005 – Wet Feet to Flood

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“Ma! Mommy!” I called out. “You can thee everything from here!” I tried to echo out.

Mommy stepped out to where I was, on the balcony. I heard the glass door slide shut behind her.

“Yes, you can,” she responded.

The view was awesome, with the McDonald’s right over there. Mommy should walk with me over there one day. And there were so many buildings. Big buildings that could reach the moon. There were big malls too, I wanted to go down there and see what cool stuff they had. But then that would mean me missing the big buildings. And the wind here that felt nice and it was sunny and it felt good and awesome and we were so so high up so I never wanted to go back down.

I gripped the railing even tighter, and shouted again. Mommy lightly tapped my head to get me to stop.

“Stop that.” She didn’t say it meanly, so I guess I was okay.

I jumped up and down, trying to get a better look above the railing, but I was too short. I hate being short.

Mommy stroked my hair hard but that felt good, getting my bangs into my eyes. I shook my head to get it out of the way, and let go of the railing to tightly hug mommy’s leg.

“Since you like it so much,” she said, “How about we choose here?”

I knew what she meant, but I still looked back up to her anyways.

“Threally?” My excitement whistled through my missing front tooth. I remember this girl I played with at the park last week, she said my teeth looked like a checkerboard. What’s a checkerboard?

“Thank you, mommy! Thanks!” I had said, my voice muffled into her thigh.

I heard her laugh. Quiet, but I heard it. “Much better than the old place?”

“Mm! Mm!” I agreed, not letting go. I nodded, but it amounted to rubbing my forehead against her shorts, and my nose to her skin. “Muth better!”

“Ah!” she then laughed, and made some space between us so she could pick me up. After she had a good hold on me, we looked out, together. I hugged her neck, being careful not to be too rough.

Mommy hummed a tune. I nestled in closer to feel it too.

“This balcony’s part of master bedroom. You can have it.”

I rocked back and forth so hard I was nearly thrashing. Mommy held me closer and made a peep in shock.

“Really! Theally!” My excitement splattered spit onto mommy’s cheek. She chuckled as she wiped it away.

She set me down, but she couldn’t stop me from not being glued to her side. I squeezed her, harder, with the hugest smile. The big room? The big room, that was a big deal, the biggest deal in the whole wide world. I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t wait to live here now. A hundred massages, a hundred backrubs, whatever, I would thank mommy every day for the rest of my life.

After settling down some more, together, we looked out far away. I was super excited. Every day I could play with new friends and stuff, when I go to my new school. We would live in a new place, and I wanted to stay up here and see all the new cool places I could explore. And best of all, I get to sleep every day in a big bed. It was the best news ever. I was so super duper excited.

I couldn’t wait!

I stood in front of my apartment building, sweaty and tired. The lack of light at the window clued me in to what the situation was inside. Frankly, that my mom had gotten tired of waiting for me, and went to bed. Also known as the final nail in the coffin on how truly screwed I was today.

A brief thought went into my head, a memory. I banished it immediately. No distractions.

Deciding on a different approach, I headed around the side of the building. Going up the stairs, and right through the front door might have woken her, and I was trying to avoid that. Some worry over their dog when they sneak back in their own house. Me? I had my mom. I’d rather deal with her in the morning, when I had to.

My room had a sliding glass door that led into a balcony, and while that was my only promising alternative, it was also two stories high. A week ago, the only way I considered that a possible escape route was when I would take out some rope I kept hidden in my closet, tie it to the railing, and climb down, with Katy waiting for me at the bottom. It wasn’t a method I used all too often, only being viable when it was late enough that I knew my mom wouldn’t be awakened by any noise, being the heavy sleeper that she was. And even that was a gamble, since I would have to keep the rope tied so I could climb back up later. To keep it out of plain sight, I had to tie it to the railing that ran alongside the wall of the building, and just hope that no one came around there. Generally, no one did, but it was still dicey. Too many variables.

Overall, a very risky strategy that required a specific set of circumstances to even have a slim chance of working. But regardless, that was for sneaking out. How the hell was I supposed to use the balcony as a means of getting in? I had no rope this time.

I took a chance. I positioned myself right under the edge of the balcony, and took two steps back. I bent my legs. With a hard push, I jumped.

The longer I stayed in the air, the harder it got to maintain my composure. Luckily, I still had enough wits about myself to grab a hold of the railing when it came within reach. With another thrust of my arms, I got over that particular barrier.

