THE FOREST

I can't breathe but I don't have to. 

There's no panic, or fear.

I have no urge, no compulsion to inhale.

I require no air.

I am air.

I know I threw water on my face... I remember that.

But when I took my hands away from my face, I wasn't in a bathroom. I wasn't in a room at all. I was in a forest; the forest. 

There were droplets on my eyelashes & I could feel a moisture on my face, but I associated this with the smell; the damp, pine smell of morning when fog has poured in from every crevice of the earth & you feel the way you felt when you first inhaled springtime as a child. You smell the grass & the dirt as if you're buried underneath it. I was never in a bathroom. I've been here, forever.

I know where to walk now. I've been doing it for months. Not that I ever woke up remembering, but once I was here... back home... I knew.

I saw them sitting at a table a few feet away from my coffin. The table had never been there in my dreams before & for the first time in the forest, I felt startled. I was unsure about something & it trickled down my limbs in a tingle neither inside my body nor surrounding it, but felt all the same. As if responding to this reverberation, they called out to me.

I don't know if they said my name or if they spoke any words at all but I heard the call & I began to move closer. All I can see in the moonlight, are the flowers, & they're everywhere; all of them a brilliant white with splashes of pink or blue or yellow. But with every step, different details of the table & its lone guest comes further into focus. The candelabra caught my eye initially, as I'd never seen anything like it. There were two arms on either end holding large, white, lit candles; the arms were low & almost touching the table, & the ornamental metal twisted out from under each stick & rose up to form a hovering triangle at the center, in which boxed in a circle. The circle wasn't smooth at all but rather jagged at multiple ends that overlapped toward the center, almost like the blooming of a flower. At the top most point of this triangle sat the third candle; the only one yet unlit.

The table was littered with black marble ornaments & golden cutlery; chalices & plates & utensils, as if there would be a feast hosted here, but there were no guests. None except me & my host.

"Please, have a seat"

They don't even blink as they say this, their eyes a sea of red, a deep, dark maroon with no iris, or pupil, or anything. I can't tell if they're wearing all black or just have skin as dark as the midnight air around us. I can see only flashes of nails or teeth, & all the adornments of gold they wear; rings, necklaces, chained earrings, bands, & bangles. 

"Tell me who you are!"

As my words crack in my throat, I see the slightest, faintest twitch on their face. Was it a smile?

"Every one of you is so obsessed with rules & definition, it must be exhausting! — but please, sit. I may not be bound by time but I still hate wasting it."

LACIE STEVENS

'I don't care what happens, I am totally going all the way with Steve tonight.'

'You've said the last three times, Meg, maybe he's not into it.'

'Not into it? He's a seventeen year old boy, there's nothing he's more into right now... that's not the problem... I just need to keep him focused on me.'

'I'm sorry, okay! Bricks is just so exhausting sometimes, & hey, it's not my fault he's only slightly more obsessed with me than with Steve. I can only distract him for so long.'

'You could probably find a way to distract him longer...'

'Ew, not even... I'll just have to, I don't know, pay attention to what he's saying or something...'

'Girlfriend of year right here, ladies & gentleman.'

I hate the sound of my laugh.

'Oh shut up, Meg. This is her house, up here on the corner... um, is that Woo & Jamaal doing keg stands on the lawn?'

'Yes! & look at all the lights, too! It's like Christmas & Studio 54 had a baby & that baby was thrown into a pile of glitter & exploded...'

'Yeah, I'd say that's about accurate... holy cow, Lacie... are they always like this?'

'If nothing else happens at this party, it is already so choice.'

If nothing actually happened that night, it might've been the highlight of my Junior year. There's still a moment or two of fun that I can remember, but mostly it's just a smear of color. Energy. The deep blue hues & the perfect pink plumes like smoke fractured by a thousand lights. It still feels so loud.

'Hey babe.’

'Hey Bricks, hey Ste—& they're making out already... lovely.'

'You know how they are babe. Anyway, can we talk? I feel really bad about getting on your case before & I know I should be what you need me to be & not get so caught up in my own emotions but babe, I promise—'

The energy.

Does no one else feel this? I am going to explode.

'Hold that thought — & that beer — just one second, okay? I've got a, um, serious headache & I need to see if Kacie's parents have any Advil or something, I'll be right back.'

I don't even remember kissing him before I walked away. I must've known I wasn't coming back...

