“What in the world?” I lean against the sink, angling my face to get a better look at myself.
“God, how could I have been so damn stupid? How long were you planning on keeping up with this facade?”
I shove my way past him, rushing out of the bathroom and into the hall. My ears are ringing, my head is pounding, and absolutely nothing is making sense right now. I have to be seeing things but, if all of this is in my head, then why is Axel currently staring at me like I am a serial killer?
Maybe none of this is happening.
Holy hell, am I even at the Browning house? Or have I actually been locked in my room for the past few hours having a complete mental breakdown?
“I, I can’t be here right now.” I take off down the hall and away from him, skipping stairs until I am passing the living room and bolting out of the back door.
The late afternoon sun drills into my eyes and I wince, giving myself a second to adjust to the harsh new lighting. Gray clouds litter the sky above me, thunder rumbling loudly in the distance.
Everything about me seems to be spinning and, no matter how hard I try, I can get my vision to straighten. The ringing in my ears grows louder, the pain like a knife to my skull.
I feel like I can everything. The birds chirping, animals moving through the grass, and the cars speeding down the highway a few blocks over, I can hear it all.
Has it always been this loud out here?
“Eveline!” Axel shouts, running after me as I make a break for the woods in front of me.
“Stay away from me!” I turn, my hands held up defensively as I attempt not to fumble over my own feet. “Don’t come any closer! Stay, stay back!”
He stops a few feet away from me, his face set with determination.
Axel raises his hands at his sides and the ground under my feet begins to shake, roots wriggling free from the loose soil so that they can coil themselves up and around my ankles. They creep up my legs, stopping mid-thigh and tightening to hold me in place.
Well, there is no longer any arguing with it, I am definitely losing my mind. I have jumped right onto those last two steps and am now experiencing verbal and physical hallucinations. Soon, I will come out of this episode to find out that I never returned home from California because I had a breakdown while I was there and this has all been a part of it.
Even though I know fighting against a hallucination is pointless, I do it anyways and struggle against the plant life Axel summoned to attack me because, as they squeeze tighter, it begins to hurt.
“You honestly thought you’d get away with this, didn’t you?” he accuses. “What did you think you were going to do? Did you think you were going to wiggle your way into my life, wait until I had my guard down, kill me, and then kill my family? God, I can’t believe I was so damn stupid.”
I rub at my eyes and hope that, if I rub hard enough, then all of this will go away. If I can just snap out of this then I can find someone to help me get better. “This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real.”
Axel advances on me, a dangerous smile spreading across his face. Fear and anger cannon through me and my vision tunnels, zeroing in on him and only him.
My body snaps into defense mode and I feel my muscles tightening, my heart slowly itself to a steady pace. For some reason, one that both shocks me and scares the absolute shit out of me, I can hear a small voice in the back of my head telling me exactly what I would need to do to kill him.
Trap him, fool him, drain him, and then kill him.
I clench my hands into tight fists, forcing away the murderous voice as I dig my nails into my palms. “I said, stay back.”
“Why?” He takes another step towards me, looking very much like a lion ready to pounce on its prey. “You haven’t come of age yet, I can tell. But me? I turned eighteen a few months ago and have been practicing control over this for years. I might not be as strong as you will be one day, but for now, you are nothing compared to me.”
“Get. Away. From. Me.”
The roots that have been keeping me tethered in place explode, littering the air and raining down debris. Axel’s hands fly up towards his face protectively and I take his moment of distraction to make a made dash away from him.
Maybe it is the adrenaline from the unnatural events that just occurred or maybe it is the temporary break I am enjoying from reality, but the thrill I get from running sends me into a state of euphoria.
I let up the pace as I approach my back door, surprised to find that I cleared three miles that quickly without breaking a sweat or getting out of breath.
This is exactly how it was the other day while I was running in gym. I sped through my laps, not feeling at all like I had run four laps as quickly as I had.
The biggest issue I am facing is I have not snapped out of this yet, meaning that I might not be stuck in some institution in California but experiencing one in my own home. Even my father came out of episodes a few hours after they had started, which means either I am having the longest mental breakdown in the history of my family or I am mentally stable and Axel just tried to kill me using freaky tree powers.
Please let me be insane.
I slip into the house via the back door, pausing in the kitchen to see if I can detect any signs of my mother being home. My vision and hearing have tripled since I left the Browning’s property and, now that I am not fleeing for my life, I can hear her heartbeat from in her room down the hall.
Flipping on the bathroom light, I take a cautious glance in the mirror and find myself completely disturbed to see that my eyes are still the color of coal.
Okay, so this isn’t a psychotic break. This, all of this, is really happening. This isn’t an episode and you aren’t going to snap out of it. You didn’t dream any of this. Your eyes are mutant-like and Axel can control plants.
Someone bangs on the bathroom door and I jump, knocking the contents off the sink and onto the floor.
