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BREAK, Chapter 1, Excerpt

I’m in the room again.

Somehow I am in. This. Room. Again. I’ve gotten myself back here, in this den, despite every step I’ve taken in preparation for it, and the audible moans of sex, mutual rapture and coital bliss coming from my aunt Amy, and Eric Robins, my old high school principal, only grow louder, the longer their antics go on. I try to tune them out, and even though I’ve been here every night, once a night, for the past thirty-seven—oh, excuse me, tonight means thirty-eight—days, it’s no good.

See, this has been happening to me for just over a month now. It’s going to sound strange but, I have the ability to brain rape people.

Pause for effect.

Or applause.

Or an awkward clearing of throats.

Whichever.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I just couldn’t figure out a way to not do it, without suffering some serious pain myself. Picture the least attractive hangover imaginable in combination with the feeling of rusted, icy pipes being shoved into your temples. Cute, right?

That’s what it felt like if ever I tried to hold myself back from jumping inside people’s heads. My best friend, Endira Flynn, says I possess people. I guess I am, since I can basically do whatever I want to them once I get inside. I can make Amy tap dance and have Robins write my American Lit paper for me while I make myself a sandwich in the kitchen, if it tickled my fancy. It doesn’t. But, I mean, it’s an option.

“Oh God,” Amy moans.

Robins follows up with a throaty, “Oh yeah.”

Oh brother. I have to get out of here. I glance around. The walls are a dark shade of blood red. The room is covered in wall-to-wall book shelves and at either side of the black leather couch are glass end tables with vases of calla lilies in them. My principal has style.

I’m hidden between two book shelves nearest the back of the couch Amy and Eric are getting hot and heavy on, even though I know for a fact that I won’t be seen. By anyone. That’s just how it works. Hiding is pointless in these possessions.

A red laced bra comes sailing over the back of the couch and lands in front of me.

Shit. That’s Amy’s contraband. Time to book it.

I reach up and behind me for the silver letter opener I know is stashed on the fourth shelf up. As soon as I grip it tight in my right hand, my palms start to sweat and I grind my teeth together preparing for the oncoming pain.

“One—” I whisper, placing my left hand palm-down in front of me.

“Eric,” Amy says. “Yes.”

“Two—”

Robins grunts. And I can’t decide if I’m going to through up or pass out at this point.

“Three.” I bring the sharp end of the letter opener slicing down on my hand. I let out an involuntary shriek that’s more a hysterical bark of laughter than an outright cry of pain. The pain registers quickly, doing its job to remove me from the scene. Blood pools fast, and the area around the cut reddens, swells and throbs with heat.

The setting fades out, my vision blurring, my breaths slowing, but my heartbeat, ever the rebel, speeding up.

And then I’m slumped down to my back in the filthy women’s bathroom at Duke Ellie’s, the only food establishment in town that stays open later than 11PM on any night. I reach into the pocket of my loose, thigh-length skirt and pull out my phone. I click it to display the time. 8:13PM. I’ve been gone for a little over ten minutes. Maybe I can pass my prolonged absence off as having run into someone familiar in the bathroom. It wasn’t a far fetched lie. The city I live in is small, to say the least.

As I wash my hands and look myself over in the mirror, I cradle my unmarred right hand to my chest and hope I haven’t left too big a blood stain on Robins’s chic beige carpet. It’s always like that. I never sustain injury. My surroundings usually do. Dents in the hoods of cars, shattered fine china, blood stains in the carpet.

Pain’s the only way I know how to get out.

I walk out of the bathroom with my skirt, cut-off t-shirt and boots in place, retaking my seat across from Endy in the booth.

“Where the hell were you at?” Endy says, wasting no time. “Did you just—”

“I had to pee.” I munch on a fry and suck the excess salt from my fingers. I don’t know why Endy does this. She knows where the hell I was and what the hell I had been forced to do, in order to get rid of the headache from Hades.

Endy raises a brow. “You were gone for ten minutes.”

I shrug and shovel a spoonful of melted vanilla malt into my mouth to mix with the fried potatoes and salt. “I really had to pee,” I say, mouth full. If she’s going to play it that way, so am I.

“Whatever, Slim,” she says and copies me in shoving the fattening foods down her own throat. Her phone beeps indicating an incoming text message. She reads it quickly, mouthing the words silently as she goes, then lifts it to show me. “You wanna?”

The text message provides directions to a party at someone’s house off Dower Rd., the less developed area of Mojave Desert, California. All it has going for it is the fact that the power goes out constantly, providing an ideal make-out spot right in front of the red blinking lights of the windmills at night. Mojave, as a rule, is a shitty city in which to live. Nothing more than a black hole of backwoods death and decay off the 14-freeway to Vegas.

