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By harunokaze
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Literature Text

When Alissa began to lose her mind, she didn't even notice. It was only six days since they'd left Seattle, since they'd turned in the city for the sort of small suffocating town she'd thought only existed on afternoon TV. That in itself felt like insanity. She kept looking around, at the gaping emptiness between each house and the next, and she couldn't quite believe that anything was real. They couldn't have moved. It couldn't be her life, could it? She wasn't living somewhere on the banks of Lake Michigan in a town so small no one had ever bothered to write its name on a map. She couldn't be. It wasn't her life. Someone elses.

And then she'd wake up, in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room, and she'd hear the voices of her new stepsiblings, and it would hurt so much that she'd try to gasp at the pain only to find that there was no air in the room. That's how it started. She kept not breathing. Back home, the air had been filled with such energy and each breath had energized her, lifted her up. Now, the air tasted empty and stale, and even as she panted, feeling suffocated and scared, it felt like she wasn't getting anything.

Depression weighed her down, left her stupid and sick. There was nothing of her left with enough energy to think 'I'm not breathing, this can't be normal'. So she just went on, not breathing. She started to think, maybe she didn't need to. Maybe in small little towns, no one breathed. Maybe that's why they looked so much more like paintings than they did people. The lack of air stole their third dimension.

And then, in math class, they flattened further, until the room was no more than a wash of colors that had once been people, great splotches of green and blue and gray and gold.

In Seattle, she would have been terrified. In Michigan, all she could manage was a sort of embarrassed irritation, as if she'd missed some local social cue and was being punished accordingly. She stood, pushing back her chair, and the sound of it, that dull, familiar scrape, sent everything spinning, colors merging and separating in nauseating patterns.

She felt the fear then, confused horror knifing through her chest. "I'm going to be sick," she managed.

She was. Bent over a public toilet heaving, her whole body shaking. When she'd finally managed to lose breakfast, dinner, and the thin liquid that was all that remained afterwards, she collapsed, shivering against the side of the stall and panting. There was still no air. She was light headed from lack of oxygen and still felt sick. The tiles began to lose solidity as she watched. Orange and blue began to mingle, and the resultant gray rose like the tide, lapping at the walls and splashing over her fingertips.

When it seemed about to climb her arm she felt herself gagging, dry heaves that sent her whole body shaking.

"You alright?" The thing about the voice was it wasn't timid, which she might have ignored. It didn't even sound concerned. Mostly it sounded like someone who was annoyed at being interrupted by the sound of someone vomiting and sobbing, which seemed fair.

There were boots outside the stall door. Tall black boots with zippers and buckles and buttons so that Alissa was left wondering what it was about the feet within that took so much restraining. She giggled, a high, shattered sound.

"So, no." said the voice, "Can't even go insane in peace. Guess that's how it goes."

The door shook, once, then twice, then not again and Alissa thought maybe that was it, maybe the stranger would leave. And then someone was sliding under the stall door, striped stockings and ruffled skirt and eyes like a cat and almost it seemed like she couldn't be real either. She didn't look real. She looked like the idea of a person.

"Well. Gross." She flushed the toilet before sitting down on the tiles, her nose wrinkling in displeasure. "I'm Janet. You need help getting to the nurse?"

"I'm not sick." Her voice sounded hoarse to her own ears, rough from tears and low with exhaustion. It also didn't sound particularly convincing. "Honest."

"Huh," said Janet. She reached over, placing the back of her hand against Alissa's forehead. Her hands were small and cool with bitten nails painted in alternating blue and black. Alissa tried to flinch away, but the bathroom stall left little enough room for avoidance. "Well, you don't feel feverish. You're not pregnant are you?"

Alissa shook her head, frantic now.

"I'm just saying. If you were. And you needed a friend. I'd listen."

"We're not friends." She was sure of this, at least. Crazy or no, she'd never met Janet before in her life. She'd have remembered.

"Could be. Hanging out, giggling in the girl's bathroom. You sick, me crazy. Why not?" Janet had begun, Alissa realized, to unravel, gleaming strands of her spreading out like a web in all directions. She closed her eyes.

"I need you to go away," she said, managing, for the first time, to put some level of force behind her words.

"Whoa. Alright. But, Alissa, you should know I'm going to get the nurse."

"How'd you know that?"

"I generally know what I'm doing. A little less so since yesterday, but, I think I can manage to get to the nurse."

"No. My name. I didn't tell you. Did I?" She realized she wasn't sure, and her heartbeat raced. She hadn't opened her eyes.

"Oh. Well. That. That's the crazy talking. Don't worry about it." Janet stood and the sound of her doing so had Alissa's eyes open again. The webs were gone. "But I am going to get the nurse."

"Why are you saying that?"

"Because you're in here throwing up and shaking, mostly."

This time, it seemed like Janet was deliberate in her misunderstanding and Alissa let her breath out in an irritated huff, impatience momentarily consuming anxiety. "Why," she said, her words sharp, "do you keep calling yourself crazy."

It didn't seem fair, really. Here she was, squatting next to a toilet watching the floor try to climb the walls and someone else was claiming to be crazy.

"Well, for one, you're all silvery and shining with these dark pulsing threads of black. Also, I knew your name. Just knew it, when I heard you in here. And I lost to my mom at chess."

The last didn't seem particularly relevant, from Alissa's standpoint. But maybe Janet was really good at chess. Or her mom was dead.

What Alissa meant to say was, 'you're seeing things too?' Instead, as the world went white and hot and painful, she said, "He's waiting for you, at the kennels."

Janet just looked at her, waiting.

The words kept coming. "But there's someone else. We need to get him. You. You know where he is."

The white faded, but left her so blinded that the world only came into focus slowly, Janet, black and stripes and wild purple curls, last of all.

"I don't know what that meant." Alissa managed to force out. She was crying again.

"Funny. Because I think I might." Janet held out a hand, pulling her to feet with a certain unnecessary amount of heaving and then pulling her into a sudden, unwelcome hug. But she seemed to like to touch people, holding onto Alissa's hand even after she'd let go of the rest of her. "Feel like being crazy with me?"


"I guess that's too bad then. C'mon. My psycho senses are all saying 'outside'."
Well, I recently realized that I'm going to have to start one of the projects I was working on, 'Weaver' over again. But I'm not completely displeased with what I'm scrapping, so it sort of seems a pity. This is technically the second chapter, but as it's the first time the narrative views things from Alissa's perspective, it didn't seem to require the one prior, which is from Janet's perspective, and, frankly, is quite old and rather over-written.

Critiques are welcome, as ever, but be aware that I won't be rewriting this, as it's being scrapped for a new approach to the story. Alissa and Janet will stay, for what it's worth.
© 2010 - 2021 harunokaze
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