Page 38

Dex sighed. “Visiting my nanny.”

“Guys I-” I was interrupted by my own coughing fit. I felt like something terrible was crawling up my throat, as if I’d swal owed something stil alive and it had to get it out. The duct tape didn’t all ow my lungs to expand; I couldn’t get enough air to push.

“Phfff, as if you had a nanny,” Ada said. “What was her name, Mary Poppins?”

I coughed louder, harder, unable to get their attention.

Final y, Dex brought his eyes up to the mirror and asked, “Perry, are you OK?”

I shook my head, my face turning hot as I strained against the convulsions. I was going to throw up. I had to throw up.

“Are you gonna vom?” Ada backed away from me slightly.

I felt something makes its way past my tonsils and onto my tongue. A piece of food, maybe?

Nope. It started crawling slowly in my mouth, tiny pinpricks brushing my palate.

Revolted, I spit with all my might and a black bal shot out and onto the middle seat.

Ada and I peered down at it, disgusted but curious.

The black bal unfurled itself and I could see it wasn’t black at all . Just black and yel ow. And moving.

A wasp.

“What’s going on?” Dex asked frantical y, trying to drive straight and see behind him at the same time.

“Ewwwww,” Ada said. The wasp buzzed its wings in an attempt to fly but Ada was faster and she smashed it into the seat with one of her shoes she’d taken off.

There was a hush of relief among us. Then the sick feeling intensified, like an entire nest of wasps was crawling out of the recesses of my stomach and scurrying up my esophagus, blocking me from precious air. I was drowning in them.

I tensed and writhed in my constraints while Ada and Dex watched me with horrified eyes. My mouth flew open and I heaved up a mass of wriggling wasps that landed on my lap in a sickening heap.

Ada screamed. I heaved and heaved, unable to get them all out of me.

And Dex was deathly all ergic to wasps. It was he who panicked first. I couldn’t blame him. He yel ed and flailed and tried to drive but it was too much.

In slow motion, like a scene from a movie, the car careened off the highway.

We bounced down an embankment, the sound of tires grinding asphalt, then gravel, then grass, and we coasted along flatness for a few seconds; time that slowed us down.

A tree appeared in the headlights, fol owed by a magnificent crunch.

There were screams.

Bodies flying forward.



Then it was over.


When I came to, I was as far away from a car accident as one could be. I gained consciousness while I was walking through a dark forest grove, punctuated by the blue-green glow of fireflies that darted in and out amongst the trees. It was just like my dream only it was real now. Or as close to real as anything could be.

I stopped by a tal , earthy-smel ing pine and peered at myself, the moonlight peeking through the spaced-out branches. The duct tape stil clung to my arms and legs in places but had been torn down the middle, ripped apart.

There was blood spattered across my pajama top and I didn’t know who it belonged to, or how it got there.

Ada! I thought as everything shifted into shape. Dex!

The cloud in my head began to lift. Where was I? Where were they?

“Ada!” I yel ed into the night. My voice was immediately swal owed up by the layers of bark and rock around me.

“Can anyone hear me? Dex?!”

I paused, holding my breath, listening. The fireflies made little buzzing noises and the branches scraped against each other in the breeze. I heard nothing else except my own heartbeat and was met with my deepest fear yet.

What if something happened to them? What if they had died from the car crash? What if I had kil ed them?

I scanned the forest but saw nothing but dark shadows and mountainous boulders that reflected the light of the moon. It was deathly cold and I was stil barefoot and only in my sleeping attire. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel anything but panic.

I started walking first, pushing the rough branches past me, trying to find a path in the maze of trunks. Then, as my thoughts swarmed, I ran, not minding the scattered stones and twigs that dug into the soft undersides of my feet, not noticing the pine needles whipping my eyes.

The wasps! My God, the wasps. If Dex had survived the crash, survived me, there’s no way he’d survive that.

I ran and ran in an endless loop, pushing my body to the limit. I was weak from lack of food and water and my muscles ached with each stride, soft from being stretched and immobile for so long.

I ran and then...

Suddenly I was standing before a clearing where rough grass grew silver white in the moonlight. The moon that was on the wrong side of me. A moon that was a smidge lower in the sky.

I had gotten turned around. At some point, while I was running, the thing had taken over and directed me in the opposite direction. Now I was conscious and able but more lost than ever. It was hard to know where I was when I never knew where I started.

That was frightening. I never even felt it come in.

Somewhere in the forest, a baby cried.

I swal owed hard and tried to soothe my heart as it pulsed madly in my veins.

The baby cried again.

“No,” I said out loud. There is no baby. That was a dream. This is real. You’re remembering your dreams.

You’re remembering your dreams, you’re remembering your dreams.

Somewhere in the forest, a few branches cracked.

I imagined tiny, flightless demons fal ing out of a nest and running toward me, thinking I was their mother.

