Page 11

I looked at my family, at their tense, tight faces, and squelched the anger I felt rising through me. I don’t know what happened, but it was like I lost all control. Not only of my emotions, but of my actual being, my body and my mind, like I was being split into two people. The scary thing was I’d been feeling like that quite a bit.

I took a deep breath through my nose and closed my eyes, trying to regain focus.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I don’t know what came over me.”

Silence. I opened one eye and saw my parents exchanging looks across the table. Ada was observing me with her big eyes and reached over to pat my hand.

“Don’t worry about it, you weirdo,” she said with a small smile. She looked down at my hand and raised her brow.

“Wow, you’ve got some nice nails going on for once.”

I frowned and looked down at fingers. I did have nice nails. They were longer than normal, expertly shaped and coated in a shiny coral pink color.

The room started to spin slightly.

I’d never worn pink nail polish in my whole entire life. I never even had a bottle of it.

“Oh, those are nice, Perry,” my mom added, happy to change the subject. “Your nails are usual y such a mess.”

I brought my hand out of Ada’s and raised it up to my face. This was my hand, right? It was attached to my body, it had the same slight scarring across the top from when I was an emo teenager and thought cutting myself with a safety pin would be a good idea. I pinched the tips of my nails, checking to see if someone had glued on fake nails as a joke. But they were real, attached to my fingers, even though I had no recol ection of ever painting them that color.

“What’s wrong?” Ada asked.

I shook my head, swal owing the confusion.

“Nothing,” I squeaked out. “I just…don’t remember where I got this color from, that’s all . Is it yours?”

Ada looked at my nails a little closer. “No, that’s too orangey. I have a similar shade but it has sparkles.”

I looked up at my mother hopeful y. Her nails had a perfect French manicure.

“Not mine,” she said. “But I’d like to borrow it.”

I nodded at that and stared back at them. Everything around me got fuzzy and swirly while I thought things over.

When could I have done this? How could I forget something like painting my nails? Not that it was a significant event but it wouldn’t be something that would just fal out of my head.

And where the hel did I get the color? I didn’t remember ever buying it. I mean, pink? Yuck.

This was the kind of thing that happened when you were drunk. Perhaps I’d been blacking out through the NyQuil or while I was on the pain meds earlier in the week. It stil didn’t explain where the nail polish came from in the first place. Maybe I had been doing some major sleepwalking, like the kind that sent me to raid the 24-hour Walgreens for nail polish.

“I thought you were turning over a new leaf,” my mother said, delicately munching on a bite of salad. “It would be nice if you-”

She was interrupted by three quick knocks at the front door. My heart lodged somewhere in my chest. One glance at Ada’s frightened face and it was apparent she felt the same way too.

My dad frowned, more perturbed than alarmed, and got up out of his chair, tossing his napkin on the table.

“I’l go see who it is,” he grumbled and made his way down the hal . I looked at my sister and mother, who were leaning forward in their chairs, shoulders tense.

We heard my father slide the chain across and open the door.

“Who’s there?” his professor-like voice boomed out into the night. “Show yourself.”

There was a pause and the sound of his shoes on the front brick stoop, then him coming back inside, the door closing softly behind him.

He emerged from the hal , shaking his head and holding something in his hands.

“What is it?” I asked.

He stopped in front of us and held up a miniature pair of pastel blue slippers, the knit kind made for a newborn baby.

How freaking creepy.

“I found them on top of the flower pot,” he explained. The slippers were attached by a thick rope of yarn and when he hung it from his index finger they danced back and forth from the movement, as if they were taunting me.

“Ew, dad.” Ada grimaced, shielding her face. “Get them away from the dinner table, jeez.”

My mom agreed, tel ing him he didn’t know where they had been.

I was the only one who felt personal y impacted by the slippers, and was mildly horrified until my dad took them over to the trash can and placed them inside. The lid closed with a heavy thud but in my heart I felt like it wasn’t enough to keep them out.

Was this someone’s idea of a sick joke? I had a miscarriage and suddenly a pair of baby shoes appeared at the front door. But who else besides my family knew about my situation, and who would do such a thing?

I shivered and quickly excused myself from the table, not caring what my parents thought. My appetite was total y gone.


I woke up in a strange, dark place. There was no pil ow or mattress underneath me. Instead I was lying on something spongy that scratched my bare arms and tickled the back of my legs.

I sat up careful y as a cold breeze whipped around me, making the ends of my hair fly. I was in a forest fil ed with a blue-green glow. all around me fireflies and lightening bugs darted and danced with each other.

