Authors: Denise Mathew
Be in the Real
Be in the Real
Published by Denise Mathew
© Denise Mathew 2014. All rights reserved.
This book is licensed for your personal use. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without prior permission from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictiously. Other names, characters, places, incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”~ Dr. Seuss
“It is in the touch and the feel of all that is, and all that will be, that brings the world and the heart to a mutual understanding that if one did not exist neither would the other.”~ Jebidiah
There are many things that I can tell you about me to show you who I am, who I once was, and who I'll never be, but it still wouldn't bring you into the world that is mine, the space that I occupy. For if a life is lived in the way that I have inhabited this world, is it a waste of time per se? Do we need to be there in the sea of humanity to understand what it feels like to be alive, or can we sit in our space, connect with our fingertips and a monitor, be that illusion that we have created. A phantom of a being that exists only in the feed of bytes and megabytes, a group of typed symbols that tell the world that I am this, or I am that. Alone, but never really alone because at any time of the day someone in the world is awake and sitting in a space much like, or very different, than ours. For those seconds we connect and relate, strangers across the globe, joined in commonality.
Our human need to connect, be understood, to be gotten, it is what strikes a cord of truth for us all, and that my avid reader is what I design and foster with my words, and in doing that I help the lonely, comfort the grieving, and sometimes on a rare occasion change a life for the better.
Love is not a word it is a state of being. Though I write this touching phrase and emotion, I have never really felt what it is in real, never known the feel of a man's touch on my naked body or a life growing in my womb. And though I have never experienced much real in my life, I have imagined and studied, dipped my toe into the pool of truth, in an attempt to understand just what it feels like to be there in real, not virtual. I have become that woman in the arms of the man on my monitor, felt the press of his muscled chest against my cheek, the brush of his lips on mine. I have almost smelled the scent that says he is with me, not just an image that I can never touch. And in those moments when I feel, really feel, even for a second or two, it is enough. For it is within those moments that I find peace that few but those of us who are shut away from the craziness of the world can boast. It is for those times alone that my very being yearns, because for those infinitesimal blinks of my existence it is perfect, it is real, it is mine.
My name is Trillian and this is my story.
We have all glanced at the trees and flowers and wondered why they are as such. How did the universe decide the color and number of petals that would grow from that bloom? Why does one flourish in a stark climate, while another wilts at the most infinitesimal drop in temperature? And more than the wild, why are we humans as we are? We wonder why everything is as such, for just as the flowers and all the wild are painted with Mother Nature’s wide brush, so too are the people that inhabit this earth.
Many years ago when I was a child I stared down upon a tiny buttercup that was butter yellow, and in that tiny cup it was said to foretell whether I loved butter or not. In fact I do love butter, the flavor of it against my tongue, how it melts beautifully on a warm slice of bread. And when I placed that tiny buttercup beneath my chin and a wonderful shadow of pale yellow reflected on my juvenile skin, indeed it seemed to profess that I was in fact a lover of butter. I was struck dumb with awe at how a flower growing rampant in the wild had the magical property to know something so personal about me. In that moment I believed in the world that surrounded me, in its magnificence and vastness, but even more than that I believed, really believed that there was so much more to all that was around us than we knew. Those parts of life and the environment that we so readily ignore, for if a flower could predict if I loved butter or not, what could a tree know, and what about an animal, a rabbit maybe, and maybe something even smaller like a mouse, or maybe something larger could divine the truth. Could we test all the creatures, moving farther up on the evolutionary chain until voila, we hit the supposed top of the hierarchy, man himself?
Now that I have passed my twenty-fifth birthday I know that a buttercup will always reflect a yellow hue upon the underside of the chin, it is purely physics, yet even though I know this fact to be true I still hold the world in awe, because as easily as I can explain away the buttercup, I cannot explain so many other phenomenon in the world that surrounds us.
I once read about elephants and other animals, racing for higher ground long before humans deigned to know that there was a powerful Tsunami coming, one destined to wipe out so many humans and life. Yet the so-called highest developmentally evolved beings were oblivious to this truth, to this warning, but the animals somehow felt it in their bones and had a knowing, one that we humans were locked away from.
I have always wondered why we know what we know, and how some of us know so much more than others. There is a power in prediction, yet the world believes that this is the work of charlatans, purveyors of falsities, of things that no one can explain scientifically, and thusly so, declares that these prophecies are much less than that which we can see and prove, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt to be fact.
And so for many years I have worried and wondered, and studied and followed every lead to the darkest corners of the earth because I need to know before my body is released back into the collective energy. Before I become dust I must know without hesitation why, why, and another why is it that we do not know. Why do we walk aimlessly around in a fog when all the answers might in fact be there for us to grasp, to pull into our psyche, to see without question that it is the most definite truth.
You may call me crazy, many have, and I will most gladly wear that mantle around my neck. I shall profess to the world that I, Trillian, am stark raving mad. If I am that label then so are the others who do things that they say are helping the world evolve, yet kill life around us, a life that has never needed us humans to survive. To butcher the orangutans for inhabiting a jungle that is their home, to murder them for perching in a palm tree and eating the fruit that nature has provided. There are humans that believe that this fruit belongs to them alone, as if the act of planting the tree was all that was required to produce a fruit. It is easy to forget that the clouds bring the rain that nourishes the tree, and the sun provides the light required for it to perform its beautiful task of photosynthesis. Yes, this is the nature, the world that survives without our interventions, the fruit that has existed long before the farmers on the plantation came into being. And it is only when man decided that the world needed more, that people everywhere in the world needed that fruit and oil that was not native to their land, that everyone in fact needs so much of this, yet the truth is they never needed it at all.
I do not profess to say that…
Kaila felt the tarantula on her shoulder, spreading its hairy legs on her body. She wanted to get it off.
She spun her chair around until Norm was in her view. His glasses were perched on the tip of his sharp nose, his hair in a million different directions as if birds were taking flight from his skull. Her logical subconscious knew that there was no spider, that in reality it was only Norm’s hand resting on her, but she could not stay the reaction anymore than someone could stop a wave from crashing over them. It was nature, her nature, and in her world touching her was like entering the launch codes into a weapon of mass destruction. It could not be shut down once it had been activated.
“I hate you, hate you, hate you,” Kaila screamed.
Norm let go of her and took a step back. In truth he should have moved as far away from her as was physically possible, instead he waited, watching the show unfold.
Kaila pressed her fingers against her temples, bobbing her head up and down; swaying her body to what seemed like a melody only she could hear. Her shoulder length copper-colored hair flew wildly around her head as the mania that was part of her life took hold. Norm, who was quite accustomed to this kind of over-the-top response, grinned, showing every one of his teeth that were as crooked as a picket fence, that had been lifted and pushed up by the thawing of frozen earth.
Kaila continued to bellow her hatred adding in obscenities intermittently, something that on good days she was abhor to. Norm stood watching, appraising her, knowing what would come next and reveling in the reality, because this was the best he could achieve in a day. Watching Kaila unravel like a ball of yarn shooting across the room was thrilling. Being responsible for such an outrush of emotion made him feel like a super hero, because she hated being touched and when she lost it, she couldn’t help but do the very thing she hated the most.
As if by a predetermined cue, Kaila stopped yelling, released her hold on her head and brought her gaze up to Norm. She glared through a sheet of her hair, one blue eye focused like a laser on him, seconds later she pounced. It was times like these that those who witnessed Kaila’s outbursts wondered if she was part panther because there was a grace in seeing her attack her prey. Today Norm was her prey, and though most might have called him mentally unstable, something that was actually written in his file, he loved this part. He felt an erection begin to grow in his pants just before Kaila landed full body on his wiry frame.
“I am Trillian,” she bellowed.
The cadence of her voice reverberated in every corner of the wing. Now straddled across his slim waist, Kaila’s fists, as enormous as those of a lumberjack, were balled and ready to attack. The first hit knocked his glasses off his face. They skittered with a metallic sound across the taupe linoleum.
The second smash connected with the side of his head, with enough impact that his head snapped sideways with a sickening pop. Though the sound was nefarious enough it wasn’t as horrific as it seemed, because Norm had shoulders that dislocated with almost no force applied. Kaila’s jaw-breaking sock had shifted the ball out of the socket and now his left arm fell weirdly against the floor. The third punch never made it to its target because finally, after what had seemed like an hour but was only seconds, Lou and Trip, the orderlies and all around security for the Wildwood Mental Health Facility, snatched both of Kaila’s arms and tugged her off Norm. Despite the nasty purple mark blooming along his jaw, Norm smiled because no matter how or why it happened, having Kaila on top of him like that was strangely erotic. It would be a memory that he would jerk off to for a week at least, maybe even more.
“You know Kaila doesn’t like it when you bother her when she’s writing,” Lou, a meaty man who was just shy of five feet, said in his Southern drawl. He was one of the few men who was actually shorter than Norm.
“But she’s always writing,” Norm protested.
As soon as Kaila’s six-foot-two frame had been pulled away from Norm, she went limp in Lou and Trip’s arms. When she did, as was the arrangement, they released Kaila. She stiffened her spine, standing erect. Though the fury that had temporarily set her mad had passed, she knew what would come next, sleep. As protocol warranted, a sedative was in her future. She hated the woozy feeling that the needle left with her, but was cheered that she could predict the future, know something before it was going to happen.
Norm shifted his arm. There was another loud pop when his shoulder slipped back into place. Then he was on his feet, looking quite like the cat that had eaten the canary. He hiked up his navy sweat pants that rode low on his scrawny physique, then went to retrieve his glasses now positioned beneath the chessboard table. Two patients sat focused on their chess game both wearing apt expressions as they pondered their next move. They were oblivious to Norm’s retrieval or the prior ruckus that had just ensued.
Nurse Jill, a regular on the day shift, rushed toward the three of them, a hypodermic needle was gripped in her pudgy hand. As she approached, Kaila heard the swish of Nurse Jill’s pantyhose covered thighs, rubbing together beneath the crisp white nurses uniform that nobody but Nurse Jill still wore. She even insisted on wearing a stiff pointed nurses hat pinned to her thick curly hair. Her attire was quite old-fashioned which begged the question of just how old she was. To Kaila, Nurse Jill seemed ageless, somewhere between forty and sixty-five, but most people said she was somewhere closer to the latter. Kaila had no idea if that was true or not, either way it never really mattered much to her.
“You’re going to feel a little pinch,” the nurse said.
Kaila nodded mutely. She hated the sedative more than anything else in the world, but knew that she deserved it. Norm had caught her right at the exact time when she was making a breakthrough, writing something that people around the world would read and by just reading it would know her. Faceless people would know that she knew things that others didn’t, or at least that Trillian did, and they would see the authority in her words. Now she was going to sleep an unnatural slumber, and even after she woke up again she knew it would be a while before she and Trillian could write again.
The poke of the needle in the flesh of her upper arm was as familiar as it was unwanted. Kaila had at least half a dozen outbursts in a week. Sometimes there were more, and a few times less, yet the sum of events hovered around the same number. Of course if Norm was in a particular type of mood to bug Kaila it pushed to the higher side of the range.
As her eyelids fluttered with the oblivion that would soon take her away, she watched Norm, his glasses askew on his bony face. He studied her with his dark eyes. Trip and Lou were there again, holding her as she fell into their grasp, but it didn’t matter anymore, the edge of resistance had been frayed by the drugs. There were no dreaded spiders only Norm. His smirk of satisfaction was the last thing she saw before she slipped away.
“I have no idea why she lets Norm do it to her, I mean he does weird shit to all of us but Kaila is the only one who reacts. It’s exactly what the perv wants, you know…”
Kaila cracked one eye. Her roommate Pauline was sitting cross-legged on the bed opposite to hers. Janelle, a new girl who had been admitted for an attempted suicide, was sitting across from Pauline. Janelle’s attempt, or whatever she had been planning to do to herself when she had smashed a cars headlights and eaten the interior light bulbs, was by far the most original suicide attempt to Kaila’s recollection.
Janelle was a plump girl with perpetually greasy hair, Kaila wondered if she even showered and if she did, if she bothered to shampoo her hair. As if tuning in to Kaila’s return to the lucid world, the two girls turned their gaze toward her.
“So, sleeping beauty is awake,” Pauline said.
She tossed her ebony hair over her shoulder and gave Kaila a crooked grin, where only one side of her mouth went up while the other side remained frozen. It was the side effect that Pauline had been left with after her first failed suicide attempt, which had involved a gun in her mouth. From what Pauline had said she had been a crappy shot and had managed to blow through her cheek, severing a nerve that allowed her to smile. Reconstructive surgery and carefully placed hair mostly covered the botched attempt, but the lopsided smile could never be hidden.
Her most recent admission had been her tenth suicide attempt. This time she had tried to kill herself by funneling the toxic exhaust fumes through a hose connected to the tail pipe of her car into the cab where she sat. All of this had occurred inside Pauline’s garage. The carbon monoxide monitor had alarmed and her parents had caught her long before she’d had a chance to die.
Without responding, Kaila pushed up onto her elbows, casting her eyes around the room as if for the first time. She skimmed over the space that had been hers since as far back as she could remember. This, as much as the rest of the place, was home. Sparse furnishings, mismatched wood and metal, all older than she was, but all hers. Even though the proprietors of the facility had tried over and again to update the room, she had fought the improvements.
Kaila had however, allowed the soft yellow walls to be repainted every two years. She ignored, and in doing so accepted, the curling posters of the things that mattered very little to her, things that the staff and previous roommates felt added to the ambiance. There were images of cuddly kittens, pictures with words of encouragement emblazoned across the front and also quotes that were supposed to be uplifting, imparting love and the fixings to the patients who felt so unloved.
Not that Kaila felt unloved, because to feel unloved you needed to know what love meant and so far that had been something that had eluded her. Love was what everyone talked about, flinging the word around like it was a tennis ball that could be tossed wherever they wanted. Somehow she knew that it was much more than that, though nobody really understood her belief. But that was the truth of it, nobody but the people that read her words in her blog understood what it all meant, what she and Trillian meant.
When Kaila spotted her laptop computer, slim, silver and everything that was real to her, on top of the table next to her bed, she sighed and flopped back onto the bed. She was comforted that everything was in order.
“I don’t know why you let that twisted perv get you going, you know I’ve heard that he actually gets off on you jumping him,” Pauline said, shifting her body in Kaila’s direction.
“I know, he likes my body on his, he told me so,” Kaila said.
She rested the back of her hand against her forehead.
“Shit, that’s just messed up weird Kaila,” Janelle said, shaking her head.
“I wonder what it would be like to have sex with him,” Kaila said, once again pushing up onto her elbows.
Her head still felt floaty and unfocused, a feeling that she knew would be with her for at least another day. For some reason she never seemed to be able to clear the drugs from her system as fast as the other patients seemed to, but that was probably because she had the most injections of any other residents in the place.
Pauline made a fake retching sound and grimaced.
“Don’t even say that, it’s disgusting Kaila, I mean I would rather have sex with Mr. Shull than Norm.”
Kaila stared at Pauline dumbly.
“Mr. Shull?” she repeated, “he’s like nine-hundred-years old…I don’t even think he can get an erection. Norm always gets an erection when I beat him up, I feel it through his sweatpants.”
“Fuck Kaila that’s beyond gross. Norm is gross. Don’t you remember why he’s in here?” Pauline said. Now the moving side of her mouth was curved down, matching the paralyzed side.
“For having sex with dead girls,” Kaila said in a flat tone.
“Among other things,” Janelle chimed in.
Although Janelle was relatively new to the facility, she was already well schooled about the patients in the place.
“Can we just drop the subject,” Pauline cut in.
A lock of hair had fallen forward and away from the star-shaped scar on her left cheek. She pushed it back into place where it once again hid the remembrance of her self-inflicted wound.
“But I wonder what it would feel like. I’ve seen those pornos on the Internet and the girls do a lot of moaning and they screw up their faces in weird ways. Do you think that’s what I would look like?” Kaila said, directing her question toward Pauline. Pauline’s expression was locked in repugnance.
“Kaila, I told you before those pornos aren’t a real representation of sex, it’s all overacting. Whoever taught you how to bypass the Net Nanny so you can watch porno in he first place should be shot, ” she said in a voice one might use to talk to a child.
In truth as intelligent as Kaila was, she was equally naïve having lived fifteen of her twenty-five years in the confines of the facility.
“His name was Stefen and you can’t shoot him because he’s already dead.”
Pauline released an exasperated sigh.
“Maybe I’ll invite Norm into the storage closet. I know that girl with the Mohawk haircut and the nose ring had sex with that guy David in there…” Kaila started to say.
“Well shit, I’d have had sex with David too if he’d have asked me,” Janelle piped in. David had been a university football player who had accidentally overdosed on cocaine, but had survived to tell the sordid tale. He hadn’t been in very long but the time he had been in Wildwind, the storage closet had built quite a reputation.
“I’m not sure if I would have wanted to go in the closet withhim,” Kaila said.
She crossed her arms across her plain white cotton t-shirt that looked exactly the same as every other t-shirt in her drawer. Wearing anything other than white tees and grey fleece sweat pants made Kaila feel nervous. In fact wearing any colors other than white and grey caused her so much anxiety that the staff, and every one of her prior roommates, never bothered to suggest that she change her attire no matter what the occasion. Even shifting the colors by wearing a grey shirt and white pants was cause for an outburst, that resulted in a sedative and a few days of added meds. Kaila was a creature of habit and anything that diverted slightly from the expected was cause for panic, something that usually resulted in a violent act. Most times it had involved an inanimate object like a chair or a television, of late it was all Norm.
“You’d go in withNorm, but not David?” Pauline asked, placing exaggerated emphasis on the word Norm. She screwed up her face in rancor.
Kaila nodded. Pauline threw up her hand, halting the conversation. “We seriously need to change this subject because if we don’t I’m not going to be able to get my breakfast down.”
“Breakfast,” Kaila repeated.
She suddenly realized how famished she was. She wasn’t sure when she had eaten last only that it had been quite a while ago.
“Yeah, we should get going,” Janelle said, glancing down at the large-faced black plastic watch, strapped to her left wrist. “The dining room stops serving food in half an hour.”
“Honestly Janelle, is that all you can think about? Food?” Pauline asked.
She rolled her eyes in Janelle’s direction.
“You definitely could stand to lay off a few meals.”
Janelle puffed up as if she was going to say something nasty. Before she could, Pauline grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a long open-mouthed kiss that left Janelle lost for words.
“Maybe you need to take Janelle in the closet,” Kaila said, arching an eyebrow in their direction. After a kiss that seemed to go on forever, the two girls finally broke apart.
“Maybe I already have,” Pauline said, winking at Janelle.
A blush worked its way up the rolls of Janelle’s neck. Even darker red splotches colored her cheeks seconds later.
“I’ve seen pornos with women having sex too and…” Kaila started.
“Don’t even go there,” Pauline said.
She threw her hand up, signaling for Kaila to stop talking.
Pauline grabbed Janelle’s hand in hers and they both stood up. Now that the two of them were on their feet, the absolute absurdity of their pairing was more than visible to anyone with eyes. Janelle was short and squat, with buckteeth, rounded cheeks and acne that covered every part of her face in bulbous red pimples, that looked ready to explode at the slightest provocation. Her massive breasts always seemed too big to be accommodated by any of the multitude of tops that she wore. No matter what style, fabric or weave that she donned, the material crossing her bust line was consistently pulled taut, looking more than a little uncomfortable. In absolute contrast, Janelle’s hips were boyishly straight, her legs twig-like, giving her a figure like that of an apple with two toothpicks stuck into its base.
Pauline was mixed race, her mother was of Swedish descent, her father Japanese. Pauline was the best parts of the mixing of the gene pools. She was statuesque with the figure of a super model. With her hair obscuring the sins of her past, she was nothing short of magazine worthy. Pauline’s full lips, high cheekbones and crystalline blue eyes, made her a presence to behold. Her skin was flawless, like that of a porcelain doll; it cut a sharp but pleasant contrast with her silky midnight black hair. The fact that she almost always dressed in unrelieved black only accented her near perfect form.
Pauline released Janelle’s hand just long enough to pretend to tug an invisible rope attached to Kaila. Kaila responded to the untouch that felt like a touch to her. She leapt up from her thin-mattressed bed that was standard for the facility. Though the bedspreads had seen changes over the years, going from floral to geometric designs to the current solid lilac, the metal-framed beds with the curved, railed headboard had remained the same. Kaila didn’t know how old the beds were, only that they had been the same style as they had been fifteen years before when she had first come to live in the facility.
Now, many years later, everything about the facility was familiar. She knew every board, every brick, every piece of the building that had enclosed her since the day she had killed her parents.
“Everything is an illusion,” Kaila said.
“What?” Norm scratched the sparse stubble patch on his chin. It never seemed to get any thicker no matter how many days he went without shaving. This fact seemed odd to Kaila since he was twenty-two, long past puberty.
“Everything is an illusion,” she repeated. “I don’t really understand it exactly other than whatever that is not happening right in this moment doesn’t exist because there’s only now.”
“You’re crazy,” Norm said matter-of-factly.
“Of course I am, why do you think I’ve been in Wildwind all these years. But just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean I don’t know things. The person that wrote that everything is an illusion, sat on a park bench for years until he got enlightened, and they call him a spiritual guru. So maybe I’m an undiscovered authority too, maybe even a guru.”
Norm nodded, considering. “Yeah, maybe. I dunno.”
He ran his slender fingers across the blackish-purple bruise running the length of his jaw. Banana yellow now infiltrated the blue. Kaila stared at his bruise for a long moment before she spoke, marveling once again at the perfection of the human healing process that mended without being told to do so. What was even odder about Norm’s bruise was that it was healing in a way that made it look almost like the number 8 or maybe even the symbol for infinity.
“Is it true that you had sex with a dead girl?” Kaila said.
As was her routine she changed subjects with jarring speed. Norm’s mouth worked as he tried to formulate a sensible response.
“What the fuck Kaila, why are you asking me about that shit?” he said.
“What’s wrong with asking about that shit?” Kaila asked.
Her face was as innocent as that of a five-year-old who had just asked why the sky was blue.
Norm raked a hand through his muddy brown hair, forcing the unwashed locks to stand a little higher on his head. Like many of the patients of Wildwind, Norm wasn’t much for personal hygiene, always waiting for the forced long walk to the showers that would eventually happen when the staff realized that he wasn’t doing his part.
“Because I want to forget it, it only happened when I was working the night shift and I was on Bath Salts. That stuff makes you see things that aren’t real. I’ll never do that shit again it’s too fucked up.”
He placed his palm against his heart.
“I honest to God thought that those girls were alive, you know just a little less responsive than I was used to but…”
Kaila broke into laughter that was childish and natural. Like most everything else in her life, she didn’t filter any of her emotions, allowing whatever she felt to fill her whole being, consume her in the moment where only she and that emotion existed. It was something that got her into more trouble than she wanted, but also brought her to a perfect place of absolute purity that few people ever felt.
“And you call me crazy?” she finally managed to say through gasping giggles.
“You are fucking crazy Kaila, and I have no idea why I even bother talking to you, you don’t get anything about life. You’re a lifer here in Wildwind and unlike me, you’re never going to ever get out of this shit box.”
He drew in a deep breath, his face going rouge with anger. Kaila stopped laughing and watched him intently, smiling at how once again she had predicted how the future would unfold. Long before it had happened she had seen this event, and how Norm would react so venomously to her question. All humans had a trigger, a button you could press and then things would happen, amazing things that she could incite with just a word, or two.
“I’m amazing,” she yelled, leaping to her feet. “I know the future, I know you.” She shook her finger in front of Norm’s thin nose. He matched her moves, lurching up. His 5’3” frame meant his head just reached Kaila’s chin, he pushed in closer to her until his chest was pressed against her stomach then tilted his head up, glaring at her. He was more than aware that he had just crossed a boundary that left him in no-mans-land; a smack to the head or some part of his body would surely follow.
Kaila in an unexpected move placed her huge hands on either side of his gaunt face, she leaned in and took his thin-lipped mouth in hers. For a fraction of a second Norm didn’t know what to do; his mouth remained stiff and unresponsive. But when he realized what she was doing he went on tiptoes, parted his lips, and kissed her deeply. His hands found the swell of her hips, gliding up and down the curves. To Kaila it felt like scrabbling spider legs, this time hoards of dandy long-legs, crawling on her, invading her body, seeking entry into her mind.
That’s when things went wrong. Kaila lifted him up as if he weighed nothing, which was close to true since he weighed exactly ninety-nine pounds. Not exactly a feather, but not much of an effort for Kaila who was exceptionally strong either. Before he could protest she had him high above her head like a weight lifter in a clean and snatch.
“Don’t do it Kaila,” Pauline raced toward her.