PARTY POOPER

I'm not sure exactly what about parties I hate but it might be the fact that I love parties. I love party music, & party clothes, & party food, & even party people for the most part, but god, I hate parties. 

I love people & presents & noise & laughter & cork popping & games & ...I really think the only thing I hate about parties is that I hate  parties. I want nothing more than to show up & enjoy all the things that I, well, enjoy, ...but I just can't. The second I walk through the door & enter the room it's like all the air is vacuumed right out of it, & it's the brightest darkness you've ever experienced. It's like I'm some robot & there's a fail safe that goes off the second I enter anywhere I might actually enjoy myself. A big old 'nope' button.

How you can manage to be at war with yourself, fighting for yourself, will never not be confusing to me... & I'm literally, a thousand years old.

I tell you all of this because by the time it came around to go to the Lacie Stevens party, I was looking forward to it, & dreading it at the exact same time. Welcome to my life. The one positive was that I hadn't had 'an episode' in at least a few days now & if I had, it at least was courtesy enough to leave me asleep or not make me look like a fool in public. So, thank you unknown demon? But that wasn't making up for the fact that I was having serious anxiety about it anyway because I always have serious anxiety &, I say this without the slightest hint of irony in the world knowing I am a sixteen year old girl getting ready for a party but, I have nothing to wear. & don't you dare try & pull the gender crap on me about that because first of all, erroneous, & second of all, your hair does not naturally look perfectly disheveled, bro, so nice try.

I grabbed a cute sweater to pair with these boots I'd just got for fall, said, 'whatever,' as I closed my closet door mirror, winked at my Tom Cruise poster, sprayed some perfume, & glided out my room, down the stairs, & in to Meg's car. Meg's parents were rich as hell & she'd just gotten her temporary license. This was maybe the fourth time she'd ever drove by herself but we acted like this was normal. 

'You ready to party, girl!?'

Oh, poor Meg.

That look I gave her just screams,  "gag me with a spoon."

I'M ON FIRE

You're in a small, dark room.

At the center of it, you sit in a chair, completely still.

The air is thick & dark.

Clouds billow & they swallow you.

Richer & richer.

You don't move a muscle.

You exhale.

You've never been calmer.

The room is on fire.

You close your eyes slowly.

Conjure me.

The heat is not light.

The flame is not dark.

You are not you.

You are not who.

You are when & how.

You are there, this, & that.

You are all things, make all things, end all things.

You keep everything with an empty hand.

You are the collector.

Conjure me.

Cast a circle.

Rouse my soul.

THE PRISONER

...you ever wonder if it'd be easier to just suffocate?

Like it's not the drowning or even the dying that's terrifying. It's the gasping, the heaving. The gulping for air that isn't there & the panic that electrifies your body as it realizes there isn't. The body won't just allow this though. The body, in its infinity stupidity, fights, & claws anyway, stuck in a cycle of reflexes. When I was much older than I am in the story we're telling today, I actually came to see the perfect metaphor for this feeling, watching a hologram glitch & seize, attempting to perform the same action over & over but incapable. That's your body when it's dying... stuck in a glitch of emotions. Why can't we ever just accept anything?

Think about it though, for real, imagine this: a train is coming toward you. You're standing on the tracks & you've decided that you're going to let it smash into you & kill you. You've consciously weighed this decision for weeks & are prepared to go through with it. You've decided you're doing this. But you can't control your body's impulse to sweat, or to cry, or to erupt inside with fear & an overwhelming urge to run. Even if you plan for these things to occur, even if you've thought about how you'll feel in advance, they can't be satiated. You know the phrase "push my buttons?" Well, it's crap, because there are no buttons or switches or knobs. There's no turning anything off or on, it just is, & there's no getting around it & maybe that scares us more.

Why can't my brain — in its wondrous power — ever outsmart its significantly dumber & more susceptible counterpart of my body? Because your brain is not, & never was, the warden... it's the prisoner.

CAPTAIN SPAZ

My brain had begun to feel like a 12-lane superhighway, with every idea a sixteen-wheeler doing ninety, flying by me ten at a time, twelve at a time & I just couldn't concentrate. I mean, look at me! Look at my eyes. I'm somewhere else here & even I can't remember where. I can barely pour a bowl of milk for my cereal without getting it all over the table & getting in trouble... again.