“Eveline? Eveline, is that you?” my mother’s voice calls from the other side of the door. “What the hell am I saying? Of course, it is you. Who else would it be? Come out here right now!”
“No, not in one minute. Come out here right now.”
I grip at the edges of the sink and close my eyes, focusing on holding and releasing each breath. I remember joining my father for one of his many therapy sessions and, according to the woman who ran it, this tactic is supposed to calm a person down.
And, if for some reason it doesn’t, then I guess it looks like I am going to have to explain to my mother that there is something deeply wrong with me.
Speaking of my mother, she bangs loudly on the door again. “You have thirty seconds! Seriously, Eveline, you are scaring me. Either open this door or I am going to knock it down.”
Most kids my age wouldn’t take this as a literal threat, but I know she is being serious because I have seen her literally kick a door down before. It was back before my father officially diagnosed and during a time when him locking himself in a room meant he might be re-attempting to burn the house down.
My eyes snap back open as she begins to countdown from ten and I take another deep breath before daring to look in the mirror.
The blackness is gone, my own murky brown eyes staring back at me like nothing ever happened to them.
My mother gawks, mouth slightly gaping, as I open the door and I realize how this must look to her. I just arrived at home, wearing nothing but a pair of overly revealing pajamas that are now covered in mud, and then stowed away in the bathroom as soon as I got here.
I look like my father used to after one of his breakdowns.
Her hands fly to her mouth. “My god! Eveline, you have three seconds to explain where you have been all day and why you have been looking like-” She motions to my less than satisfactory appearance. “-that while doing it. You practically naked! Where are your shoes? You better have one hell of an explanation for this or else I am going to march you right down to Dr. Odell’s office and have you tested for every drug known to man.”
“You spoke to Lillian this morning, you already know where I have been,” I answer with as much sass as I can muster.
“I did and, if I remember correctly, she stated that she would send you home as soon as you woke up this morning. It is now well past four and you have just decided to grace me with your presence. I spoke with your new friend Axel only moments ago and he informed me that you left at noon and he hasn’t seen you since. So, where have you been all day?”
I really can’t tell if I am more furious or more afraid at this very moment. What my mother just said has me once again trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t.
Did Axel lie about what time I left because of what just happened between us? Or did I really leave his house at noon and have been wandering around the woods this whole time, half dressed and imaging the things that I have seen and done?
Why couldn’t my family have been normal enough to where I don’t have to struggle to figure this out?
“Axel must have forgotten to check on me this morning because I only woke up an hour or two ago. Oh, and I wasn’t running around town looking like this. Lillian has some errands to run and I didn’t feel like waiting for her to get back, so I took the back paths home. I wanted to enjoy the fresh air but then it started raining. Either way, I wanted to be outside seeing as, for the first time in days, I am not feeling like hot shit. I know, watch my mouth. And for the sixteenth time this week, I am not on drugs!”
She props one hand on her hip, her scowl deepening. “You are still going to the doctor’s office tomorrow and I am still having him drug test you. That test will pick up anything you might drink to flush out your system, by the way. So don’t think you’re going to be slick and pull one over on me. I have read all about those and, guess what, they don’t always work. I don’t know what has been up with you lately, but I don’t like it. First, you hit that kid at school and now you’re wandering around the woods in the middle of the night, it doesn’t add up.”
I can’t help and, try as I might, I end up rolling my eyes. In fact, I roll them so damn hard that I am shocked when they don’t roll right out of my head.
Too much has gone down in the last twenty-four hours and now, to top it all off, my mother is requiring me to take a drug test. Though, if I told her my side of what has been happening, she might just forgo the drug test and lock me up right now.
“Do not roll your eyes at me, young lady.”
And here I go again, fighting back a rage so thick I feel like I might drown in it. “Are you kidding me? I have been sick as hell since I got back from California and, last night, my fever spiked high enough to where I wandered out of the house, through the woods in the freezing rain, and into my classmate’s backyard, but your biggest worry is the drugs I might be taking? Where was that concern when you left me alone overnight for the eighth time since I came home? By the way, even if I was on drugs, you would have no right to blame me for it. I am practically raising myself here! It was different when you were gone here and there but, last night, you were so caught up in chasing leads that you let me spend the night in the house of a woman you have met one time! Fine, I’ll take the damn drug test. I will pee in or on anything you want and when it comes back clean, which it will, you are going to drop this whole drug thing.
I step back into the bathroom and, before she can scream at me some more, slam the door shut. Then, because I am having the weirdest and most hellacious day a person can have, I slink to the floor and allow the tears I have been holding back to flow freely.
Everything is falling apart. I don’t know if anything that happened this afternoon actually happened and, if it did, I have no idea how to handle it. Also, I have never yelled at my mother like that.
We might have bickered in the past but, because I know she has the best of intentions, I have never gone off on her the way I just did. I have always just dealt with it.
Then again, I have never felt as much hate for her as I did moments ago.
What the hell is happening to me?