Her hair flew away from her face revealing the scar that was usually hidden. Though Kaila had seen the star more times than she could count, right at that very moment she thought she understood with perfect clarity what it meant, why the scar was in the shape of a star. Norm was back down on the floor and released so rapidly that he swayed in the space where she had deposited him.
She snatched up her computer, racing to the Activity Room. She found the place deserted, most people were still performing their morning rituals, taking their meds, washing their bodies and all the other various things humans did like clockwork every single day of their existence. No animal was as programmed to the norm than the human race.
In the morning, before anyone stepped into the space, there was a quiet energy that swirled around Kaila. As if an explosion had happened and this was the silence that had followed. The room was the very antithesis of an explosion; everything was in order and in its place, games in boxes, chairs pushed beneath desks, carpets vacuumed, windows polished and dust removed from all surfaces. Still, Kaila could never shake that particular analogy from her mind.
She sniffed in the scent of familiarity, of lemon furniture polish and cleaning products, but also something few people could detect, the smell of people and life, and the sunshine that filtered in through the half dozen windows. Even the chess pieces had a unique smell of warm plastic. You only had to open your senses completely to notice.
Kaila locked on the space that was hers. Another place where her life took form and meaning. Though nobody actually mentioned it, there was an unspoken rule that most patients followed. The rule said that the blonde wooden desk and matching chair that sat beneath a large window on the far side of the room belonged to Kaila. And even if there were not enough seats to go around like when they had Bingo night, Kaila’s chair remained where it was, as if fixed in place to the floor that it rested upon.
She tugged the worn chair from beneath the desk, taking a moment to graze a hand across the wood that was made smooth from years of use. She imagined a perfect replica of her very own derriere imprinted on the surface.
She slipped onto the chair that was hard-backed and to most people uncomfortable, but to Kaila discomfort was a state of mind. Buddhist monks who practiced their meditations acknowledged this to be true, and instead of responding to the unease, they identified it, then let it go. She knew that mentality to be true; because when she sat in this seemingly insufferable chair she felt no aches, no pains, no signs that she was not reclined on a cloud of air. Kaila forgot what it was like to suffer, and was there in that moment completely unburdened by anything unpleasant.
She took her seat in the chair, prying her laptop computer open so it was ready for her fingers to caress the keys. It waited patiently for her to bring it to life. She took a fraction of a moment to stare at her reflection in the glass window before her. It had always fascinated her that when the lighting was just right as it was right then, she could see two completely different visions like a hologram that changed with every angle.
In one gaze she saw the winding road that led to Wildwind and the chain link fence that sliced through the road, preventing people from entering or leaving at their will. Instead, entry or exit from Wildwind was controlled by a man or woman who sat day and night, guarding the gates to Hell or Paradise depending on who you spoke too. For those who were locked within the gates, Wildwind might have been considered Hell, because no sentient being appreciated being held prisoner. On the other side of the fence, for the family and loved ones who were partly or wholly responsible for placing their loved ones within the confines of the facility, it was a Paradise where they would get the help they needed. This notion was necessary because if they admitted the truth to themselves, that the patients inside were in truth, caged like animals in a zoo, it would prove to be unbearable.
When Kaila shifted her eyes slightly, her face came into view. She studied her reflection and her wild hair that was long and unkempt and always looked as if she had just blown in from a windstorm. She loved her hair, because it reminded her of the autumn leaves that fell from the mature maple trees that encircled Wildwind. People, who didn’t know her, often asked her if she achieved that particular color from a bottle because it was so very unique and different. There was no dye in her hair; it was exactly as she had remembered her mother’s hair had been. Kaila’s blue eyes had come from her father. Every time she gazed into her eyes she saw him there, staring at her, questioning her, asking her things that she never had an answer to. She wasn’t sure if her memories were truth or stories she had constructed, only that they were all she knew.
Now her hair and eyes were the only reminders of the people who had been her parents, but who were no longer on this earth. They had long ago returned to the universal energy; she had been responsible for sending them there. There was a beauty in sending them away, back to the place where they sprouted from the earth, yet sometimes Kaila couldn’t see the beauty, instead she saw the horror that the others insisted was true. Because what right did one human have to take another persons life…
Kaila shook her head, clearing the memories that would sidetrack her away from the whole reason she was there in the first place. She had discovered it, the meaning of Pauline’s scar and needed to write it all down. As was the case she knew if she didn’t record her thoughts exactly at the moment they developed, they would be like a breath of air that you pulled within your lungs but as soon as you exhaled it was gone, and you would never ever breathe that very same breath again.
Kaila waited for the few minutes it took for the computer to boot up, practicing patience she almost didn’t feel capable of. A few taps later brought her to the place that was her other home, the virtual space where Trillian lived when she wasn’t inside Kaila’s head.
Kaila had started the blog on March 1st, on her nineteenth birthday, six years earlier. She had spent a long while setting it up so it was perfect, even picking a picture from the internet that embodied Trillian’s personality absolutely. There had been a bit of a tug of war on the picture that had been used though. Kaila wanted someone young and Trillian someone old. In the end they had settled on somewhere in the middle, a woman with a dark bob that was silvering at the temples. She wore round-framed spectacles perched at the tip of her slightly large nose and had a smile that Kaila compared to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa’s grin.
By all accounts Trillian’s blog had been a success. Of course there were the detractors, faceless people who tried to bully her by posting what they felt to be derogatory comments about her sanity, and lack thereof, as if it was a slight to her mentality.
Knowing that you were in fact crazy made their assumed barbs nothing more than black squiggles on a sea of white. Despite not finishing her last post because of the Norm incident, she had already received twenty-five comments. Most were from people who were regular followers, people who seemed to think that she walked on water, and that Trillian knew all. Kaila knew these kinds of people, the ones who wanted her to give them something that they already had, because how could you give someone knowledge about a world that we all lived in. How could anyone fill another person’s need to be swaddled in peace?
Kaila didn’t spend any time reading the comments because getting lost in another’s words was what stopped her own words from flowing.
Today, in the vastness that is life, I have found the key to something that has puzzled me for some time, but as in anything that we don’t know the answer to, the solution comes when we least expect it, in the mundane that is all around us. There is a star in my world; it comes to me at any time of the day and night. A symbol that surfaces like an oil slick on an ocean, left behind by some catastrophic event caused by mans need to own, possess and use all the resources that our planet so readily provides. But there is beauty in that slick, when the sunlight shines just right, something miraculous happens, a rainbow appears as if a message from the universal collective, that there can be beauty in tragedy, because it is in those moments that we are at our lowest, in the pits of our reserves when hope is so far away from us, that we come together as a group, we are one, working to save that which we have destroyed. Striving to undo what has brought us to the brink of despair and devastation.
So I ask you dear readers, what do these disasters teach us, is there a lesson in the pain that we endure, when everything that we have ever known is lost, swept away with an absolute swipe of the universal hand of fate? In fact, do these moments in our existence, slow us, make us take stock of those things that we have put so much energy into. Because what point is there in building a castle when there is no being to share it with you, and if that castle is empty of that which we call love, then does it cease to give us pleasure, are we building to have it all destroyed and build it once again? Is the purpose in the building or is it in the belief that every thing will be better when the building is complete, yet when it is done does it leave the builder hollow, aimless, searching for the next project to fulfill their need to own, to possess, to create…
But I digress, because it is in the symbol of the star that I have decided to speak upon, and how the star is so part of our lives and how it has so many of the answers that we seek. Was it not a star that led the 3 wise men to the Messiah, as is believed by the people who aspire to the Christian faith? A pointer to the baby that was believed to be the Son of God brought to earth to save the sinners. I do not know whether this is true or false, there are too many faiths to go into a diatribe on semantics, but here in is the oneness that is us, the oneness that says that there is something outside us that makes things happen all around us, but what I must ask myself is this, if that thing that we believe is outside us and is happening TO us is that real, or maybe is it the truth that it is in fact happening by us, and that we are the creators of our own reality…
Kaila was jolted out of her space by the shrillness of the fire alarm. She closed her laptop, tucked it beneath her arm and sauntered over to the window furthest from her desk. The view shifted in that space, allowing her to see farther down the road that led to Wildwind. She wondered if today there actually was a fire. The chances were slim that it was real. Nearly eighty-five percent of the times before there had been no fire, but instead a resident who had somehow gained access to the levers that were kept in places that were forbidden to all but the staff.
On first glance the view was identical to the one she had studied everyday before that one. But seconds later she saw it, the thing that had happened before but she had never witnessed first hand until right then, the swan dive of a patient. The ultimate plunge into the unknown where they once again united with the collective energy, or what everyone called death.
And as the body of the person who was just a blur of color and light fell flailing for microseconds before landing silently and definitively on the concrete below, the world grew silent around her, as if the earth had stopped breathing and all sounds had ceased to exist. Then with striking reality and shocking clarity, the alarm was there again and was now entwined with the hysterical voices of people devastated by the reality, that yet another person had felt death was their only option left in life.
“Some heads are going to roll for this latest jumper. I mean Wildwind is already on probation and now this,” Pauline said, shoveling a spoonful of what most patients termed gruel.
The soup, that was a mix of rice, chicken and broth with a few spices and little else, was called Congee. The dish was a traditional Thai breakfast offering and was supposed to impart health after a digestive illness or flu, as it was especially easy to digest. The novel dish had been introduced to the Wildwind menu two years before, when an outbreak of a horrible flu had brought daily life at Wildwind to a grinding halt. Both staff and patients alike had succumbed to the malady. With most people off sick and just a skeleton crew to work the kitchen, a Thai lady who was affectionately called Mrs. T. since her real name was too long to pronounce, had made the executive decision to cook a massive batch of Congee for the patients of Wildwind. For those few days when sickness reigned, Congee was eaten for every single meal, and despite the singularity of the offerings many of the inhabitants of Wildwind, including Kaila, had quite enjoyed it. When everything had settled back into normalcy a new item had been added to the menu. There had been no mourning at all for the glue-like rolled oats that no one ever bothered eating anyway, and its removal made way for Congee to take its place as a mainstay at breakfast.
“Maybe they’ll shut the place down and we’ll be shipped home,” Janelle said with a hopeful expression.
She had started speaking long before she had bothered to clear the chewed toast from her mouth. As was her habit, she had already eaten four slices of toast; another six were waiting to join the others in her ample stomach.
Usually what people said didn’t affect Kaila, but this talk, words about Wildwind closing, sent anxiety through her. This fear was huger than words could describe, racing through her body like a wave of pinpricking numbness that made her head feel as if it might explode. Her whole being was left jittering uncontrollably.
“Don’t say that,” Pauline hissed, cutting a glance at Kaila who was like a pressure cooker that could either blow off steam or explode.
“They’re not going to shut down Wildwind.”
Pauline turned her attention to Kaila. Her hand hovered over Kaila’s bare arm.
Kaila felt Pauline’s palm over her skin, felt the warmth of another human. Unlike when people actually made contact with her flesh and the spiders came, this felt soft and light.
“They’re not going to shut Wildwind down Kaila, Janelle is full of shit…isn’t that true Janelle,” she said, turning her razor glare onto Janelle.
Janelle nodded mutely, chewing her latest bite of toast furiously. Kaila felt a wave of relief that said the threat had passed. A minute later she was as relaxed as she had been before Janelle had suggested that Wildwind might close. Imagining leaving Wildwind was a thought that she couldn’t entertain at all, because if that happened her world would fall apart and…
She felt the heat and fear rising, traveling up her spine like mercury in a thermometer.
“So, did you hear that Norm is getting out?” Pauline said.
Seeing that Kaila had deflated back to normal, she continued eating her Congee. Kaila had already finished her standard breakfast, one egg over easy, two slices of wheat toast with exactly one pat of butter on each slice and a packet of strawberry jam, shared between the two slices.
Kaila took pains to ensure that every speck of the bread was covered uniformly, so each bite was exactly the same. Of course the crusts tasted different, but she had learned to accept that divergence a few years back. Much like how she had to accept that not everything in the kitchen could be controlled to her specifications. Sometimes the yolks of the eggs were harder or softer than she desired, so she had to ignore those days, and appreciate the times when the eggs were perfect and the toast was browned exactly right. Kaila also preferred clementine oranges, juicy and sweet with a slight tang, to other fruits, but since they were not always available she had to accept that if she wanted to eat fruit with her breakfast, she had to choose from what was provided.
“Getting out? But he just got here,” Kaila said, once again pulled into the fray of the conversation.
She placed her hands flat on the beige melamine and particleboard table. She wasn’t sure why that same anxious feeling that had worked through her moments earlier was rising again.
“He’s been here for more than a year already Kaila, you have no concept of time. I’ve had two admission since he’s been admitted,” Pauline said.
She tossed her dark hair over her shoulder. Kaila glimpsed the star-shaped scar, as if it was trying to give her a message that she had so far only got half of.
“But he’s crazy, he’s crazy, he should stay here.”
The words pushed out of Kaila in a tumble, and were laced with unexpected tension and anxiety.
“I thought you’d be happy to hear that he wouldn’t be bothering you anymore. Shit Kaila, he plays you like a violin, like he gets some sick pleasure from you beating him to a pulp.”
Pauline didn’t need to mention the latest confrontation between Norm and Kaila, one where Norm had received a solid black eye for his troubles before once again Kaila had been pulled off him.
“But if he leaves how can I have sex with him?” Kaila asked.
“I thought you dropped that whole thing Kaila, you don’t want your first time to be with a screwed up pervert…” Janelle said.
She absently picked at a pimple on her forehead. It was a place where Kaila had read was called the Third Eye, right in the middle of the forehead. At just that moment Janelle managed to pick the top off the pimple, yellowish goo mixed with traces of blood squirted out. Normally Kaila would have studied the pimple, been in awe at how the body rejected the dirt and debris that slipped into pores, but now she was too focused on the concept that Norm was leaving.
“Fuck Janelle, I love you and all, but can you not do that shit when I’m trying to eat?” Pauline said.
She handed Janelle a paper napkin. Janelle accepted it. She wore a sheepish expression. She dabbed at her forehead with the paper, chewing on the side of her lip.
“Sorry, it’s a bad habit. I’m trying to stop, but when I get nervous…”
Pauline leaned forward, giving Janelle a long, deep kiss before she could finish her sentence.
“I know babe, sorry for being so harsh. You know I love you no matter what, huh?” she said when they had broken apart again.
She reached for Janelle’s free hand, threading their fingers together. Even though Kaila was distracted, the sight of their linked hands made her pause. Where Janelle’s hand was thick and mannish, Pauline’s was manicured and polished; they were a study in contrasts, but completely one.
Without knowing it her mind went into a void. When she came back she noticed that the girls had left. Norm had taken Janelle’s place across from her. This fugue state wasn’t new to Kaila and happened occasionally, usually when she was feeling stressed. It always left her baffled as to where the time went since it usually felt no longer than a blink of her eyelid, but could sometimes last a full hour. She likened it to a waking meditation, where nothing around her mattered or existed outside of her.
“Did you hear that I’m leaving this pathetic part of my life in a few days?” he asked.
Kaila nodded, oddly at a loss for words because in her mind she had thought that just like her, Norm would always be there. He was like a building that you saw every day of your life, knew it was there, sometimes noticing, while other times ignoring it all together until one day it was just plain gone. Norm was that building; she didn’t know when he had become that to her, only that he had. In her mind she was alone, but sometimes she allowed people to share her space, but only of course for short periods of time. She was there for as long as she needed the contact, then like being in a telephone booth, she mentally closed the glass door and was once again isolated.
It was odd for her to form this kind of attachment with him. Wildwind was a revolving door of patients, some staying for a month, others years, none of them ever made it past the invisible walls that encased her, but Norm had.
“I want to have sex with you,” Kaila said, her expression stony.
Norm’s eyes, already made large from his thick bottle cap glasses, widened even more.
“Huh?” Was all he said. His mouth hung agape. He sucked in a few stilted breaths.
“I know you understand what sex is, so why is it that you don’t understand my words?”
He ran his spindly fingers through his recently washed hair. Instead of his hair standing up on his head like usual, the natural oils had been washed away and now caused his hair to lie limply against his skull.
“I understand sex all right, but just not the concept that you and I…”
His voice trailed off. He shot a worried look over his shoulder as if terrified that someone was listening to their conversation. When he finally looked back at her, his face was rife with unease. As much as Norm tried to act the player he was anything but.
“We could go to the storage closet…”
Norm threw his hand up, his bony fingers splayed as if to stop something physical, not just Kaila’s words.
“I know about the storage closet…” he said in a hushed voice.
He leaned in, as close as was safe to do with Kaila, so close that she could smell the sourness of the cigarettes he loved to puff on whenever he got the chance. She was surprised to actually have noticed and remembered how the index and middle finger of his right hand had been stained mustard brown with nicotine once. But in the time that he had been in Wildwind, the stains had gradually disappeared, leaving pink skin in their wake. And once again Kaila marveled at the human body and its adaptability, where new skin replaced the old daily.
“But how are we going to…”
He waggled his eyebrows a few times as if the act was enough to explain everything.
“I would imagine you would put you penis into my vagina,” Kaila said without reservations.
Norm’s eyes grew enormous; his face went a deep shade of red.
“Shit Kaila, could you talk any louder than that? I don’t think everyone in the cafeteria actually heard you that time,” Norm said, blowing out an exasperated sigh.
“Why would everyone in the cafeteria need to know that we’re going to have sex in the storage closet?”
“Lower your voice for shit sake. Fuck Kaila, why can’t you be even remotely normal?”
“Norm I’m not normal, I was put on this earth to be not normal, why can’t you understand that?”
Kaila laid her large hands palm down on the tabletop, then leaned closer to Norm. She pressed her lips to the tip of his nose for a fraction of a second and pulled back.
“That’s what it feels like to be kissed by a butterfly,” she said with a satisfied grin. “I’ve practiced it a hundred times on my hand because the pressure has to be just right you know, otherwise it doesn’t feel like an actual butterfly…”
“Butterfly kiss? Where did that come from? Weren’t we talking about sex in the storage room?” Norm said in a quiet voice.
“Yes of course, I haven’t forgotten, so will you do it?” Kaila asked as casually as if she had asked him to pass the salt to her.
Norm shook his head, resigned to the fact that Kaila wasn’t going to give him a straight answer; she never did, so why did he think she would start now.
“What time?” he asked, glancing down at his watch.
Kaila’s expression remained impassive.
“Based on my research and the activities of past inhabitants of Wildwind, the best time to have a successful liaison is between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Historically this is when the staff are on their down time and are usually found in the staff room or out back for a smoke break so…”
“You’ve really done your homework, how long have you been planning this whole thing between us?” Norm asked, arching a bushy eyebrow.
“Time cannot be measured by a number it is the act of continuous movement from one moment to the next, there is no intersection between the past and the future, unless you connect the two with the present moment,” Kaila said, gripping her hands together.
Norm scrubbed his hands over his face then exhaled loudly.
“I have no idea what the hell goes on in that brain of yours and quite frankly I don’t care, sex is sex, so yeah, I’m in. But it will have to be soon because I’m getting the hell out of here in two days,” he said.
“I’ve already predicted that today is the day for sex, we will meet at the storage closet at 2:00 p.m.,” Kaila said with a wide childish grin.
“But you just said that you don’t keep track of time, or at least I think that’s what you said,” Norm said, eyeing her through the lenses of his glasses.
To Kaila, he looked like he had the eyes of a preying mantis. In fact much about Norm reminded her of the insect, how his arms seemed too long for his body and how he most times caught her in his embrace when she wasn’t expecting it, just like a preying mantis. There of course were more similarities, but nothing that Kaila cared to think about then, because all that mattered was how she had once again predicted the future. Norm would meet her and they would have sex like they did on the porno shows, and then she would know what it felt like. She wondered if she would moan and make faces like the girls on the shows did, and also if Norm’s penis would look the same as the men who had sex with the women.
“Hello, earth to Kaila.”
Norm was waving his hand a few inches in front of Kaila’s face. She didn’t know how long she had blanked out, only that it was unusual for her to go away two times in a day. Once again the moment had changed, becoming another vignette of life without her ever seeing the transition.
She focused on his narrow face and tilted her head, not sure what he had just asked her.
“If you don’t keep track of time how are you going to know when its 2:00 p.m.?”
He said, obviously detecting her confusion. He knew as well as she did that she didn’t live a like attached to measured time. Many years before she had decided to live like the animals did, by instinct, reading the cues, predicting and sometimes when it was the right thing to do, just waiting.
Kaila shrugged. “How does the tree know when to grow or the birds know when to fly south?”
“Huh?” he said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“I follow the signs silly.”
With those words she stood up and left Norm in stunned silence.
The comments that people had left had doubled. Kaila had no idea what had changed since her last blog entry, only that something had definitely shifted. For some reason even more people had found their way to her site; she hadn’t predicted that. She closed her eyes and tried to do the opposite of predicting the future, to sink back into the past. Kaila knew she needed to regress to the space that would tell her how people had somehow linked to her, and why they were making their presence known on her website. She had tried this method of gleaning information before, but it had never been successful, as if the energy that would tell her the answers had been diluted by time passed.
She squeezed her eyes shut, searching for meaning. When nothing came, she began reading through the blog entries again, hoping that their words would open a door to the reason for them being there.
“I love you Trillian, you speak to my soul, we are one, we are all one…” Buttercup from New Jersey wrote.
“Your words are RAD, you must smoke truck loads of weed to get that into the cosmos.” Hashbros from Nevada wrote.
She scanned down the page, reading the comments that though written in different words all imparted the same sentiment, they liked what she had to say. Weirdly, instead of the seventy-thirty ratio of positive to negative, her rudimentary calculations revealed that she was hovering closer to eighty-five to fifteen, a fifteen percent bump. She had never really cared whether people liked what she had written or not, since it was more about the messages than the response, but this shift in reality fascinated her.
An insane individual, though by all accounts she was exactly that, would have ridden the highs of the praise then would have sunk into despair at the lows, but she didn’t do that. Kaila received it all with unpracticed neutrality, knowing that she was doing her part to grease the cogs that ran the universe; whether people approved or not mattered little. Her job was to get the words out into the world, what happened after her fingers typed meant nothing at all. When Trillian took over, Kaila knew nothing other than her fingers on the keyboard; all else was away from her, and a way for Trillian to become.
Kaila jotted down the number fifteen, the increased percentage of approval. She planned to see if there was a message to be found in the number because she wanted to find reason in what seemed unreasonable. Yet even after she had read through all the new comments she was as in the dark as when she had begun. Understanding that the answers could never be forced, she decided to let go and start her entry. She was aware that if she wasted too much time she would be late for her meeting with Norm. As soon as her fingers hit the keyboard she was lost.
“It is only in death that we truly are alive. You may ask dear reader what this phrase means, and though I cannot give it the justice that such a statement requires, I will in fact attempt to bring some light to the subject. From the time we are born, death is our destination, the when, how, and why are set in the stones of fate, and like someone much wiser than me has already written, when the page turns and your name is on it, then it is done. But life is not really about death it is in fact about life, a life that we squander away with every moment that we ignore the world around us. When we forget the destination and only know the time that anchors us to the earth, we limit ourselves, clip our wings, prevent ourselves from ever soaring, or seeing. There is so very much that we turn away from, each moment that we do not see that bird with its brilliant red breast take flight from the tree that is glowing with life, it is lost forever.
I have always been capable of seeing life force, the tic of energy that makes something alive, some people call it the aura, others the chi, but giving it a name does not mean that you in fact might see it. There are precious few who allow their eyes to open to the seeing, to experience the world around us in the vibrant colors that become grey and dirty when we perceive it through the lens of what we believe to be true. When you have already decided the future, how can the future be different than that which you imagined, we are master creators who tell the universe what we expect to happen, and when it does we are validated that in fact we always get the same.
Some may ask the question as to why the universe always creates that which they fear the most, the future that they had dreaded, rebuked, never wanted, but in imagining the unwanted have manifested just that reality. And they ask, why, why, oh why is the life that I am living so poorly, and why am I distraught, why has the world turned a cold shoulder to my needs. And here is the secret, one that no one but I Trillian will tell you, it is the emotion and its intensity that makes the creation breathe and come alive. Of all emotions that we of the human race have felt, lived, allowed to wash through us, clinging to the parts that are tender and raw. It is FEAR. It is the most powerful of all emotions. This my dear readers is a truth that you must absorb, because if the fear has no power, if you divest it of all its abilities, imagine what you could bring into existence.
We are all one dear readers,
The soft squeak of Belinda’s Naturalizer shoes brought Kaila out of her trance and she was back in Wildwind, away from the world of Trillian.
