For some reason, I felt shaky at the incident and the stabbing in my stomach intensified. What the hel ? Did that girl actual y get her teeth shaped to look like that? Who in their right mind would do such a thing? My god, Portland was fucking weird sometimes.

I found myself automatical y taking a step back, nearly bumping into the person behind me. That wretched odor stil clung to the air and I was seconds away from throwing up.

I walked away from the line as quickly and calmly as I could and made a beeline to the women’s washroom.

As I burst through the door, I was relieved to see that it was empty, though the fact that it was a disgusting mess did nothing to stop the vomit that was threatening my throat.

I rushed into an open stal and puked my guts up, seeing the half-digested remains of my mom’s roast pork splash into the bowl. It was enough to make me vomit again.

When I was done, I leaned against the cold metal door and caught my breath. The smel was gone, thank God, but the nausea stil remained, coupled with the pains in my stomach. I sucked in my breath, trying to get air, keeping my hands on my abdomen. They felt like extreme period cramps but it wasn’t my time of the month yet. However, my last period was barely existent, so maybe my body was making up for it tenfold.

As the pain subsided enough for me to stand up straight, I left the dingy bathroom and went back into the chaotic noise of the venue. I ignored the drink line, not wanting to see the vampire-eyed, scary-toothed girl again, and went straight to Ash. It took a few moments to locate him in the sprawling mess of sweaty limbs, tattoos and piercings, so by the time I did, the pain was just as intense as before.

He looked crestfal en at my empty hands but that quickly turned into concern.

“Perry, are you OK?” he asked. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.

I shook my head and leaned against him, the pain so intense that I was having trouble standing up.

“Can you drive me home?” I squeaked, my eyes pinched closed.

“Of course,” he said eagerly, putting his long arm around me and ushering me outside of the building.

What transpired next was one of the longest car rides of my life. I didn’t live that far from the venue, but the pain was so bad that I was biting the edge of my seatbelt to keep from crying out. Several times Ash was adamant that he take me to the hospital but I stubbornly refused. I just needed to be home where I could be in pain without being a bother to anyone except the people I’m normal y a bother to.

I said my goodbyes to a persistent Ash, tel ing him I’d see him at work tomorrow. I doubted it, though. I barely made it to the front door.

“You’re home early,” my mother said to me from her armchair in the living room, where she was flipping through a house magazine and sipping a steaming cup of tea. I stumbled past her, clutching my stomach, heading for the stairs.

“I don’t feel well ,” I managed to say through grinding teeth.

“You drink too much?” she chided me.

I barely heard her. I leaned against the post at the base of the stairs, unable to make my way up.

“Perry? What is it?”

She joined me at my side and smoothed the hair away from my face and put her hand against my forehead.

“You’re burning up. Did something happen? When did this start?”

“What’s going on?” I heard Ada say from the top of the stairs.

I don’t remember what happened next, so perhaps I fainted. Next thing I knew I was lying in my bed, curled up in a bal on my side, with someone trying to take my boots off.

“Perry? Can you hear me?” It was my father. I lifted my head as much as I could, stil reeling from the cramps, the hot little knives that cut away at my ovaries, and looked around my room. My mother was rushing in the door with a bunch of pil bottles in her hand and water. Ada was bent over untying my laces and my father was standing in the corner, arms crossed, worried but stern.

“Where does it hurt?” he asked in a no-nonsense voice.

“Were you drugged?”

“No,” I whispered painful y. “I wasn’t drugged. It’s cramps. I’ve never had such bad cramps before.”

If my dad was the eye-rol ing type, his own would have shot up to the ceiling.

“Just cramps?”

“Hey!” Ada snarled at him. “You have no idea.”

He looked both embarrassed and taken aback. He glanced at my mother but she just nodded.

“Ada’s right, honey,” she said softly, then came to my side and peered at my face. “Just be glad you don’t suffer from them because when they are bad, they are real y bad.”

“These are scary bad, mom,” I said. My hand clutched around the corner of my pil ow as another wave of pain rushed through me.

“How is your period? Are you bleeding more than normal?”

“That’s it, I’m out of here,” my dad said quickly, and left the room. For a theology professor, he real y wasn’t very mature when it came to the female body. Or maybe that was par for the course.

Ada sighed in disgust. “Grow up, dad, jeez.” She removed my other boot and told us she was going to go find the hot water bottle.

I tried to ignore the pain by concentrating on my mom’s face as she fiddled with a pil bottle’s stubborn childproof cap. Even though it was a quiet Saturday night at home, she stil looked as elegant as ever. She was dressed in a black jumpsuit, with a mint-colored Celtic shawl wrapped around her. Her face was lined with worry (it usual y was whenever I was around), her light blonde bangs brushing the edges of her clear blue eyes. She looked every inch the Swede she was, yet at the same time, her face looked strangely familiar. Not familiar in the “d’uh, she’s my mother and has been for 23 years” kind of familiar, but that “I’ve seen someone lately who looks like her” kind of way. Of course, in my pain-riddled mind, I couldn’t begin to imagine who that could be.

