Mind of Darkness

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Chapter Eight: Emily

“Christopher!” I scream, running after him.

But no matter how hard I run, he keeps outpacing me, even though he’s walking backwards to gloat at me.

“I don’t need you,” he calls back, his face twisted in the same cruelty as I saw when he yelled at his father in his feverish state.

“But I need you.”

His lips twitching into a sneer. “I know.”

I smack into someone and stumble backwards, landing on my tailbone. Hard. My eyes jerk open and I find myself staring up at a figure in the darkness.

Despair is standing in the rain before me, a leer in his face as he tells me that Christopher’s fate is irrevocable. Then he steps forward to kill my sister and me.

Crying out, I crawl backwards across the floor until my head hits the wall, knocking my brains around.

The more I stare at the dark figure, the more it comes into focus. She comes into focus.

Violet is wandering around in circles, moaning in her sleep.

“Violet?” I say.

She doesn’t answer.

“Are you… sleepwalking?”

She still doesn’t answer.

I push myself up. Then, keeping my eyes on Violet, I stumble across the wall to the light, which I flick on.

Violet freezes and then blinks rapidly. “What’s that light doing on? Can’t a girl get any sleep?”

Blinking, I watch as she walks back to her bed and slides under her covers. And promptly falls back to sleep.

Man, I wish I had somnambulism like that. As it is, this headache is probably going to haunt me the whole night.

~~~

The morning greets me with brightness, noise, and a clanging headache that combats the severe exhaustion within.

A mental list of the few other times I’ve been this tired:

(1) Once, when I was seven, and we were living in Texas, we had to hide in a storm shelter because it was a tornado warning and I didn’t sleep a wink.

(2) Every night of our vacation in Disney World- but it was worth it.

(3) Once, when I was in seventh grade, I stayed up all night to study for the big end of the year tests in hopes that I could skip my last year of Junior High. No such luck.

(4) My second to last night on the Island after finishing our raft… and dragging it across the Island;

When I see through the headache that Christopher is waiting for me in the cafeteria, I drop my gaze. When was the last time we even kissed before yesterday? New Year’s?

“Look,” we begin in unison.

I glance up. He smiles warmly and shakes his head.

“I’m sorry I kissed you,” I blurt.

Violet snorts.

“And I’m sorry I overreacted.”

Donald slides in across from Violet, his hair a wreck, as he glaces between us. “Overreacted? You?”

Violet nods. “They’re the king and queen of prudes.”

“I was just worried about you,” Christopher says before glancing at our audience and then turning back to me. “Can we go somewhere more private?”

Donald whistles. “Doesn’t sound like prudes to me.”

Willing myself not to blush, I nod and stand up before following Christopher to a quieter side of the cafeteria.

“What is it?” I whisper, even though the noise of the cafeteria is enough to drown out our words anyway. “Is it about my tankini? Because I already knew I was a prude when I bought it.”

“No, no.” He smooths my hair behind my ear. “There’s nothing wrong with your modesty. It’s just that… the way you were acting earlier. It wasn’t… you.”

I purse my lips. I want to argue, but when I think back, it did seem… irrational. And I can’t think much deeper into it with my head aching the way it is.

He bends over to look me in the eyes. Analyze them. “Does your head hurt?”

“Yeah. I hit it last night-”

Christopher frowns. “How?”

“Long story. Why did you think I have a headache?”

“Because you keep wincing. Especially when you look toward the light fixtures.”

“Oh.”

He straightens up. “Emily, I think you might be experiencing a hangover.”

I jerk up to face him. “What?!”

“I thought maybe...” He shakes his head. “When you kissed me, I tasted something strong.”

“You think I got drunk? I’ve never tasted alcohol in my life!”

“I’m not saying it was necessarily alcohol, and I’m not saying you did it on purpose.”

My stomach drops. “You… you think someone drugged me?”

“I don’t know, but we’re going to be more careful. Monitor each other. See if it happens again.”

I feel tears spring to my eyes. “I don’t want to get addicted!”

He wraps his arms around me and holds me tight. “I won’t let you. I’m going to watch over you. We’re in this together.”

~~~

I glance at Violet as we walk to art class. Do I mention the drugging possibility? Or hold off until we find more evidence.

Violet swings her backpack around so that it hits the nose of a boy who was standing too close, gawking at her.

He cries out and steps back as his nose erupts in blood. “Ugh!”

“Oops,” Violet says without looking up. “Didn’t see you there.”

I give him an apologetic look as he moves toward the men’s restrooms.

Yeah, I’m going to wait on any heart-to-hearts with my sleepwalking roommate. Or at least start with talking about our mutual disorder.

Chewing my lip, I step into class and slide into a seat just as the teacher starts talking.