I threw my head back at the sky and screamed.

I screamed and screamed, letting it all out, letting my cries carry through the clearing and above the trees, high into the mountains, whose shadows rose ominously in the distance. If anyone heard me, it would be all for the better.

The madness was too much for one person to bear.


It was Dex’s voice. It cut my screams off at the source and I whipped around.

He was standing a few yards behind me. His shirt was torn and wet in places and he stood at such an angle that it was almost impossible to be upright. Half his face was covered with blood that pooled out of a dark wound at his widow’s peak. His eyes regarded me like I was a stranger, someone he wasn’t sure if he could trust. Maybe I looked like a ghost myself.

“Hi,” I said softly. I tried not to smile. My arms and legs started tingling from finally feeling the cold. “You’re alive.”

He nodded, wincing. “Are you OK? Are you hurt?”

“I’m OK, considering I’m also very not OK.”

He nodded, then gasped for breath and started to lean a bit to the side.

I scampered over and got him under his arm just before he keeled over.

“I’m fine,” he said, grinding his jaw. Once a liar, always a liar.

“No, you’re not; your head...” I tried to touch the wound but he yanked his head out of the way. That brought another grimace to his face and he fought through the pain, a pain that tensed all of his muscles into hard lines.

“It’s fine, I’m fine.”

“Where’s Ada?” I asked, suddenly alarmed.

“She’s fine. She’s at the car.”

He let out a deep breath and attempted to take a step. I went with him.

“What happened? Were you stung?”

He nodded, careful y this time. “More than once. But I had two Epi-Pens in the glove box. Your sister found some pretty creative places to stab me.”

“We’ve got to take you to a hospital,” I insisted as I helped him navigate over a fal en log.

“I’m fine.”

“Dex, you’re not,” I said, and stopped, pressing my hand back into his chest.

He looked down at me and smiled painful y. “Kiddo, we’re not going anywhere except straight to Roman’s.”

“But your head, and the stings, your all ergy wil -”

“Wil be taken care of when I get a chance to take care of it. My wounds aren’t vital. Yours are.”

“But the car. We’ve got to cal for help. Get a tow truck or Triple A or something.”

“The car is fine. She’s a trooper. She’l take us where we need to go. She may not look pretty anymore, but none of us do. I even started her engine before I set out to find you, thinking you might hear it. She purrs like a cat. A retarded cat, but a cat.”

I stil didn’t like it. He grew silent as we hobbled together through the forest.

I had to ask, “Where did I go?”


“Just now. After the accident.”

“I don’t know.” His voice became yielding, pliable. “I came to with my head indented on the steering wheel. The wasps were gone. Ada was shaking me awake. She had her seatbelt on, thank fuck, so she was fine. Maybe some whiplash. And you were gone. I don’t even know how you got out of your seatbelt. You’ve not only turned into the Hulk, but Houdini as well . ”

I was so ashamed and so furious with myself for leaving the accident. And causing the accident, when it came right down to it. They were my wasps, weren’t they?

“You should have left me here,” I growled.

He stopped. I could see a single beam of light in the distance, probably the car. It made the sticky blood on his face shine like a frozen pond.

“Perry,” he said. His voice came out thick and raspy.

“You have to accept that this isn’t your fault. You didn’t ask for this.”

“How do you know?” I cried out. He was sparking some nerves just beneath my shel . “How do you know what I asked for?! Do you know what it’s been like to be me for the past few months? Do you have any idea what I’ve gone through!? Do you?!”

The non-bloodied skin on his face went an extra shade of white to match the moon. His eyebrows lowered, eyes dropped briefly to the ground. Then he brought them to meet mine and they softened like liquid honey.

“I don’t think I’l ever be able to tel you how sorry I am. It doesn’t mean I won’t try, because you, Perry, you deserve a lifetime of servitude. Eons of groveling. Even then, I don’t think I can show enough, do enough to let you see. And that’s OK. You have every right to hate me for this lifetime and many others. You have every right to never see me again. To spit on my grave. But tonight, now, I’m not going to give up on you. I’m going to fix you or,” his voice fel with weight, “die trying.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I opened my mouth and closed it again, letting the gravity of his words sink in. I couldn’t forgive him. I couldn’t let him die on account of me, either. He needed to go to the hospital. I needed to go to a hospital. But we both carried on in our stubborn little ways, protesting together but apart.

Dex let out a puff of breath and pointed at the light in the distance.

“Just one headlight left. Let’s hope we make it til dawn before seeing any cops. I don’t think they’d believe our story for a second. Especial y since your jol y old father probably has a wanted poster of me down at the station already.”

A minute later we arrived at the car. Ada looked fine except for a bruise on her elbow. She wrapped her arms around me in a lavish, squeezing hug, thinking she might never see me again. I foolishly told her it would be the last time we’d be apart.