She wrestled two ibuprofens out of the container and handed them to me. “This should help with the pain; it might take a while though.”

I took the pil s with a grateful smile and drank a heap of water to wash them down, hoping they wouldn’t come back up again. It was strange that I was so nauseous earlier and wasn’t now. Strange that the meat smel fol owed me into the club. I shuddered at the thought of the woman I saw.

“Are you cold?” my mother asked, tucking the blanket around me tightly.

I wasn’t; in fact, I’d been especial y warm lately, but I smiled and nodded anyway. It sounds sad but my mother rarely doted on me, so sick or not, I was going to get as much attention from her as I could.

“You haven’t been well for some time,” she said gently, and patted my arm. “I know you’re going through a rough time, but things wil get better. You’l get a better job and you’l find love with someone good. You’l find your way, pumpkin.”

My mother was being uncommonly nice. I frowned at her, trying to figure out what her deal was, but she paid no attention. She straightened up and clapped her hands together. “I’l put on some chicken noodle soup for you.”

“Lipton,” I croaked after her as she left the room. “Or else I’l have to pick out those gross chicken chunks.”

After she left, I gritted my teeth until my jaw began to hurt and eventually drifted off to sleep. I was soon awakened by a presence nearby. Ada must have been back in the room with me.

“Did you find the hot water bottle?” I mumbled into my pil ow, not wanting to move or open my eyes.

I heard the door shut and felt Ada’s presence move toward me. She stopped at the foot of the bed.


And waited.

I could hear her breathing; it was low and ragged, like her lungs were fil ed with loose stones.

“Ada?” I asked again. “What are you doing?”

When she didn’t respond, I opened my eyes and raised my head in her direction.

There was no one there.

The door was closed but Ada wasn’t in my room. I was alone.

The back of my neck was enveloped in icy prickles. I had just heard someone, heard them breathing as clear as day.

“Hel o?” I asked timidly, my voice sounding extra small .

There was this indescribable feeling around me, my bedroom blanketed by a heavy, eerie vibe. Everything looked normal, except the air near the lamp in the corner seemed to bend and warp, like a sheet of moving plastic.

I rubbed my eyes and sat up slowly. I tried to focus on the anomaly until my eyes adjusted and everything looked fine again.

“Ada,” I said loudly, hoping she’d hear me wherever she was in the house. “Did you close my door?”

I waited for a response, waited to hear the breathing again. I held my own breath.

The doorbel rang, its clang causing my heart to seize. I gasped, surprised and thoroughly spooked.

It rang again.

And again.

Then stopped.

My alarm clock on my bedside table said it was 11:42 at night. Who on earth was ringing our doorbel at this hour?

Was it Ash?


Someone… else?

I felt a tightness in my chest at that last thought and careful y eased myself out of the bed and over to the window. I peered though it onto the driveway below. The motion detector lights weren’t on and I couldn’t see a car or anyone out there. I listened, hearing the front door open and my mother saying “hel o?” into a darkness that didn’t answer back.

There was a single knock at my own door. I cried out, my heart hammering wildly, and spun around to see a shadow sliding underneath the door and into my room.


Another knock. My door shook from its singular impact.

“Mom?” Now my voice was shaking.

Another knock, louder this time, as if to shut me up.

“Um, come in?”

I walked over to it, taking silent, slow steps, listening for whoever was on the other side. Whoever it was had knocked three times.

I heard that breathing again.

I paused in mid-stride, then took one more step until I was up against the door. I reached for the handle in slow motion, hesitating before placing my hand on it, afraid of what I might find on the other side. I was always afraid of what I might find on the other side. I knew better now than to chalk up anything strange as pure paranoia.

If I thought there was a monster in my closet, there probably was a monster in my closet.

My eyes flitted to the shadow on the floor. As if to prove my point, the shadow slowly eased back under the doorframe until it was gone.

It was time to find out what was going on.

I grabbed the handle and flung the door open… Ada was at the very end of the hal way near my parents’ bedroom, the red hot water bottle jostling in her hands.

“I found it!” she yel ed at me. “I got the tap water running until it was pretty hot. What’s wrong?”

I shook my head. “Were you just in my room?”

“No, I’ve been looking for this in mom’s closet. Why?”

She came toward me and placed the bottle in my hand. It was hot and soothing and just holding it, and having Ada and her slender company, made my heart beat slower to a comfortable level.

“I thought I heard someone knocking on my door.”