Belinda was a sour-faced woman who looked to be about forty or so. She had a strong Russian accent, one that Kaila loved to hear. Belinda was one of the few people who was actually tall enough to look Kaila in the eye. But unlike Kaila, who bordered on the heavier to normal side with more muscle than the average woman, Belinda was as straight as a stick, hipless, with breasts the size of the buds of a prepubescent girl. Her hair was mannishly short and slicked away from her face. What you could see of her arms, were riddled with amateurish tattoos that most patients said she had carved herself. But despite her butch appearance, her voice was high-pitched and shrill like the sound of air passing through the stretched mouth of a balloon, or ones voice after a dose of helium.
Belinda being in the games room meant that it was close to 1:00 p.m.
She was right on schedule.
Norm had asked Kaila how she could know the time without keeping a watch, Belinda’s arrival was one of the ways. To Kaila’s experience, watching other peoples routines was just one of the methods that could be used to tell time.
There were many other ways too, like using the places where the sun cast its light on sunny days, to see that it was afternoon, the space between lunch and dinner. Even the quiet that came when the staff retreated to their room was another clue, and Kaila loved clues, thrived on them in fact. These were all signs that pointed the way to what time in the day she found herself.
Kaila folded her laptop, pleased that she had actually managed to finish an entry without Norm troubling her. If she had known that offering to have sex with him would have given her the freedom to write, she might have suggested it a long time before. Yet though Kaila’s predicting skills were getting better all the time, she surmised that for some reason certain things she couldn’t predict were none of her business. Maybe this was true for the blog followers and their reasons for finding her.
“Hello Kaila,” Belinda said with a nod of her head.
Kaila tilted her head in acknowledgement, nothing more. She tucked her laptop beneath her arm. Knowing that she was just minutes away from having sex made an odd tingle sing through her body. She felt heat rush to her cheeks when she imagined what it would be like.
Before she made her way to the storage closet she went back to her room, hoping that she would find Pauline there, so she could help her out. Kaila had never believed in wearing makeup and feminine enhancements. Other than brushing her hair and keeping her body and clothes spotlessly clean she had never worried or much cared about more than that, but today being a special day made her want to do something different. Unfortunately, Pauline wasn’t in the room. Kaila didn’t have time to wait around or even look for Pauline, so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
She took a quick shower in the tiny shower stall that barely accommodated her body. The facility, in their economical use of space had managed to squeeze the shower, a toilet and freestanding sink into a closet-sized space in her room. Kaila appreciated having her own bathroom, enough so that the size didn’t bother her much.
She toweled her skin off then pulled her brush through her copper locks, tugging until the curls that naturally appeared after a shower were reduced to soft waves. Kaila used one of Pauline’s elastic bands to pull her hair back into a ponytail, so tight that it pulled the skin on her face taut.
Pauline had a wide assortment of makeup, including some heavy theatrical products that she used to minimize her scar. Kaila picked up a bottle of flesh colored makeup and slathered a thick layer over her whole face. In her opinion she looked a lot like a geisha girl but she was pleased how the cream made her freckles disappear. Next, she smeared on a coat of fire engine red lipstick, then lined her eyes with a black pencil, making little sweeps on the corners of her eyes like a cats. Since the thought of putting mascara on her eyelashes with a tool that could very well puncture her cornea disgusted her, she decided to forego that option. Last was the blusher, which she painted in perfect circles on the apples of her cheeks. When she glanced at herself in the mirror she was both surprised but oddly exhilarated that she had actually succeeded in applying the makeup by herself. Though she admittedly did look a bit clownish, she felt proud of her first attempt.
She tugged her tee over her head, managing to smear her makeup. Kaila was disappointed that she hadn’t thought to dress before she had applied the face paint. A fresh pair of white cotton Fruit of the Loom panties were next, and then her grey sweats. Fully dressed, she moved with purpose out the door, striding toward the direction of the storage closet that was on the west side of the building, the exact opposite to where her room was located.
As she drew closer to her destination another odd flutter appeared in her belly. She wasn’t sure if it was fear, excitement or anticipation, only that it made her feel jangled. Kaila wondered if everybody felt like this when they were about to have sex, or if it was just her.
Though she predicted many of the events that occurred in her daily life, she had been given no clues on what would happen with Norm. She wasn’t sure if her exclusion from knowing this future made her happy or sad, only that it was the reality.
The hallways were empty, making the slight squeak of her white tube socks on the linoleum more noticeable. When she spotted the door of the storage closet at the end of the hallway, her stomach gave another flip. Kaila ignored it; it was what she did when her body gave her signals that were mixed up. Her body was telling her to feel fearful, turn around and go back to her room, yet there was absolutely no reason for her to feel that way. She had seen it happen on too many occasions to allow mindless drivel to affect her reality; fear was nothing unless you let it have its way. And if you were so weak to allow it to take control, to give in and curl into a ball of anxiety, frightened of everything in your world, then you deserved whatever you got.
The door to the storage closet cracked infinitesimally just before she reached it. She noticed Norm’s blade sharp nose poke out and wondered how long he had been waiting, also how close to 2:00 p.m. she was. It would have been easy enough to check the watch strapped to her wrist, but if she had done that it would have spoiled the spool of anticipation that was ready to unwind in her. Norm spotted her moments later. He locked on her with the precision of an expert marksman. His brows knit together in a peak and he mouthed the wordsholy shit.
Kaila was a little taken aback by his over-the-top reaction, but when she recalled that she had applied a hefty amount of Pauline’s makeup, she had more of an inkling why he was watching her with such keen interest. As soon as she was a few feet from the door, Norm swung it wide, motioning for her to hurry up. Kaila moved past him, giving him as wide a berth as she could manage. The door clicked behind her just as she crossed the threshold.
The place reeked of industrial cleaner and fabric softener. There was little space for them to move amongst the roller-wheeled racks that were piled high with clean linens folded into stiff squares, and scrubs in various colors. As well as an assortment of buckets, mops, and the cleaning supplies that the staff used to sanitize Wildwind, work coveralls in brilliant yellow, hung lifelessly on hooks jutting from the far wall.All sorts of storagemight have been a more apt name for the space, as it seemed everything the place used to run was contained in the minute area.
Kaila trained her gaze on the makeshift bed that lay on the only free piece of floor. Box weave cotton blankets were piled one atop another, and a mound of towels formed a kind of pillow. Norm had been busy. His attention and care in making their escapade perfect didn’t go unnoticed by Kaila. Though she had no idea what it was, something flickered inside her, like a spark that was so small that she wasn’t sure if it would start a fire or blow out.
Kaila brought her full gaze to Norm. He too looked miles different from normal. He had combed his hair flat to his head; something in all his time in Wildwind she had never seen him do. He wore a black tee that was snug on his petite frame that managed to accentuate how truly scrawny he was. To make matters worse he wore black skinny jeans that made his runners look like boats on his feet. A scent of aftershave clouded the air, though this smell spoke of old men shuffling around, not twenty-two year old guys, she still appreciated his effort. Despite the oddity of his look, Kaila quite liked his attempt at grooming himself. An image of a couple of chimpanzees picking tics from each other’s fur formed in her mind for a fraction of a second.
“So how are we going to do this?” Norm asked.
There was an uncharacteristic wariness in his tone, as if he was unsure of himself. Once again Kaila found herself appreciating him, more than she had expected to. Prior to walking into the closet she had felt the whole operation was more of an experiment, where there were no emotions attached just the sexual act. Now she felt warmth push into her heart, but also a slight pain because he would be leaving her forever in a couple of days.
“Well, you’re going to put your penis into my…”
Norm released an exasperated sigh and shook his head.
“I know that part of the procedure Kaila, its how we’re going to do it when you hate when people touch you, because as far as I know there’s going to be a lot of touching involved.”
This too she had predicted, she smiled because the fix was easy. If she did the touching then everything would work out just fine. At least that worked most of the time.
“I’ll touch, you receive.”
Norm scratched his stubble free chin. Even more warmth worked into Kaila, knowing that Norm had shaved for their meeting.
“Okay, you’re the boss,” he said.
He folded his arms, waiting for instructions.
“Take all your clothes off so I can see your body and your man parts,” she said.
Norm shot her a sideways grin.
“Now they’re called my man parts not my…”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Never mind.”
He kicked off his shoes. His socks were stained and his big toe poked through the right one. He tugged his t-shirt over his head revealing his bare torso. Though Kaila had known that he was skinny, she hadn’t known how very emaciated he was until he was half-naked. The absence of flesh on his upper body, the small bumps of his biceps that were the size of Ping-Pong balls, or how his stomach was concave, didn’t faze her. Norm was showing her his body and all she could do was be grateful for his gesture.
He unbuttoned his jeans and zipped down the fly, pushing them down his thighs. His legs reminded Kaila of the chicken drumsticks that they served at dinner, except Norm’s legs were covered in dark hair from the top of his thighs right down to his ankles. It seemed odd that he would have so much hair on a body that was so boyishly small.
“I’m going to get to see you too right?” Norm said after he had kicked his pants to the side. He stood in a pair of navy briefs that pulled tight against the lump that was his penis.
“Okay,” Kaila said.
Without fanfare she pulled her t-shirt over her head and tossed it to the side. She stood there for a moment, allowing Norm to study her body. His arms moved instinctively until his hands were inches from her plain beige Wonder bra that was stretched from wear, and slightly smaller than she needed. When she had been given the bra a few years back she had been a C-cup. She had gained a few pounds since then and now her breasts were somewhere in the middle of C and D. She could have asked for a new bra, but she hadn’t bothered. In Kaila’s opinion it wasn’t necessary to replace the garment unless a strap or a clasp broke.
She reached behind her and undid the clasp; sliding the bra down the length of her arms until it too dropped to the floor between them. Kaila noticed with amusement that Norm’s penis had taken on more shape in his underpants. She smiled, knowing that she had played a large part in activating his body. Her sweatpants came off next.
“Nice, even better than I pictured,” Norm said, bobbing his head up and down.
“You pictured my bare breasts?” Kaila said.
She had predicted much of their encounter, but had never imagined that Norm had wondered what lay beneath her clothes.
“More times than I can count, they’ve played the starring role in more than a few of my…” He paused as if gauging what to say next.
“Yes, I’ve pictured them,” he said in a husky voice, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
Kaila felt a blush work up her cheeks, past her hairline, then down the base of her skull. Since nothing much ever embarrassed her, she found her reaction as odd as the idea that Norm had been thinking about having sex with her, even before she had started imagining it. It also made her wonder who had been first to come up with the idea, and if her mind had affected his like ESP, planting a thought into his brain, or if it had been vice versa. Questions filled her mind and as was the case with her more times than not, she became lost in the thickness of her subconscious.
“Hey, Kaila, are you still with me?”
Norm’s voice brought her back to the present.
“Yes, I’m here,” she answered, still a little disjointed after her trip away.
As odd as it felt, for a few moments she had allowed Trillian to take up residence in her body, which itself was crazy since she didn’t have her computer and Trillian usually abided the rules, and only came out when she had it.
“We should probably move this along, it’s not like we can be in here forever, eventually someone will come looking for us, meds are in less than an hour.
“I am Trillian,” Kaila said without provocation. Norm stared at her oddly.
“But you can’t be Trillian, you don’t have your computer?”
It felt strange that Norm would know this about her. Nobody usually knew this much about her, or so she thought. She wondered if Trillian was playing tricks on her.
Kaila shook her head and felt Trillian fade back into her mind.
“I know, but somehow I am,” she said.
“Take off your underpants,” Kaila said, shifting the subject away from something that didn’t have an easy answer. She knew that if she spent too much time thinking about how Trillian had shown up she would once again lose her place; she wasn’t sure how rapidly she would find her way back.
Norm obeyed her immediately, pulling his briefs down to his knees before he let them dropped to the floor. He kicked the balled up fabric to the side and for the first time since Kaila had met him, Norm looked vulnerable, like a newborn puppy that was searching for its mother’s protection. As soon as she was comfortable with Norm’s muted demeanor she shifted her gaze to his penis.
She had never seen a penis in real before then. She hadn’t expected him to have the same size appendage as the men she had watched having sex on online porno, but she had expected more. Certainly not the Vienna sausage size member that lay partially erect, below a triangular patch of thick curly pubic hair that trailed a dark line to his navel.
Norm shifted his stance, clearly discomfited by her appraising stare.
“It’s not all the way hard yet, it’s cold in this place you know…”
She shrugged in response.
“Now you, that’s when things will get cooking,” he said, motioning to her white cotton underwear, the ones Pauline loved to call Grannie panties. Pauline liked satin and lace thongs and infinitesimal pieces of fabric that did little to cover any part of her sex. Kaila understood the differences in their undergarments, but preferred the extra material that covered all parts of her buttocks and pubic area, to something that pulled and tugged in all the wrong places. She slipped the underpants down the length of her slender hips until she too had stripped naked.
Somehow she had imagined the moment so different from how it was right then. Kaila hadn’t known that she had placed herself into the stream of sex and moaning that she had witnessed on her computer screen. Either way, she hadn’t until that very second understood that she actually had had predictions for how everything would unfold.
“I like a girl who doesn’t trim away all the stuff that says she’s a woman, all that baby smooth shit makes you feel like you’re doing it with a kid,” Norm said.
Kaila detected that he was attempting to sound relaxed and calm but the waver in his voice said he was none of that.
Kaila glanced down at her nakedness, letting her eyes graze over the fine strawberry blond hair that formed a v between her legs. She had never really paid much attention to her body, washing it, dressing it, feeding it and using it to take her where she wanted to go. Now she saw it as something other than a vessel, now it was something more, though what exactly that meant she wasn’t sure.
She felt Trillian drift forward again, attempting to take over her consciousness, like a familiar song that played in your head that made you feel like you understood everything around you. Trillian wanted to know how it all felt to be with a man, the sensations, the smells, and everything that went with it. Trillian wanted to snatch the experience away from Kaila.
“I am Trillian,” Kaila said in a high-pitched voice that seemed amplified by the confines of the room.
“Shit Kaila, lower your voice someone will hear,” Norm said, advancing on her. Kaila drew in a deep breath and took a few steps closer to Norm until she could feel his breath, hot against her skin. And she wanted to touch his bare flesh, feel the coarse hair that covered his lower stomach. She placed her hand lightly on his half-shrunken penis, stroking it gently as if she were petting a dog. Though she knew that the women in the porn shows did things much differently, she didn’t try to replicate their moves, and was happy instead to experiment.
Kaila felt Norm’s member respond to her fingers and his breathing sped up a little. It excited her that despite not knowing anything about sex she was in fact effecting a change in the workings of his body. Suddenly Norm clasped her breast in his hand and squeezed. Her whole body stiffened. The spiders that weren’t supposed to appear when she was going to have sex skittered up the soft skin of her breast.
Kaila slapped Norm’s hand away with more control than she felt capable of.
“Hey, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. I want to touch you Kaila, I want to make you feel good too.”
Norm’s voice came to her as though through a distant tunnel, tinny and meaningless. She tried to grab hold of the sound of it, allow it to pull her out of the dark swirl of fury that enveloped her whenever she was touched. She didn’t want to hit him, though her whole body was poised for just that.
“It’s okay Kaila, I’ll keep my hands to myself, c’mon touch me again, please.” Kaila heard the need in Norm’s voice. The sound of it was enough to tug her out of the darkness that had slipped in all around her. Then Norm was there again, standing in front of her, naked and uncertain, a look of regret painted on his face. Kaila didn’t want to have the spiders invade this special moment, didn’t want their legs to race over her flesh and make her want to flee from her own body. She willed them away, back to the hidden spaces, black areas, where they could lie in wait; ever ready to appear at the slightest provocation.
Kaila pressed her hand to the hollow of Norm’s stomach. She noticed how very large her hand looked against his skinny frame. Norm relaxed against her touch, pushing slightly against her in the closest act to physically touching her that he could manage. Oddly it did nothing to agitate the spiders and Kaila responded to his move, kneading his flesh with the palm of her hand, feeling his bones, muscles and all the parts that made him human. Kaila slid her hand up to the hollow between his breastbones, and there she felt it for the first time in her life, another beings heartbeat. She instinctively placed her ear against his chest, pressed her cheek to his warm flesh that spoke of life and what it was to be alive.
“Your body is beautiful,” she whispered.
Kaila was in awe that she had said the words, because before then there had been no beauty in Norm’s body. Brightly colored flowers, meadows, and crystal clear streams, vast oceans, the rain forest in emerald green, all the pictures that she had studied and committed to memory were beautiful, not this scrawny man. There couldn’t be beauty in this man who had hair in odd places, and who was by all accounts not attractive, yet there was. And she didn’t find Norm’s beauty in the places she had imagined, instead of his exterior there was so much to appreciate inside him, in the humanness that made his heart beat exactly as it was needed, speeding and slowing without his volition.
She felt Norm’s heart quicken against her face, the ticking of his tapping heart on her skin, like the beat of a hummingbirds wings. Kaila knew the workings of the human body, had studied every function, the digestive, nervous, circulatory, respiratory and every other system of the body. She knew the organs and the tasks they performed, but not until she had felt the beat of Norm’s heart did she really know what a miracle the body was. More than that was a new revelation, one that she had always known but had failed to acknowledge, that all humans were the same. Every person on the earth had a heart that beat blood through all the veins and arteries in a body, they had brains that had thoughts and though all brains were different they were identical in their function, a right and left lobe, a parietal lobe, a cerebellum and…
“We are all one,” she murmured against Norm’s chest.
Before Norm could respond Kaila wrapped her long arms around his torso, drawing him into an embrace. Norm remained stiff; fearful that if he responded to her touch that he might set her off.
“We are all one,” Kaila repeated.
She gazed down at Norm, made small by her tall frame. All she could think was how she wanted to hold him forever because in that very moment the spiders were nowhere to be found. In fact they were so conspicuously absent that she was terrified to even send a thought toward them at all, in the event that she disturbed them in the hovels that they nested in.
“What the hell is going on here?”
Norm startled and pulled out of her grasp. Kaila reached for him again; unable to accept the disconnection of their bodies, she wanted to hold him endlessly, never let him go. Somehow their embrace had awakened something in her, something that she hadn’t known had been asleep. She cupped his head in her hands, threading her fingers through the tangle of his hair, pushing him to her bare chest until she felt the almost non-existent stubble of his beard prickle against her breasts.
“We are one, we are one, we are one,” she murmured, her face buried in his hair.
“Break it up you two.”
The voice that she knew well was like an irritating fly buzzing around her head. She wanted the voice and the interloper gone because she couldn’t draw herself away from the moment; she wondered if what she was feeling was love.
Norm struggled to be free of her. The harder he tried to disengage his body from hers, the more desperately she clung to him. Kaila refused to let him go because she didn’t know if she would ever feel this again, so complete, as if a secret to a part of the universe had been dropped into her heart.
“Kaila, let go.”
Norm’s voice was laced with panic now and Kaila couldn’t understand why. Didn’t he feel the magic in that space of time where everything slipped out of existence except for the two of them, the two of them…
“Kaila, that’s enough…”
More flies buzzing, and mosquitoes too, she shook her head, unwilling to let it go, as if it was the last breath of clean air in a room filled with smoke.
“No,” she said, holding, pulling, squeezing…
“Kaila, fuck…I can’t breathe…please…”
Then the spiders came, racing across her body. Norm disappeared, tugged away by the tarantulas, black widows, poisonous, and household spiders too, a million of them in all shapes and sizes, legs and ichor filled bodies covering her. And every body that she plucked away from her skin was replaced with another, because they had taken over everything, they had stolen Norm away and they would never bring him back. And when she thought she would drown or go mad from it all she felt one sting her arm, felt its venom pulse through her veins, and then she was falling into a dark place, somewhere safe, where the spiders couldn’t follow, where only Trillian and she existed.
Kaila woke up in the White Room. She knew that three days had passed when she glanced down at the date on her watch, the only piece of color in the depressingly bland room. Outside the White Room she would have read the clues, but it was for these moments alone that she wore a watch; time couldn’t be measured by happenings in the confines of this place.
The date sadly confirmed that time had passed that she had no recollection of. It wasn’t her first time there, a space reserved for those who lost all sense of reality, who the facility deemed a threat to their own wellbeing, but it was the first time she had lost three full days. Before then she had lost a few hours here and there, the very most eighteen of them, but three full days was unimaginable.
Kaila swept her gaze across the room. She realized on closer inspection that this room that appeared the same as the ones she had inhabited before, was marginally different. The bed for one wasn’t a bare mattress on the floor, but a real cot with a metal-frame and a substantial mattress. She also had blankets and even sheets, a pillow too. The double-sided mirror was the same, yet its location was not. Instead of the right side of the room it was on the left side. The door that opened into the room was in the wrong position as well. All clues said that she was in a brand new area. A surge of panic raced through her, but she worked to push it back down. She was more than ready to be out of this White Room and knew that letting her anxiety get the better of her would not hasten her exit.
Another brand new addition to the list, that was growing ever so long, was the intravenous tube trailing from her left hand. It was taped in place with a flesh-colored Band-Aid. A long plastic tube that linked to a half-full bag of clear liquid, dangled on a metal pole. Without hesitation Kaila ripped at the tube, pulling it out with a rapid snapping motion. She allowed herself the luxury of a few seconds to study the foreign body that had been inside her. Kaila pushed at the tip of the cannula of the intravenous device, marveling at the fact that only a few heartbeats before, the small piece of plastic had been a part of her body, feeding her fluids and whatever was contained in the bladder shaped bag. Drops of the fluid dribbled from the intravenous tubing in a steady trickle that had been perfectly calibrated to deliver exactly the right amount of fluids that she had needed.
Though it was the first intravenous device that she had ever held in her hand for real, she had studied the workings of such devices excessively, using search engines that gave her all the answers she needed. Despite knowing all the trappings of the invention, she couldn’t help but be thrilled at actually being privy to the experience of handling such an item. Knowing that the cannula had been positioned in an open vein in her forehand, she also knew what would happen if that very same cannula was tugged out of the vein. Thick crimson blood stained the Band-Aid then began seeping from the pucker that had been left behind by the tube. Kaila watched as the blood trailed down the freckled skin of her hand, running snake like down her middle finger until a huge drop collected and landed with a soft drip onto the rubberized floor.
“What are you doing Kaila?”
Kaila drew her attention away from her hand, onto the gangly nurse who was dressed all in white. She noted that like a chameleon, the nurse could have easily been swallowed from view in the White Room.
Kaila knew all the nurses, orderlies, and general staff in Wildwind, even the floaters that covered when needed, but she didn’t know this woman. She grabbed Kaila’s hand in her blue-gloved hands, pressing on the bloody mess with a gauze bandage that had appeared as if by magic. Kaila felt the tingle of spider legs very soon after.
“I can do it,” Kaila said, giving the woman’s fingers a little shove.
The nurse locked eyes with Kaila as if gauging the next move of a dangerous predator. Obviously she had seen something in Kaila’s eyes that made her heed the statement because she took a few steps back, but her stare remained fixed on Kaila.
“Make sure you apply enough pressure to get the bleeding to stop, you know you really shouldn’t pull IV’s out like that, it can cause a lot of problems.”
Her brown eyes moved from Kaila’s face, to her hand, then back to her face.
Kaila nodded. She appraised the woman that stood before her for the first time, as if she were a specimen under a microscope. It was the way Kaila always took in new information, with precision, gathering every possible detail to store in her memory banks with all her other important Intel. Kaila noticed that there was little of interest in this woman, mid-forties, with a shoulder length bob that curled under at the ends. Her hair was dyed blond because half an inch of grey roots were visible at the top of her head. Her nose was thin, her nostrils pulled in tight, her lips matched her nose and her eyes were hard and cold. Age spots speckled her leathery looking skin, indicating that she loved to sun bathe.
“I think it’s stopped,” the nurse said, pulling Kaila back to the present.
“Where’s Norm?” Kaila asked, suddenly aware of the last moment she had remembered before she had woken up in the White Room.
The nurse cocked her head to the side. Kaila knew that this woman had no idea who Norm was. This fact combined with the idea that she had already lost three days made her agitation grow.
“I need to be out of here,” Kaila said.
It was in that moment that a very human growling sound came from her stomach. She became painfully aware of just how hungry she was.
But more than satisfying her hunger, her fingers itched for a keyboard, a distraction, to be out of the White Room so she could make sense of her world again. Kaila needed to regain the order that she had lost. Kaila was more than willing to let Trillian take control because there was something dark that was opening inside her, something that she hadn’t felt before now. And that darkness was linked to Norm and the realization that he had probably already left Wildwind. Trillian didn’t come forward though, and instead stayed far back and away.
The nurse ignored Kaila’s question. She tugged at the Band-Aid on Kaila’s hand, careful to avoid contact with Kaila’s skin.
“I need to go back to my room, I’m ready now. I want to be back in my own bed.”
Kaila heard the desperation in her voice, the slightly unhinged tone that said she was teetering on the edge of losing control. The nurse continued working on the strips of tape, as if there was nothing as important as her present job at hand. For a fraction of a second Kaila wanted to grab the nurses hand, squeeze her fingers until they were crushed, bones cracking with pops, like snapping branches.