"Have you been taking your medicine?"

"Can you stop calling them that, Mom, please? You know it's not medicine. It's horse tranquilizer."

"Okay, that's enough attitude out of you young lady. How many times have I told you that I just want to help? How can I be your guardian & not ask how you are? How can I leave you alone & care for you?"

"Look, Mom, it's just... been a long week, okay? I don't mean to jump down your throat but it also drives me a little insane to be treated like I'm fragile, ya know? Even if I were fragile, you think it will ever strengthen me to be reminded that I'm not, every time you ask? Just, treat me like I'm okay & maybe, eventually, I will be..."

"Okay. Fine. We'll try it your way then. I'm off to work, do you need a ride to school?"

"No, I should make the bus."

"Okay... I love you."

"I love you too, Mom. Bye."

My Mom is always on my case, but if Meg & Bricks are asking questions, & I'm Captain Spazz in class now, I need to figure this one out, & quickly. I've always been good at hiding the amount of effort it takes for me to even resemble normal & for the first time, I think cracks are starting to show. 

SHATTERED DREAMS

I'd gotten home from school after detention & went immediately to my room, threw my things in the closet, & fell asleep, headfirst on the bed, completely over the whole day.

The storm that night was horrible by the looks of all the debris outside the next morning but it was nothing to the intensity of my dream. I washed so much dirt off my feet in the shower this morning that I kind of hoped I was still out of it from the dream & my feet are just always that dirty. Maybe? The last thing I needed was proof that I'm actually going somewhere in these... visions? That sounds makes them sound ridiculous but I have no idea what else I would call them at this point. Hallucinations makes me sound insane & to this day I don't have a very good name for what they are. They're just awful.

Whatever they were, they accomplished their task, because I couldn't fight them any longer. I was going to go along with whatever the dreams & voices & whatever else asked of me because I just needed it to stop. I needed to be able to think again. I would acquiesce to any demand & assist in any endeavor to get it to stop. I was always a space case, but lately I'd been in another galaxy altogether. So I made a vow right then & there that the next time I heard from it I would be ready. I resigned myself to accepting its requests & then, deluded as a teenager can sometimes be, I thought I'd be left alone.

Little did I know that not only wouldn't I hear from it as soon as I'd liked, just to get it over with, but that I would never be left alone again.

COLORFUL IMAGINATION

I think you can tell a lot about a person from their name. 

Not necessarily about their personality or about their qualities, but about their history... their evolution. Some of it is purely conjecture & could be completely counter to that person's experience & reality... but it's a fun gaI think you can tell a lot about a person from their name. 

Not necessarily about their personality or about their qualities, but about their history... their evolution. Some of it is purely conjecture & could be completely counter to that person's experience & reality... but it's a fun game isn't it? Tracing back who were are through who we may have been. Not like reincarnation or anything, because I can sadly confirm that you won't be coming back as a goat. What I'm talking about is the universal energy that's been passed to you through the collected events that lead to your existence & growth &... I'm sorry, I'm boring you already, aren't I? Well, my loves, that's just tough... I think you might relate with me on this one in the end though... just bear with me, okay? Okay. So what's your name? Jamie? Steven? Omar? Talia? Doesn't matter — your name emits a wave of energy into the universe… a smattering of light particles, & these light particles give you a color that is so unique that only... well, only people like me, can see them. 

Everyone is a color. Like I said though, you can only see them if you're like me. I didn't find that out until that night... 

Who knew Lacie Stevens would throw such an important party...me isn't it? Tracing back who were are through who we may have been. Not like reincarnation or anything, because I can sadly confirm that you won't be coming back as a goat. What I'm talking about is the universal energy that's been passed to you through the collected events that lead to your existence & growth &... I'm sorry, I'm boring you already, aren't I? Well, my loves, that's just tough... I think you might relate with me on this one in the end though... just bear with me, okay? Okay. So what's your name? Jamie? Steven? Omar? Talia? Doesn't matter — your name emits a wave of energy into the universe… a smattering of light particles, & these light particles give you a color that is so unique that only... well, only people like me, can see them. 

Everyone is a color. Like I said though, you can only see them if you're like me. I didn't find that out until that night... 

Who knew Lacie Stevens would throw such an important party...

YOU NAME IT

There’s something about dusk that’s so powerful to me.