I shrug. More fries. More malt. “Sure.” Not like I have to be home. No parents to come home to and no Amy, apparently, either. Robins is keeping her busy enough. She won’t even know I’m out past curfew.

We show up at the house about ten past nine or so, but don’t actually make it inside until about 9:30, having had to park Endy’s classic Chevy Camaro a ways down the block. Cars are practically stacked on top of each other, all down the street. Some idiots even go so far as to park on neighboring lawns. Not that the residents of Dower Rd. care. It’s easy to locate the house we’re looking for, what with the loud booming base filtering out of the cracked glass of the windows. Though the block is, of course, dark, there are hand-crafted signs on the gate of the house directing us to enter through the side kitchen door.

Once we enter the den of sin and iniquity, the Winter temperature outside shifts immediately to the sauna-like warmth of an enclosed space that typically holds a large group of intoxicated bodies. Those intoxicated bodies are either tangled around each other in unskillful acts of hormonal sex or shouting insults to one another across a long table with 10-cup red pyramids assembled on each side.

Beer Pong sucks and I’m horrible at it.

Endy takes my hand in hers and leads the way through the crowd. This is pretty much Endy’s job anytime we go out together. She’s much taller than I am, so it makes sense that she would be the crowd leader. While I’m short and curvy, Endy is long and willowy. Her short, black A-Line hair cut is a mirror of what mine used to be, though now, instead of short and black, my hair is short and cropped close to my skull in a deranged, off-looking pixie-cut. Also, I traded my sable locks for the bottle blonde look.

At the time of the bad dye job, I felt like it made my grey eyes stand out more. Dumb, I know. Because if anything it just makes me look washed out and homeless, which isn’t too far from the truth.

We finally reach the drink counter and grab a couple of signature red cups. We follow by grabbing a carton of lemonade and a bottle of what I think is probably cheap Bourbon. There’s no label on it, but Endy pulls the top off, sniffs it once and nods. We mix a generous helping of the two in each of our cups then make our way out of the kitchen and to the living room area, where we run into a few familiar faces.

“Slim! Endy! Shit, you guys are here!” Jeska shouts over the bass drop.

Endy laughs and hugs Jeska, who is a platinum blonde—a natural one—with sharp, angular features and the cutest button nose I’ve ever seen. I think plastic surgeons use her nose as a reference.

I take a long gulp on my drink before hugging Jeska, and our two other friends, Yael and Austin. Jeska, Yael, Austin, Endy and I used to be really tight back in high school last year. Then we all went different ways and stopped talking. Endy and I went North, Yael and Austin went South and Jeska, last I heard was still fucking married men around town here.

“Where can we stash our stuff?” I yell.

“Good to see you too, Stacy,” Austin yells back.

I glare at him. He knows better than to call me that. I go by Slim, a bastardization of my full name: Stacy Lim.

My parents had fought a cultural battle in naming me. My mother was white bread American and Dad was Korean, though thoroughly Americanized. Dad wanted to name me something traditional, and though Mom was pretty gung-ho on that, her parents were not. “She’s already going to have his last name and his eyes, Lydia! Name her after your great aunt Anastasia.” My grandparents had good intentions. They just didn’t really understand the phrase “politically correct.” So Mom and Dad had settled for Stacy Hope Ryung Lim. Honestly, “Slim” was a name crafted for the convenience of others. Because none of those were my middle names. They were all my given name, save Lim. Yep, three first names. I was a lucky girl.

“Where?” I shout in Austin’s ear. He grabs my cup, takes a generous gulp and hands it back before nodding his head that Endy and I should follow him up the stairs.

About halfway up my head starts to pound again. Goddammit. It usually gives me anywhere from 50 − 70 hours in lapse time before I have to do this again, but in the last thirty-eight days it’s picked up with increasing frequency.

At the top of the stairs I miss the last step and grabs onto the back of Endy’s dress and the bannister for support. She swivels to me.

Again? she mouths.

I nod and Endy points at Austin’s back, who’s made it up the stairs in front of us and is entering a room at the end of the hall.

I shake my head. I don’t want to possess Austin. I know that’s probably why the headaches are coming back so often now. If I jump inside of someone, somewhere and don’t possess them, it’s like cheating the reaction. Like not completing it somehow. Just being in the room with Amy and Robins hadn’t been enough. I need to actually control someone for it to relieve the headaches for any length of time.