“There,” the nurse said when she had pulled the last piece of tape away.
A half-smile curved her lips. That smile alone was a catalyst that ignited fury that seemed to have no boundaries within Kaila. She wasn’t sure where it had come from, only that it entwined with the loss of Norm. But even imagining that she had lost Norm would have meant that she’d had him in the first place, something that she couldn’t admit was even true. And the thoughts that skated through her mind on the thinnest of ice that crackled when you placed a foot on it, threatened to shatter her. Kaila fisted a hand in the bed sheets, trying by sheer will and force to remain there, to not slip back into the world where she knew nothing but a black hole of time existed.
“Can I go now?”
There was even more pleading and urgency in her tone. Neither emotion seemed to be of her; they were of others, those who cared about the humans that circulated around her in a symbol of infinity without end and having no beginning.
“I’ll have to check with what Dr. Rosell says,” the nurse said.
She had applied a fresh Band-Aid to Kaila’s hand and was now a few feet away.
“Are you feeling okay?” she said, studying Kaila with a critical eye.
Kaila could feel a bead of sweat forming on her forehead. Another drop dripped down the small of her back from the sheer will of holding on to this reality. Because it would be so easy to slip away again, where everything was blank and there were no emotions only a space of being.
“I’m okay,” Kaila said through clenched teeth, feeling anything but what she had just stated. “I just want to go back to my bed…my room and…please let me go.”
Her hands clasped together in supplication without her volition. She wondered who was controlling her.
The nurse’s wary expression didn’t waver even fractionally. She nodded all the same, as if trying to convince Kaila that she would heed her pleas, though that was clearly so far from the truth.
“Please, let me go,” Kaila said one octave below a screech.
It was enough for the nurse to turn tail and flee the last few feet to the partially cracked door that led to freedom. Something snapped in Kaila and she was off the bed, and in one smooth move had pounced on the nurse. The two fell together. The nurse took the full brunt of the fall, flailing her arms for less than a second before all the wind was knocked out of her and she was left gasping for breath. Now atop the flattened nurse, Kaila tried to make sense of what had just happened. Up until seconds before she’d had no intention of doing anything other than watching the nurse push through the door. She had planned to allow the wheels that ran Wildwind to spin until she was out of her White Prison.
Panting from adrenalin and her rapid moves, Kaila placed all the pieces to the puzzle of her sudden and unexplained actions on a mental blackboard. She had read of this phenomenon, where fear was like a scent that made an otherwise uninterested predator attack. Kaila didn’t know what she had planned to do when she had tackled the nurse, only that it was all she could think of and she had acted on her instincts.
“What the hell is going on Kaila?”
Kaila remained frozen in place, confused and unsure about how she was going to fix what she had done. When she felt hands wrap around her upper arms she relaxed in their grip and waited for the next part. The slight pinch came just as the spiders arrived. Darkness returned.
Three days later and after several adjustments to her meds, Kaila was released into her world again.
The truth is this, there is no truth. No world where every wish is fulfilled and magically you are done, satisfied, where all the happiness that you so desired and believed attached to this dream is immediately realized. True peace and bliss cannot be achieved at the flick of a switch, the push of a button, it is not the treasure at the end of a rainbow. I am sorry to have to tell you this dear readers, but I feel it is my given task to guide you through the realities that few like to see. That even though we may strive for perfection, work until our fingers are raw, our clothes tattered, and all that is us has been given to the cause that is called the goal of our life, this may indeed not bring the happiness that you had imagined. Oh I hear your heart cracking in the center at this reality, at this information that you may feel you are better away from, because isn’t it in the power of our dreams that we find purpose, we find hope. Because if what I am telling you is true then why continue to push through, why struggle each day at a job that you feel sucks your very life force from your being? For if this is true and there is no greater plan, why bother?
I understand your sadness and I commiserate with it, but before you shed another tear we must have another conversation. I pray that you will hear me, really hear me, for what I have to say may very well change your reality and bring you the clarity that you have always wanted.
If happiness is not an assured destination with the manifestation of our deepest desire, then why stay in the place that is your life?
Because my dear reader, in that life that you have lived, a voice has been heard, a hand has been held, a story has been told. And maybe you cannot see that truth beyond the thinness of your wallet or the tattered clothes you must endure. Maybe you cannot see that truth beyond the house that is not your home, the souls who do not see the true you, but I must ask you this, is it true, can you indeed say that in all the days your feet have traveled this path on the planet Earth, that you have never touched a being, provided comfort, listened, given a kind word, opened your purse and passed a coin to a person. Given away happiness, and in doing so, felt that happiness returned.
There is so much need and there is so much that we can give, but to assume that without that beautiful abode you are nothing, your life is less, than that is pure folly. I Trillian, am here to tell you that nothing is insignificant, you are not insignificant and that you too, great or small are a cog in the wheel of life, you my lady or sir are a magician because who other than a magician might put a smile on another’s face, create life in an act of love or sex. It matters not if your greatest deed is that you woke up this fine a.m., with the sun bearing down on your beautiful face and spoke the words I AM ALIVE, then that is enough, the world will breathe a sigh that will be heard across the galaxy because we are one, we are all one and in our oneness we are never alone, no kindness is in vain. Happiness is all around us for the taking, and is never in just one moment, it is spread and scattered throughout our journey, there for us to see if we so desire. This very day you are here with me, have read my words, are present in this moment of life, there is a smile waiting to curve your lips, and so much mirth to be found, even if just for the blink of an eye, it is there, and that my lady or sir, is enough.
Kaila typed the last word of her blog entry, but oddly didn’t feel the exhilaration that she normally did when she had the luxury of completing a thought. As strange as it felt to her, she longed for the interruption that she had grown accustomed to, she longed for Norm. And in the quiet that enclosed her she felt the loss as if it were a physical reality, as if someone had sliced a part of her away. Though she had no idea what part had been removed from her body, she felt it all the same. An ache that couldn’t be healed.
She scanned through her memories, searching for the exact moment when it had shifted, when Norm had become part of her reality, but she couldn’t find it. Trillian would have told her that there is no measure of a heart and its ability to love, or the moment that it chooses to love. To Kaila, Trillian’s notions sounded so very stupid. Because a heart couldn’t love, it beat a rhythm, delivered blood through arteries and veins, through the whole body, regulated blood pressure, sped up or slowed down accordingly, but it couldn’t love. It was a muscle, a muscle couldn’t love, it didn’t have a consciousness, it didn’t decide to beat, it worked from the electrical impulses of the body.
Normally all these rational thoughts and explanations would have brought comfort to Kaila, but right then they only brought anger, bubbling and hot. In that moment love was like a meaningless word written all around her, and all she wanted to do was pull out its heart and know that it was real. But she knew it wasn’t, because how could something exist that had no measure. Where was the science behind it? Was it the need to nurture like a mother did with its baby or…
Kaila startled at the sound of the voice that to her ears was unfamiliar. She swiveled her body, until her eyes came to rest on the man standing just a few feet away from her. He wore loose fitting cotton pants with an elastic waist and a matching V-neck, short-sleeved shirt. His attire resembled hospital scrubs, but unlike the greens and sometimes blues, these yellow Wildwind standard issue clothes told of a newly acquired patient, one who hadn’t been granted the luxury of wearing his own clothes yet. She didn’t need to see this person’s wardrobe to know that he was new, because who other than a newbie would deign to interrupt her when she was in work mode.
“Hi, I’m Derrick,” the man said, stretching out a hand to Kaila as if he had a right to, as if he had no idea that one touch could activate something that might well land her back in the White Room. A place that she had no intention of returning to ever again.
“I don’t care who you are, only that you are in my personal space, and I want you to leave now,” she said.
There was an edge in her tone that said she was trying to maintain her calm, she didn’t want to allow this intrusion to goad her into something bad. The White Room was still too fresh in her memory.
Kaila took her first real look at this person, who somehow believed he had supremacy in Wildwind and over her. He was of Asian descent with thick black hair that was cut in what some might consider a stylish way, with a small flip at the front while the rest of his head had been sheared until the hair stood porcupine straight. His face was shaved smooth, yet a dark shadow highlighted where his beard might have grown. His eyes were black-brown, his nose neither thin, nor wide, falling precisely in the middle and was above a pair of rosebud pink lips that seemed a little too cute for a male. He wasn’t classically handsome, yet there was something appealing about him that Kaila couldn’t quite put her finger on. But none of that mattered because he was clogging up her space, stepping into an area that was hers alone.
“Leave now,” she said again, getting to her feet.
His height matched hers almost exactly, so their eyes were directly across from one another. Kaila glared at him, willing him to whither and disappear from her sight. He stood stationary, as though he had every right to be there.
A crooked smiled quirked at his lips, and he ran a slender-fingered hand over the top of is prickly hair. He seemed more amused than affronted or even scared, which surprised Kaila, one or both of those reactions had been what she had predicted, and she was good at predicting…
Her voice was higher, shriller. She stretched her body to its full height; attempting to loom over this man or boy, now that she’d had a closer look at him she wasn’t sure which category he fell into.
Derrick shrugged and took a few steps away from her. Still, there was no fear in his expression. For a brief flash his bravery made her think about Norm and how no matter how many times she had beaten him, he had come back for more. But now that was all over, Norm was over. Once again, the sinking feeling that had weighed on her from the moment it had been confirmed that he was gone, resurfaced. And with that feeling came a rancor for this man-boy who had triggered her, made her remember her loss.
“GO,” Kaila hollered in his face.
Her breath came out in a rush as the fury and pain pushed into her mind, making her want to retreat, to escape from it all, because Norm had been just another patient. Patients came and went, there were no feelings attached to the routine, no care for the outcome or where they went when they left Wildwind. What they did in the outside world didn’t matter. Even if they came back, Kaila didn’t care much, because they were just like an old sweater that you had forgotten in a drawer, until one day you found it again and you wore it. There was no emotion attached to a piece of clothing. But when Kaila thought about it she realized that maybe she did put more attention into the things that surrounded her, more than she had ever imagined. Her computer for instance was a lifeline to Trillian, and without it she wouldn’t have been able to connect with, and to a degree control, Trillian.
“Are you okay?” Derrick’s voice broke into her thoughts, bringing her back to the moment, to him.
The fact that he was still standing there, even after she had bellowed her disapproval interested her. People never hung around when she ordered them away, but he had, and that fact alone made her pause.
She studied him more closely, noting the pale yellow fiberglass walking cast on his right foot and his rosy toes, poking out from the end of it.
“What happened to you?” she asked, signaling toward his cast.
Kaila watched a flush work up his neck, to his face and even the tips of his ears. To her eyes it looked a lot like embarrassment and maybe discomfort too. She might have expected that kind of a reaction after she had yelled into his face, but not with a question that seemed more than benign. Oddly he was exhibiting behavior that he should have already shown her when she had yelled. Once again she was shocked at how she was unable to predict the future with this new person, as if her connection to the knowing had been severed.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Without another word he spun on the base of his cast and hobbled away from her. There was purpose in his broken step, as if it meant everything for him to get away from her. Satisfied that she had achieved her goal and had removed Derrick from her environment, she snapped her laptop shut then tucked it into the crook of her arm. Still, even with him out of her line of sight, she couldn’t help but wonder about who he was, and why she couldn’t predict his moves and actions in the least bit. There were few who could move in and out of her orb and be like shadows, hidden and unknown.
Because of this very fact alone, her inability to determine his moves before they happened, she found her thoughts drifting to the man-boy. Without her permission Derrick had entered her world, bypassing the periphery. He had landed plum in the center. What happened after that was anyone’s guess. One thing she was certain about was the absolute lack of her ability to understand why or even how he had stepped into the center of her circle. This occurrence had her wondering if she in fact was losing her grasp on reality and order.
“I am acutely aware that I have spoken about this before, yet I feel compelled by a force outside of me to revisit the topic, as there is more to the theme than even I Trillian had originally imagined. The truth is that we are all ONE and even as I tap these words upon a blank screen, I realize the grandeur of the statement, and that the words cannot contain the truth and the meaning that is to be conveyed with this statement.
And if we are indeed all one why is it that the world that we have created around us strives to break that oneness into clone-like pieces of this and that, pieces and parts that when alone hold little if any substance. For if my statement is in fact true, that we are all souls in the vat of the collective, then why is it that we feel so very disconnected and apart, even if we are side to side, body to body, pressed together yet drifting consciousnesses, in separate times and places where we are not together. Our need to be away from the present, to dwell in the past, to get lost in the future, is our way of ignoring the oneness, it is the place where we can disentangle our lives and psyche, where if we separate, far enough away, minds disjointed, we may feel the urge to annihilate that which is not us, that which is foreign. To be like a snake that consumes its tail, killing its SELF in an attempt to survive a foe that is in fact only an illusion, a fallacy created in our separatist mind and body…
Kaila could feel Trillian drift away as if her greatest desire was to frustrate Kaila. There was nothing that irked her more than an unfinished thought; completion was the destination but not always the reality. Though gauging by the comments that were mounting, not everyone was as irritated by the oft fickleness of Trillian. Some commenters were thrilled by the unfinished thoughts, imagining that these broken streams were thought provoking and divinely perfect in their incompletion, and allowed readers to ponder the missing words. She wondered if they would have been as accepting if she had served them all a half-baked cake, gooey and flat, just like Trillian’s unfinished pieces.
To Kaila it was pure and unadulterated irritation. It was on the days that Trillian quite literally left her swinging in the wind that Kaila actually entertained the notion of quitting it all. Shutting down the blog that seemed to be corralling more subscribers every day. She could make it all go dark, like the grey storm clouds that sometimes loomed in the outside sky.
Knowing that her writing was done for the day, and that Trillian would not return until she felt that she had more to say, Kaila decided to let it go. Rather than getting angry at something she had no control over, she would move on with her routines. Her need to satisfy the most basic requirements of her physical body would have to take precedence. Trillian was abhor to these mundane bits of life and if given a chance would have ignored them altogether. Who cared about starvation when she had words to nourish her; in this Kaila and Trillian disagreed.
The day was black and dreary and there were no hints from the sun to gauge the time, but somehow Kaila’s internal clock filled in the missing data that said that it was lunchtime very soon. Before she made her way to the cafeteria she wanted to deposit her laptop into her room for safekeeping. At one point her laptop had been like another appendage, going with her everywhere she went, even to the bathroom. An incident with hot soup and an almost fried keyboard had shown her the error of her ways. Now she left her laptop in her dresser drawer for the duration of the spaces of time that she deemed unsafe for electronic technology.
As she moved to the room that she shared with Pauline, she passed hoards of people making their way to the cafeteria for lunch. It felt much like swimming against the tide, where she had to shift and avoid more than a few patients. They didn’t seem to mind who they mowed down in their desire to get first dibs on the best of the cafeteria offerings. Things like french fries, chicken strips and beef hamburgers, staples for both lunch and dinner, were always the first to go. Kaila never cared for this fast food fare much, preferring to test the new menu additions, the trial dishes that according to demand and consumption sometimes found a place on the permanent menu.
Breakfast for her was always controlled with very little variation, but lunch and dinner were the meals, and really the only part of her existence, where she released her hold on control.
In her peripheral vision she spotted Pauline and Janelle half-dressed and doing things that Kaila didn’t much care about, on Pauline’s bed. She ignored them, moving directly to her dresser drawer. After she had slid her computer into the top drawer and closed it, she turned back to the door; ready to exit through the same way she had come in. But when she realized that the body that she had originally determined to be Janelle’s was not the pudgy patient at all, she paused and gawked. The two half-dressed individuals entwined on the narrow bed were so locked in the passion of the moment that they hadn’t realized that they had an audience.
Pauline had removed her shirt and pants and was clad in just her black satiny bra and matching panties. The guy, and this was the part that surprised Kaila the most since everyone knew that Pauline only liked girls, had a hand shoved down Pauline’s underpants and was busy doing things that made Pauline moan against his mouth. She too was actively participating, her hand lost in the depths of the fellow’s grey boxer brief underwear. Kaila watched the two for a few moments, as they moved and made noises, much like the people did in the pornos she had watched, only in this case the sounds were more muted and less dramatic.
The angle that Kaila was at didn’t allow her to identify the male part of the duo, though she had to admit his sharply cut hair was somehow familiar. When they shifted again and the man’s back was exposed to her, the infinity symbol tattooed on the length of his spine had her drawing in a quick breath. She knew it was a sign, a symbol. As if Trillian had quit early so she could send Kaila to this moment, so she could discover a new truth.
Excitement at the thought of learning something new from Trillian, just when she had resigned herself to the concept that her day of writing had been a wash, surged through her. Kaila spun back to where she had deposited her computer, desperate to find out the meaning of the symbol. Though she knew the basics of it, she was certain that there was more to it. Before she had a chance to flip open her computer, the identity of Pauline’s partner was revealed. Kaila realized right then that she had read it wrong and that in fact there was nothing profound about the symbol or the tattoo at all. Even more surprising than the sex of her partner was the identity of the interloper. It was the man-boy Derrick, though judging from the way he was expertly working his mouth and hands he was more man.
Suddenly she was bellowing at the top of her lungs because for some reason all the feelings that normally wouldn’t have registered on her radar were now crushing her. Not only were these two and their sordid escapades undermining Janelle and Pauline’s relationship, but they were destroying the very fabric of Kaila’s reality, where everything including people were sorted into neat piles that identified who they were. In another time and place, and with two different people doing what Pauline and Derrick were doing, Kaila might not have cared at all, but this time it mattered, somehow it mattered a lot. Sometimes the caring came out of nowhere, sweeping through her like a force and all she could do was go with it.
Derrick and Pauline sprang apart, startled by Kaila’s outburst. Pauline appeared mortified. She rapidly disengaged her hand from what Kaila could only imagine was Derrick’s aroused penis. Derrick seemed unfazed by it all, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
“Shit Kaila,” Pauline hissed, snatching her t-shirt and jeans from the floor at her bedside. Kaila watched Pauline’s scar glint from a crack in the sheet of her dark hair. It was visible for a fraction of a second then was hidden away again. She was certain that there was a method to this madness, one that she was more than ready to discover the truth about. She wondered if it was what they called Kismet or something like that.
Kaila pressed her fingers to her temples, attempting to make sense of the two symbols that had been revealed to her in the past few seconds. She wondered if there was any connection between a star and an infinity sign. Words scrolled across her mind as if she was typing them on an internal keyboard. In her frenzied mind the notion that it all meant something swam against a current of confusion. She knew the symbols were so very important and that powerful messages were contained within, truths that could very well shift the fabric of her reality; push her forward into another dimension. Trillian slipped into her mind, pushing to regain control despite the fact that she wasn’t working on her computer. Trillian knew the rules, but had bypassed them and was moving through Kaila like an out of control freight train.
“Kaila, shut up,” Pauline hollered over Kaila’s scream. Just like that Kaila shut her mouth, hard enough that her teeth clacked from the force. She went absolutely silent. Derrick smirked. He now sat on the side of the bed. He didn’t seem as hurried to get dressed as Pauline was.
Kaila watched their actions as if from a distance, as if she had been jettisoned away and was peering through a telescope. Then without her acquiescence all that Trillian was, and was not, spewed forth in a stream of words.
“I am…” she began but didn’t utter Trillian’s name because it wasn’t safe to do so. Kaila’s mouth felt dry as if every smidgen of saliva had evaporated, but that did not seem to halt Trillian’s need to rant.
“For if the world is everything and nothing, what is the truth and the reality? Why do we struggle each day to be plucked from this reality, from this existence, as rapidly as a candle being snuffed. If we truly believe that this is everything, that we indeed travel this planet with expectations that are hollow, with dreams that may never manifest, with abundance that remains locked in a chest and away from us, then what my dear reader is the point of this journey.
But if I in fact believe all that you have believed, and have travelled the rails of your psyche, pulling the stream of your truths or illusions into my space, will they indeed be real. I say NO, most definitely no, and when the world gives us a dose of that reality that we so vehemently rebuke, is it a moment to retaliate, return to the womb of our birth, to cry the tears of why, oh why, oh why again must I suffer this injustice. Why must my body be stripped to the bones that stabilize it, why must I be gouged until my heart resembles a thing that no longer belongs to me?
And when the world has turned on you and the viciousness that resides in even the most beautiful souls is in fact unleashed, like a pack of rabid dogs, ready to rip your innards from the soft side of your belly, you must remember this. YOU ARE LOVE, you are beauty, and everything that you have ever wanted in this existence is found within you. Like a lotus flower entrenched in the muck of your soul, waiting for you to allow it to grow, to thrive, to manifest the true you, that no one can vanquish unless you have given them the scissors to snip the stem of your blossom. For this reason alone you must know that there is nothing that is outside of you that can do violence to your future, your beliefs and all that YOU ARE or ever will be, because you are the master of you, you are the creator of your reality, that which you believe, manifests as such. And so if you claim to be beautiful and just, YOU ARE, because in that space and time that you take those words and believe, truly and utterly believe this to be truth, there is no being that can shift your reality, because just as we know that the sky is blue, and the sun is a ball of burning gases, this too is the truth, the reality, for if you BELIEVE, truly believe with every fiber of your soul that it is. Then it is…”
Kaila stopped speaking abruptly, dizzy from the weight of Trillian’s presence. It was too much for her to absorb. She panted, attempting to catch her breath. Trillian had forced out her words in a near continuous stream, refusing to allow her even a moment for a puff of oxygen. Kaila had known she had spoken using Trillian’s voice and words, but up until then it had never been so forceful. But none of that mattered at that moment because it was all too much for her to accept, her body had physical limitations. Trillian had taken her beyond that point, now she was paralyzed by her humanness. She staggered, turning around. The world seemed to be moving in slow motion. Kaila spotted her bed just a few feet away. She had just managed to collapse onto its surface when the darkness pulled her into its depths.
Derrick’s words were the last she heard before she tumbled into nothingness.
Kaila drifted in the swirl of knowing nothing, other than the light feeling of being made of vapor and fluffy white clouds that might dot a clear sky on beautiful days. She heard the voices that beckoned her back to the real world, but she was too comfortable, too at peace and at home to want to go to those voices. Nothing other than being where she was, mattered at all.
“I don’t know if she’s breathing, I think she’s had some sort of an attack or something.”
Pauline’s voice broke through the sheets of filmy muslin that wrapped like a shroud of comfort around Kaila. Fingers grasped her wrist lightly, warm and gentle.
“I can feel her pulse.”
This time it was Derrick speaking. She imagined Derrick’s fingers were most assuredly searching for her heart beat. Kaila felt a mouth pressed over hers and breaths of hot air enter her mouth then her lungs. And though she was still only half conscious she wondered if this was what it felt like to be kissed by a lover. Norm’s face came into view, she knew it was a memory, not reality, but she savored it all the same. For a short time it dulled the ache and loss that had lodged deep inside her since the day that he had left Wildwind.
A cough worked its way through her chest, up her trachea until it finally burst from her lips into an explosion of air. Her body went rigid then relaxed. She involuntarily sat up straight. When her eyes popped open she locked on Derrick. He was still naked from the waist up. Kaila grazed his torso with her eyes, studying the lean muscles of his chest, hairless like the rest of him. Once again she was reminded that he was locked in a space between teenage boy and man. Derrick’s height wasn’t the problem; he was tall enough for certain. It was something else that was difficult to pinpoint, something that Norm had that Derrick didn’t.
When Kaila pulled her gaze from his chest to Derrick’s face she noticed that his expression was frantic and harangued, as if the weight of the world rested on his narrow shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
Pauline pushed Derrick aside like a stray dog in her path. He didn’t put up a fight, shifting to allow her ample space. Pauline’s face was a riot of anxiety as her hands reached for Kaila’s face. Instead of making contact, she caught herself at the last moment, hovering her cupped palms an inch from Kaila’s skin.
Kaila took a moment to collect her thoughts, check her being. She still had no idea what had happened, how Trillian had managed to take her over. But more than how, was why she had been left feeling destroyed and weak after the experience.
“What happened to me?” Kaila said, wiggling her butt back on her bed until her spine hit the chipped paint on the sidewall.
Pauline and Derrick were frozen in place like two mannequins. Whatever heat Kaila had witnessed between the two had cooled significantly. There was stiffness in their stance; an unsaid need to be apart as though all that had happened between them had been an absolute mistake. And seeing how rapidly they had shifted their view was more than a touch intriguing to Kaila. This change in Pauline and Derrick’s behavior, from overheated to icy cool, felt even more important than discovering what had brought on, what could only be termed, the complete possession of her by Trillian.
“I think you had some kind of seizure,” Derrick said.
Interest had replaced his original anxiety. Kaila wondered what had put those emotions there.