That hour in the evening were the sky hasn’t gone fully black yet & the sun is still casting it’s glow, holding back the onslaught of darkness, like a golden beam of forcefield cast out for all humanity — before futility armies & plunges us all into the shadows.

That’s what every day feels like to me lately — I am walking dusk — awaiting my inevitable fall into night.

"I really thought we understood each other this morning. I was honest with you & I thought you were being honest with me & were going to try to do better. I’m very disappointed in you."

"You didn’t even give me a chance to explain, but that’s fine, you wouldn’t understand anyway."

You don’t move.

You knew the rain would fall. You brought the rain yourself. You don’t mean to bring harm. Simply to clean, replenish, to compliment life. The storm brings necessary death.

Conjure me.

Cast a circle.

Light the candle. Curse the darkness.

Say my name.

I know your suffering… & I can end it.

The rain is just cascading over everything in waves, whipped & thrown about the likes of which I’d never seen, let alone been standing out in, pellets hitting my arms, face, & legs; the darkest baptism. Only I can’t feel a single drop.

How can I feel the rain when I am the rain?

I know every river, lake, & ocean from which the rain came & know the heart of every life form to drink from it. So much so it hurts.

Everything is energy. Everything is transferrable & my being is part of that transference. That wasn’t even what scared me.

What scared me is that I felt like I could control it if I tried.

It’s fear.

The fear of being in control.

The fear of being responsible & held accountable. The fear of not being able to handle the noise. The force of it is so loud, all the time.

Conjure me.

Cast a circle.

Light the candle. Curse the darkness.

Say my name.


My name... is Linnaeus.

A BELL RINGS

 

The wind doesn’t speak but it doesn’t have to.

Its gust tells you all you need to know.

You’re in a forest.

The forest.

The world is you.

You could raise the earth as easy you lift your finger.

You could shift a storm by breathing.

The energy is electric.

It rattles your brain, in-between your eyes, shredding through your nerves like the ringing of a bell. Immediate & reverberating.

It fills you. Not with life. You’re not even sure you are alive.

It’s a power, to be sure, but not the power to create.

The power to absorb. The power to harness. The power to destroy.

The power of death.

Light the candle.

Become the reaper.

 

NOT MY TYPE

 

Before I knew to simply judge someone based on how they treated me, I thought you could read people. I thought people were a type, or an energy, or you could just predict how they were in general. I would walk the mall & think that every person I saw I was seeing so much clearer than they could even see themselves… & in a way I was, but we’ll get to that. Suffice to say, I wasn’t seeing them as clearly as I thought I was. I was seeing what was there, sure, but I was seeing it because I was looking for it. You can find any quality in a person if you look for it long enough & I mean any quality. Once I learned to really read people, really read people, & to judge them in a way no average human can, I realized how wrong I had been about so many things. That’s the scary part about being a human being, isn’t it? You have to trust your instincts & guesses as fact. Animals just go with their instinct, they don’t trust them — there’s no process by which they choose to move in one direction or another, thus trusting, there’s just reflex, action. Think about how many relationships have been destroyed because someone did or didn’t trust an instinct they knew they had no way of confirming — life is the worst... says the girl who can’t die. Ugh, I think my privilege is showing again.

Look at that, I’ve rambled so much I’m back home, & already in bed…

 

SUCKING FACE

 

"Hi Bricks."

"Hey babe, how’re you feeling? I heard from—"

"It’s a lie. Whatever you heard, Dizzy doesn’t know what she’s talking about."

"Whoa, I’m sorry babe, I just thought you were sick & wanted to check on you. Chill, okay?"

"Yeah, okay, I gotta go, Meg is waiting for me."

"Hey Meg! …see, she’s fine, she’s not even paying attention, she’s too busy sucking face with Steve Balsam."

Meg had a knack for ditching me at the very worst times. She also had a knack for sucking face with Steve Balsam. You can’t necessarily blame her either, he was bread-crumbing the hell out of her back then, only we just didn’t have a term for that at the time. We just said you were a jerk.

"Okay, fine, look, I’m sorry, I’m just really tired of being talked about because this freak show town is freaking me out, alright? I’m not the weird one, this place is, & honestly, I felt totally normal four years ago before I moved here. Ever since then though it’s just gotten worse & worse. You remember my birthday, don’t you? That pain was so serious that I thought it would actually tear my skull open & everyone got mad at me when it was my birthday that was ruined!"