“Oof!” I sounded as I landed square on the balcony. I slapped myself in the mouth for making a noise. For a minute, I stayed still. Nothing. I sighed, shoulders dropping all tension. As I removed my shoes, I decided to leave them outside.

Sliding the door open, I stepped into my room, patting myself on the back for always leaving it unlocked. The light switch was off, so the room should have been completely dark, yet I could see as though it was bright. Testing myself, I checked the time on the digital clock on my desk. The faint light displayed a red eleven-thirty. It hadn’t been like this before, did something trigger some sort of night vision?

Night vision, just add that to the list of things I was now capable of. Like being able to jump two stories. And making it out a crash unscathed. Well, physically unscathed.

But I digress.

I set down my backpack, and ventured out of my room.

Making sure I was safe, I peeked into the living room. I figured if my mom was trying to set up an ambush on me in case I did go through the front door, she would be asleep on the couch on the far wall, facing the television set. She wasn’t there, which meant she was in her room. I sighed again.

Thirsty for water, I went to the kitchen, making sure to be dead silent the whole way. But every heart-pounding step was like walking on a mine field. One wrong move, and I’d activate a bomb onto my night. Like it needed any more. I managed to procure a glass, and ran tap water into it.

My trip was a success, and I made to the kitchen and my room in a flash. Didn’t make it any less nerve-racking, though. I set the glass on the nightstand by my bed. While I was at it, I pulled out a drawer from my dresser, and took out my pocket knife. The one my mom gave me a while back for ‘safety.’ I’ve never had a use for it.

Curious, I smelled my hair and my clothes. They reeked of dirt and sweat and blood. I couldn’t go to bed like this.

Deciding that the risk was worth it, I took off my clothes, from hoodie, shorts, down to my underwear, and wrapped them in a trash bag I kept in my closet in case I ever needed to hide clothes I couldn’t wash with my mom around. I doubted they could even be washed in this state, or how would I even get away with it, but I’d deal with that later. Going back to my nightstand, I chugged my water, savoring every gulp. After putting the glass down, and the hiding trash bag back into the corner of the closet, by a pile of thick rope, I entered the bathroom that connected to my room, the door leading to it was across from the bed. I took the pocket knife with me.

I took a towel off of a nearby rack, and hung it over the shower door as I slid it closed. I set the knife down in a corner of the shower floor.

I played with the water settings until the showerhead drizzled a stream that was strong enough to clean, but not too strong so that it would be too loud. When I was sure I had it to a good setting, I started my shower.

Strangely, I was able to relax. Kind of. As I washed my body, I finally had the mental freedom to go over the events of what transpired in the past three hours or so.

The accident. My laundry list of injuries and broken bones. My escape from the scene by leaping over trees and ending up in the middle of the woods. How I healed from everything.

Thankfully, I didn’t jump too far into the trees, I just jumped high. By following the sounds of cars passing, I made it back to the road with no hassle. Making sure I was far enough away from the scene of the accident as possible, I left the woods and took a detour through the neighborhood, in an attempt to avoid any police or anyone else who may have recognized me. And just to clear my head, if anything. If there was any consolation, I had my hood up from truck to home.

I had walked around for about an hour, until I got far enough so that it would take me another hour to get back to the apartment. Quite the trip, to be honest. A blank, quiet trip. Only one thought came and bothered me like a fly.

What the hell is going on?

I rinsed my hands, and the dried blood washed away, coloring the shower floor. Massaging my palms, I saw nor felt the injuries that littered them just before. It was the same for the rest of my body as I applied soap.

I was looking forward to washing my hair the most, so I saved that for last. I finally let the cold water run down my hair, a soothing calm washed through me even more as I watched the dirt and guck slide down the drain. Adding shampoo made it that much better.

And just like that, I was clean. Ready to go to bed. Tomorrow, I’d have to wait for the other shoe to drop, but for now, I could sleep.

But there was one last order of business I needed to take care of.

I bent down for my pocket knife, and flipped the blade out. My breaths were deep as I psyched myself up.

Maybe, just maybe, this was all in my imagination. I didn’t know why I was trying to delude myself this much, but despite knowing better, a part me wished this was all a dream.

A deeper breath, then I brought the knife to my arm. The left wrist.

Not that I ever done this before, or anything, but it took some effort to actually get the knife to cut through my skin.