“How would you know what it was?” Pauline asked, irritation clear in her tone. To Kaila’s trained ear, her roommate was more than ready to wash her hands clean of Derrick. Kaila didn’t share her opinion. Now more than ever she wanted to hear exactly what Derrick did know.
“A seizure, but I’ve never had a seizure before…”
Kaila’s voice trailed off as she searched for another reason for why her body would have acted in that way. She wasn’t opposed to Derrick’s line of thought, but his vague explanation didn’t seem to be based in truth, fact, or science, and was merely musings. Supposition was always unacceptable, so now she rapidly absorbed and dismissed Derrick’s theory. There was only one justifiable excuse for what had happened, for some reason Trillian had taken complete control.
“It wasn’t a seizure it was…”
Kaila’s voice trailed off when she remembered that she wasn’t supposed to talk about Trillian. There was no questioning that most residents who cared, and those who didn’t, mostly knew about Trillian. Even so, Kaila wasn’t in the business of discussing Trillian or her actions since the less that was said about the matter the better. After dealing with too many eager doctors wanting to fix her, fix Trillian, she had learned that denial was so much better than acknowledging the truth.
“Were your meds adjusted lately?” Derrick queried.
Kaila mulled over his words. She had never cared about what pills she swallowed or if changes were made. It was another allowance she made in her routine since she knew she had absolutely no control over this aspect in her life. Trying to remember each colored tablet, the numbers marked on them, or how she felt in response to said medications, was near impossible to track since changes were always imminent. Still, this time she did remember something.
“They did change my pills in the White Room.”
Derrick nodded as though pleased by her admission.
“I just hope it doesn’t happen again,” Pauline chimed in, “because if it does, I’m not going to waste time listening to anyone telling me to stay put, that whole shit was fucking freaky Kaila. I can’t deal with that again…”
She trailed off.
“If you had of gotten the staff there’s no telling what they would have done with her,” Derrick said reasonably.
Kaila tilted her head to the side, confused. She remembered that they had mentioned that she was not breathing.
“Did I die?” she asked plainly.
Pauline and Derrick who had been locked in a mutual glare brought Kaila back in their sights.
Derrick shook his head definitely. “No…or at least I don’t think you did. I figure I panicked a little and probably couldn’t find your pulse because I was too freaked out…”
“That doesn’t explain why she stopped breathing,” Pauline countered.
She placed her hands on her slim hips, now concealed in black jeans that hugged her thighs as if someone had painted them on her.
“I’m not exactly sure if I didn’t panic there too,” Derrick said, running a hand through the longer lengths of his dark locks.
“Then why did you give her mouth to mouth?” Pauline said, glaring at him.
His response was merely a shrug. He slipped on a yellow graphic tee with a green raised symbol of infinity on the front.
“Better to be safe than…whatever, it doesn’t really matter much does it. She’s okay and that’s all I care about.”
“What does the infinity symbol mean to you?” Kaila said, completely derailing the conversation between Derrick and Pauline.
Derrick dragged his gaze away from Pauline. Despite her irritation with him his extended stare seemed to indicate that he was still very much into her. Kaila wondered if he had seen her scar and whether it mattered to him.
“That everything is infinite, and that nothing that is created can really be destroyed, it just changes form but continues to exist,” he said simply.
Kaila nodded, slightly surprised that he and Trillian were so close in their opinion. Kaila agreed with Derrick, but still believed that there was more to it than his simple explanation, because how could something so ancient and meaningful be summed up so succinctly. There had to be more to it, of that she was sure. And because Kaila’s thoughts never worked in a linear fashion, she moved on to the next subject that was weighing heavy in her mind.
“Why were you and Pauline together like that? Pauline is supposed to be in love with Janelle.”
Derrick opened his mouth to speak. Before he could say anything Pauline piped in.
“I made a mistake. If I had been thinking I would never have even looked at…” Her voice faltered then she went quiet. She cast her eyes to the floor as if ashamed. Her body bowed down like a tree with a thick coating of snow on its branches, adding credence to the sentiment.
Derrick’s face didn’t reveal his feelings, despite Pauline’s harsh words.
“Yeah, whatever, I’m out of here.”
He limped to the door of the room, his walking cast made a soft tapping sound as he moved. He paused and stared at Pauline for a beat; she remained focused on the floor. When his eyes met Kaila’s she caught the briefest glimpse of sadness in their depths, but as soon as she had seen it, it was gone and so was he.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck…” Pauline said, landing with a bounce on the thin mattress of her bed. Kaila noticed that the bed was still rumpled from the recent activity, a testament that Pauline and Derrick’s encounter had really happened. Pauline shook her head, sighed hugely then trapped her bottom lip between her perfectly straight teeth.
“I can’t believe I was actually about to fuck him,” she said, releasing an exaggerated groan. When Pauline snapped her head up suddenly Kaila realized that her roommate’s eyes were filled with tears. In this position her hair had shifted, once again showcasing her scar. Kaila understood Derrick’s interest in Pauline, because even with the scar marring half of her face, she was breathtakingly beautiful. She was however at a loss for how he had somehow managed to finagle her roommate into a position where the two were destined to consummate a relationship that should never have existed.
“You saved my ass Kaila. If you hadn’t interrupted I might have…and then Janelle and…” She shook her head violently, willing the thoughts away.
“What’s wrong with me? Why do I sabotage anything that’s good in my life, I mean it’s cra…”
“Crazy,” Kaila finished. “That’s exactly what we are, right?”
Pauline nodded. “There’s a crazy in all of us Kaila, some people are just better at hiding it than others.”
She pushed back against the wall, mirroring Kaila’s position. The two stared at each other in silence.
“I think they lock us away in here and call us crazy because we know too much,” Kaila said breaking the quiet.
Pauline nodded introspectively. “You might be on to something there,” she said with a lopsided grin, then shrugged.
“Well I better go see Janelle, see if I can salvage our relationship.”
Pauline lurched to her feet, her tears forgotten; a reticent expression clouded her face.
“Why can’t you keep it a secret?” Kaila asked.
As far as she knew Derrick and Pauline’s almost sex wasn’t public knowledge, not yet at least.
“You know this place, word travels, besides I have to come clean, if I don’t I know it will make me a little loopy. I may not have a lot of scruples especially not based on my most recent screw up, but I’ve never been much of a liar. Though half the time I really wish it was one of my talents.”
Pauline tossed her hair to the side with a flip of her head then drew in a long breath.
“I care too much about Janelle not to be up front about what happened, but I haveyouto thank for it being a whole lot less of a fuck up than it could have been.”
Before Kaila had realized what was happening, Pauline swept in and planted a soft kiss on her cheek. Her roommate was out of the door before Kaila could react to the touch; oddly, the spiders that were always waiting to invade didn’t seem to care much in this instance.
Janelle shot up from her seat, tears blurring her tiny eyes. She spun toward the door, raced across the cafeteria and almost toppled Kaila as she rushed by and out. Kaila watched Janelle’s bulky frame until she disappeared around a corner. All she could think was that it was never good when these kinds of predictions came true. From the look on Pauline’s face, who was still sitting in a chair at a table, she was as distraught as Janelle was. She buried her face in her hands; her hair fell forward into a puddle on the smooth surface in front of her.
Kaila moved to the tray stacks, grasping a bright orange plastic tray in her hand. Tuesday was lasagna day, and if she was lucky there might still be some garlic bread available. She closed her eyes for a moment, testing her prediction skills. Though she knew her odds in this situation were around fifty-fifty, give or take, she still decided to give it a shot. Using all available predicting tools she had at her disposal, she swept her gaze across the cafeteria. The room that seated at least one hundred at a time, but usually was only half-filled most days, was as expected, half-full. Based on previous data she had collected of the roughly fifty people in the cafeteria, only half of them liked garlic bread. She also knew that the cafeteria always made one hundred and twenty slices of garlic toast, and based on the number of patients that she knew…
Derrick appeared out of nowhere, completely throwing off her calculations. She was angry at his interruption, but a bit of warmth worked through her because his insistence on being noticed by her once again reminded her a little of Norm. The next flash that entered her mind was of him and Pauline rolling around on the bed half-dressed, her original irritation quickly resurfaced.
“Leave me alone,” she snapped, bringing her thoughts back to the garlic bread.
She shifted her focus away from Derrick, staring through and around him, as if he were a pane of glass.
“You don’t have to be so pissy, I just wanted to see if you were okay, you were really fucked up before,” he said, drawing her attention back to him. Kaila didn’t usually hit people who weren’t Norm, but she was beginning to think that Derrick might be an exception.
“I said leave me alone,” she repeated, a razor edge of menace colored her voice.
“Screw that,” Derrick said, crossing his arms over his chest like a petulant child. Kaila felt, more than willed, her right hand form into a tight fist; all the tendons in her forearm were immediately taut and ready. She predicted that it would only take one quick crack to his nose and Derrick would be finished. Unlike Norm, there was no iron in Derrick, he was a man-boy. No matter how old he got, she knew he would always be in the middle, somewhere between an adult and a teen.
“Come on Kaila.”
Kaila hadn’t noticed that Pauline had left her place at her table and was standing directly beside her. Pauline’s voice had been enough to diffuse Kaila. She allowed her hands to go slack at her sides.
Kaila glowered at Derrick, an act that would have incited fear in most but didn’t seem to affect him at all. He stood his ground, unmoving. The way he was so steadfast in his stance made Kaila wonder if he too could predict the future, if he had determined that there was no threat at all and that he would walk away from their interaction unscathed. This thought interested her enough that her garlic bread musings were lost completely.
“Do you have predictive skills too?” she asked.
Derrick’s expression remained smooth, as if he had expected the question, as though he had been waiting patiently all along for that very query to be posed.
“Maybe,” he said with a smirk that showed a sliver of his white teeth. Then he shrugged indifferently. “Maybe not.”
Kaila felt the ire rise in her at his cavalier dismissal of a question that was beyond reproach. Never in her life had she asked anyone about their ability to predict. Even Trillian was abhor to the discussion of precognition and such. After the risk she had taken, the man-boy was poo-pooing her as if she were an infant or a half-wit.
Her hands found his throat and she was squeezing before she even knew what she was doing. A part of her wondered if it was Trillian taking over, making her presence known, but Kaila knew the truth; Trillian had no part in this. Derrick’s smug expression fell away and as Kaila’s huge hands tightened around his neck, his eyes popped wide like a pond frogs. Pauline’s voice urged her to cease and desist. Derrick’s face was a deep shade of puce as he pulled at her hands, attempting in futility to free himself from her grip. She almost laughed out loud that in his skewed perception he would in fact believe that he had any dominion over her. Spiders skittered up and across her arms and hands, but for a change her fury trumped all of that. It was a blissful moment knowing that even though the world around her had been shredded into tiny pieces she was still focused and aware.
By the time she felt the needle poke her skin he had stopped struggling. Utter quiet followed soon after.
Kaila spent another indeterminate amount of time in the White Room, where higher doses of medications, more poking, prodding, and such, ensued until one day they deemed her fit to return to her world, and she did.
“He had quite a bit of bruising around his neck, and he’s still all gravelly voiced when he talks, but I say it serves him right. He’s a prick. I know that now,” Pauline said, filling in the details about Derrick to both Kaila and Janelle.
She paused in her diatribe long enough to lean forward and plant a sensual kiss on Janelle’s parted lips. As the kiss deepened, Pauline tugged the girl’s doughy body closer until they were chest to chest, something that looked quite absurd given the vast differences in their body structures, and of course their breast sizes.
Pauline worked a hand through Janelle’s stringy hair. It was marginally less oily than normal. Obviously the two had mended their relationship in Kaila’s absence. Though normally she would never have cared about such a thing, Kaila found that she was inexplicably pleased at seeing the two girls together again. Love was still a foreign word and concept to her, but if there was any meaning in it all, it might have been found somewhere in Janelle and Pauline’s relationship.
Both girls were flushed and breathless when they finally broke apart. Pauline gazed at Janelle as if she was the most beautiful being in the universe. Seeing her glazed expression made Kaila’s stomach flip a little. She couldn’t help but imagine Norm staring at her in that very same way.
Kaila stretched out on the bed, frustrated that even after what seemed like years, she still thought, dreamt, and fantasized about Norm. She remembered how it had felt to hold him, and not for the first time she wished that they’d had a chance to have sex like they had planned. Though at times she was relieved that they had been interrupted because if they had completed their task it might have been that much more difficult to shake Norm from her being. She wasn’t sure if she would ever forget Norm. He was like a hard-covered book that was shelved in a space too high for her to reach; she would remember his story but would never ever read the words again.
“I heard he’s a med student who got kicked out for stealing drugs from the hospital,” Janelle said when she had regained her ability to speak. Kaila rolled onto her side, listening. She had absolutely nothing to add to the conversation since she knew little to nothing about Derrick, but for some strange reason she was eager to learn all she could about the man-boy.
Pauline nodded. “Yeah, that’s true, I had a chance to read his file when I was in the office helping with the paper work the other day,” she said.
For patients who would eventually be released back into the world, work experience was an option and was offered; Kaila had never been offered anything other than her daily routines of Wildwind.
Janelle made a ridiculous tittering sound that was intended to be a giggle.
“I love how sneaky and devious you are Paul,” she said. She threaded her thick fingers through Pauline’s fingers. Another passionate kiss followed.
“What else was in his file?” Kaila asked, surprised that she actually cared. She knew there was a deep loathing for Derrick within her, still there was something…
Pauline brought her gaze to Kaila as if she had just been made aware of her presence. She smiled, showing half of her perfect teeth.
“Well he’s a child genius, got an IQ of about 220 plus. He finished an undergrad in Biochemistry by the time he was just fifteen. He’s had a lot of social issues since he’s always been younger than everyone else…”
“How old is he?” Janelle said, cutting Pauline off mid-sentence.
“Twenty-two,” Pauline said. “He was almost done with med school when he got caught stealing pain killers, at which point he decided that he was going to kill himself. He jumped off a train trestle that was about thirty feet high. Obviously he’s a lot like me, failure to achieve, because he only got a broken leg for his troubles and a lovely all expenses paid stay in Hotel California, AKA, this dump.”
“A genius,” Kaila mused.
This fact in itself far surpassed anything else that Pauline had said. Kaila now questioned if her unusual interest in Derrick was based on her ability to read the intelligence that he held, she wondered if she had divined the magnitude of his brainpower. Her heart sped at just the notion that there might have been more to her odd connection to Derrick then just passing interest. Before that exact moment she had perceived her interest in Derrick much as if he was a beautiful flower or piece of art, something that was visually appealing that drew your eye then your intrigue. Yet this notion didn’t add up.
The man-boy would never have graced the cover of the GQ magazines that a girl named Darla Sinclair studied day in and day out. Every time Kaila laid eyes on Darla, who like Kaila, had resided in the confines of Wildwind for the better part of her life, she had a magazine a few inches in front of her bespectacled face. Darla had been diagnosed early on with a mental malady that Kaila refused to acknowledge, or even name. Kaila had never aspired to the diagnosis labels that followed every patient in Wildwind. She reasoned that if she did accept these labels, she would be agreeing to the concept that once an individual was brought inside, they ceased to be a human and became a diagnosis. Even so, she understood the rationale behind the labels. A diagnosis could be healed, fixed even, but a human was something entirely different.
But understanding the process didn’t mean that she could slip into the mindset that those who ran the facility aspired to. For them, Wildwind was like any other business. Only this business wasn’t a business at all, it was an attempt to fit all the square pegs of society into round slots. With enough effort and time, a carving knife, lots of medications, and a will to change the shape, a square peg might eventually be forced into a round slot, but it would never be a perfect fit.
Darla’s mental differences rendered her completely out of touch with most parts of the world around her. In Darla’s narrowed reality anything that didn’t fall into two distinct categories, handsome men and luxury cars, was ignored as though it were an illusion. For this fact alone, Darla’s days were spent carefully turning the pages of magazines that contained the images that she was drawn to, photos that somehow calmed and soothed her. No matter how many people surrounded her she was always alone; Darla was in her own personal space and time, never daring to step outside its familiarity.
“That must be it,” Kaila said to no one in particular.
“Must be what?”
Suddenly both Janelle and Pauline were keenly interested in what Kaila had to say. With just a few words she had stepped out of the grey into the light. Not willing to divulge her secret musings about Derrick she shook her head definitively.
Knowing that nothing more would be given to them in the way of explanation, Pauline and Janelle went back to their conversation. They had smoothly shifted to what the activities for the impending Easter holiday would be this year. Despite Easter being a Christian celebration, Wildwind usually did an egg hunt on Easter morning. Wildwind owners reasoned that any occasion that broke up the monotony of the routine at the facility was welcome. To this end they celebrated the most obscure events, like Ground hog day, Earth Day, Songkran, a Thai holiday where people apparently threw colorful water at each other, and many other events that Kaila mostly ignored.
Without comment Kaila got to her feet, snatched her laptop off the top of her dresser and left the two girls. As always, neither Pauline nor Janelle acknowledged her exit, none of the three felt slighted by the other, and were connected in understanding. Relationships like that were not the custom, but somehow Kaila and Pauline had fallen into this pattern of mutual understanding, each reading the others cues perfectly.
Kaila made her way to her writing space. Before she sat down to write, she drifted over to the huge window that looked out onto the Wildwind grounds. Beyond the chain link fence signs of spring were beginning to show themselves: a shimmer of new green leaves, dirty snow receding that revealed yellowed grass that had been asleep for the winter. And in the midst of it all was a promise that once again everything would wake up and be rejuvenated.
Kaila loved spring for this reason. In truth she loved all the seasons for different details. Spring, for the hope of renewed life that the buds on the trees brought with them. Summer was a time to see the full on color and beauty of the grass and flowers, when trees were clad in there best finery, when sultry days made a thin film of sweat form on your exposed skin, and where clothes could be reduced to the barest minimum. Fall was when the world was lit with the most brilliant colors of gold, red and pumpkin orange, when the crisp air was welcomed after the warmth that summer had brought with it. Fall was a time of harvest when all the summer fruits and produce could be plucked and stored, and the magic of it all was truly revealed. When winter brought the ice and cold, there was the thrill of the first snow. Eagerness for the fluffy flakes that fell from the heavens, coating everything in a sprinkling of icing sugar that would soon become thick, covering all the life that had fallen into slumber again, so they could one day soon awaken, and realize that the sleep was as essential as the waking.
The words that felt poetic and not of her, flowed through Kaila as she allowed Trillian to move to the front of her psyche ever so slightly. Lately Trillian could always be counted on to be waiting in the wings, ready to let the words flow, to take over the controls, except however, when Kaila had been in the White Room.
She wasn’t quite ready for Trillian to say her piece, as the business of perusing the comments and queries of her blog followers had to take precedence for the time being. Knowing that her time was short Kaila rapidly skimmed the comments.
But Trillian had been sequestered to the recesses of her mind for the duration of Kaila’s stay in the White Room and was literally bursting at the seams with all she needed to say and reveal.
In her lucid times, in the breaks between the steady stream of drugs that dripped into her veins, Kaila felt the absence, as though a part of her body had been excised. Trillian despised the White Room; Kaila could feel that sentiment loud and clear. In fact somehow Trillian went somewhere else, where that was Kaila wasn’t sure, only that Trillian wasn’t there anymore. But as soon as the gatekeepers opened the doors of her prison and allowed Kaila to return to the freedom that was hers, Trillian was back, impatient and determined to take the controls once again.
Kaila expertly scanned the comments that once again had taken a surge upwards in the time she had been absent. At the rate it was going she would soon be well into epic and unimagined numbers. Kaila had never expected anyone to read and be interested in Trillian’s tirades. The beginning of the blog had been more about necessity than desire. Trillian had always been present, in fact Kaila was hard-pressed to remember a time when she had been alone, but what had started as a slight nudge for a voice at the back of her mind had increased over time until Trillian had become unmanageable. At her worst, Trillian had spoken in Kaila’s head so much and so often, that it had been near impossible to live through the voices or in this case one voice. As a concession Kaila had promised Trillian that if Trillian agreed to limit her infiltration to the allotted time, she would document all the stories that Trillian cared to write.
At first Kaila had offered Trillian a space in a journal, handwritten words on paper, but Trillian’s ego wasn’t satisfied by what she deemed thesmall time. She had wanted bigger, better, for her words to spread across the galaxy, the Milky Way, but in lieu of those grandiose wants, she had settled on the World Wide Web. Trillian was nothing if not specific about her desires.
Kaila’s breath hitched for a microsecond when she caught sight of the infinity symbol. The fanciful part of her believed in coincidences and synchronicity. This meant that everything that happened meant something and was somehow interconnected. The realistic side of her knew that everything that happened in the world could somehow be explained scientifically. Though science normally had dominion in her mind, Kaila also had a rule about the number three. Anything that showed itself three times was to be looked at a little more closely, and since the infinity symbol had surfaced three times now, she paused and studied the ∞, that was solitarily in a comment block. Kaila glanced at the users name and saw immediately that it was the infinity symbol too.
She was frustrated by the vagueness of it all. It didn’t seem fair that the user gave her very little for her to discover their identity and what it all meant. Determined to figure it out, she scrolled to the beginning of her blog, scanning all the comments from this particular user. At first it was relatively quick to get through all the notations left by other users, but soon the remarks increased and she felt like she was plodding through it all much too slowly. She was using all her resources to move forward, but was only capable of moving as fast as her reading capabilities would permit.
Time seemed to travel painfully slow, it felt as if every page she turned ahead brought her back to the beginning. She hadn’t realized how proliferous Trillian had truly been, until she was forced to revisit every piece that had ever been written on the blog.
With every moment that passed in Kaila’s endeavors to learn the truth, Trillian grew exceedingly impatient, attempting to force her way in and take control. Kaila didn’t blame Trillian’s eagerness to begin; she had been starved while Kaila had been in the White Room. The concept that she was sitting there in Trillian’s writing space with a computer at the ready, was like giving a child a rainbow swirled lollipop and asking them not to lick it. Kaila understood, but wasn’t quite ready to hand over control yet.
She clicked and scrolled, browsing over every comment, searching in earnest for something written by ∞, but there seemed to be nothing other than the most recent comment written just a few weeks before. By the time she had gone through it all her writing time had dwindled to nil. Her stomach growled, begging to be fed its next meal. Kaila knew that denying Trillian her moment would probably prove disastrous, but she couldn’t ignore the signals that said that Trillian’s part of the day had been eaten away by Kaila’s baseless curiosity.
She closed the laptop, tucked it beneath her arm and went directly to her room, depositing the computer in its customary place. All the while Trillian voiced her protest at the inhumanness of it all. To Kaila, this line of thought was humorous since Trillian wasn’t in fact human, and only borrowed a body to serve her own purposes. Despite Trillian having written thousands and thousands of words through Kaila’s very fingertips, Kaila knew little to nothing about Trillian or why she had come, only that she had been with Kaila forever, maybe even before her parents.
And just the thought of her parents dragged Kaila unwillingly back to the moment she had discovered their bodies, inert and motionless in their shared bed, the ties that they had been strangled with still wrapped around their necks. She had remembered staring at those very ties, both of which had belonged to her father. One was a blue and yellow paisley print with hints of red and purple. To Kaila’s mind the tie had always reminded her of a peacocks tail, brilliant and showy; it had been her favorite of her father’s collection. Kaila’s second favorite tie, a Christmas themed one with an image of Frosty the Snowman, with a black hat and eyes and a red scarf around his neck, was the very one that had been used to snuff out her mother’s life.
Kaila snapped out of her reverie to find that she was already sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a filled tray of food resting in front of her. The plates had been laden with all her despised foods, lima beans, broccoli and what she was certain was cow liver, heaped with mounds of caramelized onions; the disgusting fare had Trillian’s name written all over it. Kaila was surprised that Trillian was already retaliating for having been shoved to the side, it was much sooner than she might have predicted.
The food debacle had perturbed her enough that she almost threatened Trillian with another stint in the White Room if she didn’t cease and desist. A molecule of understanding at Trillian’s frustration made Kaila reconsider the threat, not to mention that she was loath to returning to the space that felt like a soul-sucking vortex. In truth, it took Kaila a week at minimum to fully recover from the experience.
Kaila glanced down at her tray again. She tried to determine if there was anything that was edible. After a quick perusal she came to the conclusion that there was nothing on the plates that would ever pass through her lips without her heaving and retching shortly after.
“What the hell do you have there?” Pauline said, letting her tray, that held a single chocolate pudding cup and an apple, fall with a bang next to Kaila. Kaila shook her head as if the movement would explain it all. But gauging by the questioning expression etched on Pauline’s face, it had not.
“Trillian,” Kaila said with a shrug.
Pauline dragged out a plastic and metal chair then sat without comment. She cast her eyes across Kaila’s tray, studying the contents. After a few beats, she plucked up the plate of liver and onions, added a few scoops of lima beans to it then laid it on her own tray.
