness – the part seeing the room and her connection to reality – heard it.
“It’s alright.” the Voice whispered again, “Dont panic. Feel your purpose swelling within you. Trust me and I’ll guide you.”
Jay realized that she hadnt felt this good for a long time. It brought back happy memories of family time together, picnics in the park, of chasing her brother Eli through the woods near their home. As quickly as the feeling of purpose has risen it was ripped from her again. Torn. Emptyness. Darkness. No, not darkness, just closed eyes and pain from an ankle she’d just turned while dancing. She dropped to the floor, familiar ache at her father being away merging with a new aching desire for that unnatural high she’d just experienced. She wanted more. Needed more. She needed to heal the rift in reality where her father ought to be.
Jay walked through her high-school caffeteria balancing a tray of (supposedly) healthy food while limping from the turned ankle. She scanned table after table for a familiar face. All around her the seething senseless mass was eating, shouting, throwing food, fighting and heaven-know-what else a few of the couples were up to. The wall of sound assaulted her and threatened to bring on a headache. Where were they? She scanned the room again finally noticing a hand waving from across the room. Keisha!
“Dont be spilling that slop on me, hop-a-long,” a voice spat at her from nearby.
“Freak.” another said.
Jay took a deep breath and bit down to keep from saying something. Five girls, all blonde, looked at her with open contempt. She kept walking.
“The airheads giving you grief again?” Keisha asked as Jay arrived at their table.
“Yeah.” Jay shrugged and elbowed herself in between Keisha and CaraBelle, fellow “nerds”, fellow “freaks”, and her best friends in the school.
They made a strange trio. Keisha was the solid physical presence, mixed-race Asian/African American with an unbeaten track record in the female wrestling squad, “KiKi” to her friends and a formidable force to deal with if crossed. CaraBelle was a recent import from Vancouver, light and bird-like in stature with quick wit and biting tongue, bi-lingual in French and English with a distinct foreign inflection to her English gained while in summer school in Europe. Jay was the odd one out among even the school oddities. By rights she had the looks to settle in with the elect, the beautiful, yet she never felt she fitted anywhere. Average build, average height with shoulder length dark brown hair and a winning smile, she fitted in right between the willowy CaraBelle and rock-solid Keisha.
“Hey, you listening?” Keisha demanded.
Jay snapped out of the train of thought, “Yeah, I heard it … something to do with a gallon of mayonaise and your ex-boyfriend’s mustang?”
Keisha laughed, “You should have seen his face. Should have seen the car. It was hi-lar-ious!”
CaraBelle didnt seem as amused, “Want a soda? I think it’s my turn to buy…”
Jay asked for a diet coke, Keisha a Sprite, then offered to go with CaraBelle to the vending machine to help carry the drinks and to convince her of the sheer joy of seeing your ex’s leather seats oozing with sticky yellow (low fat) mayo.
As Jay munched on a crisp yellow apple a familiar Voice made itself distinct from among the seething faceless mass of teenage noice around her.
“Dont turn around.”
She felt a deep elation inside and her mind rushed to meet it. She basked in the inner glow, feeling herself buoyed up by it. Her eyes were open this time, and there was no lava-lamp nearby, yet the green tinge returned. It overlayed the wall she was staring at. Luminescent connections became clear linking CaraBelle, Keisha and herself. The wall of caffeteria noise shrank as she felt nudged along the lines leading to the soda machine.
This was more than mere awareness of surroundings, she realized with a jolt.
“Dont panic.” the Voice reassured, “Follow Me … reach for the soda machine.”
While a part of her awareness knew she was really sitting at the table, she was also standing to one side of the vending machine. To her new eyes it was translucent, simple green structures inside a larger physical shell. She watched one of the school football team push money into the slot and the green innards responded with a state change. He punched a button and the state rapidly made the transition through three more states. He walked away, rudely bumping shoulders with Keisha who threatenned to kick his ass.
“Reach in there. You’ve done this before. Remember.” the Voice urged.
Jay slipped her left hand inside the casing of the machine and reality bent around her wrist. She felt pressure, an insistent urge from reality to withdraw her hand, like she’d plunged her hand into icy water with a strong current. With one hand inside the machine Jay caught CaraBelle’s money. Without thinking she plunged her right arm up to the shoulder inside and flicked the internal state. That was when the fight begain. It reminded her of the time she helped Keisha clip her cat’s claws – it was a muscular 15 pound monster of a cat – it took both of them to hold the moggy down. All the while it growled at spat at them. When the process was over the cat almost exploded out of their grasp, tail puffed up, ears flat against its skull.
“Damn the animal was pissed.” Jay thought, fighting the pissed-off soda machine.