"Listen babe, I get it. Some people are jerks but I do remember your party this year & if you do too, you’ll remember it was me who stayed all night, even when everyone left early. So yeah, crap on Dizzy Dalton all you want, just leave me out of it. I was just worried about my girlfriend."

"Bricks, wait, that's not what I meant! I—I… damnit…"

He lumbered away without turning back. ‘Lumbered’ is quite fitting too as his frame dwarfed mine, I mean, there’s a reason everyone called him ‘Bricks.’ His name was Bradley & I never appreciated him enough... ever…

 

FORGET ABOUT ME

 

Oh, that’s right! Back to the John Hughes movies!

I’m not sure what school he went to but there were a lot more than five people in detention with me that day. Meg wasn’t even in detention, she just wanted an excuse to gossip with me some more. It was basically a glorified study hall because the room was full & we were all just talking or working on something. Whether or not it was school-work is a different story all-together. I think this fascination with High School being something it’s not is really… well, fascinating. What is it about this time period that everyone feels the need to exaggerate or idealize? Just telling it like it was will be messed up enough, trust me.

Maybe that’s what everyone’s afraid of though, telling the truth. I know I was. I certainly hadn’t told Meg the whole story about my sleepless nights lately. I haven’t even told you yet & you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t expect some weirdness. Old habits die hard, I suppose… at least they die though...

"Psst! Hey Jane, check it out."

The way Meg gestured her head toward the door of the classroom & I saw Bricks standing there waiting for me is almost slow motion now. He must’ve heard about my "almost passing out" from Dizzy’s stupid friends & came to check on me. He’s sweet but he should know me better than that. I really hope you’re not getting this idea I’m some idiot who complains about everything but has this really great life because, ugh, I’m totally not. I know I keep having to say that, I just... don’t know how else to explain it. I felt everything — sights & sounds & smells, words & phrases, reactions & expressions, they were all energies that I absorbed from every person at all times… or at least that’s what it felt like. So sometimes even the best people & the best situations wouldn’t be good for me. ‘It’s not you, it’s me…’ kinda thing... & that may the first time that’s been said where it’s not a complete excuse.

 

CHILL PILL

 

I have a boyfriend but I honestly couldn’t care less.

I thought it might make life easier for me so when Bricks first asked me out I said yes right away. I’m not really into to him like that though. Hell, I’m more attracted to his sister. He’s just kind of my shield? That makes me sound like a jerk. I don’t not like him, I just don’t like him like that. He’s a good person & fiercely loyal, just not the sharpest knife in the block, & definitely not my type. 

Meg certainly did her part to convince me too. Meg is great, I love her, she’s been my best friend since we started middle school together, but we’re just very different. 

"Well, what is it then? Because you’ve been a little off the past few days & I heard from Dizzy Dalton that you nearly passed out in Algebra today—"

"Not even! …I just startled myself because I wasn’t paying attention & Garibaldi caught me, that’s all. Not everything I do is meant to be analyzed by Dizzy Dalton. Like she’s so righteous…"

"I mean, she is dating the cutest kid in school & her parents make like, a bajillion dollars & let her do whatever she wants &—"

"I get it, Meg, I get it, I guess I just don’t care, ya know? All she has that I want is a brain that doesn’t hate her…"

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"I don’t know, it’s just that lately I can barely think straight? Or like, I’m thinking too straight? Everything is so heightened, it’s like I could hear a fly landing on my shoulder or something, but not hear you screaming in the other ear… it’s weird, Meg—"

"So you are losing it, then?"

"Take a chill pill. I didn’t say that. I’m just saying the past couple of days have been extra weird for me & I’m not sure if it’s just natural progression or if I’m just not getting any sleep…"

"Maybe invite Bricks over & have some—"

"Meg, I’m being serious here, I’ve had some really weird dreams lately & I think I just need to pass out for once & not wake up dripping sweat."

"Was that a dream in Algebra? When you almost passed out?"

"I didn’t almost pass out! …but yeah, it was… only I wasn’t asleep…"

I almost forgot how Meg puts another piece of gum in her mouth whenever she gets nervous. I say another because she was always chewing at least one. If only she knew what was going on she might’ve finished the pack right there. If only I had known too…

 

BARF ME OUT

 

"Jane! Psst! Jane… Jane, answer me!”