“Gotta love me some liver,” she said with a half-smile.
Kaila literally shuddered at the comment. A few years back, in her quest to give all foreign foods a try she had decided to partake of the fried liver. The smell that had wafted out of the cafeteria kitchen had been divinely beefy and quite appealing when mingled with the aroma of fried onions. Up until that day onions cooked any way at all had been amongst her favorite delicacies. Onions were prized not only for their succulent flavor, but also their versatility, being the basis of many savory dishes.
In retrospect, Kaila had to deem beef liver a chameleon of the culinary, making the diner believe by smell and visual alone that it was in fact like all other beef. Based on the aroma it should have tasted like the finest steak, yet in reality the meat was not only disgusting to the palate but the texture of it was chalky. With a few chews it had quickly dissolved into a thick paste that bore no similarity to beef of any kind.
Without a word to Pauline, Kaila extricated her body from her seat. She dumped her tray and its uneaten contents on the tray racks where used dinner trays went. Kaila lined up for what would be her second trip down the food line, though she hadn’t remembered her first.
This time she loaded her plate with Shepherds pie that boasted tender chunks of beef, green peas, corn and coins of carrots, all drenched in a thick gravy that was topped by creamy mashed potatoes. For dessert, she picked a double chocolate chip cookie, counting herself lucky for having managed to swipe one before the cache was depleted. Before she could make her way back to Pauline, Derrick had stepped into Kaila’s path. Her eyes bore a straight path to the purplish and yellow, near perfect impressions of her hands around his throat.
“Can we talk?” he asked.
Kaila noticed the new huskiness in his voice, a direct result of her actions. She also noticed something else too, his usual bravado seemed to have vacated the premises, he almost sounded humble. His muted ego wasn’t near enough for Kaila to forgive him for his most recent slight. To her mind there was nothing he could say that would ever be cause for her to talk to him ever again.
She bumped past him, intentionally driving her shoulder against his. She had used enough force that it should have knocked him over. To her utter disbelief he actually managed to stay erect. She heard, rather than saw, his cast bumping the floor beneath him as he hurried to catch up with her. Kaila was already sitting in her seat, fork ready to dive into her lunch, when Derrick arrived at her table a little out of breath from his efforts.
“What do you want?” Pauline asked, puffing up like a robin fighting for its territory.
“I want to talk to Kaila.”
Derrick slipped into the chair across from the two girls. He kept his focus on Kaila. Kaila was more than adept at ignoring people and was soon too entrenched in her meal to care or even notice what Derrick was rambling on about. It was only when he had grabbed her free hand, holding on for a fraction of a second before releasing her, that she was brought back to the present moment.
“Haven’t you got it through your thick skull yet Derrick, she’s not into you, so fuck off and leave her alone,” Pauline said. She glared at Derrick with unfiltered venom.
Kaila sat silently, witnessing the stare down between someone she despised and someone that was part of her. Pauline was like the hair on Kaila’s head that was ignored most of the time until it needed to be washed, or combed or whatever, but it was something that you would feel naked without. Pauline was the only person besides Norm who had that particular distinction.
“I’m not messing with her, I just want to talk about all that stuff she said when…”
His voice trailed off. He cast his eyes around the cafeteria as if searching for the right words to convey his feelings.
“Before she had her seizure that day,” he added, after an extended pause.
Kaila continued to spoon Shepherds pie into her mouth as though he hadn’t spoken at all. Even if she had wanted to talk to him about what she had said, she couldn’t have, because when Trillian was in control, Kaila went away somewhere else. And even if she wasn’t completely away, she usually didn’t remember what had transpired. Or at least that was normally the case; oddly this time she had actually recalled most of what Trillian had spewed out, though she wasn’t ready to rehash it with Derrick of all people. He had had his opportunity and had made a mockery of her; there would be no second chance.
The silence lengthened between the three of them, Pauline continued tossing dirty looks at Derrick and Kaila enjoyed her meal, her hunger was slowly satisfied.
“Idohave predictive skills, I was just being an asshole before,” Derrick said suddenly.
He splayed his fingers out onto the table in front of him, leaning in a little closer as though imparting a deep secret. Kaila chewed on her most recent bite of food, mashing the sinewy meat between her teeth. She tilted her head to the side intrigued, still, she wasn’t sure if his words were authentic or a ploy to once again make a fool of her.
“How do you mean?” she asked, curiosity made quick work of her determination to ignore Derrick for the rest of her living days. At this he almost seemed bashful, like he wasn’t certain if he should continue. Real or contrived, the shift in his behavior drew her in.
“A few times, I knew things were going to happen before they did…”
“What things?” Kaila said. Her filled fork was frozen midway to her mouth.
“Don’t feed her your bullshit Derrick, this matters to her. So help me, if you fuck with her again…”
Pauline shook her hand-model fist in Derrick’s direction. He ignored her, rubbing at the fine stubble on his chin.
“Like when a friend of mine died.”
He paused as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go on. Even Pauline grew silent. Her hand relaxed as she stared at him with rapt interest.
Derrick’s stiff shouldered attempt at a shrug revealed that he was indeed shaken by what he was about to divulge.
“I had a dream about this guy that I’d known since grade school, his name was Scott… the night before he died I had this weird dream where he was drowning and…” He shook his head, all the color had drained from his face, leaving him looking sheet white. His dark stubble seemed the only color on his face.
“I wasn’t there when he got drunk and decided to go for a ride in a canoe with a couple of other guys, otherwise I might have stopped him you know. Not like I actually believed that the dream was real. I would have stopped him because going out in deep water in the middle of the night was just plain dangerous and a lot dumb.”
“So he died like you dreamt?”
Pauline spoke this time; clearly Derrick had broken down her defenses.
Derrick nodded. “And if it had been only the one time I might have blown it off, but it happened again, a few years later to another guy I knew. This time I dreamed that he was suffocating. It was so real that I remember waking up and struggling to breathe. But more than that was how cold I felt. It was so bad that I had to get up and take a hot shower. I couldn’t seem to get warm. A week later he got drunk at a party and fell asleep in a snow bank on the way to his house. A snow plow operator found him frozen to death the next morning.”
“That’s seriously fucked up,” Pauline said, releasing a long exhale.
The force of it made a stray piece of her hair fly up for a second before it came to rest on her forehead.
Derrick clasped his trembling hands together and nodded.
“Tell me about it. What’s worse is that over the years the dreams have increased. Now it’s not just people I know, it’s people who are virtual strangers…before all this happened I was all about science and everything that happened could be explained you know, but this…”
He shook his head. If it was even possible he went even more ashen.
Though Kaila had been thoroughly engrossed in his words, his last statement had her mind aflutter with possibilities and questions.
“Are you saying that you believe that not everything can be explained with science?” she said, her gaze locked on Derrick with an intensity unparalleled.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying, and I feel crazy just saying it but I think it’s true.”
Kaila shook her head. “If you’re in here then you are crazy, but that’s not the point now is it? There is a definite line between being crazy and reading the clues, and it sounds like you read the clues that you were given. If that’s the case why would it be crazy and moreover what is wrong with crazy? Those that call us crazy are the ones who live a life attached to a piece of paper called money. Now that in my opinion, is the true definition of crazy. What you are describing is not.”
Derrick leaned against the plastic back of the chair. A little of the tension that had tightened his jaw a few minutes before had released. He looked vulnerable.
“I was a dick when you asked me about predicting because…”
He shrugged. “I guess I’ve been keeping it a secret for so long I didn’t know how to let it all out.”
“Do you think it’s because you’re a genius? Like more of your brain works and you can get more information from the universe. I read this thing once that said that all the answers that we need are all around us, but only some people can somehow pull the answers out,” Pauline said.
All remnants of anger had drained away after Derrick’s candid admission.
“I don’t know, half of the reason that I went into medicine was so I could try to figure it out, because I need to understand why I know stuff that I have no reason knowing and…”
“Einstein was supposed to be clairvoyant,” Kaila said.
Derrick cocked his head to the side, angling his eyes at Kaila in a way that said that he was interested.
"That's not exactly true, I know there are theories that he had some sort of extra abilities, hell even his brain was supposed to be abnormally large, but to believe that he was actually clairvoyant is a little fanciful."
Kaila’s spine stiffened. Hadn't she just thought the exact same word not long before? The idea that Derrick had randomly chosen to use that exact word to describe something not of science was most definitely unexpected. She leaned in closer to him, an act that was completely out of character for her.
Derrick shoved back against his chair, lengthening the distance between he and Kaila. He released an exaggerated sigh then skimmed his fingers through his spiky hair. The slim muscle of his bicep flexed with the move. He scratched his chin introspectively before he spoke again.
“I’m no Einstein, but I’d have to have rocks in my head not to be interested in him. I honestly didn’t care that much about him until I joined this dumbass group or club, whatever you want to call it, when I was like twelve. My parents thought it would help me assimilate with people, you know socialize with other geniuses. It was completely lame, a bunch of losers who had no idea about socializing at all, they were all pulled in tight and most definitely fucked up. The one bonus that came from the group though was that they practically worshiped Einstein, and not just for his science they were interested in the whole thing, about where his theories came from. There are a ton of geniuses out there, but most of them don’t actually come up with things like he did. It was uncanny how he just knew shit.
Anyway these assholes were almost like a cult in their obsession with every paper he wrote and every interview he gave, pretty much every single piece of information about him had them salivating. It was overkill, but it made me want to take a closer look… so I delved in, filled my mind with every detail of his work and theories and not the Theory of Relativity, I was more about why his brain functioned like it did. I wondered if like me, he had access to something that others didn’t, if his brain was more evolved, more electrons firing, picking up on energy waves… I don’t know.”
He shrugged as if everything he had just said was of no consequence.
Kaila pressed her breasts against the cafeteria table, drawn to Derrick in a way that she had never been drawn to another. Even Trillian was intrigued by him. They both knew there was so much more to him then what he allowed them to see.
“I’m out of here,” he said, getting to his feet.
And just like that he was all slick and evasive, as if he had been cloaked in a shroud of invisibility and had allowed a corner to flip up; just enough for Kaila to catch a glimpse of what was underneath. His shiny smile and smug expression said he didn’t give two shits, only Kaila now knew he did. And that thought alone was enough to hold her attention.
Like Norm, without even trying, Derrick had landed squarely on her radar; she would be watching him. Like a frog that needed to be dissected, Kaila was determined to uncover Derrick. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, only that now she was looking.
“And within the depths of every living soul is a magic, that which we can not perceive, but is there all the same. A place of knowing and being, that says we are in that space and time, where all that we think beyond us is in fact there in front of us, within our grasp. A message from the universe that says we are here, and in our hereness we make a choice that we can, or cannot, be something that we dream.
And the question I ask you dear reader is this, why are there those that can, and do, achieve that which seems unachievable, yet there are those that seem to contain all the tools that the prior possesses, yet they do not go to that level of being, where they connect with their highest dreams, their highest potential, and never find what the real world terms as success. How can two individuals, virtual twins in abilities, be so very different? Is it because one masquerades as though the dream has already become real, believing that they in fact, are everything they state they are? And does the other refuse to don that mask of that imagined reality, and therefore have not visualized that specific goal as being close at hand, but instead, far away. They do not think that it is merely waiting to be plucked from the cosmos at their discretion.
Are one or both paths set in stone? Does the vein of fate work through ones life, determining the path that a soul will tread, or is it pure will, a pushing, a decision to have that which they most desire. And here I must state what I believe to be true. I am sure that there will be those who feel me bereft of sense, but that matters little for I believe that some goals must be strode toward, a prize must be visualized, and must walk hand in hand with a knowing deep within your being that says that this belongs to you. Yet there are others, people who do all in their power, seemingly more than the former, as they reach and pull and pluck at that unyielding fruit, that thing that encompasses their very meaning in this world, in this existence. And after they have tried and failed more times than they can decipher, they finally loosen the grip on that reality, that moment that they felt would make them whole, and when they do, they see the error of their ways. They see that the dream that they had envisioned for themselves was too small, a drop in a colossal bucket that might contain a fullness that would never have been achieved unless they had released their hold. Unless they had allowed those sweaty fingers to release their grip on a reality so much less than they were intended to have. Because it is in the letting go that the true rewards return, showering around them in an explosion of truth and understanding. They would soon see that if in fact they had achieved the lesser, the greater would never have materialized, that without a slip, they would never have learned how to walk that icy slope that led to the peak of the mountain, where everything they had never dreamed, believing it was too lofty for them to manifest, was always theirs to own. Trillian.”
Kaila tapped the last words, satisfied that Trillian had actually finished her rant. If she was being honest, half the time Kaila didn’t actually understand even a quarter of what Trillian had written but at least knew when it was finished. It was true that she comprehended bits and pieces, slips of information that most people would glean with little effort, but not much more than that, not the depths of the meaning. Most days though, she felt as if she were merely a conduit, a physical being that connected Trillian to the outside world.
Sometimes, Kaila wondered if Trillian would tire of her and move on to another person; find someone more suitable to write what Trillian termed Musings of the Universe. Even the title that Trillian had chosen seemed so much more scholarly than Kaila felt, and it made it all the more odd that Trillian had chosen her at all.
Derrick’s image floated unbidden into her mind. Kaila couldn’t help but think how much more suitable Derrick would have been to satisfy Trillian’s desires. If she someday decided to share the writings with him, Kaila believed that Derrick would most likely have been able to decode the meaning with ease.
The frustration she felt about what she now thought of as her stupidity and daftness, was new. When it came to her mind and her intelligence, Kaila had never felt less than. In her twenty-five years she had probably read and studied more information than the average person would have in a lifetime. Being locked away in Wildwind had given her a definite advantage over the regular population, who had to slog away at a job that sucked hours of their life away, in their quest to provide and survive.
Kaila had never had to worry about the necessities of life, never had to concern herself with money, what it could buy and how much she needed to live her life because all of that had been provided. She understood the monetary system and its importance but in truth had never really given much credence to the process of making a dollar. Having everything provided for her was a gift in a way, but also a curse. Despite never having to be concerned about how things were paid for, she had lost something that most people that weren’t her took for granted, she had lost her freedom.
For as long as she could remember she had been locked away in Wildwind, and though she like to imagine that she could come and go as she pleased, run in sweet scented meadows, marvel at the world that was constantly breathing and creating all around her, it wasn’t true. She was a prisoner like every other patient in the facility; the fence that enclosed the grounds confirmed that. And though there were those who would eventually be released back into the real world, Kaila would not.
There were so many things that she would never have and do, and on Blue days, days when a thick curtain of black seemed to slide down over her, cupping her in an envelope of sadness, she grieved. She mourned for the man she would never marry, the house she would never own, and the child she would never bear. Thankfully for Kaila though, Blue days were sporadic and fleeting. But when they did come, it was difficult to see anything good in existence, as if the powers that be had wasted their time the day they had created her, as if her whole being was one huge mistake.
On those days Blue wasn’t just a little it was everything, where the colors dimmed to grey and the smells became fainter, where everything that she imagined to be her life became a dream that had never truly come into reality. Today was a Blue day, one that she found relief in disappearing away from. It was easy to allow Trillian to take control, but oddly on those days when she felt her worst, when she was more than willing to float into oblivion, Trillian grew elusive, hesitant to come forward.
Kaila could feel Trillian’s skittishness, like a spooked animal scared to come into the light in the event that something horrible happened to it. For this very reason Kaila hadn’t wasted any time reading comments and had gotten right to blogging. Trillian had been hyper-efficient; zipping in only long enough to write her piece then had slipped away as rapidly. Kaila was left feeling almost gypped.
Based on the fact that no one had arrived yet to clean the games room, Kaila knew she had more time left. She didn’t care about much at that moment but being a creature of habit, she adhered to her routines. That meant that she had some time left before she went to the next part of the day.
Hoping to waste some time, she sifted through the smattering of new comments, reading some, floating over others until her eyes came to rest on yet another infinity symbol. Despite not feeling very interested in much of anything, her heart leapt at seeing it. What was even more exciting, that gave her a jolt of happiness that was close to enough to zap her out of her Blue mood, were the words typed beside the symbol. There were only a few, but somehow the simplicity meant more than if someone had typed several pages of text.
“It is in the unfolding that we know the truth ∞”
Kaila studied the line, counting each word, reading the sentence aloud a few times. She wondered ifInfinity,as she now called this person, had realized that the sentence had been exactly ten words long. And that if she added the symbol, counting it as a word, then it would equate to eleven which in numerology standards was a Master number, meaning it couldn’t be reduced to one number. She wanted to believe that this person had known that, and had calculated everything just exactly so. But despite being thrilled to have more from Infinity, it still wasn’t enough. She had always loved to solve puzzles. In her mind this was just another puzzle, one unfortunately that had several pieces missing.
It was then that she spotted the single strand of her wavy hair that had made its way to the light wood table that she had been working on. She gasped, staring at what could only be described as fascinating, because for some unknown reason that individual strand had twisted in on itself into the squiggly shape of an infinity symbol. One more time a symbol that had never crossed her path prior had appeared unbidden to her.
The scientific part of her knew that she might have been reading more into the symbol than was actually there. Had, in fact, the symbol for infinity been all around her well before she had taken notice? Had she been walking casually by this particular message every day oblivious to it, too bent on keeping to her routine, or had it never been there before now? Even so, she wondered if there was something important that the universe was attempting to convey to her at that very moment.
She had no idea which scenario best fit the circumstances, only that she would not allow any clues, no matter how minute they might seem, to slip through her fingers. She was now on high alert, until she wasn’t. She loved a mystery and until it was proven to be otherwise, she was going to treat it as such.
Kaila felt, more than saw, that someone had entered the games room. It was a cue that her time was up. She snapped her computer shut, stood and spun to face who she expected was Belinda, but who actually turned out to be Derrick. He had been too engrossed in the thick stacks of paper that he was busily flipping through, as he hobbled forward on his walking cast that he hadn’t seemed to notice that she was even there. Kaila noted that he had changed from before. His hair was spiked and gelled with care, his maroon t-shirt clean and wrinkle free, a pair of dark blue jeans, crisp and freshly washed, finished his look.
Kaila had to admit that Derrick was one of the few patients in Wildwind who actually seemed to care about his appearance. It was true that Pauline was usually dressed stylishly with make-up and the trimmings, but even she had her off days. Those days she loped around in too-baggy clothing, foundation and mascara free with her hair in desperate need of a brush. Derrick’s need to be dolled up in a place like Wildwind seemed odd to Kaila. Since she had no real experience outside of the facility, she reasoned that this over-concerned desire to be exactly so might be commonplace in the outside world.
A cloud of spicy cologne wafted toward her and she instinctively plugged her nose, a feat that she was capable of achieving by somehow blocking her nasal passages without even having to touch her nose. Kaila despised anything that smelled too much. In her opinion the scent of too much aftershave, was just as unsavory as the stench of week old garbage that had been baking in the sun.
“What are you reading?” she asked, keenly interested in what Derrick might find so interesting that he would fail to even notice her in his midst.
Derrick’s head popped up. He appeared startled and was rapidly tucking the papers under his arm, as if worried that Kaila might discover one of his deepest secrets. This act made her interest fully bloom.
“Nothing,” he said abruptly.
His tone indicated that Kaila wasn’t permitted to ask any further questions. Instead of taking it as a warning, Kaila read his discomfort as an invitation. Mysteries were like a juicy worm dangling in front of a famished fish, irresistible. She narrowed her eyes in a suspicious stare that relayed unambiguously, that she wasn’t even close to drawing back from this query.
“What is written on the papers under your arm?” she said, posing a question that was much more difficult to squirm away from.
“Words,” Derrick said with a smirk.
Kaila’s breath caught at his quick uptake. How easily he had fallen into stride with her, answering, yet not.
“And what subject would those words detail?” Kaila said, exhilaration running through her as she took up the gauntlet that Derrick had tossed her way.
“Ahh, now thatisa question,” Derrick said.
His smile was wide and easy like a person who hadn’t a care in the world, though Kaila knew that wasn’t in the least bit true. Derrick had many cares; it was why he was a patient at Wildwind. It was why most people came to Wildwind; it was in the caring that the hurting came.
She had seen it too many times not to notice. All patients came in for different reasons, but despite the multitude of labels that were given to patients, the underlying reason was all the same, caring. People cared about what others thought about them, or didn’t think about them. They cared about how they looked, if they were too fat, too skinny, ugly or not brilliant, it was in the caring about what the mass populace thought about you that set people crazy.
Kaila had figured out this gem of information many years ago, but it had seemed that the staff and doctors that ran the place weren’t privy to this same truths, nor the simplicity of them. She expected it was because they had too many books written by people who were authorities on so many matters. These authors had done all the legwork and research, so the doctors who came after didn’t need to think much, only to read what was already a known fact. Kaila didn’t agree with this sentiment. In her estimation this absolute trust in a person you had never before met, who might not even still be alive, might have been flawed.
She admittedly perused the Internet and every book and text that she could get her fingers on. She buried herself in the words of others, absorbing, assimilating, sorting and discarding most of the time, but not always. Sometimes, she just sat and was silent, and it seemed that it was in these times that even more insights came. Of course this was the very same time that Trillian took over, but that was the way it was. Though Kaila knew that she too had succumbed to the caring flaw, she had been too young to remember exactly what she had been bothered about. What had driven her to do the things she and Trillian were accused of, things that she had only snippets of memory of doing? It was just one more mystery that Kaila wanted to solve some day.
“Secrets are not welcome in Wildwind,” Kaila said abruptly.
She felt a sudden surge of irritation turn on, full force.
The transition had been so rapid that even she was surprised. It made her wonder if Trillian was behind this shift. No one hated secrets more than Trillian. Trillian’s abhorrence was a study in contrasts since she was the master of secrets, never revealing all the interesting facts and details that she had lodged in her being. If Kaila was being honest she was marginally embarrassed by the surly tone of her voice that she now wanted to blame on Trillian. For some reason Kaila liked Derrick, much more than she should have.
Derrick shrugged, clearly unaware of the internal battle raging within Kaila. If she had entertained the notion before, now she was certain, Trillian was pissed at Derrick, in fact she didn’t much like him at all; Trillian didn’t trust him.
Kaila made a concerted effort to shove down Trillian, tuck her back into the recesses of her mind where she couldn’t make rude comments to people that Kaila wanted to talk to.
“I’m sure you have secrets too. Sometimes the secrets we keep are the only threads of reality that keep us together, and if we let people know the truths, it would snip all the lines and then we would fall apart. And all that was inside would be outside.”
Kaila cocked her head, unsure of exactly what Derrick had meant. She knew Trillian would have understood the meaning of his words. But she was by no means willing to allow Trillian to have control, especially when her rancor for Derrick had made the blood in her veins thrum like a torrent.
“You talk weird,” Kaila said, hitching her computer under her armpit.
Derrick appeared distinctly rankled by Kaila’s offhand remark, as if she had somehow affronted him. She didn’t much care if she had, people who reacted unfavorably to her words were of no concern to her. Whatwasof interest was why in fact he was acting that way.
Derrick shifted his stance hastily, drawing back from Kaila without actually taking a single step away. Kaila knew that Derrick was in Wildwind because he was crazy, just like all the other patients, but she had to admit that he was quite good at hiding his peculiarity from people. They stood locked in place, an unsaid stare-down ensued until Derrick finally turned around and started for the door. For some reason Kaila wanted Derrick to stay, wanted to pick through his brain. She was certain his mind held many oddities, but also interesting facts.
“Please, don’t leave. I promise not to pry,” Kaila hollered after him.
He had already reached the door. She saw him pause, but moments later he continued on, walking until he was out of sight; the only remnant of his presence was the smell of his cologne. What was more surprising than Derrick’s unceremonious exit was Kaila’s disappointment at what felt like a loss. And though she had never gauged her behavior before in her life, that exact thought suddenly popped into her mind. A voice that wasn’t Trillian’s said that Derrick held so many answers to the bevy of questions that floated perpetually around in her brain.
Norm had meant something to her, but Derrick meant something completely different. Without trying, or at least it hadn’t seemed like he had been trying, Derrick had become an enigma that Kaila had to study, to discover what made him tick. If she hadn’t been fully convinced before, she was now. Derrick would be her mission, a lock that needed to be picked; she wasn’t going to give up until she had discovered all his secrets.
“They caught Derrick with a laptop in the storage room. He was trying to hack into the Wildwind computer files,” Janelle said.
Janelle was reclined on Pauline’s bed; her ample form occupied all the space available, leaving Pauline to perch on the tiny corner at the foot of the bed.
“Who told you that?” Pauline asked. She glided a hand along the curve of Janelle’s thigh in what Kaila recognized as a seductive way. Kaila was aware that the two girls did things, sex things, like what she had watched online, where girls found what appeared to be ingenious ways to pleasure one another, despite no penis being involved.