Blood rushed out of my wrist, and the floor was filled with red once again. I winced as the cold metal glided off my skin, exposing it more into the air, cold water getting into the cuts. This wasn’t for a rush, or for any desire for self-harm, I just wanted to see it again. What I’d do.

What would happen.

As I feared, I didn’t bleed out for very long. As I worked thin red lines across my wrist, the skin would close up right behind the knife’s edge, following any cut before it got too bad. I lifted the knife away, and washed off my arm. The blood fled down the drain, and I was left with nothing on my wrist.

I stood there, silent, just letting the water hit my scalp. If I cried, I didn’t feel it run down my cheeks.

After some time, I got out of the shower, and dried myself off. I didn’t think the water was too hot, but I must have been in there long enough to fog up the large mirror attached above the sink. I wiped it off to better look at myself.

Brown eyes that weren’t as slanted as my mother’s, but enough so that other kids liked to poke fun at them during elementary school. My lips were fuller than hers, too, enough so that the boys liked to make rude remarks regarding them during middle school. My figure, if allowed to brag, was slender yet fairly lean, thanks to years of volleyball, but I had curves where it mattered. Well, except for my chest, but I abandoned all hope about that long ago. My dark hair, normally a little past shoulder length, was stuck to my scalp and neck, from not properly drying off yet.

Whatever I got from my father, I didn’t know. Didn’t care to know.

I stared at my reflection, painstakingly inspecting every inch of my face and body, until the image started to distort from not blinking. On just a surface level view, there was nothing wrong here. Nothing. Just a girl who admittedly got into more trouble than need be. But still, a normal girl nonetheless.

Again, surface level.

But, now, there was a new absolute betraying what I saw. Something that could not be disputed. I was no longer Alexis Barnett, normal high school girl. I was no longer me. Humans aren’t capable of this. Should we follow the logical nexus after that, we had to conclude that I was no longer human. I had become something else entirely. What that was exactly, I didn’t want to say. Couldn’t bring myself to say. Wouldn’t dare to say. Like a twisted version of that motivational tactic. Say it, you become it.

Baring my teeth, I looked at my canines. Were they always that sharp? I balled up my fists, and went to punch the mirror. To break it. To bleed out from the sharp edges. But I held myself back at the last second. How could I break it, without alerting her? So instead, there was a weak tap. A cockroach grossly skittered across a corner of the mirror. This made me feel smaller than even that. I sniffled, watching as my reflection lost its shape and distinction, like watching it through a waterfall.

“I hate this.”

I decided to skip school today. Add that to the list of good decisions made by yours truly.

It was mostly a string of excuses, but I had to be fair to myself. How could I expect myself to be able to attend school after what happened the night before. Now, I had to be careful. I had no idea exactly what I was capable of. The thought of something happening at school because of me was unbearable. It was a miracle that nothing happened on my first day back.

When I woke up that morning, it was the best sleep I had in years. At the very least, I had that going for me. The alarm rang its annoying tone for an hour past its set time. From just that much, I knew my mom had left for work before it went off, and that I was home alone. Katy was supposed to pick me up again today, I wondered how long she waited until she had to go to school herself. Did she call?

I remembered that the phone was still in the pocket of my shorts, so I had to dig them out of the hidden trash bag. It smelled worse than ever. I made a mental note to find a way to get rid of these soon. Very soon.

Of course, phones don’t magically recharge overnight, and mine was already dead when I left school last night. If Katy had called, I wouldn’t have known. I plugged it into the charger by my desk, and left it as I went to get myself breakfast.

As per my morning routine, I fixed up bowl of cereal with colorful marshmallows. Couldn’t start my day without them. Especially today, since I wanted to start the day with some sense of normalcy. Normal was good. Routine was good. And somewhere deep within me still clung to the chance that this was all just a really bad dream.

I nearly spat it out. The cereal itself was the consistency of wet paper, and the marshmallows tasted like rotten fish. The milk was the worst, like it was two weeks past its expiration date, but the date on the carton told me otherwise. I had to force myself to finish it, which I never do.

Tastes like ass. That pretty much summed up my breakfast experience.

I spent the rest of my morning on my desktop computer, waiting for my phone to fully charge. It bothered me more than I wanted it too, but sitting here, alone in my room and my thoughts, gave me a weight of worry in the pit of my stomach. By practically slapping the keys of the keyboard, I googled ‘barham barn.’ The website fixed my misspelling.