“Show it who’s boss.” the quiet Voice said.
Jay gritted her teeth at the icy pressure on her arms and twisted. Something inside the machine popped. Part of the green insides had broken off and was melting as she watched. Green stuff flowed and a new internal structure formed, guided by her two hands. The coin slot now looped back on itself, directly to the retun, and the internal state oscillated randomly. With a thrill she pulled her hands free and reality popped back to the shape it wanted to occupy giving a rubbery wobble in the process.
As quickly as it had come, the elation and thrill left her. There was less of a tearing this time but it was a rude slap in the face nonetheless. Her cheek stung. Her ears were ringing with voices,
“Slap her again, that was funny.”
”..Get more reaction out of Jello.”
She blinked, focus returning to physical eyes again. Staring at the wall. Three of the five blonde girls crowding behind her. Before she could react the leader raised her hand to slap her again, only to be caught in the meaty grip of Keisha.
“Touch my friend again and I’ll break your wrist, bitch.” she spat.
The blondes scattered, “Dont worry … we’ll be back with more when your bulldog isn’t sniffing around. We’ve not finished with you yet.”
“Hey Jay, you’ll never guess what happend?” CaraBelle said, before waiting for a response she breathlessly continued, “the soda machine just freaked out on us, free drinks all around. Well, no, it ate my cash, gave me mine, then begain spitting out whatever buttons we pushed.”
CaraBelle and Keisha put 7 cans on the table, “You wanted diet coke?”
Jay grinned, “Sure. Oh and Cowbell, I’ve got something for you. Hold out your hand and close your eyes.”
CaraBelle looked at her wide-eyed, Keisha nealy snorted Sprite out of her nose, “COW-BELL?”
“Come on. Hands.”
CaraBelle held out her hands and closed her eyes. Jay put her left hand out and dropped coins into her palm.
“The soda was free. That’s yours.”
Jay grinned to herself, the look of shock and awe on both of their faces, priceless.
Admiral Feyessa woke up aching all over. Whatever he’d been drinking had kicked like a mule. He struggled to remember. Capatin Lansdowne had visited, had they gone out for beers? Feyessa frowned. No, couldnt be beer, his mouth tasted wrong. A metallic taste.
“Human blood?” he thought, “Copperish … if you cut it with peppermint schnapps it goes …”
He remembered a muscular man with a shaved head. Wearing restraints. Had he been drinking too?
He moved his tongue around experimentally. Yup even that hurt. Hurt more than the rest. Had he maybe bitten it, that would explain the taste of blood. He wanted to move his arm but it felt like lead, wouldnt respond no matter how much he willed it. Legs too.
Feyessa realized that he was cold. Whatever he was laying on was unyielding and colder than the air surrounding him. He managed to turn his head to get a glimpse of his surroundings. It looked like they had layed him out on a slap. A morgue? Had he drunk himself into an early grave? Wouldnt be the first time, or the last, that someone had taken him for dead after a serious binge. No. He’d never bitten his own tongue while drinking, and the ache all over wasnt the result of bar-fighting. Something (or someone) had paralysed him and left him here. He felt anger rising. How dare they!
He heard a door open and shut behind him and footsteps.
“How’re you doing there? Comfy?” a cheery female voice asked.
“Cold. Achy. It’s a bitch of a hangover if you ask me.” he answered.
The woman laughed and moved around into his field of vision. Blond hair, green eyes, nice figure. If he’d been thirty years younger he might have considered his chances with the woman. She checked a chart that was hanging below his feet. He wriggled a toe and was satisfied to see that it responded, albeit sluggishly. An improvement. He figured he would need that toe if it came to kicking the ass of whoever had done this to him.
“So, feeling any better are we?” she said.
“I dont know about you, but I feel like shit.” He tossed back.
The nurse checked his pulse, made a note on the chart and stepped out through the door.
Some time later he woke up. He didnt remember dozing off but to wake up meant he must have dozed off at some point. He tried to remember where he was. Cold slab under his ass. Air with a tang of antiseptic. Cold. A residual ache in his limbs suggested he might have worked out yesterday. Had he? He couldnt recall spending time on the indoor track or lifting weights but his muscles certainly protested. There was a shapely blond … a smile spread across his face as he thought of her in workout gear … had he met her at the gym?
A door behind him opened and shut and there were steps.
“How are you feeling?” a nasal New Jersey accent asked him
“Not bad. What happened?” he asked.
“Your first ECT treatment happened. You may experience some confusion. Some memory loss. Short term memory will be affected more than long term, but there may still be gaps.” as he was speaking the Indian doctor walked around and into Feyessa’s field of vision. He was an insubstantial man with a massive comb-over. Feyessa smiled as the memory of it catching in the wind.