Sex and all it entailed hadn’t been something that had touched Kaila’s radar, until it had. When she was around twenty-two her interest had peaked, after she had walked in on an old roommate having sex in the bed adjacent to Kaila’s. Danicka, who liked to call herself Petal, had opened Kaila’s eyes on the whole matter.
The guy having sex with Danicka was a skinny cleaner named Sean, with cystic acne that even peppered his white buttocks. The two had been too immersed in the sex act to realize that Kaila had moved into the vicinity. She had studied the backside of Sean, his behind moving rapidly, slapping so hard between Danicka’s spread legs that the noise of smacking flesh had drowned out all other sounds in the atmosphere. She had been amazed at how the sac of Sean’s scrotum seemed stretched and loose, and had hit against the lower part of Danicka’s vagina like a wet rag. Kaila had wondered if it felt like a half-filled water balloon that she and the other residents sometimes played with on hot days. Sean’s face had been red, his cheeks puffed in pain or pleasure, Kaila wasn’t sure which.
Kaila had seen Danicka’s breasts before, since Danicka had never seemed to care who was around when she stripped naked. But now, even that part of her anatomy had changed, the nipples were drawn up into taut peaks, everything swollen. Danicka’s face was just as flushed as Sean’s had been, her eyes half-closed, an expression of satisfaction colored her face. On and on the steam engine chugged. To Kaila it was like watching an episode of National Geographic, only this show had humans doing things that she had only seen animals do, prior to then.
Kaila could have watched the two forever, studying every nuance and shift of their bodies and listened to the groans and the steady squeak of the mattress. Unfortunately it all came to a halting conclusion when Danicka’s huge brown eyes had spotted Kaila, standing just a few feet away. As soon as Danicka had realized that they weren’t alone, her gloss-slicked lips formed a pout, her brow furrowed and all the pleasure that had marked her expression seconds before vanished. Absolute panic ensued.
Danicka began pounding Sean’s naked shoulder with a red nailed fist, urging him to stop. It seemed to take forever for Sean to receive the message, as he continued to move like a mad man, thrusting in a steady rhythm, as if any thoughts apart from pumping were impossible. Then he went stiff, his whole body jerking like a live wire was electrocuting him. Only then did he seem to get his bearings and understand the message that Danicka had been so adamant to give him; they were no longer alone. Kaila hadn’t thought his already flushed face could have become any more rouge, but it had, even his neck looked like it had been dipped into scalding water.
Kaila refused to turn away. She had needed to see his penis since she had never seen such a thing in real, and most definitely not one that had just been performing sex. Her eyes were literally glued to the main connection point. Danicka’s orders to look away, her attempts to shame Kaila into averting her stare hadn’t worked. Danicka hadn’t understood that Kaila didn’t feel shame about anything she did, because everything Kaila did had a reason, a justification.
Finally, Sean had slid his penis out and Kaila had eyed it with interest. It was roughly five inches in length, with a condom pulled like a tube sock right up to the thick bush of his pubic hair. Kaila watched as the condom began to wrinkle around his partially swollen member that was rapidly deflating. The fluid that had gathered at the tip, milky and white, hadn’t dodged her keen eyes, and the sight of it had Kaila practically exploding with glee that she had just witnessed a man ejaculate in real. She had clapped her hands together enthusiastically, as if she had just watched an applause worthy event, which in her opinion it absolutely had been.
“You’re completely fucked in the head,” Danicka had said, spinning her finger in a circle at the side of her head…
“Kaila?” Pauline’s voice broke through, shuttling her back to the moment.
She wasn’t sure how long she had been away only that Janelle was now sitting on the side of the bed next to Pauline. Both of them stared at her with concerned expressions.
“I don’t understand why it’s not okay to have sex with someone who’s the same sex as you,” Kaila said, completely shifting the conversation away from Derrick and his hacking.
Pauline’s brow wrinkled as if she hadn’t quite understood Kaila’s bold statement.
“Who said it’s not okay?” Pauline said.
There was acid in her tone, something that Kaila didn’t often hear in her roommate’s voice.
“People say it. I’ve read things, petitions, people saying that being gay is a sin and wrong…”
This exact concept had baffled Kaila for quite a long time, but she had never asked anyone about it. She wasn’t sure why people believed it to be true, or even why it was important to talk about it right at that moment, but somehow it was. Kaila needed someone else to shine a light on a notion that had never made sense to her; it was one more puzzle to be solved.
She had done all she could to find the truth and the answers as to why, but had come up short. In her research as well as observing women, Kaila had watched men together and was surprised at their ability to enjoy themselves, just as much as they seemed to when a woman was involved. If people worried that the couple couldn’t enjoy having sex, and that was the reason it was considered wrong, then they just needed to watch some of the movies to see for themselves.
She had also mused that it might have been a love thing, but that hadn’t seemed to solve her quandary. Kaila knew from personal experience with her feelings for Norm, or whatever had grown within her, that sometimes you just started caring about someone without even trying. And even if other people didn’t exactly understand or condone what you felt, you didn’t feel it any less. Wasn’t there a saying about you not choosing love and love choosing you?
Still, she wasn’t quite sure if what she had felt for Norm, still felt now, despite him being gone for what seemed like a very long time, was actually love, since she had no reference point. But if she counted the research she had done on that exact feeling, it might have been close. People described love as making your heart beat faster when you saw that special person, in fact sometimes just the thought of Norm was enough to make Kaila’s heart hammer her ribs like a jackhammer. And it seemed that now that he was gone, her reaction to the memory of their almost sex in the storage closet made her want more than anything in the universe, to go back in time and finish what they had never had a chance to complete. To hold him against her bare flesh, to feel that same sensation.
Kaila shifted her gaze from Pauline, to Janelle, then back.
“You and Janelle have sex with each other, and I know that you do those things because you love, or at least like each other, so why would that be wrong?” Kaila asked, folding her arms across her breasts.
“It’s not wrong…or least it’s not wrong to me.”
Kaila heard the quaver in Pauline’s voice before her eyes clouded with tears. She knew that her words had upset Pauline, but her need for an answer seemed more important than Pauline’s emotions. Tears would dry up, but the opportunity to have something that felt extremely important explained felt more urgent. Janelle wrapped her meaty arm around Pauline, drawing her closer until her silky head was positioned in the crook of Janelle’s neck.
“Why are you torturing her Kaila?”
Janelle’s voice was low and carried an unspoken warning for Kaila to shut up. Janelle’s chagrin did nothing to make Kaila feel sympathetic toward Pauline, or her inability to accept that she loved women not men. In fact it was just the opposite, because it was like denying your skin was the color it was, who you loved or didn’t love seemed innate, not planned.
Trillian had whispered a truth to Kaila the last time Pauline had admitted her love for women, a truth that Kaila refused to give any thought too but suddenly made sense; Pauline was one of those people that believed being gay was wrong. Trillian had told Kaila that it was this very idea that had left Pauline feeling less than, believing that suicide was her only option in a world that didn’t accept that it was okay to love someone that had the same anatomical structure as she did. Trillian had urged Kaila to convey her messages, because just like Kaila could predict, so too could Trillian. Much like Derrick’s ability to see a death that was going to happen, Trillian could see things too. She knew that Pauline was going to try again and again until she succeeded, or until she accepted her truth; that she hated herself for being different, enough so that she wanted to die.
“I’m not torturing her, I want to know why she thinks it’s wrong to love a woman, why is it wrong, why is it wrong, why is it wrong?”
Kaila’s voice had risen in cadence, until she was screaming the question that was now wrapped tight in fury. She, and Trillian too, needed Pauline to answer them, give them a reason for her self-hatred.
More tears flooded Pauline’s eyes, falling in heavy drops down her pale cheeks, taking her mascara and all the eye makeup that she had applied so carefully with the salty water. But instead of crumpling into a ball of tears and snot, she pulled out of Janelle’s grasp and leapt to her feet. She loomed over Kaila as if she intended to hit her.
“Because it is, it just is…” Pauline bellowed so loudly that Kaila was certain that the Wildwind staff would soon be joining them in the room. Her body was stiff with anger, like a twig that had been bent to its limit and was ready to snap in half; Pauline was ready to snap in half.
Then it came in a rush of power, so much so that Kaila felt as if she had been jolted with a stun gun, only she hadn’t, it was just Trillian waking up. But this Trillian wasn’t the understanding one that waited her turn to get what she wanted most, this was something more, a force that Kaila had no way of stopping.
Trillian’s will tugged Kaila to her feet, her erect body was now mere inches from Pauline. Even though Trillian was in absolute control, Kaila was present too, as if a passenger in a car that she was not driving, but she could still peer out the windows. Kaila was certain that she couldn’t stop Trillian even if she tried. In an unexpected move that left even Kaila stunned, Trillian reached for Pauline, cupping her large hands on the fine bones of Pauline’s face. Kaila felt the contact, waited for the spiders, hairy tarantulas, black widows anything that was lethal, to arrive, but there was none of that, just Pauline’s soft skin against the thick flesh of Kaila’s palms. Trillian held Pauline’s face as if she were handling something so fragile where even a touch might cause it to disintegrate.
“Love is never wrong,” Trillian said.
Then whatever string Trillian had used to control Kaila was snipped away, leaving her boneless. She collapsed and everything went black.
Derrick’s voice, panicked with a hint of irritation, brought Kaila out of the dark place she had been swept away to.
“If she keeps having these seizures she’s going to need to be evaluated. There’s something definitely wrong with her, something I have no idea how to fix…” Derrick said.
“You’re supposed to be a doctor aren’t you?”
Pauline’s voice was higher than normal and tempered with deep anxiety.
“I’m not a doctor yet, I was pre-med, not even close to the kind of doctor Kaila needs, she’s having seizures. She probably needs a CT scan at the very least, an MRI would be even better.”
Kaila’s eyes felt as if they had been super-glued together, she struggled to open them, while the bickering between Derrick and Pauline continued. She felt spider legs graze her forehead. It was the jolt she needed to pop her eyes wide. She noticed immediately that she was in her own bed and her head was propped up on several pillows so she was positioned in a sitting pose. Derrick and Pauline were too busy arguing to clue in that she had regained consciousness.
“I’m fine,” she croaked. She cleared her throat before she repeated. “I’m okay.”
Pauline and Derrick were so close that they were almost chest-to-chest. Pauline shook a slender finger in Derrick’s face, a mere half-inch away from his nose. He took a few steps back from her, widening the gap between them as if intimidated. Seeing Derrick cowed by Pauline made Kaila wonder why she, who had at least forty pounds on Pauline, didn’t seem to affect Derrick in the least. Witnessing this unexpected behavior only heightened Kaila’s confusion about how Derrick operated, this in effect made her interest in him grow by degrees.
“I’m fine,” Kaila shouted, loud enough so both Derrick and Pauline were silenced. Kaila noted that Janelle was nowhere to be seen. She hoped that didn’t mean that Janelle was off trying to convince a Wildwind staff member to check in on her.
Apprehension slid like a sharp blade down Kaila’s spine. The last thing she could deal with was yet another White Room stay. In her opinion, the White Room with its extreme quiet, blank décor and constant stream of medications, made her feel like a lab rat and a lot more unbalanced for having been inside.
“I’m fine,” she said.
She allowed her eyes to come to rest on Pauline, then Derrick. They wore twin expressions of relief for entirely different reasons.
“Good, I’m out of here,” Derrick said abruptly. Pauline gripped his arm, preventing him from getting very far away.
“Don’t tell anyone about this Derrick or so help me I’ll shank you in the shower.”
Derrick rolled his eyes in mock boredom, but it wasn’t enough to disguise that Pauline’s words had rattled him.
“Lose my name, number and everything you know about me. I’m not a fucking hero and I don’t want to be one either…”
He turned to leave. When he did, Kaila was sure that she had spotted her computer tucked under his armpit.
“Hey, that’s my computer,” Kaila said, but Derrick had already slipped out. His hurried footsteps were audible as he moved away from the room.
“What the hell is happening with you Kaila? Why are you fainting all the time? In all the time I’ve known you, you’ve never been someone who ever passed out, it’s just not your style…” Pauline said.
She briefly laid a hand on Kaila’s shoulder. Kaila shrugged out of Pauline’s touch, pushing up on her elbows. She realized that Pauline expected an answer, but she was too tensed up at the possibility that Derrick had taken her computer to respond. Pauline took a few steps back and plunked down on her bed. Her hair was unkempt, her eyes swollen and red, tracks of mascara spidered down her cheeks. It was obvious to Kaila that she had been crying for quite a while.
Kaila threw her legs over the edge of the bed in a flurry. She still felt disjointed and out of it, but the belief that Derrick had stolen her laptop was enough for her to ignore her human limitations. Now standing, she wobbled over to her dresser, tugging the drawer open. The emptiness that met her felt overwhelming; Derrickhadstolen her laptop. Kaila barreled out the door and down the long hallway, hollering Derrick’s name at the top of her lungs.
The loss she felt was immeasurable, as if someone had reached inside her and ripped out all her vital organs, leaving her hollow and dead, a zombie. And in that moment she knew she would kill Derrick for what he had done. She imagined her hands wrapped around his throat squeezing again, watching his eyes pop wide, his face mottle, only this time no one would stop her, and Derrick would cease to exist. A part of her would be sorry to see him go because she had been certain that he’d had secrets that might have shown her many things, secrets that could have unlocked even more secrets, like dominoes falling in succession.
“I’m going to murder you Derrick.”
Kaila’s voice bounced off the walls that surrounded her. She saw residents dart out of her path, making way for her as she pushed forward. Nothing would stop her this time. The book of life and death had turned a page and Derrick’s name was emblazoned in black ink. Kaila couldn’t see beyond the red mist of rage that propelled her forward, it took her a few minutes to feel the familiar hands grab her arms. And like a lab animal programed to hit a lever for a treat, Kaila went limp and waited for the inevitable pinch. As the drugs pulled her into oblivion, she conceded that Derrick had a reprieve, a stay of execution. But the White Room couldn’t hold her forever, and when they released her back into her world, Derrick would meet the fate that he deserved.
Kaila didn’t know how long she spent in the White Room only that eventually they let her out to another room that wasn’t hers. There were doctors there in crisp lab coats that wanted her to talk, to pick her brain for information about things she refused to tell.
A part of her knew that if she let them see inside her mind, at the jangle of thoughts that resided in the dark recesses of her brain, they would never let her out. So, like a person who had been frozen in suspended animation, she became a pill-taking automaton, who smiled even when she didn’t want to. She agreed to do what they urged, silently believing that they were all a bunch of fools. And they poked and prodded, scanned her brain with machines, as if they were searching for something.
When they finally did see what they had been looking for, they told her that they had found something inside her head, they called it a tumor, Kaila called it Trillian. They had explained how this tumor was the cause for her blackouts and seizures. Both Kaila and Trillian knew what they did to tumors, cut them out, and for a little while Trillian was scared that they would slice her away.
So when they had told Kaila that the tumor resided in a part of her brain that was near impossible to reach, Trillian was over the moon with relief. In truth, Kaila was pleased too, since she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go on living without Trillian. Still, the doctors said that there would be arrangements for other kinds of treatments, things that would shrink Trillian from the size of a clementine to a walnut; Kaila had refused their so-called help. But even she knew that eventually they would find a way to force her hand, until then she waited.
Kaila hadn’t had any idea about when she would exit the Next Room as she called it, because it came after the White Room, until the day they told her that she could return to her habitat. With the routines of her day snatched from her grasp she had no gauge on exactly how much time had passed in her absence. The days bled into one another, like wet ink on a page, but she knew that this excursion had been by far her longest. She judged this by how much her hair had grown, about half an inch in her estimation. She had also counted three nail trims. She normally did her own nail clipping, but things were different in the Next Room. Lest she try to hurt herself or another with the baby-sized nail clippers that they used to clip her nails, the staff completed the task.
There were other signs too, signs that the world was going on without her, signs that she was losing blocks of time that could never be replaced. She did everything in her will to ignore these signs, because acknowledging that she was locked away like an animal in a zoo was too painful.
When they finally allowed Kaila to return to her room, she stopped several times along the way. The orderly in charge of her sighed at every pause. After an eternity of white and bland she needed to see color. It felt as though she had been pulled from a pit of too much white. When she gazed out onto the Wildwind property she noted that the tree buds had broken into petite leaves, bright green in their newness. Birds that wintered in the South had returned. Red-breasted robins, turquoise Indigo Buntings and crimson Cardinals pecked at the soggy ground in the early morning, searching for worms and wild flower seeds. Though she couldn’t smell the outside air in the confines of her prison, she imagined the earthy scent of it, mingled with sunshine and a clean that needed to be experienced to be understood.
“Come on Kaila, time to go to your room.”
The orderly who had been escorting her back to her room was unfamiliar. He had eyes that were so dark brown that they appeared black, and skin that was the color of a new potato. He was short and stocky and seemed more suited to being a lumberjack than working in Wildwind. His head was shaved bald, but a shadow of black on his scalp outlined where his hair would be if he allowed it to grow out. Kaila had no idea how old he was only that he was somewhere in between young and middle-aged.
She was too enthralled in her view of the outside world to be swayed by his words.
Ignoring him for a few more minutes was acceptable, but she knew that any longer than that would have labeled her as uncooperative. It was the absolute last label she wanted when she was so soon out of the Next Room.
She continued down the hall, appreciating how even the air outside the Next Room smelled different. It was familiar in its odor, blending cleaning products and the food that the cafeteria was serving for that day. Usually she would have known what would be on the menu for every day of the week, but her extended stay had left her out of sync with the regularity of Wildwind; she was determined to remedy that problem.
When they approached her room, the knowledge that she would soon be back in her own space again made her pace quicken. In several long strides she had closed the distance between her and the tarnished knob of the paneled door. Kaila clutched the knob in her grasp, feeling the coolness against her palm. She turned the knob and the door swung wide with an audible squeak that was comforting in its familiarity. Unfortunately the squawking hinges was all that remained of what once was. And in all the new Kaila felt as if she were drowning, as if she couldn’t quite draw in a full lung of air, as if all that said that she had existed before that very moment had been deleted much like a file on a computer.
The walls had been painted in a baby blue, the stench of new paint floated out on the air. Gone were the posters that had graced the walls, and despite the belief that she had hated the pictures of kittens and such, their absence made something unpleasant twist in her stomach. The room had been converted to a single bedroom, and all the furniture that had been hers for as far back as she could remember was gone. In its place was a single bed with a stiff looking yellow bedspread, pulled tight and wrinkleless. A tall dark wooden dresser with four drawers and a polished finish was wedged in a corner. A desk sat against the far wall, with a faux wood surface. A black cushioned leather office chair in the same burnished silver as the knobs on the dresser was pushed in beneath the desk. Kaila’s laptop sat at the center of the desk.
She sprang forward and snatched the laptop off the desk, hugging it to her chest as if it were a cherished teddy bear. Kaila drew in a suck of air, fearful to release her hold on the one piece of yesterday that remained.
Standing in the center of the room she felt a scream work up in her throat, like a bubble of gas that would soon burst free. She willed the shriek away, knowing that the doctors of Wildwind needed very little coercion to place her back into the White Room.
“New management,” the orderly, who hadn’t bothered to tell Kaila his name, said in a low voice. She probably could have read his name tag, but it didn’t matter to her, nothing mattered to her but what was right in front of her. Kaila stared at him dumfounded. She was still not quite able to comprehend that everything that had once said that this room was her home, had been stripped away.
“Pauline?” she said, still stunned.
Her mind reached for something that would show her that not everything had changed, that there were more things that remained from the past.
The orderly shrugged.
“I don’t work in this wing, so I don’t know who that is.”
His words floated past Kaila. Her brain felt like it might explode from the trauma of it all. Without another comment, the orderly turned on his heel and left. Kaila pressed her laptop closer to her chest, willing Trillian to come forward, to let Kaila know that she too hadn’t deserted her. When there was no response, even more panic lodged in Kaila’s chest. She wasn’t sure if she was going to win the battle with the scream that clawed to get out, the scream that would put her right back to where she had started.
Then she was moving. Her legs felt like rubber, but still managed to support her as she jogged to the place where she was sure she would find something that looked like home.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Kaila repeated the mantra as she sped toward the cafeteria, as if her words might right everything that was wrong.
The air in the cafeteria was scented by the one thing she recognized, pepperoni pizza. She paused, breathing in a long inhale. Kaila savored the aroma, not because it was her favorite food but because it was a touchstone that told her that today was Wednesday, pizza day.
Kaila had never been in the habit of searching out Pauline, but now that everything was gone she needed to see Pauline’s crooked smile, her star-shaped scar, her glossy black hair.
The cafeteria was decorated with pastel colored plastic Easter eggs, strung on white twig trees positioned at the center of the tables. Images of fluffy white bunnies with straw Easter baskets filled with colorful eggs on cardboard, were pasted to the walls of the cafeteria. The decorations didn’t tell her the exact day since Easter shifted dates every year, but it did at least tell her that Easter was coming soon or had just happened. Décor for all occasions was up for exactly two weeks on each side, Christmas was the only exception where the decorations stood in place for three weeks on each side of the holiday.
Kaila’s breathing became slightly more regular when she recognized more than a few mainstay residents of Wildwind.
She drew in a gulping breath when she laid eyes on the blue-black head of hair that cascaded down slim shoulders and finally fanned out at the base of her spine.
The name came out in a rush of air, very little sound accompanied it. Kaila ran in clomping steps toward her former roommate, an oasis in the bleakness of a desert. Kaila’s arms wrapped around Pauline, her cheek pressed onto her roommate’s silky hair. Pauline, clearly taken by surprise, tried to shake free of Kaila’s hold. Kaila refused to release her, sniffing the green apple shampoo that scented Pauline’s hair.
“Pauline,” Kaila whispered against the back of Pauline’s head. She relaxed her grip.
At the sound of her name, Kaila regained her bearings. She pulled away from the impromptu hug. Before Pauline could shift her view, Kaila had slid into the black plastic chair opposite Pauline. Pauline’s blue eyes grew large.
Pauline’s eyes filled with tears. Kaila felt something warm slide down her cheek. When she touched her face with the tips of her fingers she found that they were wet; she was crying too.
“Don’t cry Kaila, I can’t take that shit. You’re not supposed to cry.”
Pauline swiped at the tears with the sleeve of her long-sleeved red jersey, but more took their place.
Kaila couldn’t describe the emotions that swept through her, leaving her feeling ripped wide where all her insides were out in the open for the whole world to see. She’d had her Blue days in the past, but had never felt the absolute melancholy that she did in that moment. This sadness felt so heavy, as if everything that made her smile in the world had been burned in a giant pyre like the ones the Vikings had used to burn their dead; she felt dead too.
“Fuck Kaila it’s been two months, I’d given up hope that they were ever going to let you out of that fucking wing…”
Pauline spoke through halting breaths, her words colored by intense sorrow.
“And Janelle’s been gone a month already and I…”
She broke off. Pauline buried her delicate face in her hands; her whole body shook with release. Kaila had watched people cry before, both real and virtual, but never before had it affected her like it did right then. Witnessing Pauline’s grief left Kaila feeling hopeless; death seemed better than life.
Pauline jerked up her head, her watery eyes met Kaila’s.
“I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
Pauline nodded. “I’m out of here in a few days. I probably could have gone a lot sooner but I stalled. I made up shit, let them think that I was going to off myself as soon as I was out. But Dr. Whelan isn’t the type to buy bullshit for long and…”
She cast her red-rimmed eyes around the cafeteria, searching for the words to say. When Pauline’s gaze found Kaila’s face again her expression was grim.
“I have to leave Kaila. I need to try to make a life for myself. I can’t hide away in Wildwind forever and…”
She dropped her eyes to her hands that were resting on the cafeteria table. Kaila noticed that Pauline had painted her fingernails the same color as the pink phlox that grew wild in the fields that surrounded Wildwind. She studied Pauline’s fingertips, counting the number of places where the paint had chipped, leaving miniature voids where natural nail bed poked through. A thought niggled at the back of her mind, something that threatened to steal away the happiness that she had felt when she had found Pauline. Kaila refused to allow the thought to take hold and instead shoved it back and away. Even though everything in her room had changed, Pauline was there with her. Pauline would always be there, it wasn’t like they needed to talk or do anything at all, just having her present and accounted for was enough.
“Kaila, are you listening to me?”
Kaila worked her fingers over a dent in the cafeteria table. A bit of the particleboard had been chiseled away by a spoon or maybe a fork, much like the polish on Pauline’s fingernails had been chipped away by…
“Kaila, I’m leaving,” Pauline repeated, louder this time as if Kaila hadn’t heard.
Kaila had heard; she hadn’t wanted to.
If she accepted the words that Pauline had said, the weight of their meaning might send her back to the White Room then the Next Room. Maybe this time they would keep her forever. She would rather die than stay there forever.
