How many times? How many times do I have to tell you before you’ll understand? And even then, will you nod your head and pretend you’re listening? Whisper that “she’s crazy” behind my back all the while pasting that fake smile on your face? Or maybe...maybe you’re the first one who will listen...
It’s the first thing I remember. I think I was sleeping in it, woke up too soon, and have been surrounded by it ever since.
No, that’s wrong. It was clear at first. My thoughts weren’t jumbled and everything made sense. Opening my eyes I found myself all alone in a cave. But not for long. He< came. Tall and strong, he led me out. Riding in his rental car I remember staring at his arms. They were covered in hair, just a little at first, but then it started to grow. Hair spilling out of his clothes and threatening to cover and strangle me. I knew I had to keep quiet, but what do you do when an animal is glaring at you ready to strike?
No, of course, he wasn’t an animal. He was my protector.
We traveled all over, but I don’t remember much from that first year. All I remember were the nightmares-knowing that they were out there unprotected and I couldn’t do anything to help them.
Wait, no. That was later. Back then the entire world was a nightmare. Something entirely new and horrific. I don’t think I even thought about the other three that first year, or if I did, it was only to wonder if they had been with me, whether or not they could have protected me from all the monsters.
What kind of monsters? All kinds. The ones that hide behind street corners, pretend to help you cross the street, and the little dog yelping in the backyard two houses over.
There used to be a tree outside my window in Oregon. At night it would lunge out towards my room, scratching at the glass with its fingers. Fighting its way inside the glass broke and it reached inside threatening to tear at my face. I screamed out for my protector-
New wallpaper, huh?
-but was met only by the animal from the car. Eyes bulging, no, glowing bright yellow. He seemed to grow under my watchful eyes-hair and fur sprouting from his skin and his muscles writhing as he heaved up and down breathless.
A blink of an eye later, his face returned to normal and the tree receded, frightened as well.
I think it was the next morning that the fog began pumping in. We had gone to a doctor the day before, he had asked a lot of questions, and then my protector had swiped the prescription pad off of his desk when he wasn’t looking.
Maybe that’s why I thought the fog was always there. Because it had been with me for so very long.
Sometimes he’d pump too much in-my protector, that is. He did that at first; he was scared too little wouldn’t work. Floating around listlessly didn’t help anyone, though, and apathetic loonies soon attract attention. Or so he said.
I really think it was the witches that changed his mind. Eighth grade, my sixth year, and we were reading about the Salem witch trials in English. The fog had decreased quite a bit and sometimes I even forgot it was there-just a slight hovering cloud around my feet. It slowed me down from running too fast, but other than that, no big deal. In ways, it even helped me. Teachers don’t tend to like it when you scan textbooks and then know all the answers within the first week. They think you’re cheating and-
Oh, yes, the witches.
Mr. Henley decided it would be much more fun to assign parts than popcorn read. I forget the name of which one I was. I wanted to be Abby-she didn’t die in the end and got to go off to Barbados to live in the sun.
I think I was Witch #2. The girls were on the opposite side of the room screaming that I was hurting them; one girl even fell over-a fainting spell. The girls grew louder as their voices did-the room closing in until I could feel the judge’s breath on my neck. I knew they had figured me out-learned my secret. My protector always forewarned me of what would happen if they ever caught me, learned my secret. A girl screamed out, crying in pain, and the room fell silent. Arms clasped mine and the girl continued crying and soon I found myself on the floor, two boys holding my writhing body down. The girl just wouldn’t shut up, screaming and crying about past lives, secrets, and squares. One of the boys looked so sad-oh yeah, we had been going out. I still don’t know why he looked so sad-his green eyes filled with-
The other boy? How did he look?
Angry. Hatred. Just staring at me accusingly-he didn’t even have any proof that I was a witch! How could he just believe those children? And helping to deliver a still born-that didn’t make me a witch. But he just kept staring and I knew he’d never believe me. I don’t know where I read about burning witches-certainly not the play. Those ones were hanged. Maybe it was a movie. I could smell the smoke, black and thick, clogging my lungs. The heat of it tickling at my toes. Soon they would burn and the flames would lick up my calves, devouring them before moving on up to my thighs. The smell of burning flesh seemed to seep into every pour until it was all I could smell and-
Riley Junior High? Yeah, that’s the one. It burned down, but it was no big deal since I had to move the next day anyway.
