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Toward the barrier.

Toward the edge of the bridge.

And the river far below.

My mother screamed as the car careened into the other lane, nearly clipping a BMW. There was a horrid screeching in surround sound and the smel of burning tires and my mother’s screaming and the screaming I was doing in my own head. With every bit of strength I could concentrate on, I pushed hard and felt a pop inside my chest and suddenly all feeling rushed back to me like I was being brushed with pins and needles.

I let go of the wheel and braced myself on the dashboard and my mother got the car under control seconds before we slammed against the barrier. If we had hit, we would have flipped and gone over.

Other cars sped past us, honking, waving their fingers, mouthing swear words, while mom slowly, gingerly applied the gas. She was shaking and her Kung-Fu grip on the wheel was the only thing keeping her from bouncing out of her seat. We crawled down the bridge and at the first opportunity to pul over, she did.

Acting like she was in a dream-like state, she flipped the car into park, turned off the engine and turned in her seat to face me. She lifted up her sunglasses to reveal smudged mascara and blue eyes magnified by tears. Her expression matched that unforgettable look I saw in my father’s face as he hauled me up from the roof. But there was something else. Almost an understanding, like she was recognizing me for the first time and seeing the monster I real y was.

“Perry,” she breathed.

“I said I didn’t feel well ,” I told her glibly.

Then I pitched myself into uncontrol able laughter that lasted most of the car ride back home.

The minute I burst through the front door, I rushed to the downstairs bathroom to puke. I keeled over the toilet and brought up everything until my throat burned raw. It turns out I had salad for lunch. That explained the salad dressing smel earlier.

When I was empty and exhausted I looked at myself in the mirror. My heart dropped in my ribs.

I looked like a different person. No, not different. I looked like I was barely even alive. My cheekbones jutted out of my face, the circles under my eyes had spread. My lips were dry, cracked and bleeding. My eyes themselves were ful y dilated into black holes. My neck was red and teased with scratches that I knew led down into my chest. I wondered how Doctor Freedman could chalk up any of this to a measly broken heart. I looked like I should be locked up and put away, like the asylum ghosts at Riverside Institute.

I couldn’t look at myself anymore; it was making me sick again and I didn’t have any food left to throw up. A piercing pain jabbed at my temples instead. I turned off the light in the bathroom and stepped out into the hal way.

My mom and dad were in the kitchen talking to each other in hushed, frantic voices. Three guesses as to who they were talking about.

I stood in the doorway and they shut up with nary a guilty look on their faces.

My mom waved me in.

“Come sit down, pumpkin,” she said, and poured a glass of water for me. I wondered how she could stil cal me such an endearing term after I tried to kil her.

The tea kettle on the stove boiled over and the piercing whistle made me wince in pain, exaggerating the pain in my head.

“Sorry,” she said, and quickly took it off the burner.

“Perry, I heard what happened,” my father said. He looked down at the cuffs on his red and white striped shirt and started smoothing them out. “I can’t stress the importance of these pil s that the doctor gave you.”

My mother smiled forceful y and plunked a pair of yel ow and pink pil s beside the glass of water. I eyed them wryly.

“I’m not taking these,” I said. Before anyone could protest, I rushed on, “Doctor Freedman said I could make my own choices. I’m twenty-three. You can’t force me to be medicated.”

“Not yet,” my father said.

I raised my head sharply at that.

“That’s OK, Perry,” my mother cut in. “You’re right. You don’t have to take them. It’s just...you need them. You’re not well . The doctor said so himself, and I think you know it yourself. In the car…I…”

Feeling a bout of shame, I looked down at my hands.

The scratches seeped clear fluid. It didn’t even faze me anymore. I was becoming someone else and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The pil s would be futile except make it easier to give up. If I wanted to go, I wanted to go in my right mind with every fighting ounce I had left.

“If you don’t care about us enough to take them, think about your sister. Or think about yourself. Your self-hate can’t run that deep.”

My chin jutted out defiantly and I met her eyes. “I don’t hate myself. I hate what I’ve become.”

“Become?” my mother said with a hint of irony in her voice. “Pumpkin, you’ve always been like this.”

Then she shrugged with false carelessness and gave me a cup of rooibos tea.

“Anyway, your choice. Here, have some tea. I put extra honey in it. You look like you could use something sweet.”

My throat did burn after the vomiting and I was feeling a bit on the dizzy side. I took the hot cup in my hands and slowly sipped it. It tasted surprisingly sweet – she went overboard with the honey.

My dad sat down on the bar stool beside me and placed his hairy hand on my arm.

“You’re not alone in this, OK, sweetie?” he said. The tenderness in his voice, so rarely heard, made me want to cry. But I nodded and swal owed hot gulps of red tea to keep the emotions away. I was tired of losing it and afraid to let go.