“I don’t want to leave you Kaila, I want to stay but I can’t. This life is an illusion, it’s not real it’s just a way for me to check out of the real world, my world. I have to live while I’m alive. I can’t always be wrapped in cotton, protected, like I am here…and I think I can do it this time. I think I can make a life…”
Kaila didn’t hear Pauline’s words only the sound of her voice. All the syllables and sentences were twisted together into a jumble of nonsense that she couldn’t understand. She could do that when she wanted, allow all the words to slip by her, never connecting with the part of her that could comprehend the message that was being relayed.
“Kaila, please say something.”
Pauline’s hand snaked forward, snatching Kaila’s in a tight grip. Kaila’s eyes shot to Pauline’s in surprise. The spiders rustled, their legs wiggling, ready to attack.
“I’m leaving Kaila.”
Pauline’s words seemed to come from a megaphone, too loud, ringing through every bit of Kaila’s body. She tensed, drawing her hand away from Pauline’s touch. The voice that she had been ignoring, the one that she knew so well, but who had deserted her for too long, yelled to be heard. Trillian was screaming the words that Kaila didn’t want to hear, couldn’t bear to hear.
“No,” Kaila said quietly.
Trillian bellowed like a foghorn in a stormy night, and the message warned of danger ahead, rough seas. The voice said that if she wasn’t careful she would be crushed against the jagged rocks, sunk. But Kaila knew that the warnings were too late, it was all too late. She had already crashed into the reef, her shipwassinking, she could feel the water entering her lungs, making it impossible to breathe. Even as she struggled to reach the surface, to grab the one buoy that would save her she wasn’t sure she could, or even if that buoy was really there.
Pauline was her buoy; she hadn’t known that until right then. Kaila knew she could deal with the new room, the furniture that wasn’t hers, the things that were so wrong. She could learn to live with all the unfamiliar newness of her world that was shiny and polished in a way that made her feel ill. They could take it all away, her white tees, her grey sweats, even shockingly her precious computer. But what they couldn’t take from her was Pauline, not Pauline, anything, anybody, even Norm could cease to exist, but not Pauline.
Kaila felt her lips part, her mouth gape wide and then she was screaming. She crumpled into a ball on the floor. She wished for a place in the White Room, where everything was quiet and she could imagine that all the things that had shaped and been a part of her existence still remained, locked within a time warp. That the changes and impermanence that Trillian liked to write about was just a dream.
It was all a dream, or maybe a nightmare.
She understood the difference between things and people now. She felt the poke of the needle a little later, and she was glad because she could go to sleep again. In the quiet that followed, she found the peace that she would never know in the waking.
Kaila returned to the White Room, but this time it wasn’t for any of the reasons that had brought her there before. This time it felt as if her body had forgotten how to move, her eyes how to blink, her mouth how to chew, as though she had forgotten all the functions that made her human. People, who liked to diagnose and fix the patients, as if they were cars that needed to be repaired, called it catatonia; Kaila called it giving up on life.
Sedated, upped and downed, and everything possible that could happen to Kaila had occurred until she couldn’t take it anymore, yet it continued. And when her only thought was death and an end to it all, Trillian came to her. This Trillian in the White Room was agitated and nervous. Kaila knew that Trillian didn’t want to be in that space, but she was also aware of the truth, that without her intervention Kaila would never come back. If Kaila never came back then Trillian would dissolve like a puff of smoke. Trillian needed Kaila, needed her fingers to type the words that Trillian imagined.
So Trillian entered that place that was so blindingly white and sterile, where the sickening scent of antiseptic and rubbing alcohol, and things that couldn’t be named but existed all the same, was heavy in the atmosphere. Trillian nudged inside Kaila who was now just a living shell, her mind shelved indefinitely. With Kaila in this altered state it was easy to take control, to move her limbs that were stiff from disuse. It was easy to pretend that she had healed, that she was whole enough to be set free of this prison, sent back to the place where she belonged.
Trillian was exceptionally good at the task of impersonating Kaila, so much so that before the days had finished a week she was out, and the White Room was all just a past. Trillian stepped into the future.
Kaila woke a few days later. When she did, she found that she was once again sitting in the cafeteria, only this time Pauline was nowhere to be found. Trillian tried to make her forget, block the memories of Pauline, but there were far too many for her to be successful at the task. Eventually, the truth converged in on Kaila, bringing with it a rush of hopelessness, and Kaila fell back, allowing Trillian to take over.
This pattern went on for a while, until it didn’t. One day Kaila finally took back the control that Trillian was only too happy to relinquish, for in Trillian’s perspective, human life and all the caring and loss that went with it, was too much to bear.
Kaila picked at the green peas that skirted around her plate every time she tried to spear them with the tines of her fork. It wasn’t really like she wanted to eat them, more of a game to pass time. Since Pauline had left, all her food tasted the same, the textures varied but the flavor was absent, leaving her unable to decipher between things she liked and those she did not.
The cafeteria was decorated with the red, white and blue of the Fourth of July weekend. Banners with patriotic colors were draped across the glass showcases of food, making it difficult to see what you wanted to eat. Balloons, some with just a few puffs of air inside, dangled limply from the metal rafters above their heads. For the past week the cafeteria staff had donned tall black Lincoln hats, fake goatee beards and white Washington paper wigs, as if it were President’s Day not the Independence Day weekend. This kind of mistake wasn’t unheard of in Wildwind, where most of the staff were imports to the country, but who having secured their position and citizenship were eager to assimilate all the customs and nuances of the country they felt privileged to be a part of. Natives to the land probably would have deemed themselves too sophisticated for such trifles and would not have shown the vigor that these people did.
Kaila saw the decorations and knew time was nearing a holiday, but where once she cared, now she didn’t. New food day didn’t matter anymore either, hadn’t for a very long time. Her life had always been about routines but never as rigid as they were now because it was in the order of the routines that Kaila found solace. She ate, drank, showered, brushed her teeth, dressed and all the things that were required of her, yet she didn’t live outside of these boundaries because it was unsafe to do so.
Most days Kaila moved from one space to another, like a robot programed to do so. When she found herself positioned in a chair in a stuffy office with a doctor quizzing her about her life, Trillian stepped in and became Kaila. In those moments all the parts that were rusty from disuse creaked to life, and they believed her because they wanted to, because it was easier to do that.
Kaila startled at the loud pop that sounded to her left. She turned to see that one of the residents, an elderly man named Henry, with a shock of pure white frizzy hair that reminded her a little of Einstein, and thick glasses that magnified his eyes, had snatched one of the Poppers off the table and set it off. Kaila wasn’t sure what day it was, but she was quite certain that the day hadn’t come for the Poppers to be set off.
Poppers were cardboard tubes stuffed with colorful foil confetti and long streamers that made a terrible mess when they were released, but that the staff continued purchasing each year all the same. The dollar store trinkets were another way to celebrate the holiday and were loved by all.
Henry sat at a table, an expression of pleasure brightening his face. His thin purplish lips curved into a smile, showcasing the fact that he only possessed a half dozen teeth. Several residents clapped loudly at the show then leapt to their feet. As if on cue, music, like that of a marching band, blared from the speakers and then everyone was releasing the Poppers. Even if Kaila had wanted to set off her own Popper, she didn’t have a chance because before she could blink, a posse of patients of all shapes and sizes had swept in like hawks to prey and had stolen them all from her table. The cafeteria soon broke into a cacophony of hoots and hollers, people danced to the music, most missed the beat of the tunes, but reveled in the moment of elation and fun that weren’t commonplace in Wildwind.
The voice was familiar but was difficult to place, until she remembered. There was no fondness attached to this name, just a grim reminder of all that had once been but wasn’t anymore.
“Derrick,” Kaila said blandly.
His name across her lips sounded the same as if she had said carpet, chair or had named an inanimate object. Whatever intrigue Derrick had once had, had fizzled a long while back when Kaila’s world had tipped sideways.
“I need to talk to you,” he said.
Kaila didn’t much care about Derrick, but the tremble in his voice was undeniable. His apparent anxiety made her pause. She placed her fork at a precise ninety-degree angle to her plate, a new habit that she had adopted in the time that had passed since Pauline had left. There was no reason for Kaila’s need to place all her eating utensils just so, other than it was a way for her to gain control over something, when all else in her world had become foreign and uncontrollable. With great difficulty she lifted her gaze to Derrick’s face.
Kaila hadn’t seen Derrick over the past few weeks; in fact she couldn’t remember the last time she had set eyes on him. For this reason, she noticed that things had changed with him; Wildwind was leaving its mark on him as it did everyone confined to its space.
There were deep dark hollows beneath his eyes that were bleary from what appeared to be lack of sleep. His hair had grown longer and instead of being perfectly styled was unwashed and limp. His clothes were rumpled, his face unshaven, and there was something in his eyes that might have been fear or tension; Kaila didn’t care enough to gauge which one.
“I’m busy,” she said in the same monotone.
This voice which had become her new way of speaking of late. More Poppers were released all around them. A few streamers fell between Derrick and Kaila, they were ignored.
“This is serious.”
His eyes tracked back and forth across the cafeteria, not quite focusing on one thing in particular. It seemed quite a feat since bodies were everywhere, dancing and singing in a celebration that seemed to make the boards of the building hum with enthusiasm.
“I had another dream…”
He shifted in his chair, locking on Kaila’s face. There was little that interested Kaila these days, but his mention of the dream ignited something in her, made her sit a little straighter and take notice. A light that had been switched off a while back was flicked back on, still dim, but on.
“A death dream?” she asked, leaning in closer.
When she did she was assaulted by the stench of unclean. Derrick smelled like he hadn’t showered in some time.
He nodded, cutting his eyes to the table, before returning his gaze to hers.
“How long ago?”
Kaila shoved her plate to the side, finally abandoning the peas that she would never eat.
“A day back ,” he said.
His eyes brimmed with tears.
“So you have less than a week before it happens?”
He nodded again. “I need to stop it, I need to get a message to them…I have no fucking clue what to do and…it’s so fucked up.”
“You know the person?”
“Yeah, a little and…”
He trailed off again. Despite the crazy all around them, Kaila felt as if she and Derrick were encapsulated in a bubble, alone.
“Someone in here?”
Derrick shook his head no.
Another light illuminated in Kaila’s brain, the mystery of it was too interesting to ignore. Predicting was everything to her, and the allure of seeing time unfold as Derrick had dreamed was significant. In fact Kaila was quite sure that the opportunity to study Derrick’s precognition was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Kaila felt Trillian awaken, ready to listen, study, dissect. Kaila wondered if Derrick’s abilities could be harnessed, groomed and used to see more future events. But more than that Kaila pondered if his predictions would allow them to shift an outcome, change it by some kind of intentional intervention so that the person didn’t die after all. And if they couldn’t adjust the outcome was that because it was fated to happen? More questions surfaced as her mind hummed to life, ready to be there, to observe, record and decipher.
“I need to stop it Kaila, I can’t deal with knowing that I could somehow have saved this person and I didn’t do it.”
“Okay,” Kaila said, nodding vigorously.
Something that felt a lot like hope blossomed inside her, as if someone had thrown the door wide open, letting fresh air into the dank space.
“Can’t you call them and tell them what you dreamt?” Kaila asked.
Even though she had posed the question, she hated her own suggestion because it somehow felt like a too easy fix, where the thrill of hunting for the answers had been tugged out of her grasp. Kaila had always loved to work things out on her own, solve puzzles the hard way because when she did it felt so much better than if she had been given the answers.
“I need you to help me with this Kaila.”
Derrick leveled his gaze on her with an intensity that seemed to imply that all his hopes and dreams rested upon her shoulders. Kaila was already ready to help, still she couldn’t help but wonder why he had come to her when there were so many more residents in Wildwind, cleverer people.
“Why me?” she queried.
Derrick thrust a shaky hand through his floppy hair a few times. His mouth worked to speak, but he stopped just short of releasing the words, until he finally did.
“Because I dreamed about Pauline, and if things go as they always do, Pauline will be dead in less than six days.”
Kaila felt the world spin around her, sounds amplified, the colors grew so brilliant that they became blinding. Trillian jostled for control. Trillian knew that Kaila was losing all of her restraint. Knowing that Pauline was in the outside world, living, experiencing and just being, was one thing, but for her to no longer exist, like a candle that had been snuffed out, was unimaginable.
“We’re in,” Trillian said using Kaila’s lips and voice box, articulating the words that Kaila couldn’t. Then Kaila let go and released. Soon she was falling into a dark place as Trillian took over. But Trillian’s reign could only last a moment since there was no time to waste. Pauline’s life depended on Kaila pulling it all in, being more than she had ever been before, changing the future.
“I must apologize dear readers for my extended absence, and that I have not imparted my words upon the collective, who based on the commentary so need to hear what I must say. But please know dear readers that these words that I pen across the waves of the space, bring into existence only that which all of us know.
If in fact I was no more, the truth would not stop at my passing, for the truth will not be vanquished. It is the light upon which knowledge grows, thrives, a place where everything is real, and nothing that must be known is unknown. There will always be others to tell you what I have, the words may be unlike mine, but the meaning will be uniform in that we are alone, but never alone, apart but never apart.
How can a car run without its engine, without its wheels? That the car runs at all, says that everything that needs to be there, is, and so too is the earth that we live upon. All that is needed is here, and just as a car is complete when made up of parts that become one, so too is humanity, all are together, working with, and because of the other.
You may not see the continuity of your actions yet that does not make it any less so. For when you act or react, you set off a chain of events, a domino if you wish, where one to the other, to the other, and so on and so forth, connect. This connection cannot always be seen but yet remains so, always there, like an invisible thread that ties us all, thickening, thinning, lengthening and shortening, always changing, shifting, becoming different because that is the life we live. There is an impermanence in all that is, and all that has been, and all that will be. A life is lived, until it is not, and then at the very second a life ends, another returns to the collective, another soul enters the world and there is a circle that is unbroken, that is infinite.
Glance at the infinity, a wave that is never ending, and just as that symbol has no beginning nor an end, so too do we. Energy is infinite, it is all and nothing at the same instance, it cannot be held, yet can be manipulated, directed into a space until the power moves another. There again is the chain that connects us all, the blood that is our life force, the meaning that never stops meaning, the knowledge that we are one, we are all one, any other belief is an illusion.
There is no separation other than that which the mind imagines. The material world draws a boundary between the people, but if we see the truth, distill it into a concentrate that is difficult to ignore, it gains strength and power and there is nothing to fear but the illusions that we have created. We are the same and also different, all parts necessary, all necessary for life to thrive, to continue and become. We are all a value in this place, believing anything less is absurd. Trillian”
Kaila relaxed back against her chair. She could feel how Trillian was deeply contented after being set free to write, something that Kaila had refused her since Pauline had left. Trillian had been more than a tad bit miffed about Kaila’s refusal, but Kaila had stood firm. Kaila understood the importance for Trillian to have her time to articulate her thoughts and words. Trillian was never quite at ease until her words were placed carefully in the blog, but it hadn’t been enough to dissuade Kaila’s stance.
Until the moment that Derrick had approached her, it had been impossible for Kaila to even look at her computer, much less place her fingers on the keyboard. In her estimation the laptop was a part of the past, lost with Pauline. She hadn’t cared if Trillian ever wrote another word of her musings because they wouldn’t bring back Pauline, they wouldn’t return her room to what it had once been. Words wouldn’t help, they couldn’t change everything back. To this point, Kaila had fought Trillian vehemently.
Trillian, whose need for expression had grown even greater than Kaila could contain, had wrestled and won control on several occasions. Those times, she had spoken the words that she wasn’t permitted to write. Kaila had let it happen. She had caved in and allowed a wave of numbness to crest over her. During those times, when Trillian spewed her personal diatribe, Kaila found peace. She appreciated being away from it all, absent from the feelings and the loss of all that she had once had, but didn’t have anymore.
Now, knowing that Pauline was in danger made everything come together in a way that it never had before. Kaila had a mission to save Pauline, to change Derrick’s prophecy, to affect time. Just thinking about being a part of it all made a thrill race up and down her spine. Without saying it aloud she was committed to Derrick and would do whatever it took to save Pauline; and what it took was to leave Wildwind.
As before, Kaila had gone back to measuring time by clues and not by her watch or a clock, or any of the tools that were normally used for such a task. But today she had been forced to use conventional devices. It had been exactly twenty-four hours since Derrick had relayed the details of his dream to Kaila. With his admission came a need to know exactly what time, day of the week, and month it was. These particulars, which normally wouldn’t have been an issue in her regular life, had suddenly become more than essential. She needed to meet Derrick at just the right time, at just the right place, if they were in fact going to escape Wildwind.
Opposing emotions, fear of leaving Wildwind, her only reality for most of her life, tangled with the need to save Pauline. Unlike Kaila, Trillian was ecstatic to be released, to see the world beyond the gates in all its entirety. Kaila wished she’d had Trillian’s confidence. Every time she reconsidered her decision to leave, Trillian reminded her that Pauline would die if they didn’t venture out.
To be truthful, Trillian didn’t altogether trust Derrick, in that detail she and Kaila agreed. Derrick was an unknown, difficult to read and impossible to predict. Kaila wondered if this was the case for those people who were prophets, as she liked to term Derrick now. Did prophets have a blanket of secrecy around their shoulders, hiding them from detection, something that prevented them from being exposed and possibly exploited? In her more creative imaginings she pictured Derrick connected to a multitude of wires and machines, as scientists worked to discover what made him work.
Kaila packed a small bag, counting exactly five pairs of white cotton underpants, five pairs of sweat pants and five t-shirts. She carefully folded all her clothes then arranged them inside the brilliant lime green overnight bag that a resident had left behind. Kaila had retrieved the bag from the Lost and Found. The contents of the cardboard Lost and Found box grew but never diminished, since most people who were released from Wildwind did everything in their power never to return.
Kaila added her toothbrush to the other items. The toothbrush was relatively new with the letters GUM on the side. Kaila appreciated the play on words. She added a half-empty tube of generic toothpaste, deodorant and some tampons and pads in case her menstrual cycle started, though she was certain that it wasn’t supposed to happen for some time. Her hairbrush, with a few strands of her coppery hair caught in the bristles, was the last piece she added. She tucked her laptop beneath her armpit then draped her dark grey rarely worn wool hoodie across her arm. With her bag packed and everything she needed for her adventure gathered, she made her way to the meeting point.
In Kaila’s estimation getting out of Wildwind would not be exceptionally difficult. Over the years, she had heard of several patients doing just that. The security systems were dated on her side of the building, the surveillance spotty at best. The new owners of Wildwind were slowly replacing the ancient gear, but hadn’t completed the task.
It appeared that the increase in patient admissions expected with the sprucing up of the patient rooms hadn’t quite materialized as planned, therefore construction had ceased for the time being. It seemed odd to Kaila that people would be buoyed by an influx of more crazy people, but that was the truth of it.
Kaila’s watch read 2:00 a.m. The time stamp meant that in fifteen minutes she and Derrick would meet in the designated area just outside the cafeteria. Both she and Derrick had agreed that this particular spot had very few cameras, and would be easy to move through undetected.
It seemed funny to Kaila that the very person she and Derrick were charged to save, was the same person who had made it a game to escape Wildwind. Pauline was notorious for slipping out at night for a cigarette, or for any reason really. On several occasions she had asked Kaila to join her. Kaila had refused, citing that she preferred to sleep. Now Kaila regretted not joining Pauline on those nightly excursions, as it would have helped she and Derrick considerably in their covert plans.
Even so, Kaila had heard enough about the workings of it to know the basics. Meet at the cafeteria, use the fire escape just off to the right of the door that led to the stairwell, then it was a matter of getting over the chain link fence which wasn’t much of a feat. Wildwind was so isolated that even if someone did venture off the property, they wouldn’t have gotten far before they were stopped by fatigue, hunger, thirst and if the conditions were right, exposure and hypothermia. Neither of the latter two maladies were going to serve as a problem on that particular night. It was July; hot summer nights and scorching days were commonplace.
The temperature didn’t warrant it, but Kaila slipped the hoodie on all the same. The garment was inconvenient to carry and wouldn’t fit in her bag anyway. She wished that she’d had space for her laptop in the bag too, but hadn’t been so lucky. Moving as quietly as seemed possible, she skulked down the deserted corridor that led to the cafeteria. She passed by the staff room that was quiet except for the soft drone of the television that went continuously day and night.
With the staff room was well behind her, the ensuing silence soon became oppressive. The looming quiet had the effect of heightening Kaila’s anxiety that any sound she made could lead to her discovery. She prayed that she remained undetected, but was prepared to do whatever it took to leave the confines of Wildwind. Oddly just thinking about leaving made her remember Pauline’s star-shaped scar. This memory made Kaila’s heart thrum even faster. The concept that very soon she would be seeing Pauline again in the real world was exhilarating. Kaila was sorry that she hadn’t thought about leaving before now. With the excitement came a slight appreciation for Derrick’s part in all of it.
Beams of moonlight filtered in through a window that was adjacent to the cafeteria. It felt much like a bright spotlight and she was fastidious to avoid the light. As soon as she had passed by the window, she slipped into an unlit corner and waited. Time seemed to freeze. Her anxiousness was only made worse by her inability to see the face of her watch in the penetrating gloom.
Derrick’s voice was little more than a hiss in the night. It however was enough for her to discover his silhouette. She moved out of her hiding place, stepping panther-like until she was standing right beside him. Kaila touched his right elbow to let him know that she was there. She was quietly thrilled when he leapt back a few feet before he realized that it was her. Kaila discovered that she was much better at being stealthy than she had expected.
Without pause, Derrick led the way to the secured window. He moved like dark liquid, becoming part of the night. Derrick jimmied the top off the alarm that would sound if the window was cracked open then used a pair of nail clippers to snip the wires. His adeptness with disengaging the security system said that it wasn’t the first time he had done something like that. It impressed Kaila, though she would never have mentioned it. In truth she wasn’t even sure if she liked him at all. She couldn’t forget all the time she had spent in the White Room and also the Next Room because of him. No, he wasn’t her friend at all, merely a tool.
Derrick flipped the window locks then shoved the window up. When it slid up on its aged, painted tracking, it released what seemed like an ear-splitting shriek. Derrick seemed unaffected by the sound and was straddling the windowsill before Kaila could recover from the terror that had spread through her. Apprehension about leaving Wildwind now entwined with the fear of being discovered.
“Come on,” Derrick whispered.
Now bathed in moonlight he almost looked angelic, as if he had dropped from the belfries of heaven and had landed squarely on the rusted fire escape. Kaila breathed in the outside air, drifting in on a light breeze. Outside heat met inside air-conditioned cool, mixing natural and artificial as one. Before she could respond, Derrick had begun his descent. The stairs of the fire escape responded to his weight, bowing like a bent sapling until the bottom step hit solid ground.
He moved rapidly down the stairs until he had reached the bottom. He left a foot upon the edge of the last stair, stabilizing it for Kaila’s walk down. She drew in a gulping breath, unsure about what she would do next. Knowing that there was no choice apart from leaving Wildwind, she slung a leg over the windowsill. Her foot hit metal and she paused, trying to fall into the reality that seemed more a dream then truth. Trillian urged her forward. Trillian’s eagerness wasn’t a surprise since Trillian had never seen the real world, and was agog with possibilities and the wonders that they were sure to see.
Kaila’s second leg found its way to where the first had landed, then she was standing on the platform, ready to meet the world, to stop a prophecy from happening.
“Hurry up Kaila.”
Urgency was evident in his whisper. It was a reminder to Kaila that he was as nervous as she was about their great escape. She slid the window back into place though she knew it would take little detective work to know that they had used it to make their getaway. With the window back in place, Kaila turned to the stairs. When she did, her runner clanged against the grating. The sound seemed to penetrate to her very core. For a moment she forgot to breathe while she waited for the lights to suddenly spring to life, for the staff to arrive and force her to fight her way out. Yet the gods were on her side because everything remained asleep.
“Come on,” Derrick urged.
His voice was exactly what she needed to get back into the moment. She padded down the stairs, counting each one in her head as she did. When she had reached number ten she was at the bottom. Gravel crunched under her feet. Derrick released his hold on the metal stairs then gave the structure a shove. It retracted back, inch-by-inch until it was impossible to reach; they had arrived at the point of no return.
Without another word, Derrick was moving across the grounds, only halting when they came across motion detecting spotlights. With just one misdirected step the lights would be their undoing.
Minutes later they made it to the fence. Without bravado, Derrick was scrabbling up it. He was over on the other side almost too fast for Kaila to process. Partly shadowed in a space where moonlight didn’t hit, he stared through the links that now separated them. It was in that moment that everything that was happening came into perfect clarity. Kaila began to doubt everything. What had just seconds before seemed a sound plan now felt reckless. She wasn’t sure how everything had changed so decisively. Now she questioned why she had taken Derrick’s word at all.