I’m not quite sure what scared him, but my protector began pumping more of the fog in. Things were rather uneventful after that. I made a few friends at St. Mary’s, but the friendships were all marred by the fog. They said I wouldn’t let them in; I couldn’t tell them the fog wouldn’t let me. Even the most menial tasks were laborious. It was a struggle to even scan textbooks. My protector began noticing it when I couldn’t use my powers. The fog lessened, but not enough to allow me to think clearly.
My want for clarity was soon forgotten, however. Everyone else had always seemed lost in the fog-myself included. I had to reach out to find my way around and without notice they could just appear out of nowhere. But Max, he was different.
I could see him clearly and imagining myself with him just felt so natural. Even Isabel and Michael, though they weren’t as clear as Max, were still clearer than anyone else I had ever met.
I don’t know why-it’s just, let me try to explain. When you’re surrounded in darkness your entire life and suddenly someone appears with a flashlight...well, you don’t ask why or how-you just follow the light. So that’s what I did. Max was my guiding light. I didn’t know why, all I knew was that I craved to be around him. Perhaps it was the memories from our former lives that made him so clear to me.
So I followed him around, listened to him. I supported him in every way, just so that maybe he’d let me hang around him more. I needed the clarity he provided me. When he stayed away from me, I turned to his sister. My protector seemed happy that I was getting on so well with the others. I was happy to have found someone just like me.
And the fog was slowly starting to disappear.
My protector died that summer. I had enough prescription pads to last me another month and I knew I could always just trick the pharmacist into giving me whatever I wanted.
Foolishly though, I thought I could do it on my own. I thought the fog was holding me back-keeping me slow and my mind fuzzy. I mean, c’mon, I thought I was falling in love with a human. So I just stopped going to the pharmacy. And mind got a whole lot clearer.
I forgot about the nightmares though. Well, I didn’t call them nightmares. And they weren’t really. Because nightmares aren’t supposed to be real and they don’t happen in the daytime.
They came back as quickly as they had left. Monsters, growling animals, evil aliens with husks for skins...and I had forgotten how they liked to hide. The ones that kidnap you and try to kill your former husband-no, those aren’t the scary ones. The ones who smile and hang out with you all the while plotting your demise-those are the most dangerous ones. And the worst part yet, no one else realizes what’s going on, so you’re all alone.
Hatsepshut. She was a queen, the queen of Egypt. My art history teacher said there are only three women he’d like to have dinner with. One of them was the Virgin Mary, the other Hatseptshut, and the third I forgot. Maybe Nefertitti-men love the beauties. Maybe someday me.
I wonder what Egypt was like. Hot winds blowing against your face, a river that influences everything from direction to architecture. I wonder how hot the sand gets. I wonder how Hatsepshut did it: providing her kingdom with such a plethora of peace and food and wine-
Was it a Minoan he wanted to have dinner with? They had honey. No, he just wanted to live there.
-that even when the true Pharaoh came to age he couldn’t take his rightful place. Imagine that-a woman with all that power. All from bringing life and peace. But what happens when you bring death and destruction?
No, I wasn’t asking you. It was a rhetorical question. No, I don’t think it has an answer. Why do you want to talk about Alex? To stir up painful memories of how he betrayed me?
I never suspected him. He was one of the good guys. He was supposed to protect me from the monsters-not be one. But he was. He tricked me; he tricked them all.
Sometimes when I think real hard, I know there were clues. Like sometimes in physics he would stare at me a little too long. Or I’d see him out of the corner of my eye changing. His face pulled up in a menacing grin, a knife held high in the air dripping with blood-
Are those new shoes? Why do you have new shoes?
They never answer, do they? He came to me that night and I told him. I told him everything. All about the fog, the pods, and the sound the air conditioner made. I told him about how I knew they were somewhere in the shadows waiting for me to slip up-that’s why I got a C on that quiz. I had to-I couldn’t let them know that I knew that they knew. He wanted to call Max or Isabel and tell them, but that’s not what I wanted to hear. So he told me he would decode the book for me.