And I real y was tired, too. Like suddenly, irrevocably tired.

My head swayed and I pushed the cup of tea away from me.

“Whoa,” I said with a bit of effort.

I looked up at my parents. The room began to spin around them but they remained motionless, watching me very, very closely. My eyes glazed and unfocused.

“I...”

“Perry, you should go to bed,” my mother said quickly.

She hurried over to me and tugged at my arm, trying to get me out of the bar stool. I awkwardly got to my feet and she immediately started leading me toward the stairs.

My feet felt like lead. What was going on?

“Mom?” I questioned, but it came out in a slur.

Suddenly my dad was beside me with a stranglehold on my other arm. “Come on Perry, up to bed.”

It’s 3p.m., I tried to say, but my mouth wouldn’t move. It came out in a mumble.

They led me to my room and I fel onto the bed just as my feet lost all feeling.

“This is for your own good,” my mother said as she swiped the covers out from under and tucked me in.

“What, what’s happening? Why do I...” feel weird. But I couldn’t finish it. The room continued to spin. My dad came into the room with the tea I had been drinking and placed it on the table.

I looked at it with my heavy eyes and was hit with two thoughts.

One was that I was reminded of being in Red Fox when Sarah had drugged the tea I was drinking with peyote.

The other was that I had been drugged, in general.

That’s why my parents didn’t press the pil s. They had been in the tea and I had drank all of it. They knew I’d be stubborn and protest. They tricked me. I couldn’t even trust my own parents anymore.

“You,” I started to say but my mouth flapped shut. And my eyes closed. Somewhere far away I heard my mother whisper, “Sorry.”

Another voice penetrated while the world dropped beneath me. It was Creepy Clown Lady saying, “Don’t let her trick you. She tricked me.”

I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. I dreamed I was floating above my room, my back flat against the ceiling, watching myself sleep as long spider legs trickled out from underneath my bed. I dreamed I was in a forest again, naked and bleeding and surrounded by fireflies. I dreamed I was back on the roof and lost my footing. As I fel , several demon creatures flew out of the sky to catch me. But instead of catching me, they stung me with the hot blades on the tips of their wings, then they each took an arm and a leg and pul ed me until my body tore apart down the middle like a serrated zipper.

A faint buzzing brought me out of my disturbing slumber.

My side vibrated. I groaned and felt around beneath the covers. I was stil in the clothes I had worn earlier, my Chucks on my feet. My phone was vibrating inside my jacket pocket. I fished it out with fat, clumsy fingers and pul ed it out in front of me, raising my head a few inches to look at the screen, which made my shoulders and neck ache.

My room was dark as the moonless night outside, with the only light coming from the hal way, which spil ed under my door in a neat little line. The clock on the phone read 10:42 p.m. and I had just missed a cal from Maximus.

I closed my eyes, leaned back against the pil ow and clutched my phone on top of my chest. Maximus was probably cal ing to check up on me. It didn’t make me feel any better. With the way everyone around me was acting, I couldn’t imagine him being any different. I knew he cared about me – he did, right? – and he was no stranger to the supernatural. But…I didn’t want to trust him anymore.

Maybe that was foolish of me. Maybe the dark forces inside were making me doubt him. But I couldn’t help it. I felt powerless to move and it hurt to think. I needed help and there was no one to help me. My parents certainly couldn’t help me. They wouldn’t help me. And I couldn’t even help myself.

Or could I? Maybe there was someone who I could reach out to, someone who might understand.

I scrol ed through my phone for Rebecca’s phone number, but of course I had lost that when I destroyed my old phone. I didn’t even have her email address anymore, since I had gotten a new one. I thought it was something like [email protected] or something like that.

I brought up the internet browser and went to my email account. It took a lot of control to keep my fingers from shaking as I pressed the screen and I hit a bunch of buttons accidently. I had entered her email in the “To” bar but it was auto-corrected to Becomeawino, which I would have thought funny in a lighter time. I tried to type it out again, not real y sure what I’d even say to her in the message other than “Help I’m losing myself” but paused when my bed lurched.

It was only a little bit of movement, like a garbage truck had trundled down the street or the house settled on its haunches. But I felt it.

I lowered the phone and kept absolutely stil , waiting for another shake.

A low, menacing growl fil ed the room.

It sounded more guttural than a dog. Something deeper, raspier and slick with liquid.

It was coming from underneath my bed.

I held my breath, frozen under the sheets, and tried to figure out what to do. This wasn’t in my head. This was here. There was something in my room, underneath my bed.

This was happening.

I eyed the window, wondering if it was quicker to go out that way or through the door. The window was closer, but it was closed and I’d lose precious seconds trying to jimmy it open. The door was farther, but easier to open.

The growling continued, growing louder, punctuated by random snaps and snarls.

I didn’t want to even think of what was under there.