A baby’s cry broke the thick silence of the trees and I immediately leapt up off the mossy ground and walked across the uneven terrain until I came to a darker patch of the forest grove. I entered along a tight, unwelcoming path and ducked underneath the low branches that seemed to reach for me. I was certain if I looked up at the trunks, I’d see pairs of wooden eyes watching my every movement. I could almost hear them rol ing back and forth in the bark.

I walked and walked for what seemed like forever until I reached a clearing. A man sat on a log in the middle of it, a fire burning brightly in front of him. His back was to me and he was holding something in his arms, staring down at it and occasional y saying something in a language I had never heard before.

I paused halfway across and the man lifted his head. I could see now that my suspicions were correct. It was Dex, down to the faded grey hoodie. And he knew I was here.

“Perry,” he said. His low voice sounded as if it were touched with metal ic reverb.

I came forward and walked around the log so I was between him and the fire. He didn’t look up at me. He kept his attention focused on whatever he was holding in his arms. I couldn’t see it properly since it was swathed tightly in white cloth but I knew it must have been a baby, most likely the one who I’d heard crying earlier.

“I wish it had been ours,” Dex remarked with an eerie lack of emotion. “Here, you take it.”

He held out the bundle and I took it into my arms warily. I peeled back the corner of the cloth. There was nothing inside but a pile of raw, oozing flesh that squirmed and squiggled against me. Within seconds, putrid blood saturated the bundle and began to spil down my arms in sticky torrents.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Dex asked, and raised his head to face me. His eyes were dead white and smoothly blank, like they were plucked from a marble statue.

“What the dickens?”

My dad’s voice boomed out from the trees and my vision was suddenly fil ed with artificial light. I winced at the brightness then coaxed my eyes back open.

I was standing in the middle of my kitchen, in only my boxer shorts and a ripped concert tee. In my hands was a giant piece of steak, bloody and raw. Half of it had dripped down my arms and legs, staining them a pinkish red, and a transparent puddle pooled at my feet.

I turned around and looked at my father, who was standing by the fridge, his hand on the light switch. His eyes widened at the sight of me.

“Perry…what on earth are you doing?”

I looked back down at the steak. I had no idea what had just happened. One minute I was in a forest, the next I was fondling steak in my kitchen.

I was sleepwalking.

My dad opened a cupboard, took out a plate and got me to drop the steak on it. It landed with a sickening splat.

“Were you trying to make something? It’s the middle of the night,” he commented warily after he placed the plate on the counter and handed me a wad of paper towels to wipe myself with. “My goodness, were you eating that raw?”

He reached over and touched the side of my face. It was wet and sticky all around my mouth. It was then that I noticed the taste of blood and meat on my tongue. I guess I had been.

A wave of revulsion swept up through me and I barely made it over to the double sink before I vomited into it.

I heard my dad mutter something and he quickly disappeared from the room. I didn’t care if I was making a mess of the kitchen; I had to get this poison out of my system.

He came back a few minutes later with my mother in tow.

I had nothing left to throw up by then.

“Oh, Perry,” my mother said once she saw me.

I waved her away with one hand while I wiped my chin with the other. I turned on the taps to wash away the vomit, careful not to look too closely at it or it would happen all over again. Then I splashed the cold water on my face and dried it off with a stained dishtowel.

I took in a deep breath as shudders swept through me. I was weak and surprisingly stil hungry. I turned around and faced my parents. They were silent and I could only imagine what they were thinking. With the two of them so close to each other, and a healthy distance away from me, it made me feel even more alone. I knew my mother acted afraid of me at times, but now it was both of them and I wasn’t sure it was entirely unwarranted.

I was probably losing my mind.

“Uh, miss. This isn’t what I ordered.”

A man just uttered every barista’s worst nightmare.

I poked my head around the espresso machine and looked at the culprit. It was pompous Larry again. Figures that I’d bother to know his name and he stil cal ed me miss.

Maybe that just proved that he annoyed me more than I annoyed him.

I sucked in a small breath and gave him what I hoped was an apologetic smile. It was my first day back at work and everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. I’d spent the morning taking it easy and just sorting out the merchandise in the backroom but as soon as Shay left for the day, I was ushered out into the front of the store where the chaos reigned. I was messing up orders, snapping at people and just feeling like I was slogging through mud to get the simplest things done.

Not to mention there were times where I’d be doing something like grinding a bag of beans for someone and then the next instance I’d be wiping tables and I had no recol ection of how I went from one thing to the other. With time slips now part of the question, Larry was just icing on the cake.

“I’m so sorry, Larry,” I said, putting special emphasis on his name. “I’l get you a new one right away.”

I quickly made him another drink, even though the lunch hour rush was in ful swing and with Shay gone, it was just Ash, Mikeala and me at work. I could feel Mikeala shooting me a dirty look from the register as she scribbled another order on the paper cup and slammed it down beside me.