A few online articles came up about the incident that Friday night. Friday night? That felt so long ago, already. It hadn’t even registered to me yet that I was no longer fifteen. I cracked a knuckle as I scanned through the first result.

It was a short, but not concise, summary of events. Too light on detail. A girl was discovered in the abandoned barn, covered in various bodily fluids, but no scratches or injuries on her. They didn’t release my name, which I was pleased with. The privilege of still being a minor, I guessed. But there was nothing here that I could use. Nothing that was helpful.

The next three articles were just as bad, in terms of information. Statements from the police saying that while the incident seems strange, it was most likely a prank by some dumb kids. I recalled Katy’s joke from yesterday. Even that felt forever ago.

The final article had some choice words for me in the comments. Some ‘xhangman47x’ said I was just a ‘dumb slut’ who probably deserved it. I exhaled. Fine, if you say so. But being a dumb slut did not put me in that barn.

No, one measly comment didn’t upset me. What did upset me was how much this was not adding up.

I knew someone attacked me, brought me there. Some thing. But that was the extent of my knowledge on the matter. These articles reported that I was found unharmed, unscathed. Definitely dirty, definitely smelly, but not hurt. Forcing myself to think back to that night, I knew that wasn’t the case. The exact, clear details weren’t there, but I was pretty confident that I didn’t make it out of there in one piece. If there was something off about me when I was found, it would have to have been reported on, surely.

The only option I could come up with now was to go back to the barn myself.

I said it out loud. “Great.”

A beginnings of a cold sweat prickled the back of my neck. “I guess I could go, today. But…” I leaned back into my chair.

What did I expect to find?

Whatever it may be, probably nothing at all, the thought of going was worse than the second before descending a rollercoaster. The thought tied the pit in my stomach into knots.

I closed the tabs, and reopened a new window. I didn’t do much else past watching some random videos of top eleven hidden details in movies that would blow my mind. They didn’t blow my mind.

Finally, my phone was done charging, and saw the icons indicating two missed calls and quite a few texts from Katy. I opened up the messages first, reading them aloud in a monotone.

“Outside. Where are you? ‘Kay bye.” Checking the timestamp on the messages, they weren’t even a minute apart. Thanks.

I stumbled through my text for her. ‘Still feel under weather. C u tmrw’

I got a response right away. ‘K’

Setting the phone aside, it had gotten to be around lunchtime, had I went to school. Normalcy. Routine. Trying to stick to that as much as possible. Let’s eat.

I went to the fridge in the kitchen, to see what we had.

Still, leftovers. One piece of fried chicken, barely a serving of rice, and barely a bowl left of miso soup. How nostalgic. Back in the day, my mom cooked fried chicken and miso soup with rice all the time.

But none of it looked appetizing. Was it really worth it? I closed the refrigerator.

I rushed back into my room, changing into an old blue windbreaker and some jeans, with rips lining down the side of my thighs. Emptying out my backpack, which was tracked with mud, I found that most of my journals were intact. The large binder I used for my schoolwork was cracked along the front, but that could easily be replaced. I took everything out, save for a notebook, and put in my phone and wallet with some extra cash from my closet. I placed the plastic bag of dirty clothes in there, too.

And with my bag slung over one shoulder, I headed out.

There was a bus stop at the end of the street, past my apartment. I waited there, the bus coming a minute or so later. I got on.

It was lame process of having to ask the bus driver what route took me where, them taking me as far as their route would allow, move on to the next bus stop, ask the new bus driver as I got on what route took me where, ad infinitum. One of the bus stops dropped me off somewhere on the nebulous border of Stephenville that divided the ‘somewhat nice’ parts and where the drug cartels roamed openly. Police sirens blared in the background, and the bus I waited for there was delayed. Not shocking at all, if the two were related.

There was never a moment where I didn’t long for my old phone.

A long, lame, arduous process, a late or slow bus here and there, but I eventually crossed the city to get to my destination. In about an hour.

Braham Barn.

The final bus stop wasn’t right at the entrance of the abandoned plantation, and it was a long walk from the edge of the city to the front gate. The scenery changed from dilapidated street corners to fields of grass and tumbleweed in almost an instant. Passing the gate, I made sure to be wary of any coyotes this time.

I soon stood at the crossroads of a long, winding path of dirt and rocks. Tall plants swayed in the soft breeze. A blue sky above, and the sun beating down too brightly on me. It reminded me of how much I liked sunny days.