"Oh, ha, yeah, sorry Meg, just a little distracted lately”

“You don’t look so hot. Why are you sweating? It’s like negative thirty in here, I could cut glass…"

“Weird dreams."

"Daydreams… let me guess, Bricks is being a jerk again? We all couldn’t see him flirting with Crystal right in front of you, like barf me out, I would have decked him for you if you let me!"

"Meg, it’s fine, it’s not that, I’ve just, been a little sick I think, that’s all…"

"Oh say no more, I’ve got Midol in my purse if you need it."

"No, it’s not— …never-mind."

"Did you see Burchfield's notebook? What a loser, I mean sure, Rob Lowe is so choice but desperate much?"

"Ha, yeah..."

"Oh, also, Lacie Stevens is having a party this Saturday when her parents are out of town & we actually got invited!"

"Seriously? How? She never even talks to us."

"Steve & Bricks got invited & they're taking us!"

Whatever you’ve learned about high school from John Hughe’s movies isn't so much wrong, but rather a simultaneous dilution & exaggeration of the reality. Not that I have to tell you that if you actually experienced it yourself. While undoubtedly great films, they are so wildly reductionist it pains me. I am by no means popular, nor am I an outcast. Sure I’ve smoked pot, but I’m far from a stoner. I don’t wear Jordache & I’m not on the cheer squad, but I’m also not asking out Robert Smith anytime soon either, ya know? You don’t have to be just goth or prep, a nerd or a cool kid, I mean, this isn’t Sixteen Candles.

 

DISINTEGRATION

 

You see everything & nothing.

The world at once presses in & moves away. Everything is out of focus. Life, set in a state of calibration. The lens is blurred but the subject is still visible. Still understood.

Your body disintegrates.

You are thought & consciousness — cortex alone, hovering. Held in the ocean of your energy — finally at peace — finally calm. There is nothing else but you.

Completely still, a whisper comes from behind you, so close you can feel it’s breath.

‘Just let me drown.’

Thunder, in the distance, is your only reply.

‘Let me drown.’

The trees don't move & neither do you.

Answer me.

"Jane! Psst! Jane, answer me!”

 

PRETTY BRAVE

 

That look on my face is me wondering what the hell I’m going to do.

In every panicked situation I go into a singular mode of locating the path that leads to the least amount of humiliation &, or pain. When you start hearing voices in your head & you’re cognitive enough to know that what you’re hearing isn’t coming from your own brain, that’s what the professionals would call a "break." Oh there, you see that furrow in-between my eyebrows there, that’s the moment. That’s the moment I thought, "Well, what the hell? Maybe I can just answer this… thing… in my head" ...& yes, my shoulders relaxing & me leaning back is the moment I said, "screw this… "

"Um, hello… strange voice in my head… what exactly can you end?"

Your suffering.

"Suffering? I mean, sure, life is a constant series of disappointments & reasons to be paranoid… but suffering? Are you sure you called the right brain? You might actually be looking for Meredith Butterfield, she’s a few desks over crying on her Rob Lowe notebook."

You have to admit, for some reason, in the face of what should’ve scared the pants off me — I was pretty brave. I mean, come on, I’m talking to a disembodied voice in my head claiming to have the power to end suffering so... clearly I’m bad ass, right? If only I knew how to shut my mouth… fortunately for you listening to this story, I did not.

The next response came as a thunderous, continuous reverberation in my being — & I don’t say in my head or in my bones or in my soul, I can only say in my being because it was everywhere. Everywhere in a way like your body in the vast openness of everything to ever exist, & that to say it was in you would be the height of arrogance.

It spoke slowly & clearly & said:

I know your suffering. I can end it. Follow me. Tonight.

It was like the world fuzzed out for a second, like the static on the TV, & I felt all the matter in my body warp & re-configure back together in an electric swirl, but apparently I was the only one who felt this & I re-smashed my knee into the bottom of my desk & yelled out my favorite expletive, on reflex of course.

"Jane! The office. Now."

The Principal was literally the very last of my worries.