Sometimes though, it would wear off and he would forget that he was decoding the book for me. That’s how I thought I knew they were getting to him. Little did I know then that they had already gotten to him. They did it discreetly; I didn’t even know until he came babbling into my room about mindwarping him. They killed him that night and I was left with the mess-the one they had created. And Kyle was looking at me-his eyes so sad, just like that one guy back at Riley. What was his name? Jeffrey? I couldn’t take it so I just-
Heloise. That’s a nice name, don’t you think? Did you ever read the love letters between her and Peter? I think it’s called My Miserable Life, or something along those lines. Understandable really. Peter was castrated and she was sent off to a nunnery where their love remained forever unrequited.
-He stopped looking at me like that. Told me I was his sister. It was okay though. They were all safe.
As you very well know, I got pregnant and my baby couldn’t survive on Earth. Using the book transcribed by Alex, we were able to get the granolith running. There were only two minutes to go when-
What’s that ticking? Watch, my ass. I know what that ticking is; you’re trying to-
Huh? Oh yeah.
-Liz, Kyle, and Maria burst in yelling all at once that I had killed Alex. But I had brought life into the world and restored peace. I was Hatsepshut and-
That’s when I realized it. There she was, standing beside him so innocent and pure. Only I could see the evil within. They had gotten to her too. Her small frame began to expand, taking up most of the room in the cave. Her eyes glowing, reaching for my baby, I knew what I had to do.
No, calling her a bitch wasn’t part of the plan. I was improvising.
Moments later I was in the granolith on my way here, Antar.
So that’s my story. What do you think? And where’s my baby? I know you said that you took him to the hospital because he was so weak, but I’d like to visit him sometime soon. I’m hoping he has beautiful blue eyes. But not sad ones.
“But not sad ones. I never want-” The doctor flipped the switch on the intercom.
“So you see, Max, I really don’t think it’s a good idea that you or the child visit her right now.” Max and the doctor were in an adjacent room to the one Tess and the psychiatrist were in, behind one-way mirrors.
“I know, but maybe seeing us would-”
“Max,” the doctor interrupted, “you’re what? Twenty six? Take it from someone thirty years your senior that seeing her child is not going to help her. She’s suffering from schizophrenia and paranoia extrema.” He pulled off his glasses, cleaning them with a handkerchief. “She thinks she’s an alien. And right now she’s an alien in denial. Take it from her point of view. She thought she was an alien, probably all her life. Suddenly, the granolith, capable of giving her savior like status, doesn’t work. Whether her alien status and the granolith are real is of no real importance because she believes it to be real. As if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly she’s changed her story. Now she thinks the granolith worked and she’s on Antar.
“In a way, I wish she was the hysterical girl they brought in raving about how the granolith didn’t work. Because then at least, her situation wouldn’t have gotten worse.” He sighed and gave Max a small smile. “Don’t worry, Teresa is getting the best care possible. We’ll give you a call when we think it’s appropriate for you to visit.” He ushered Max out of the room and waved goodbye as Max exited his way out of the institution.
He turned his attention back to the room, where the psychiatrist was tapping on the mirror. He released the button to allow him to exit the room. He handed the doctor the notes he had been taking. “Do you ever...”
“What?” he asked, peering over his clipboard.
“Ever think that what she’s saying might be true?”
“Of course, it’s true.” A second later he let out a laugh. The young psychiatrist joined in nervously at the sick joke. The doctor smiled, turning the music up in the room to drown out the sounds of fists beating on the walls. The doctor left the room, leaving the psychiatrist alone.
He flipped the intercom to ‘on’ so he could hear her.
“Turn that damn music off! I know what you’re trying to do. But it isn’t going to work. You can’t make me forget with your stupid music and group therapy,” she ranted, throwing a chair at the mirror that ended up bouncing back to the ground leaving the mirror unscathed.
He stepped closer to the mirror, placing his hand on it. She looked up, surprisingly directly at him and placed her own hand on top of his, so their hands were separated only by a few inches of glass.
“Did you believe me this time?” she whispered, blues eyes staring listlessly into the mirror at a person she couldn’t see.
He sighed, flipping off the intercom, green eyes staring at blue.