Keep walking forward, I’d get to the manor. Go right, I’d hit the decrepit grain silo. Standing here, in the middle of the day, with everything in my sights. Super surreal.

I took a left.

The doors were already open, or perhaps no one had bothered to close it. There were no lights inside the barn, but broken windows and slits in the roof above were large enough to fill the interior with some light. Either way, something like that didn’t really matter anymore.

Calling this a barn suggested it maintained a semblance of its old life. Better off calling it a ruins. A corpse of its former self.

The inside of the barn was gutted, the stables and the loft wholly removed, leaving the space even more sparse and empty. A tractor sat in a corner by the entrance, the back half missing, and only one tire attached. A stack of bricks were arranged beside it. Some barnyard equipment rested on the hay-covered floor, and I had to kick away a rake to avoid stepping on it. What had used to be a barn now used to be a place for hoedowns.

Nine or ten picnic-tables were randomly strewn about across the area. There was a gap between the cluster of tables that split them up down the middle. Not the result of someone moving them around, no, some tables were too close together to scoot in to a seat. It was like someone got violently thrown into the tables, their limp body parting them away.

Does not feel good to be back, I thought.

“Can’t believe I’m here,” I breathed. This was too strange, too much to try and make heads or tails of. I had come here with no real goal in mind, but after remembering what happened here, I couldn’t help not entertaining the curiosity that nibbled at the back of my conscience.

And since I was skipping school anyways, I didn’t see any harm in checking things out.

A quick look around confirmed that there was no one else in here. It did little to ease my anxiousness.

I’d be the first to admit that I was no detective, but there should be some clue here that could provide of some help. Just anything, anything to go off on. Anything that could steer me in the right direction.

Dropping my backpack, I walked towards one of the tables, dusty and knocked over. I noticed that one end was blackened and charred, like it had been briefly been set on fire. Grabbing it by the end of one of the long seats, I nudged it to judge its weight. Pretty heavy. I secured my grip on the seat, being careful not to touch any gum that might be under there.

I bent my knees, keeping my back straight. My muscles tensed as I lifted it above my head and tossed it behind me.

“Yagh!” I yelled.

A loud crash behind me, wooding slamming and cracking against wood. I made a face at how loud it got, echoing in the barn.

I turned to observe the aftermath. The table I threw was cracked down the middle, one of the seats splintered off. Dust kicked up into the air, tiny particles dancing in the little light that came in here.

That’s… actually pretty rad.       

Itching to try something else, I combed the barn for something to lift, throw, crush, or tear apart.

“Holy shit! You hear that?”

I spun around. A voice?

“Yeah! I think it was from over there!”

Voices. Crap.

On instinct, I ran to the back of the barn, clearing the distance in a flash. I vaulted over the tables with little difficulty, nearly soaring over. I went to go hide behind a wooden pillar.

From across the barn, I saw three people enter in.

“Where did that come from?” one of them asked. A boy. Didn’t look that much older than me. He pushed his ragged hair out of his eyes as he shined a flashlight down the building. It barely illuminated the back wall.

“Over that way,” another responded. A girl. She definitely looked to be my age. She wore an oversized pink sweater, which hung over a bare shoulder. Black boots complemented her black skirt that sat just above her knees. Her hair was dyed a deep purple, cut into a bob that bounced as she moved. She jogged over to where the picnic table landed, broken and splintered. “Damn, this thing got messed up.”

“Look, there’s a bag here,” the first one said, casting a backpack in his light. My backpack. I bit my tongue.

“Uh…” he wanted to say more, but he didn’t. He sounded a touch apprehensive.

“Maybe someone’s here,” a third said, clearly joking. Another boy. Wearing a backpack of his own. He tossed a lighter up and down in one hand, and took a selfie with his phone in the other. He stuck his tongue out for the photo.

“Think this is a good spot?” the girl asked, already forgetting about the table and the abandoned backpack. She pointed somewhere towards the entrance.

“Nah, let’s go more back,” the boy with the flashlight said, flashing the light closer to my direction. I hugged the beam, taking cover from his sights. “Safer that way,” he said.

“No one’s actually here, brah,” the other boy said, his tone exaggerated. “Doesn’t make a difference.”

“It does make a difference, Michael, might as well,” the girl said. “Good call, Robby.”

A deep, goofy laugh, probably coming from that ‘Robby.’ Peeking to steal another look might mean getting caught, and I did not need that.