“Yesterday, you used your imaginations to make anything you wanted,” Miss Hernández says. “Now- and until the end of the week- I want you to focus your creative power on something more specific: a self-portrait. Be creative. Express yourself- literally.”

Well, that’s not bad. If I weren’t so tired from night terrors and scared of being drugged.

I just want this day to be over.

~~~

Christopher frowns as he studies my face. “Well, you don’t seem to have picked up anything from your first three classes.”

I nod as I take a chair for lunch. “Three stops down, one to go.”

“The fishiest of them all,” Christopher adds.

Groaning, I look heavenward.

Then Mickey jumps into the chair across from me. “So, guess what!”

Donald jumps into the chair next to Christopher, his face every bit as animated as hers. “What?!”

Violet takes her seat as she quietly ignores them. Destiny does the same, only her movements seem less snarky and more… robotic.

But Mickey isn’t deterred as she glances between us, her eyes wide. “There are rumors of an exchange student program. Supposedly the best students of the Harvard branch of the Yin Program will swap out with the best students here. Sounds cool, right?”

Donald grunt-laughs. “In the universe where school is cool.”

Christopher raises an eyebrow. “Why are you even here?”

“Parents made me.” He slumps back in chair and sighs deeply.

Violet tilts her chair back. “Me too. It was this or some other posh school that kept me out of Mom’s hair.” Lifting a black and red manicure, she nods.

“Well I had to beg my dad to let me come,” Mickey says. “How about you, Destiny?”

Destiny blinks. “My parents and I were in mutual agreement about my coming here.” Her tone of voice makes the entire conversation seem boring.

Therapy almost seems like an escape

~~~

Dr. Earnestine folds his hands together. “You haven’t slept well, have you, Miss Rogers?”

I glance down at the essences water I half-hope is drugged (the perfect excuse to get out of therapy- I could just say, ‘Mom, Dad, I tried. But the shrink was getting me high so I had to go’). “Why do you say that?”

“You have dark circles under your eyes, which aren’t open as wide as they were yesterday, you’re moving slower, and you sighed in relief when you sat down.”

“Oh.” I take another sip of water. “Well, how can I argue against evidence like that?”

He leans forward, his handsome face all kindness. “Miss Rogers, what is keeping you up at night?”

I lick my lips. I almost want to throw Violet under the bus. Almost.

But I’d hate to be thrown under the bus like that. “I have night terrors, sir.”

“Ah.” He leans back. “I see.”

“You do?”

“There are many causes to night terrors,” he adds. “Did either of your parents suffer from any kind of parasomonias?”

I shake my head.

“I didn’t think so. And you’re not taking any new medications?”

“No medications at all.”

He nods. “That leaves several other possible causes, but I doubt it has anything do do with a personality disorder or even a borderline personality disorder.”

My eyes widen and I almost drop my cup.

“You are perfectly sane, I assure you. It seems more like a GAD or a PTSD issue to me.”

I sigh. “PTSD- wait, GAD?”

He smiles, revealing perfectly even and unnaturally white teeth. “Generalized anxiety disorder.”

“Oh, well it could be some of that too.”

“Maybe.” His smile deepens and he leans forward again. “You know what I subscribe for you?”

“I’m not taking medication-”

“I’m not subscribing medication. Hypnotherapy would do the job much more effectively.”

I frown. “No.”

“I know it sounds frightening, but it really isn’t-”

Shaking my head, I stand up, keeping my cup in hand so I can sneak it out to Christopher, who I already see waiting in the hallway. “I’m turning it down for the same reason I turned down medication.”

“And why is that, Miss Rogers.”

I turn to leave. “Because I like to be in control of my all my faculties at all times.”

“And are you in control during your night terrors?”

My entire body tenses. Because he’s right. I’m not.

I’m a danger to myself and others.

“I suppose we’ll just have to hope psychotherapy does the job effectively then, Miss Rogers.” Dr. Earnestine is suddenly in front of me, opening the door for me. “Good day, Miss Rogers.”

I can’t escape soon enough.

Christopher falls into step beside me. “How did it go?”

I thrust the cup into his hands. “He made me talk about my night terrors.”

“That is kind of why you’re there.”

“But I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to be there at all!”

He squeezes my shoulder. “I know. But the unfortunate truth of our circumstances is that we live in a fallen world and have to deal with its consequences.”

“But why can’t I be safe in my own mind?” To my shame, tears flood my eyes.

Christopher moves in front of me, making me come to a stop. Then he gently tips my chin up to face him, revealing the unfortunate truth of my tears.

But it also exposes his own truth. Worry and unease swirls in his blue eyes.

I pull away. “I’m sorry for making you worry-”

“It’s not just your night terrors that worries me.”

“What?” I turn back to him confusions.

And see just how grim his jaw is set. “I learned something distressing while you were with your therapist.”

Goosebumps run down my limbs at the tone of his voice. “What?”

“A student has gone missing.”

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