 

CRASH INTO ME

 

I know I shouldn't blatantly be sleeping in class, let alone giving my teacher attitude but it's not for lack of trying. I try very hard actually, it's just nothing works. If I know something already or if I'm not interested, I can't fein like I am. I can only pretend if I care, which doesn't usually help because if I care then I normally don't have to pretend. It's just a hard switch to find in the darkness of my mind. I show you these parts of my life not to further display how cranky I can be — please, don't hate me yet! — But this was to show you just how lost I was that day. How someone can feel so solid & rooted to who they are & what they are, but still be wrong. Still be on the cusp of a revolution — & the first shot was about to be fired in mine.

I can end it.

Bodiless & effervescent, this voice came flooding through my ears like an ocean wave crashes on the shores; effortless & calming & powerful. It managed to be both soothing & uproarious, causing me to jolt suddenly at my desk & slam my knee into the corner.

"Is there a problem, Penelope Jane?"

"Just Jane! & no, I’m okay, I just… thought I heard something"

"So as I was saying, what can we discern now that we know X is equal to…"

This is the kind of thing my Mom was worried about before. All the voices in my head are mine, I know that. I’m not crazy. I’ve been this way my whole life. Hashing out conversations in my head before they happen. Realizing that I’m preparing for a future that is totally unpredictable & sometimes, yes, I have arguments with the voices, my own voices. But it doesn’t normally sound like that did. It doesn’t normally sound like anything... you know what I mean, like when you think things, even in different perspectives, it’s not sound, it’s thought. This wasn’t thought. This was heard. It just seems like only I heard it.

I can end it.

Maybe Mom was right all along, I should’ve just taken my stupid pills. Maybe all of this could’ve been avoided. Somehow, I still doubt it.

 

CLASSHOLE

 

"Jane! If you don't unlock this door right now, we're going to break it in! Can you hear us? It's me, Ms. Fry! Are you decent? I'm coming in there!"

"I—I'm here! I'm here! I'll be right out, I'm sorry, I feel sick, I'll be right out!"

Don't feel too bad for me. No one else is going to. It's 1988 & a lot will have to change before what's happening—or rather, what I stop from happening—makes sense. In their defense, an earthquake had evacuated the building & when they were came back in to do a sweep, found me standing over the sink in chem lab, the door locked, refusing to respond. They saw me through the glass opening in the door & called out but I wouldn't move; I wouldn't even flinch. I was somewhere… feeling something… so it was real, I'm just not sure what kind of real it was, or what it was at all, really. I know more now but I can't say I'll ever know everything about what it is, but we'll get there, in time. I'm starting at the very beginning for a reason; the beginning of my memory, anyway. 

Memory, in so of itself, is very unreliable though. Much of what you'll get from me is conjecture. A connecting of the dots, if you will, of an image I'm unsure of. I haven't been given the subject or even the theme, but rather told, "This is an image, go ahead & construct it again." The hippocampus is a flighty temptress indeed. The stories I tell you now are from so long ago, I can't help but feel like I'm trying to form smoke with my hands into some concrete visage. I have to try though. It's too important not to share this. It may be happening to you too. In fact, if you're hearing this, it likely is happening to you right now. That's why speaking it aloud is so crucial.

The stories must be told.

"So tell me, Jane."

"I just did. X is equal to 24."

"Yes, but I asked what was wrong with how you answered this question?"

"Nothing. X is equal to 24"

"Yes, I know, but you didn't show your work."

"Why do I need to show you how I did it if the answer is right? That doesn't make any sense."

"Do I need to send another note home?"

"You divide 96 by 4 to isolate the x, okay? X is equal to 24."

"Watch your attitude, young lady. Don't get smart with me."

"I am smart…"

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

 

UNLOCK IT

 

The sink is holding you.

Porcelain expands to fit every crevice of your clenched fists, stuffing full in your fingers to exert the pressure you cannot. The translucent ceramic cements you there. 

Held & whole.

The tiles stretch to fill the floor & catch you. You have no shin, no knee, no thigh, no peg or prop to lift you.

You're falling without moving.

The world holds you.

Nothing can hold you.

The mirror is shaking. You can't lift your head to watch it. You can't move to know for sure but you notice it in a way that requires no confirmation.

The rattling tears through your bones like lightning.

There's no feeling, no sensation; only through the tethers to your soul.

Rooted in the nape of your neck & escaping into nothingness.

A tree so solid it's invisible.

It's your forest. The forest.

The vines extend through everything. All is built on the soil you're standing on; standing within.

Lifting your neck is like shaking off years of ice & snow.

A relic awakens in you.

Lift your head & unlock it.

Unlock it.