“You’ve got it, right?” I heard Robby ask.

“It’s only the tenth time you’ve asked,” Michael replied.

“Just making sure.”

“You’re neurotic.”

“Fuck off.”

“Alright, fine,” Michael conceded, “If it makes you feel better, let’s go farther back.”

There was a pause before he spoke up again. Maybe in thought. “Here, if it makes you feel even better, I’ll close the doors.”

Fuck.

I hit the side of my leg in frustration, the loud creaking of the barn doors mocked me and any chance for a clean getaway. The light spilling from outside significantly dimmed until near nothingness, the only significant source now coming from the flashlight. It still didn’t get to be pitch black, but that helped them more than it helped me.

Fuck fuck fuck.

The girl said something, but it was mumbled, like she had a lollipop in her mouth. The boys laughed at whatever she said.

With only bits of their conversation to follow, I had no way of knowing what they were here for exactly. Or why they had to come now, of all times. But, now that I thought about it, I’ve only ever come to Braham at night, it never occurred to me that others would come during the day. I guess Braham had a use for people during the day, too.

Their approaching footsteps startled me out of my thoughts.

“Ah, I shoulda brought, like, some speakers or something,” the girl said, sounding much closer than before. “Coulda listened to some music, while we were at it.”

“No,” Robby said, “That’ll just attract more attention.”

“Nobody is fucking here, dude!” Michael said, raising his voice, booming inside the barn. After a second or two he spoke again. “See? Calm down.”

I heard a faint thump, Robby punching Michael in the arm? Or the other way around?

“Shut up, I’ll calm down after I take a hit.”

“Good, you need it,” the girl said.

They were getting closer, and I was getting more worried. They weren’t headed directly towards me, but I would for sure be noticed when they get all the way back here. There weren’t a lot of other options, too, the space back here was scarce with things for that I could use for cover. The only benefit was the darkness, but Robby had a light on him.

I backed away from the pillar to size it up. It led up to support beams that traced the ceiling, maintaining the shape of the barn. The skeleton of this decaying structure.

The pillar had to be about forty feet high or so. I gulped.

Fingers firm on the pillar, and with a foot also propped on it, I pressed up to scale the entire height.

Robby yelled, startling the others.

“Did you hear that?”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“There, it went up that way!”

Robby’s light hit the ceiling, but I had already moved to a good position.

I kept low on all fours, going across a beam that ran from the back of the barn towards the entrance. Every bit of movement was a gamble, since putting too much weight on the wood might creak and give me away, and not to mention the risk of me falling forty feet. But not moving might make it easier to be bathed in light.

I couldn’t focus on the three below, anymore, all my concentration went to not falling.

“Robby! What are you looking at?” shouted a girl’s voice, far away.

“Mike, Steph, don’t tell me you didn’t hear that!”

“We haven’t even taken anything yet and you’re already seeing shit,” Michael said.

Robby groaned, loud. I heard it from up here.

I eventually found a decent enough spot to sit, my legs dangling while I had an arm hooked around a bit of wood that connected the beam I sat on to the ceiling proper, attached at an angle. I sat on the other side of the barn, well out of their sights.

There was little to do now except keep an eye on them.

“Stop freaking out already,” Michael told Robby, “Jesus.”

“Something definitely moved, I heard it,” Robby said in protest.

The girl, Steph – Stephany? – put a hand on his back. “Probably a stray cat, nothing to worry about.”

Robby put down the flashlight, shining his feet, and looked right at me, his eyebrows furrowed. My heart dropped for a split moment, until I realized it was just a coincidence. He didn’t react like he saw me.

With some time to think, I had a few options. The easiest one was to simply sit and wait. Just perch up here for long enough, they’d have to leave sooner or later. I took the time to keep eavesdropping. There was nothing else to do.

“…Maybe? I swear I saw it, too. Too big to be a cat. You know what- Fuck, I don’t know, I don’t know about this anymore.” Robby dropped the flashlight, and ruffled his hair with both hands. “Why did you have pick this place, anyways? Didn’t someone die here, recently?”

Intrigued, I leaned forward an inch, still being mindful of where I sat.

“The gangs don’t come around here anymore, dude,” Michael said, “Too obvious. And people been saying this place has been haunted for a minute, now. If you want to see the living dead, I suggest hurrying up and taking something.”

Robby grumbled, seemingly agitated. “Maybe we should just get outta here.”