Endy shuts the door to the bedroom. It is, from what I can tell, a boy’s room. Probably our age or a little older. There are posters of Beyonce scantily clad, hung on the walls and the bed is an unkempt mess of covers, jackets and handbags. Endy and I tuck our bags behind the dresser. Adding them to the heap on the bed is like asking to have your shit stolen.

Endy clears her throat.

Christ on a bike, fine! “I have to pee,” I announce loudly. By this point, my head is starting to hurt so bad that I feel like I might need to throw up. It wouldn’t be pretty. Fries, vanilla malt and lemonade-Bourbon will be less pretty coming up than it had been going down.

Austin smiles and, without a word, points to the bathroom which is attached to the bedroom we’re currently in.

I lock myself inside and flip the light switch to see that the lavatory is shockingly clean for a boy’s bathroom. It’s small and the rugs, shower curtain and towels don’t match like they do at my house, but at least there are no stains anywhere—red, brown, white, yellow or otherwise.

I lift the toilet seat incase I actually do throw up, then pace the short length of the bathroom, breathing deeply. I get light headed and my eyes start to cross and before I know it, I’m falling to the floor, my head smacking against the lip of the bathtub. Before things go dark, I hear a knock at the door and Austin’s voice calling to me. “Slim, you good in there?”

 

Coming to is like waking up after a good night’s sleep, but with none of that typical grogginess to speak of.

Problem is, I’m not in the bedroom with Endy the way I thought I would be. The plan was to jump Austin. Instead I’m outside the party, on the ground, near a parked white truck. There are bodies inside the truck—bodies I can possess. I make the jump quickly, easily, sliding into what feels like a guy’s body, if the phantom feeling of male anatomy is anything to go by. God Christ, how did guys manage these things?

I get to my own feet and crouched down by the back right tire, letting my consciousness filter more heavily into the body inside.

A delicate hand moves its way up my—his—knee, thigh and continues higher, rubbing. His head snaps up and glances over at the girl executing the world’s worst seduction. She’s cute, in my opinion. A red head with short shoulder-length hair and bangs chopped razor straight across her forehead. He looks closely at her and notes, of all things to be noted during an over-the-pants-rub-down, that she doesn’t have freckles. Probably covered with make-up.

His attention is half on a couple occupying the front seat, sucking face.

“Kasra?” she whispers, removing her hand. “Be honest, are you not into it?”

The guy, Kasra, shakes his head on an exhale. “I’m sorry,” he says.

She laughs a little, then straightens her skirt and pulls up her blouse to hide away her cleavage. “It’s okay.” And she means it I thnk. “It’s just, I’ve wanted to kiss you since we were in fifth grade.”

Kasra glances down and away. For real? He isn’t even going to give her a quick peck on the cheek? That’s where I take over. Because the least he can do is give the girl what she’s been hoping for. I mean, she’s so close. He thinks nine years is a long time to want to kiss someone you’ve seen almost every day.

Without further adieu, I tighten the reigns. Abruptly, Kasra grabs the girl, one hand on her waist, the other hand sliding into her hair and presses his mouth to hers. She lets out a small gasp of shock then melts fully into the kiss. It doesn’t go on that long because I don’t let it. Any longer and she’ll get the wrong impression.

Once he pulls away, her eyes come open slowly, as though her lashes are sticky. “W-what?” she says.

Kasra clears his throat and shrugs, leaning forward to address the couple playing grab-hands in the front seat. “Nima,” Kasra says. When they don’t break apart he repeats a little more loudly, “Nima.”

“What?” the guy snaps. I know him. Nima Rakuli is familiar—gorgeous smile, tall, well-muscled, with thick dark lashes and hazel eyes you want to write bad poetry about. He was Mr. Popular. in high school. And now, he goes to the same university as Endy and I. He’s Mr. Popular there too. Though the other guy, Kasra, is not so renown. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him before.

“I’m heading in,” Kasra says.

“Seriously?” Nima snaps, glancing at the red head, as though it’s her fault.

“Yeah.” Kasra looks to the girl, places a hand on her knee, squeezes, then got out of the car.

As soon as he steps out of the truck his eyes zero in on me crouched by the truck.

What the fuck.

His eyes widen.

Shit!

The moment he sees me I lose control of the possession. The headache, which has, to that point, been receding, comes slamming back into me with a ferocity to rival all headaches ever in the history of goddamned ever. A burning starts up in my chest like a hot car engine coming to life, building and building, climbing its way up my throat and settling in my face. My vision doesn’t so much blur as go out completely, and a ringing that is more annoying than anything, begins in my ears. And then I feel myself going back, and I’m conked out on the bathroom floor inside the party again. The last thing I hear this time is Kasra muttering a string of blue curses and his whisper of, “Finally found you.”

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