“Huh? No way,” Michael said, picking up the flashlight, and handing it to Steph. “We’re already here, let’s smoke.”

Robby stood there, frozen, clearly weighing the different options in his head. Steph massaged his shoulder, while Michael started sifting through his backpack, ignoring the two. Finally, Robby drooped, and brought a hand out to Michael.

“Hit me.”

Their exchange gave me a chance to catch a breath. Dry, parched already. It hadn’t hit me yet, how high up I was until now. Did I really climb like this, so precariously? Ignoring the cobwebs settling into my hair, I adjusted my hold on the wood. Innuendo aside.

Michael took out a plastic baggie from his backpack, whose contents I couldn’t make out from here, but choice words from their conversation gave me a good enough guess. He dropped it into Robby’s hand, who began to open it. Turning to Steph, he gave her the lighter from before. She brought to her lips, lighting what I had to assume was a joint.

Robby popped a pill, and briefly hesitated, looking to Steph, who had her hand out, expectant. He flashed her a weak grin, and took another before handing the plastic bag to her. All three each took out small white circle, dropping it onto their tongue.

A class act of kids.

They stood around, quiet, waiting for the hit. Did they have little to talk about except getting high?

Robby fixed his hair, scratched his arm. He took the flashlight from Steph.

“I’m going to look around.”

Steph coughed before she spoke. “Wait, how come?”

“Just cause.”

Robby moved the light, lighting the beam I used to climb up here. He walked, the light lazily trailing the ceiling, and I had the terrible realization that I was about to be discovered.

I shifted into a stand, a hand still on a beam. Long rafters connected from here to the opposite wall, and I prepared myself to run across should Robby’s light come closer.

White. A sharp white in my vision. I covered myself with my free arm.

“Hey! Something’s up there!” I heard Robby scream.

Of course.

I sprung forward, onto the rafters.

“Robby! What are you looking at?” Steph shouted voice, far away.

“Are you seeing that!? Mike, Steph, are you seeing that?”

“Stop shaking it, I can’t see! Robby!”

I couldn’t make it even five steps across the rafter. My foot went down, but missed, and I completely lost my footing. My shoulder slammed down, an audible thump, and I slipped off.

In the meantime, the others were thoroughly freaked out, yelling various obscenities.

As it turned out, falling from that height actually had an upside. I could adjust my position, and not land on my nose. Wind rushed past my ears, and I shifted again, favoring a shoulder. I rolled as soon as I touched ground. Not as bad as I expected, and didn’t hurt as much.

Didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

I bounced back onto my feet, not wasting time to wallow in the pain. I took cover by the half-tractor.

“I told you!” I heard Robby scream amongst the chaos. He and Michael ran to investigate the source of the sound. “Steph! Get the door!”

Fast. Think fast.

A blanket was bundled in the seat of the tractor. I reached for it, then dashed into the dark, covering myself as I went.

“There! Look!”

The light kept following me, no matter where I moved. Behind tables, boxes, other beams, Robby had a good hold on me. Fucking Robby.

“It’s not budging!” Steph yelled.

“Mike, go help her!” Robby barked at Michael.

A weight hit my side, softened by the blanket. I staggered, slowing to not trip. Was he throwing bricks? Really?

“Stop, stop that!” I attempted to yell, but my voice strained. Dang, I was already found out. Had to end this now.

I fixed how the blanket wrapped around me, only my face showing. I twisted on a heel, and leaped up to evade another brick. Landing on a picnic table came with a muted thud.

All three of them were in view, gawking at me with wild eyes. Pupils close to dilating.

Mike and Steph had succeeded in opening the door, and I stood in the sunlight, the blanket catching the sun. Robby held a brick like a pitcher, ready to throw. Despite me completely out of the shadow, the flashlight continued to get in my eyes. I lowered my head.

“What, who, who are you?” Robby asked, frail. The question hung in the air.

My voice cracked. “I, uh, I forgot my backpack…”

Steph was the first to scream. I blinked for a second longer at how loud she shrieked. Mangled and warped, not resembling any words I could distinguish or understand.

They cried out as they scurried away, tripping often, but never turning back. I looked on as their backs got smaller, bursting through the dirt path to get off the premises. I giggled at the image.

A bad trip, figuratively and literally.

I dropped the blanket, the fabric falling around me. I patted dust off of my clothes.

Steph’s face, shouting and crying, still in my head. God that was funny.

Perhaps, I thought, Some fun could be had here.

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